Friday, January 02, 2015

HOW TO make Steampunk/Mad Scientist Style Goggles for Your American Girl Doll

This goes for everything on this blog.

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT a steampunk expert. I don't do cosplay, and if I did It would be Scottish Highlanders and Outlander Inspired. But I AM a crafter and a seamstress with about 20 years under my belt, and some serious Halloween Costumes Created. I DO have kids, and we have to dress up like all KINDS of things, including Native Americans, Pirates, Cartoon Characters, Superheroes, and the sort. We love to learn about other time periods, and we love Science Fiction, Renaissance Fairs, etc. As a family of 5, we have experience in Role Playing and dabble in all kinds of crazy things. I know that there is a certain level of - well, let's call it like it is- *snobbery* (hee hee, I don't mince words) when it comes to steampunk, and that there are so many different definitions of what steampunk IS and what steampunk is NOT and for the most part I am going to go with the mentality that science fiction is FICTION and therefore it can be whatever YOU want it to be. Lots of steampunk peeps say goggles are so typical/mainstream and not truly steampunk, yet they are one of the most recognized items in steampunk outfits. My purpose behind the goggles is their USE while working in the "lab" or  mixing potions.

Prefacing by saying that I am a big big Outlander Fan, and the 18th century healers, apothecaries, doctors, and yes, even "witches" (Because that is what people often thought of them in those times) are fascinating to me. The ability to treat and heal someone medicinally/herbally is always fascinating to me and ties in with the natural/green lifestyle that I often strive for in our family. Essential Oils, Herbs, and the general understanding that Germs aren't all bad. The point is, that before modern medicine there were so many superstitions and in fact so much knowledge that sometimes you have to wonder where we came by it. Native American Influence? Chinese Medicine? Or could it have also bee *Time travelers* like Claire. Being a Sassenach, I am especially interested in the natural healing and the use of herbs and naturally occurring substances to cure what ails ya. My daughter loves Science and Animals, and has a science lab building in her Doll House School, including things like test tubes, beakers, microscope, safety goggles, geodes and rock collection, hermit crabs, and whatever else she and I can dream up to add on a daily basis. We belong to the very active and VERY amazing American Girl Facebook Group "My Dolls House" - In Which everyone shares openly and enthusiastically, with ideas, tutorials, pricing help, etc. There is NO Buy/Sell/Trade on the page which keeps things friendly and encourages people to share their talents instead of creating to sell.

I personally don't have TIME to create to sell. I squeeze in time to create for ourselves and that is a big enough challenge in itself. This post is created PURPOSELY with the idea of sharing and encouraging YOU to create these goggles for yourself. I don't claim to be an expert.... but this isn't a $25 ebook on Etsy that tells you how to create goggles. It's a free tutorial designed to give you confidence to do this yourself. This isn't a $50 pair of goggles BEAUTIFULLY made on Etsy for you to purchase and receive in your mailbox, it's a encouragement for you to save money and make as many pair as your heart desires. This isn't an invitation to take these ideas and start making your own next big buck selling goggles, but I can't stop you and I put this out there knowing that you may have a conscience that agrees that sharing things and ideas is the way to go. Karma baby.

Now, back to Sassenach. I want to create an area in our dollhouse, not a ROOM, but a secret cupboard, maybe in the school science lab, that is mysterious. A dark cabinet full of secrets and knowledge, that maybe only the interested and patient students know or care about. A place where we learn by sharing, and where you find potions that border on Harry Potter Magic, and balance with herbal remedies and maybe even experimental science projects. Think of it as a Box of Knowledge. So I have been gathering apothecary labels, glass bottles, and will be working on samples and filling jars and distressing the hutch and working on that in the near future. And I don't DARE be mixing up unknown substances without a magical and fantastik pair of protective eyewear. Hence the start of the Goggles.

Yes, get to the POINT. Here there are, the finished product:

Now Ideally I would already have the 18th century outfit sewn to go with these and the images would be taken with my Nikon DSLR so that you would all Ohhhh and Ahhhhh over this reveal.... but I have three kids- 7, 5, and 2... and just getting clean underwear is a challenge.... let along making steampunk goggles in 1:3 scale. So use your imagination, and.....enjoy these iphone snapshots of a doll in a 21st century cowgirl outfit modeling her new steampunk mad scientist goggles....

What say you? Cool? Yes. Now, I have three objectives in this post:
1. Supply List (give you ideas, don't have to follow it exactly. Make these YOUR OWN)
2. COST (I will do some totally awesome math that will leave you reeling. Haha.)
3. Directions.

First, supplies: This is what I PURCHASED, minus my fabric/leather. I didn't use everything pictured, and I didn't use everything in each package either. This is where the cost breakdown is going to be especially especially important.

Let it be known that I shop on sale. and I use coupons. And I bought these things at Hobby Lobby and at JoAnn Fabrics, using both sale prices and coupons. I will get to that.

The idea on this was to SAVE Money over buying the really cool goggle someone else makes on Etsy for $50 a pop. For a doll. Yes. Because I don't intend on making money on these, I am trying to just keep my costs low and perhaps make more than one pair.

Tim Holtz is amazing. Steampunk cheating? Probably most definitely. But since I don't have time or desire to drag three kids thru the metal salvage or the dumpster, and I don't have an acetylene torch in my nightstand drawer, I settled for cardboard, a hot glue gun and Tim Holtz. I know the Steampunk "rules" say metal over plastic and screws over glue. I did all metal, there is NO plastic on these.... BUT I used a hot glue gun with great success. And I am not ashamed. And have I mentioned that the last time I went to the metal salvage place, I was there 10 minutes WITH three kids and a minivan- and the owner guy already told me that he doesn't wear any underwear.... so, yeah. Glue Gun it is.

So let's get started.

Cardboard. I've seen it mentioned to use toilet paper tubes. I started with that idea, but the cardboard is not only very lightweight, it's also got the potential to become "unraveled" like a pop open biscuit can. And that's exactly what the first piece did, so I discarded that idea. I actually used the cardboard backing from the curtain grommets in the above picture. it's about using what you have :)

I used my brain and cut out a shape that I could roll into an eye cup. This took a bit of time, a bit of experimenting. Yes, I could scan, upload, and show you a beautiful template that you could print out, but remember, depending on what doll you make these for, what size monocle or lens you use, mine might not be right for you. AND remember, there's these pesky kids. So maybe someday. For now, use your skillz. And if you don't have enough skillz to make this cardboard shape, then god help you with the rest of this tutorial.

Yes, that's my leg. And yes I often craft in my nightgown. Verra Professional. But hey, this is a FREE Tutorial. So, the idea is, that the pattern looks like the BOTTOM piece, lying flat. And you ROLL it up (which is why the top one is curved and looks funny in the pic) so that it's the diameter of the lens. This makes an eye cap that provides protection to the entire eye socket. The skinny ends overlap at the bridge of the nose. The "bump" that is pointing down in the photo is the eye cap that goes along the temple, where the straps connect. Think swim goggles, or welding goggles.

Okay. So- Cut three. Yes I know you have TWO eyes, but trust me here. Cut three from cardboard.

Roll up the cardboard into circles, with the skinny ends overlapping until you reach the desired diameter. Secure with Hot glue (my personal choice) or whatever you prefer. I like instant gratification, strings of hot glue all over myself and my house, and burnt fingers. If that isn't your preference, adjust accordingly.

Use the LENS or the Monocle (I used Tim Holtz' Monocles) to determine the size of the circle. Remember, you want the circle the same size as the FRAME (not larger than the frame, you don't want the frame of the lens to fit INSIDE the circle tube, you want it to fit on TOP of the Circle so you can attach it with glue.)

Rudimentary? Yes. Remember, she isn't going to be MIXING toxic chemicals, she is a doll!

Next we create a bridge. like the bridge of glasses. Cut a strip maybe 2-3 inches long and narrow like under 1/2", Then cut that strip in half. Lay the strips ON TOP OF EACH OTHER and secure with a dab of glue only in the center. Fold each end so that it looks like this:

The center with the double thickness is the bridge. The folded up ends will be glued to the cardboard eye cups to keep them together. We will get to that. Set the bridge aside.

Time to have fun. Be creative. I used lightweight leather that is probably synthetic because I couldn't find anything I liked at JoAnn's unless it was flannel backed and Hobby Lobby had leather packs but I didn't like the color. This was red tag remnant and had the look of worn leather like an old aviator jacket. It was perfect. And it was cheap. Seriously, you need like three inches of this fabric, but I bought a half yard because it was cheap and because it seemed impossible to find what I wanted. I am sure that I will need this for a waist cincher/corset or some future piece of steampunkery.

Take your THIRD cardboard pattern piece (see why I said three) and lay it on the leather. It is my personal experience that you should cut the CURVED side of the pattern wider than the pattern. This is because you will need to fold the excess fabric/leather inside the eye cups and glue it inside so you don't see the cardboard edges, and to make a more uniform surface to adhere the monocles/lenses. You can also take an inch or so off the end of your skinny ends of your leather because you don't need more than a 1/2" of overlap on the skinny edges when you glue them. No need for excess bulk.

So cut one piece of leather using your pattern as a "sort-of" guide. Try it out wrapped on your eyecup. Glue the leather onto OUTSIDE of the cardboard eyecup, covering the cardboard completely, and then tacking down the overlapped skinny ends.

When you have the Both eyecups covered like this:

You can add glue around the rims of the FRONT of the glasses/eyecups (which will be the flat side not the curved side) and fold over the extra leather like this:

Sorry that one is out of focus. Better ones will come. Once both eyecups are completely covered, attach the bridge with glue to the exact center of the eyecup, which will be the opposite side of the DEEPEST point of the eyecup. Then attach the bridge to the other eyecup the same way, and voila... glasses/goggles are taking shape!
You can see where I goofed a bit on the left side and the leather wasn't "excess" enough to wrap over the edge of the cardboard. Oops. But the second eyecup I did a better job on. It isn't perfection, but that all gets covered up. NOW if you are bugged by seeing the cardboard inside, now would be a good time to cover the insides with leather too, or paint them brown, or whatever. I didn't care about perfection, just want them to work nicely and they look good as is.

Next you are going to cut a long strip of leather about as wide as the bridge. Long enough to wrap around the bridge two to three times. Start it with a dab of glue, wrap wrap wrap, and stick the end down with a dot of glue. Test it before you glue to make sure it's long enough and also to make sure you have your end seam in the "back."

Next I poked holes in the sides of the eyecups to attach the Tim Holtz buckles, which just go on with prong fasteners that are included. I would use a craft awl but mine was missing (because I have to hide it from kids and don't know where I put it last) and therefore I used a seam ripper, which was far from ideal and a real PITA, but it worked eventually. Attach the buckles to the sides...
Next I put cool little Tim Holtz Fasteners on the top outer side of the eyecups. I used these for pure funky look AND as a dual purpose, to attach the lens monocles to the glasses, or so it appears.
Placement of the cool jump ring fasteners on the upper outsides of the eye cups. Once again puncturing with my seam ripper. I miss my awl. 

In this photo you can see the fasteners. 
 Next I glued the monocles to the front of the eyecups, lining up the monocle "loop" with the fastener on top. I first attempted to use super glue, thinking it a more permanent and quicker method of gluing. After getting fingerprints aand glue haze on on one monocle and having it fall off multiple times, I decided I was wrong and went back to my trusty hot glue. I also didn't like the way the super glue soaked into the leather giving it a "wet" appearance. The monocles come with a loop that is built in to the outer metal frame, and there is a jump ring attached thru that loop. I personally chose to remove the jump loop thru each monocle because I liked that look more and thought it looked more authentic. Do what you will. I attached the monocle to the loop on the fastener with the super cool Tim Holtz Safety Pins. PERFECTION!

You can see lots of detail in this photo above. Tim Holtz's Safety Pins attaching the Monocle to the fastener's jump ring. The fasteners are attached with the same brads with folding prongs as the buckles, like the ones down the center of some two pocket, three hole punched folders.

Let's talk about the leather strap itself.... It was a double wrap leather bracelet blank that I found on sale in the jewelry section of Joann's. I could have used my own leather, but I loved that this had it's own fastening system. You see, I wanted the buckles on the side (which ARE Fully functional) To LOOK Functional, but I didn't want to mess with buckling each time. SO. I took the leather bracelet, and cut it in half down the center. Then I cut the end (where I had cut it in half) to look like a pointed belt, and used my seam ripper (GOSH where IS MY AWL!!!???) to make a hole for the buckle prong to go thru. I did this on both sides so the buckles are fully functional but they can stay exactly where they are, because the bracelet had this cool adjustable fastener...

which adds extra steampunk character AND is super super easy to add and remove the goggles from the doll's head with just a pop. SUPER awesome. It's by Darice, called a Brown Leather Bracelet, #1999-3628 24" long- from the Darice Jewelry Designer Line.

 I am sorry that I didn't take pics of that strap process, but you will either figure it out, or do an alternative... like elastic or your own leather strap. Or you could actually USE the side buckles.

You can also purchase these hitch fasteners from Tim Holtz that allow you to make your own closure like this one that this bracelet came with... I bought some but didn't need them for this particular pair.
 So now all that's left is making these goggles YOURS! I glued these cool brass jewelry pieces onto the top, they looked a little "wise owl" -ish to me. They are made by "Vintaj" which has natural brass jewelry pieces. Found at Hobby Lobby. Sooo cool because you can buy patina kits by Vintaj and make cool effects.

I also hot glued "Tim Holtz Idea-ology Mini Gears" onto the front of the lenses.
And took a strand of chain link jewelry - "Dual Circles Metal Chain in Antique Brass" By Advantus Corp (JoAnn Fabric Jewelry Section) #SUL50018. This is a 24" strand and I used about 1/4 of that and attached it around the jump ring/safety pin and around the head strap in order to create a dangling chain. 

For a super cool final project. Maybe someday I will paint the insides of the eyecups brown... but for now I am cool with the results.

Now. PRICING. I will only list the ones that I actually USED for the goggles.

Tim Holtz-
  • Wire Pins - 18 pins for $4.99 at Hobby Lobby (regular price) sale for $$3.49 (30% off sale)
  • Buckles- 6 buckles for 5.99 at Hobby Lobby (regular price) sale for $4.19 (30% off sale)
  • Mini Gears- 12 assorted for $4.99 *full price* at Joann- sale for 40% off $2.99
  • Monocles-3 for $7.99 *full price* at Joann - sale 40% off $4.79
  • Fasteners- 9 for $3.99 at Hobby Lobby (regular price) sale 30% off at $2.79
Metal Chain- 24" for at Joann ($5.99 *full price*) SALE for $2.99
Leather Bracelet- Joann $4.99 *full price*
Vintaj Brass Jewelry Pieces- $3.99 Hobby Lobby *full price*
Brown Distressed Leather Fabric- Red Tag Price $9.99  yard, sale price $5/yard. Half Yard 2.50

That's about $40 in supplies. BUT I did not use all or even a small portion of each package. 

2/18 pins for a cost of  $0.39
2/6 buckles for a cost of $2.00
4/12 mini gears for a cost of $1.00
3 monocles (one oops!) for a cost of $4.79
2/9 Fasteners for a cost of $0.62
1/4 metal chain length for a cost of $0.75
Leather Bracelet cost $4.99
Vintaj Pieces $3.99
Leather Fabric - mere inches for a cost of less than $0.20

For a cost of $18.79 less the $5 off coupon I used at Joann=

 $13.79 total materials cost for ONE pair of goggles.

So any way you look at it, it was worth my time to make them myself, versus spending $50 a pair on etsy. However, I am SURE theirs are probably better quality than mine? No cardboard? real leather? sewn leather? no glue? All screws? I am unsure. But I know mine will do the trick and I could essentially make more goggles with the supplies I have. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Homemade Science Beakers - American Girl Science/School

Science Beakers from Hairspray/Pump Bottle Caps- labeled with ultra fine sharpie marker.

Another cool idea from Whose science ideas BLOW MY MIND and I will continue to implement and share :)

American Girl Homemade Hermit Crabs - for your pet shop, school, bedroom

Hermit Crabs in the Classroom.

Yesterday my Daughter said "You know mom, what would really be cool, would be a tank of Hermit Crabs in our classroom" (we have them at home and have for a few years.)

For those of you who aren't familiar, we are American Girl Doll crazy here. We have a big AG Dollhouse and lots of DIY and other furniture and accessories.

Her request was not unusual, but was something that I hadn't thought of, or seen on the many boards I am a part of (since then I have searched and seen a couple of ideas that are similar with crabs that have googley eyes on their shells and pipe cleaners for legs.)

Of course my mind pondered a bit. This morning I was thinking "I should google for some miniature hermit crab figurines" and then suddenly, it HIT me. I don't have to SEE the hermit crabs in the shells, because we almost NEVER see ours. They are ALWAYS buried.

So I rushed into my daughter's room and said "I HAVE AN IDEA!" and she looked at me like I had lost my mind. I said "get the suitcase of seashells!

So we picked out some tiny shells that would be to scale for the AG Dolls. We painted two of them and left one plain. We took a cheap glass bowl (actually a tealight holder) that I had bought at Michaels or Joann's a while back- with intention of doing a fish tank- and added aquarium rocks. We added a flat black stone like the one in our crabby tank at home, and a sprig of fake greens and a driftwood looking stick piece. We added the painted shells and the plain shell and put it in the school room. She was SOOOO excited! I love that she could see the process through with me from Idea to fruition. So much FUN!

If you decide to make a Hermit Crab tank for your dolls, share your pics with us! I'd also like to invite you doll addicts to join the MUCH fun "My Dolls House" group on Facebook, where we toss around ideas for crafts and other things for 18" dolls. You have to request to join and wait to be approved by the admin team, but it's WELL Worth your time!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ardyn's Unikitty Lego Valentine Box

Tonight I finished Ardyn's Unikitty Valentine Box. It is completely made of cardboard and scrapbook paper. The lego "circle" under the horn is the top (lid and a bit below that) of a baby food "puffs" snack container. The 3-D tail is constructed completely of scrapbook paper. The Valentines go in a slot cut into the back of the head and the head is attached to the body with two brads. 

Most of the assembly is hot glue... My husband cut the arch in the bottom
"Body" box and used clear packing tape to put cardboard under the arch. 

I used scrapbook adhesive in the tail construction because it was a fairly intricate process and hot glue wasn't practical as it was too hot and I would have gotten burnt for sure! 

Hope this inspires someone! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Marek's Batman Lego Valentine Box

I'm not actually sure if Marek needs a valentine box.... But his is a lego maniac, and he loves Batman and Batman Legos. The new Lego Movie was like a family "dream come true" and we can't very well make big sister a Unikitty valentine box (pics to come) and have Marek sitting here without one. 

It truly didn't take long. It's all cardboard boxes I had in the "trash"- the feet are a cheezit box and the legs are a metal "locker" box cut in half to make two shorter legs. Te body is constructed of two altered 20 packs of coke - one might work but our school collects coke rewards so I had to cut out those first :) 

The head is poster board (I had a scrap of black stashed from a snowman project we made for my daughter's class Christmas Party) and the details I used yellow card stock. I just used a ruler and drew the utility belt and cut it out, and the logo I printed on card stock. The cape is a piece of actual fabric that was leftover from the lining of a Dracula vest I made Marek for Halloween. 

His arms are two toilet paper tubes and a plastic "puffs" container (baby food/snack) that I cut into a circle with an old serrated knife and then cut in half so that I had two hands. The arms are attached with brads (office supply) and the rest is together with hot glue. I assembled the body and left the head and arms off. Spray painted the arms and body black (rustoleum worked better. The krylon didn't want to stick to the cardboard and bubbled a bit)

Then I attached the arms, head, cape, and utility belt/logo. 

The "hole" is through the top of his head/helmet... It's completely open and the goodies go down thru the shoulders and into the main chest/stomach area. 

The head is attached with clear packing tape on the inside so I can easily remove it if I need to extract some big loot :)

Hope you are inspired. I just want to hug him he is so awesome! My son
can't wait to "play" with him. Lol

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Command hooks vs bathroom suction cups

Have you heard all of the commercials saying that Command Hooks are now made for the bathroom and they hold BETTER than suction cups in the shower? Yeah. Let's just say this house has one hell of a panel of product testers... There are SIX command hooks with outdoor adhesive on this submarine....

Aaand go!

Monday, September 23, 2013

How to Pierce your American Girl Doll's Ears and Put Feathers in her Hair :)

Well, I said I was going to bed an hour ago. I worked on some things for a client and I avoided folding diapers or watching the movie I said I was going to watch. I got involved in some graphic design and then next thing I know three hours have passed since I put the kids to bed. *sigh*

A has been out of socks for the past three days and she wore M's Socks but now he is out of socks too and so I should have washed socks. It might be easier to go buy new socks. Although A can wear sandals and M doesn't have school tomorrow so he can wear sandals or crocs too. Maybe I can just wash them tomorrow (or buy more tomorow.)

The dog is in here trolling around for crumbs and children's stuffed animals for which he can sink his teeth into and call his own.

My major accomplishment of the day was piercing the ears on A's doll. A couple of years ago I got her an Our Generation doll from Target, Sydney, to which she lovingly refers as "the one with the crappy hair." Sydney was my attempt at NOT purchasing an American Girl doll, but she in fact DOES have crappy hair and she is NOT a great substitute. But she is a good friend for the new American Girl doll who has lovely hair and nice joints and no awkward longer left leg. Of course when we got ourselves to the AG Doll store for A's birthday (if you're on facebook with me you know that she requested a trip to the store and forfeited her birthday party and all other gifts from us to pay for it) we had her doll Lila's ears pierced. We were all excited and of course all that happened was the girl taking the doll behind a white painted wall and punching holes in her ears and handing her back $14 later with a card of new earrings. A was sad because she wanted to see it happen, and comfort the doll, and help. Well, that isn't part of the plan. I wanted to make that dream come true for her for FREE so I decided to let her watch me pound a metal yarn needle thru the side of Sydney's head with a rusty hammer. It was magnificent. And it was free.

Initially I had intended on using my Awl, but since my sewing table is a freakish disaster and I can only reach it if I edge around an empty Cubical Organizer, step OVER ten thousand old crinkly coloring book pages, and climb OVER the train table tipped sideways... I didn't do much digging around beyond the 20 minutes I spent not finding it. I did find the sharp end of the seam ripper to get the holes started and then used a sharp but LARGE eyed needle (just like the plastic yarn needles but metal) and a regular sized hammer... to drive the needle into the side of the doll's head. I had to drive it in all the way to the eye of the needle and had to rest the doll's head on the coffee table so it would quit bouncing while I was hammering. One of the doll's eyes was twitching in a scary posessed way as I did this but A mostly ignored me while she played the batman lego video game with M. True Story. So much for creating a perfect piercing experience. But in the end she was thrilled and the AG doll earrings fit perfectly in Sydney's Ears and since the $14 bought me four pair of studs with three different dangling attachments, we have earrings for everyone! Who's next?

After this fantastic alteration of Sydney Lee, I decided that it was time to also put feathers in her hair like A has. Since her hair was crappy anyway, what could it hurt? I cut some pink (light and hot pink) feathers from an ugly kechain charm bundle that I had gotten on clearance for 10 cents at Walmart like 4 years ago. I just knew I would tear it up for something. I took the tiny feathers and used stainless steel crimp beads for jewelry making and my trusty Bead Retreat Crimping Pliers, and put beads and Three Feathers in Sydney Lee's crappy hair. A is pretty convinced I am the coolest mom on the planet, and I am not so sure she is mistaken :)

The dog is currently licking the high chair clean, which is a BONUS for me... one more thing off my list to do.

Well, I need to catch some sleep because someone has to buy socks tomorrow and someone has to wake three kids up at 6:30am. Have a great night mommies and don't forget you can totally pierce your own American Girl Doll's Ears. Or you can bring her to me. I'm confident in my piercing skills.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Marek- kidspeak

Marek's wisdom of the day...
"Mommy, do mummies stink when you unwrap them?"

"Did it rain or is that Mountain Dew on your van?"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Custom lid idea for hermit crab enclosure

We have been having a lot of fun with hermit crabs over here. We have three in a 10 gallon aquarium tank. Of course it's just an old tank with a hood that we've had laying around for years, and I had planned on getting a mesh lid for it someday. When we first got the hermit crabs I saw a mesh lid that I really liked the local pet store. It was a bit pricey and I didn't have that amount of funds available when our initial hermit crab endeavor began. I think it was somewhere between 15 and $19. That wasn't entirely bad but it was more important that they had sponges for water and salt and food.

What I really liked about it was the hinged trapdoor in the top Which allowed you to reach in and change and add food or water etc. At a trip to Petsmart I saw one for a lower price that had just the standard mesh lid. I passed on purchasing it twice thinking that I really wanted that trapdoor... But the more I thought about it the more I realized that whenever doing something with the hermit crabs I really required a little bit more space than just a small trapdoor in order to reach inside and get what I needed. There was also no real risk of the crabs escaping when I was trying to work with them so I decided that the expense of the trap door really wasn't worth it. I went ahead and purchased the mesh lid at Petsmart and all the way home was thinking about how exactly I was going to wrap the saran wrap along with the new lid. 

You see, anyone who is familiar with hermit crabs knows that retaining humidity is important for a correct habitat. Most books recommended that you add saran wrap to part of the top of the enclosure in order to retain moisture and get the proper humidity level in the tank. With experimentation I could tell that my humidity level (based on the gauge) would go way down if I removed the saran wrap but if I continued covering 1/2 to 3/4 of the tank with saran it would stay at the proper humidity level. 

This morning I decided to get the new lid on the tank and work on my saran wrap. I went ahead and cleaned most of the tank and for the first time I used all-natural hermit clean spray.  It is an odor removal, cleaner and deodorizer and it smells like Lime. I really liked it! I used extra hot water and the spray to clean everything that I could remove easily. 

I removed the large sand beach area of substrate and replaced it with coconut coir Substrate because one of the newer crabs was looking like he was beginning to molt (At least that is what the Petsmart employee said but to me he looks just like the other two!) 

After adding a new crab yesterday, the crabs were incredibly active last night and in fact several times I heard noises from the kids room and went to check on them only to discover the crabs having a heyday in their tank. If you have crabs you know that they're nocturnal and they generally sleep during the day and play at night. Even so, I was not finding them to be incredibly active at night time...  With the exception of the occasional and very rare *clunk* of a shell on the side of the glass tank. 

I had previously acquired a coconut fiber  climbing wall that was designed to encourage the crabs to climb and give them a place to play.  I had not installed it because I didn't want to give them a reason to climb without a lid but now that I had a lid I was very excited to put it in the tank... And also have a another item that would help retain humidity With a tank spritzing.

I actually got the idea to make the plastic on the lid be more permanent and less messy. I used a piece of thick plastic that you can purchase at Joanne fabrics in the home decor Fabric area. I always have this on hand because it comes in very handy for projects with sewing.  

Ever since I've  had children I have purchased this in a very long tablecloth length section and kept it on our dining room table on top of all my cloth tablecloths. This makes for easy wiping after meals with small kids and allows them to do any project like Play-doh or painting or plaster crafts without worrying about destroying a tablecloth. It has been an absolute lifesaver and our table is never without it. Once the kids have basically destroyed the length of plastic, I will remove it From the table and cut the good sections apart to use as crafts. I keep sections of plastic underneath the fish tank, and kept the plastic on hand to use during our homebirth If necessary. I have used squares of it too sew into Ispy bags. It's just plain convenient and if you use a 40 to 50% off coupon you can get it for a discount that makes it very inexpensive. Generally a tablecloth plastic will last us about a year although in this case I've had this one on the table for nearly 2 years because I keep forgetting to pick up another one... It's not particularly immaculate anymore but it still serves it's purpose. Since I don't have the leaf in the table right now I had some overhanging about the width of a fish tank lid so I went ahead and chopped it off with the scissors knowing I'm getting a new one soon anyway. :) If I can remember! So anyway I trimmed the plastic down so that it would fit inside the under side of the mesh aquarium lid. I made it the same depth as the lid but about three quarters of the width... Because air needs to circulate to prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, and disease in their tank. I lay the plastic on the underside of the mesh lid so that you couldn't see the edges from the top and then I poked small holes in the plastic to correspond with the vent holes in the mesh of the lid.  Then I used very tiny zip ties that I had on hand to attach the plastic to the mesh in the four corners of the plastic. I trimmed off the excess edges of the attached zip ties and put the lid on the tank. Voila! Instant replacement for the saran wrap - that can stay on the tank constantly and wipes clean. You can see through it, it retains humidity, and it removes along withthe lid   to make it easier for the kids and myself to access the crabs to take care of them.

If I need to I can easily cut the zip ties and replace it with a fresh piece of plastic in the future. Black zip ties would probably provide a more seamless look but let's be honest I had clear ties on hand and it's an aquarium tank so it's not that big of an issue aesthetically :)

I hope that someone out there on the web sees this and uses my idea to create a mesh hermit crab enclosure lid for themselves!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kidspeak- waffle sucker

Marek- "eeew mom! Yuk! I don't want this sucker! I want a different one! I don't like suckers that taste like waffles!!"

Monday, May 13, 2013

Overworking the Hot Water Heater...

Man am I beat! I have done so much today, and I can't wait to be in bed. If I had my way (and a bath) I would already be there. It's 9:15 and I am just finishing up what I wanted to accomplish (well, truly only a portion of it) and I don't feel like I can go much longer. I was stressed out today only because of my own expectations of what I should accomplish. I hate when I do that but I don't know how to not worry over meeting my own deadlines. :) I actually have both a To-Do List AND I am making appointments with myself in my calendar so that I don't forget anything! Tomorrow is going to be worse as far as being "busy" but at least I get to start the day with a massage which I badly need because I am SO achey right now. My RLS has been going crazy, as it always seems to do when I start up allergy medicine. I try to delay the allergy meds as long as I can, but for several weeks I was just having a hell of a time getting out of bed, and I knew it was time. It's like one evil or the other.

The hot water heater has been working overtime today. I'm on my second load of diapers, my third load of dishes in the dishwasher, and I just finished making 20 gallons of laundry detergent. I was just going to jump in the bathtub, but I realized that I would likely have no hot water. I don't know how long it will take the water heater to catch up, but I figure if I write for a bit I will clear my head and hopefully gain myself a bit more hot water.

I was able to make pork chops and stuffing for supper and we also played outside for about three hours and I got three flower boxes planted. That only leaves five more window sized boxes and then all the rest of the containers (maybe like seven?) Then I have to clean the chicken coop. And spread 12 bags of mulch. And setup the swimming pool. I also added sand to the sandbox today which was thrilling for the kids. New sand always makes them thrilled. I sorted laundry that was piled over my head and although I intended to get further than I did with laundry, I did get three loads washed (but of course not folded hung or put away.

Tomorrow it looks like I will be going to Princeton and back FIVE TIMES and I am absolutely not exaggerating that. Unless I can convince Evan to bring both boys to me after my massage, then that would mean four times. I'm not sure how I am going to get supper in the crock pot and any laundry done amongst that mess of a day. Not to mention how badly I wanted to get my flowers planted. Oh well. I guess I have limitations!

I did take a break to sing the kids to sleep tonight. And I got to chat on the phone with a good friend for a bit while I unloaded the dishwasher.

Yesterday was Mother's Day. It didn't turn out as planned and I won't lie, I was feeling kinda glum... but overall I can't really complain. Looking back it was a nice day. It was windy! We had reservations to eat at Verucci's for Mother's Day brunch, but unfortunately Evan was throwing up all morning from a bad headache and a pinched nerve in his neck. I ended up taking the kids out to my moms to say hello and cooking them breakfast there. Then we played for a bit and I fixed a few things on mom's computer. After that we went to Red Barn Nursery and unfortunately I realized after we arrived that I had left my wallet at home. I was in the process of organizing my mobile office, and I had taken a bunch of stuff in from the van and accidentally left my wallet home. I had a large Stack n Store container that I was using as a mobile office, but one day I had someone riding with me soI had moved it to the very back of the van instead of in it's usual place in the front passenger seat. The next day one of the kids climbed over the back seat to get something from the way back and stepped ON to the container and cracked the lid badly. It was already missing two of the tabs and was precarious... so I knew it was time to rethink. I found a cool mobile office post and the Craftsman Tool Tote that she used was (is) on sale at Sears Website for $10.99 so I ordered it online with free in store pickup and got it the next day from the local Sears store. So yesterday afternoon after realizing I had forgotten my wallet, we went home and put on play clothes and then the big kids played in the front yard. I sat in the van watching them from the driveway, and the baby slept in his seat and nursed when he wanted to. It was to windy to really have him outside much so I organized the van a bit and setup my NEW Mobile office while he napped. I like how sturdy it is, but it also is heavy when you add in the family binder. But the GOOD news is that the binder fits inside, which is did not in the last mobile office, and that was frustrating. With Safety Town planning in full swing and me as the chairwoman this year, I need all the on the go organization I can get.

So anyway, the kids played happily and when they started to get on each other's nerves they climbed in the van with us and said "now what" and I said, lets go get some supper together. So we headed for town and decided on Mexican, where they gave me a single red rose that surprised me :) The kids had each made me cards when they woke up and Ardyn had a funny scavenger hunt. She had written "happy day mom" on three different pieces of paper and hidden them in the house for my to find. Marek had written something besides his own name for the first time, and it was "mom" awwe! We enjoyed our supper and then headed for home for baths and bedtime. The kids and I were all in bed at 5:45, but the baby wanted cuddle time and he nursed on and off for a while. I couldn't sleep (although I had been exhausted) so I sat up and worked on my to do list for the week to clear my head.

Ardyn has been bringing home lots of fun things from school, as they are gearing up for the end of the school year. Her art surprises are getting more frequent and more elaborate. Last week Marek went on a field trip with his class to the YMCA for some tumbling, and this week Ardyn goes to the zoo. I'm looking forward to the summer so that we don't have to stop what we are doing outside and come in to eat and bathe and be in bed at a respectable hour for school the next morning. That's the hardest thing about late nights and early mornings. I could stay outside till dark working if it weren't for school! But soon enough I will be begging the teachers to take them back :)

Today Ardyn was talking about first grade and she said "Mom do you know what Mr C (the first grade teacher) does if you tip your chair back in his class? He KNOCKS YOU OVER!" I said in mock horror.. "NO! Who told you that?" - She said "Miss R!" (her current teacher.) I had to stop myself from giggling.

Well, on to finishing up laundry and hitting the tub (I hope) but i might just settle for washing my feet and showering in the morning :)

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Review- Infantino Squeeze Station and Fresh Squeezed Product Line

Today we tried the Infantino Squeeze Station and Fresh Squeezed Line. Let me start by saying that I received no free products, these were purchases that I made and have chosen to review here.

The Squeeze Station comes with ten disposable packets and lids. I was impressed with the quality of everything in the station, including the disposable packets. If you know me, you know that I don't LIKE Disposable. At all. We don't DO Disposable. We reuse everything. We cloth diaper, we use cloth wipes, mama cloth, the whole deal. I didn't order the disposable refills, but instead I ordered the Infantino Keeper Squeeze Pouches (two of them, one for the main course, and one for the dessert... just to try and see if they were what we would like.) The Keeper Squeeze Pouches seem to be taking longer to arrive than the station itself... I will update the review when I receive them.
Happy Babe

Now, for US, the idea behind the squeeze station was to find a portable method for feeding baby that wasn't messy and didn't require me to take glass baby food jars or a thermos container, or spoons, etc... everywhere we went. This isn't a big deal when you have like, your first child.... but when you have three kids and two of them are in school in different school districts and you spend more time driving back and forth than you care to think about, there are times when your baby is hungry and you just don't know what the heck you will do. There isn't a high chair. There isn't a wipeable surface surrounding them. I need something small, portable, and simple that creates little mess. I don't need a baby spoon that baby swats away and splatters food all over. I don't need to worry about keeping said spoon clean in the bottom of a crumb infested diaper bag. I just need simple and efficient.

I have three kids. I am not ashamed to admit that I have done LOTS of things as far as baby food. I've done Baby Led Weaning (BLW) and Annabel Karmel books and recipes. I've made my own purees and other homemade baby food recipes. I've purchased baby food in glass jars and plastic rectangular lidded packs. I've received food purees free from WIC. This gives me the opportunity to give a pretty full review.

Let's start by saying that the pouches hold a surprisingly generous amount of food for their slim and portable size. Baby Ewyn (I know you can't pronounce it. Haven't you people ever heard of Ewan McGregor? well, just think "yoo-win" and you've got it. Scottish. Gaelic. It's not that hard people.) is 7 months old in 40 minutes. His puree spitting techniques are spot on, although he is usually more interested in getting things down the hatch. Feeding him does take a lot of time and it makes a big mess. I usually feed him naked and I HATE feeding him in public because it's much easier to "lift shirt, attach boobie" than do the baby feeding gig. I hate public highchairs (assuming you can find one) and for a while I was taking my own high chair here and there and I had an okay (although stressful) system down where I had everything in a ziploc bag inside the tray lid and I also took a dry washcloth and a wet washcloth (we don't DO disposable wipes, remember) but I felt like it took 22.75 hours of planning to leave the house (I doth exxagerate) and so this was a much better solution.

Pouch baby food that can be pre-purchased has a few issues. You can't control ingredients. Lots of waste (garbage) that isn't green minded. Prices are higher than regular or homemade baby purees. WhatKindOfCancerCausingChemicalsAreInThatSpaceAgedPackaging?! Can you heat it?

My biggest issue is, that I see parents feeding the babies squeeze pouch food all the time. At home. At daycare. At babysitters. And all I can envision is the futuristic people in Wall-E. When will our kids learn to use spoons and forks? Using utensils is a skill that you hope your child develops at a decent age, and feeding them every meal in a squeeze pouch is likely going to hamper that skillset. This is why I am only using pouches when away from home in an inconvenient setting. At home I will still be using spoon. I think. Although there are also spoons that can attach TO the pouches. I don't believe these are the devil, but I do know that they aren't going to mesh with me "cleaner eating away from home" plan that I envision in my head. I will try them later. At this point the reviews on them are not promising.

I purchased the fresh squeezed line and pouches and tested them with items like applesauce for the big kids, and also homemade purees and store bought baby food.

Trying out the Squeeze Station
To start, the Station allows you to be filling three pouches at once, and they can be filled with the same or different purees. You have three chambers to fill and ONE Plunger (aka Infantino Food Press) that comes with the kit. You can purchase additional plungers (which I did, although they also have not arrived yet and it wasn't a HUGE pain to just quickly rinse the plunger between purees if needed.) You can purchase an additional funnel ($20 on amazon?!) and it seriously is NOT necessary. The opening is plenty wide to pour into and if you can't hit that opening, you have bigger issues. I do like to use these tiny spatulas (I have a bunch of them) to get remains out of food processor and baby food jars. These are slick little guys. I bought them back with baby #2 when I got smart.

Station Includes Three Tubes, but one plunger.
You attach the pouches to the station by sliding them into the grooves. They don't "secure" in place until you screw a tube on to the top. The tube secures directly on to the pouch, the stand just sort of "holds" them upright for you. As another reviewer stated, you can easily do this without the stand at all. If Infantino wasn't in the money making business, I am thinking they could sell the pouches and one plunger/tube for less than $10 and still make everyone happy. But I can see if you are doing lots of baby food (homemade) that this stand and doing several pouches at a time would be much nicer and less time consuming than doing it by hand. So that said, you can fill the pouches without the stand itself. I do like that the stand is versatile and allows you to store all the pieces inside when you are finished, which takes up less space and prevents your cupboards from having all these pieces roaming around to be lost in the depths.

I only made a few at a time as the fridge life is very short.
The plunger isn't a complete tight fit, but it does create a nice seal in the tube. The downside is that you can be plunging the pouches full of air (which would be worse if the plunger fit super tight.) Once I fill a tube with puree, I insert the plunger but tilt it slightly to one side so that there isn't a "seal" created until the plunger is flush with the puree. Then I straighten the plunger to create the seal and press the puree down into the bag completely. This prevents you from injecting a bunch of air into the bag. Remember to unscrew the bag slightly before retracting the plunger or the puree will be sucked back out of the packet. A little puree will leak around the top of the packet when you unscrew, but it's minimal. If it's your first baby, just sterilize the pouch spout with bleach or alcohol before putting the lid on. If it's your third, just lick it and put the lid on. (kidding. About the bleach and alcohol part, not the licking part.)

The upside is that these packets can be frozen (and of course they sell a packet organizer.) The downside is that they aren't shelf stable like a purchased packet and they only recommend keeping them in the fridge for 48 hours (yes, again.... if it's your
I don't get it mom.
first baby you'll listen. If you're me, you might go a week:) Another downside? These packets can't be microwaved or boiled. I assume you could put them in a hot glass of water to warm the food if you wanted, or maybe a bottle warmer? Some baby food is good cold or room temperture, but Ewyn made a horrid face at me when I tried to serve him cold green beans "ala packet" today.

The "tubes" have marks on the sides of them. The lowest mark is approximately the equivalent of a Gerber First Foods Plastic pack of puree. The second mark is about the equivalent of a standard Gerber/Beechnut baby food Jar (not the tiny ones that meats come in) and you can get two Gerber Puree Packets (plastic lidded smaller packs) into one fresh squeezed pouch. You can also get an entire jar of baby food in a pouch with wiggle room.

I think I can. I think I can.
My kids wouldn't eat green beans or peas. Ardyn would gag and puke. Marek and Ewyn just gag and spit and refused to swallow them at all. They were much happier with orange veggies like Squash, Carrots, and Sweet Potatoes. This time around I learned that mixing green beans or peas with fruit (seriously) is a big yum-o for baby and that I can get them to eat green beans and peas NO PROBLEMO if I mix them. Green Beans with Pears is a big hit with Ewyn. It's really nice because if I was trying to feed green beans on the go I would have to have a way to mix them with pears... or mix them at home ahead of time. In this case I mixed them right in the station tubes. I used the lines on the tubes to pour equal amounts of pears and beans into each tube and then mixed with my little spatula and pressed the mixes right into the packets. This would work well with homemade purees as well. Voila, green beans and pears on the go.

Aha! Suction!!!!
Of course the directions say do NOT reuse pouches (yes I tried it. yes it worked. No it isn't all super sterile and clean.) but the pouches do write on very nicely with a fine sharpie. I would recommend labeling them BEFORE filling *duh*

I also have purchased some of these really cool spout toppers that are silicbooginhead pouches (which I already have four of because the big kids pack them for snacks and lunches in place of disposable applesauce pouches.) However, the threading on the tube doesn't match the threading on the booginhead SqueezEms... and they must thread in order to work. Unfortunate. The alternative would be to OPEN the top of the squeezems pouch by booginhead, and using the tube and plunger in a handheld manner, you may be able to fill the pouches. I am not sure if this would be more difficult than just spooning into the SqueezeEms like I have been doing... because that seems like more hands might be needed than God has graced me with. Booginhead pouches are dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe.... which is quite the edge over the Infantino Line. Although I have yet to get the reusable Infantino pouches to compare. In the product photo it appears that the infantino reusables are more of a bottle than a pouch, and I wonder about the "squeezeability" of them as well as how easy it would be for a baby to self feed with one when all they have is a suck reflex and can't properly squeeze the food out with their hands.
Gross Mom! Who Leaked??
one and I hope that they fit these infantino packets. They make the opening all soft and easier to suck food through, which should be a big plus for little babes. And will help protect from chewers too I hope. The infantino packets might be a little tricky because I get the idea they aren't the industry standard as far as spout/threading/size goes. I was hoping to use the station with my reusable

That leads me to another angle. Mess. At first I was disappointed because it seemed that these pouches were going to cause as much mess or MORE than spoon feeding. Baby wanted to grab the pouch and squeeze it all over. Think Juice box... aha! How about using this little device to solve some of that "excitable squeezing" ?? I have one or two somewhere around here but haven't been able to figure out WHERE so that I can test that theory... but I bet it would work nicely! Or it could become a baby projectile object....

At first Ewyn had a hard time figuring out how to suck the puree out. I was discouraged because as a breastfeeder he has major suck power. But he needed mom to help squeeze and it was practically impossible to do because I couldn't SEE what I was squeezing into his mouth so it was constantly an overflow situation. And he would just let the excess drool out below the pouch where I couldn't see it. Annoying when you have a high chair tray under baby, catastrophic when you do not have a high chair (away from home.) By pouch four, I was feeling much better about it, as he had mastered sucking the food from the pouch with very little waste. Much improved. I think this might be the solution we've been searching for!

Stay tuned for updates on other items that I am waiting for! and while you're at it... WATCH the video!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Kidspeak- McDonalds Scripture Lesson

Ardyn and I had an interesting conversation today. (Are you shocked?)
Marek and I were busy today and I had a headache and took a short nap with the baby. Marek had a big breakfast and at about 2:30 I realized we hadn't eaten lunch. He had a banana and a cereal bar at home before we took Ardyn to school and then after a Wal-Mart trip he had pancakes and sausage. After picking Ardyn up, I texted Evan and said I would bring a happy meal home for Marek if he wanted one because we forgot to eat. Ardyn insisted that she needed one too (despite it being 3pm) because she was STARVING and would DIE if she didn't eat her supper right this minute.

I ordered two cheeseburger happy meals with plain cheeseburgers.

We got going down the road and Ardyn opens her happy meal. She ate all her fries, and about halfway home (5 or 6 minutes out of town in the country) she starts crying HYSTERICALLY because she discovers that her cheeseburger is NOT, in fact, Plain. She was positively LIVID. Which really is ironic. Because I never used to get them plain cheeseburgers. They like ketchup and mustard. But they are messy and sometimes they overload them with ketchup, so I just started getting them plain for convenience sake when we are in the van.

So anyway, she is screaming and having a crazy meltdown like a toddler. I could tell from her voice and her situation that she was tired. This is the case a lot lately because it's light so much later that instead of a 6:30-7:30 bedtime they are STILL Awake and chatting at like 9pm because it's light out. So they are going from their usual 11-12 hours of sleep to an average of 9 hours a night, which is a big deal.

Meltdown continues. No, correct that. It ESCALATES. I'm getting things like
"THEY did this on PURPOSE! They are so MEAN! I don't like those McDonald's people! They are just MEAN."

To which I respond, "I know it's frustrating, but everyone makes mistakes. They are just people too." (while secretly thinking about Zack and our "second drivethru lane" conversations, because of COURSE that's where I ordered)

Then she's even more hysterical. "They did it on PURPOSE!!!! They are MEAN mommy! I can't EAT this!? I will NOT EAT THIS. Now I'm gonna be starving!"

I try to be calm and diffuse diffuse diffuse. "Ardyn, they just made a mistake. Just take the pickle off and put it in the bag. You don't have to eat it."

"But MOOOOOOOOOOM There's KETCHUP and it's EVERYWHERE and it's (sob sob sob) touching my CHEEEEESE! (wail, snort, sob) They Did this on PURPOSE!!!!"

So I try to bring God into the picture, because often times that seems to solve things for her. Call it part of Christian Schooling, call it comforting, call it religious, call it a darn good explanation for right and wrong. I don't care what you want to call it. "Ardyn, you need to calm down. People make mistakes. Jesus says that all people make mistakes and we are supposed to forgive them. Jesus forgives and we should forgive." (i'm feeling pretty proud of myself now. I'm getting better all the time at applying reasons that she can understand to everyday situations.)

Ardyn wails "We haven't learned THAT in school!!!" and I say "But it's true!" and she says "We haven't learned that at my school yet" in a tone that CLEARLY states that scripture which is not directly taught to her at school is null and void. (This is the part where one of those really"GOOD" Christians would just off the cuff recite a bible verse complete with location and the child would instantly be overcome by peace, joy, and an angelic glowing face. At this I miserably fail.)

Eventually she decides that she can't eat ANYTHING near that cheeseburger. I get "Mom! You should have TOLD them I wanted a plain cheeseburger!!!" and I said (still in firm possession of my calm and patient mom voice) "I did tell them Ardyn. I ordered two plain cheeseburgers. They make mistakes." (And if it wasn't for the drive back I swear to you I would have drug my child into McDonalds with snot and tears running down her angry red face and let them deal with her "YOU DID THIS ON PURPOSE" situation. Well, the drive back and perhaps looking a little like the mother of Veruca Salt.) Then she goes on to say "NEXT Time mom you need to SPEAK CLEARLY and LOUDER." (second drivethru conversation, second drivethru conversation.... why didn't I record this to play to Zack??)

Once she realizes I am eating MY cheeseburger, and ignoring the devastation caused by hers... she gives in a bit and declares that she CAN in fact, probably eat the bottom bun, untouched by contaminating condiments. Then she declares that she THINKS that she could eat the burger but that she has to peel off the cheese because the ketchup is ALL OVER the cheese. Then a few minutes later I hear "Hey Mom! This Ketchup is REALLY GOOD!!!!!"

And then as we turn onto our street "Mom, Next time can you order me a cheeseburger with Ketchup that's NOT plain?"

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you - Ephesians 4:32

Monday, April 29, 2013

Babywearing Tips, Choosing a Carrier, and WHY you should put down that infant seat and take a break from the stroller...

Ardyn asleep in Hotsling

Every babe is asleep tonight so I am going to write a little bit about Babywearing. It's something I've been doing since Ardyn was born 5 years ago, and it's something that I am passionate about. I don't wear my baby all day every day, but I do believe in closeness with your baby and bonding and snuggling, and I do believe that wearing a baby can help you accomplish much more than you would accomplish if you have a fussy baby, a cuddly baby, or even a special needs baby or toddler. I've found that when babywearing I have a much happier, calmer, less fussy baby, especially compared to other babies who are always stuck in their stroller or carseat. I have a smiley baby instead of a fussy one. I find the right carrier to be less cumbersome and more freeing than dragging around an infant carrier or a stroller. ESPECIALLY a large stroller when in a crowd or dealing with other toddlers. Although my toddlers learned at an early age "hands on the stroller!" It's much easier to navigate a theater, museum, etc. without the awkward stroller that won't fit the aisles. And you get a LOT less dirty looks from other peeps when your stroller isn't in their way all the time. My favorite is that you don't have that problem where the baby gets fussy and wants out of the stroller and you end up carrying the baby while also pushing the stroller one handed and trying not to crash in to anything. I've also found that because we are MOVING so much of our day (the two older kids are in two different school districts, and we have violin lessons, dance class, and T-ball) the baby just has to go with the flow most of the time. He spends enough time in a car seat, and I want him to feel like he is loved and that he still gets that mom time that is so important to both his development and our bonding. It's also easier for me to know that he is hungry or needs a change when he is truly WITH me instead of always in a contraption. The more time that I can be holding him, and that he can be feeling my skin, my warmth, my kisses and hearing my voice, breathing, and heartbeat... the better we both feel and the more confident and happy he becomes. Babywearing and Breastfeeding are THE reasons I believe I have a happy, confident child! (three of them to be precise!)

Marek asleep in the Hotsling
When I first started babywearing, I owned an Infantino Carrier and a Hotsling. My collection has grown rapidly to include two hotslings, a ring sling, a Babyhawk, and a Moby Wrap (and now a Wrapsody Woven Wrap, which I have updated about at the bottom of this post.) Each carrier has it's pros and cons and also has situations where it's well suited. I've been babywearing for three kids, and I just want to share my thoughts about each carrier. Specifically because whenever I am out and about wearing one, at least ONE mom comes up to ask me about babywearing and usually comment on how much they wish they A) had a carrier like that ~OR~ B) would have bought one of those when their kids were small. I am now often having grandmas stopping me to ask where they can get one for their daughter and grandbaby. It always makes me smile.

Ardyn in the Newborn Hold in a Ring Sling

First I will start with my Hotsling. I have two hotslings. One patterned and one black. They are easy on, easy off. No long fabric, no ties. They have padded leg openings for softly resting against chunky toddler thighs and they carry babies in a side lying hold or toddlers on your hip. I really like the hotsling for a quick carrier for a side lying baby who is lightweight. I am not a fan of the toddler as much because the entire weight of the child is put on one of your shoulders, similar to a ring sling. using a hotsling and a ring sling frequently with my first child actually put me in chiropractic care and eventually physical therapy to straighten out some serious pain caused by back strain from one shoulder bearing all that weight. I would not recommend a hotsling as your single baby carrier. I like that I can get the baby to sleep in the hotsling and easily (EASILY!) remove the hotsling and lay the baby down while keeping them asleep and undisturbed. It is not a handsfree carrier in my mind as I was not able to bend over without putting a hand on the child to steady and secure them.Also, because the hotsling is a sized carrier, you purchase them to fit your body size. it is not adjustable and therefore isn't always good if you and your husband or partner want to share in the babywearing. It also isn't good if you lose weight and gain it between kids, OR if you want to wear it in cold weather and put it on over a jacket or heavy sweatshirt... because it is not adjustable.

Washing Dishes with Ardyn on my back in the Babyhawk

Ring Sling. There are SO many ways to wear and adjust a ring sling. I really did enjoy my ring sling, and all the ways I could use it, and the ease of nursing in a ring sling. But I didn't always enjoy the ring digging into my shoulder. Everything I read EVERYWHERE said that if you could feel the ring, you weren't wearing it right. I adjusted that thing a thousand ways and looked all over the internet reading information and watching videos on proper use. I couldn't see anything that I was doing differently, but with extended wear the ring always bothered me. I also had the same "one shoulder" weight bearing issues that I had with the hotsling, and I never used the ring sling with my second or third child because along came....

The BABYHAWK. This is the absolute KING of baby carriers in my opinion (*Second only to the Wrapsody, which is NOT for everyone but you can read about below!.) When I talk about the babyhawk, I practically glow. There are other similar mei tai (asian inspired) baby carriers on the market, but the babyhawk happens to be the one that I use and adore. I purchased mine when Ardyn was still fairly young, when I was dealing with the physical therapy issue. Babyhawks are not cheap. Mine was a custom made (chose my own fabric, made it reversible with two pockets and two fabric choices, and added a keyring/pacifier holder) and it cost me $119. When I say that, parents flinch. But I have to tell you, and recommend to you, that a good baby carrier can make ALL the difference when it comes to whether or not you babywear. And at the time, I wasn't sure if it was going to be what I wanted, but what I DID know was that it would hold it's resale value. AND that I would be having more kids, so if I in fact did like it, I would get my use out of it. I still have an entire child to use it for (since Ewyn is just 5 weeks old) and I have already MORE than gotten my money worth. And I was able to loan it to my friend Courtney when her second was small. Priceless. Worth $200 in my opinion :) I loved it so much I sewed a mini version for Ardyn to carry her dolls and animals in. The babyhawk is a handsfree carrier in that I can do almost any task without having to put my hand on the baby or toddler to feel they are secure. It is also easier to tie when running about in public than a Moby (more on that in a bit) and a lot less fabric in general compared to a Moby. It also isn't stretchy (like the majority of moby wraps are) which means you don't have to tighten it periodically as the fabric stretches and it loosens. It takes a bit of practice to confidently put a child in the wrap, but really it's not difficult. I am able to do it by myself with no issues now, but other people often find it frightening to watch (I don't think they are as confident in me as I am :) The Babyhawk distributes a child's weight over both shoulders and you can tie the shoulder straps behind the child's back for a more secure support (for an infant) or under their bottom for more "lift" (for a toddler.) I don't have the back strain with the Babyhawk that I have with all the other carriers, and it's incredibly well made. the Babyhawk also allows you to do a front and rear carry, which is awesome for when your kids get bigger, and also allows the Newborn hug hold (with their legs in a fetal position) as well as a big kid style hold where their arms and legs stick out. It is not AS handsfree as the Moby wrap because if you have an infant with less head control, you can't tuck their head inside the wrap as much to prevent their little head from wobbling when bending over to do things like laundry or tying a big kid's shoe, or picking up something like your diaper bag or a dropped item from the floor. But all in all it's pretty handsfree. More so than a ring sling or hotsling in my experience. Very secure. I love it for getting groceries or going out and about because it's not as time consuming or complicated to tie as a Moby and it also isn't as HOT as a Moby in the summertime. (all that fabric! oy!) Also it doesn't drag on the ground when you are tying it as much as a Moby, which can be a pain if you are in the dirt or snow, or if you are in a grungy parking lot. With the babyhawk I just keep the shoulder straps inside the doorway of my van or vehicle while I work on tying, and it's easier to keep under control than the long long long pieces of Moby fabric.

That said, the Moby is a pretty awesome carrier. I purchased mine used from a friend who was selling it. For her (she is short) it was way long and cumbersome, and too much fabric to deal with. What I really like about the MOBY is that it's great for newborns because you can really tuck their little head inside the fabric and still feel confident that they can breathe, but allowing you to be COMPLETELY handsfree. It is also so supportive and covers every inch of them and makes them feel very secure and cozy. It's comfortable to wear and can be worn a HUGE variety of ways. It also allows you to wear your bigger baby facing OUT in the front, which the other carriers don't allow for. I've also found that this video (and this one) for nursing a baby in the Moby wrap is very nice... especially when you have to nurse at places where you might not have any privacy.... church, school functions, the grocery store, etc. Strangely enough, the older I get the more I worry that I might offend someone by nursing. I don't know why that is. I am pretty adamant that it's the right thing to do, but I didn't cover up much when nursing my first two kids, and I am a little more discreet this time around. It's nice to be able to nurse without feeling like everyone in a ten mile radius is watching you and scrutinizing how much skin you show :) But in the right crowd I don't cover up. That's where I am most comfortable.

Trick Or Treating as a Family of 5 with Ewyn in the Babyhawk

The Moby wrap is a great all around carrier. It's not the best when you will be in and out of the wrap a lot. It gets tiresome to be wrapping and unwrapping the carrier all the time with all that extra fabric. But it often is my carrier of choice when I have a little one without head control, when I want to nurse in a carrier OR when I am around home. Another thing I have discovered (with age and experience) is that I can put the moby wrap on at home, but not put the baby in it. Then I can put him in his carseat and drive to my destination (while wearing my moby wrap) and take him out of the carseat and put him right into the Moby when I arrive. The thing is, you have to be able to tolerate that knot in your back while driving, or tie the moby in front (if you're not me, but are skinny and have lots of extra tail fabric) or you can knot it on one hip instead. I think the hardest thing is the in and out of the carseat in order to babywear. But for me, I always end up having to take them out the nurse them or change their diaper or just because they get sweaty or uncomfortable in their carseat... and so being in the wrap isn't such a big deal. Plus I like to have them close over carrying that stupid heavy seat anyway. Plus I transition my kids to a convertible seat way before a year, usually at about the time they can sit up (6 months) so that I don't have to carry the seat anywhere and I just carry the baby.
Wearing your baby allows for handsfree help to older siblings as well, and anyone who has kids close together can understand the difficulties that come about when you have to help a toddler, OR when you have to cross a parking lot or the street with a toddler who likes to run (or even one who doesn't!) you need free hands to be able to maneuver and hold little hands, and keep them in line. And even now, with a 5 and 3 year old, TWO empty hands is imperative at times. I love being able to wear the baby and still do what needs to be done to help out big siblings.
Ewyn in the Wrapsody at the Ped Ophthalmologist.. in the SUPERMAN Hold
Any questions about babywearing or carriers that I could help with, I would be glad to. There is probably plenty more that I haven't covered here.
One thing that I find is that often moms say "I don't want to spend that much on a carrier" and I can honestly say that a good investment in babywearing will almost always pay off. Especially if you are planning on having more than one child and will be using it for several babies, or if your kids are close together in age and you will need those free hands. :)
Just in the first month after Ewyn was born, I attended the community Halloween party with him in a carrier, as well as helped out at Marek's class Halloween Party, went Trick or Treating with the family, attended Family Reading Night at Ardyn's school, and got groceries without crying.... all with him wrapped to me. Without a carrier, lots of those things wouldn't have been possible or wouldn't have gone nearly as smoothly. The carrier allows me to handle all three kids on my own, which is important when Evan is working a lot!
Asleep in a Chest Hold at Key Lime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort

UPDATE: Since this post I have also purchased a Wrapsody Baby Woven Batik Wrap.I have a Wrapsody BREEZE Carrier in color scheme "Hope" and I purchased mine from Amazon....  It is the same type of wrap as a moby, but isn't stretchy. This is BETTER Because the wrap stays nice and tight and doesn't stretch with wearing, and you can safely do back carries and many other carries that can't be done with the Moby. (watch THIS video that shows you why it is not safe to do back carries in a stretchy wrap like the Moby!) I sold the Moby wrap and I've now found that I actually wear this Wrapsody MORE than my beloved Babyhawk. The versatility is AMAZING. Their product comes with an very thorough and easy to follow DVD. Check out their website at and it doesn't hurt that it is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous! AND Hand Batik! I love that it can do back and front carries, in and outward facing, sling style newborn holds, hip holds, and also how it is versatile to wear over one or both shoulders. You can carry twins in this, and even two toddlers or older children because they show you how to carry one on front and one on back!

Ewyn in the Wrapsody Front Chest Carry. Asleep after two hours of Helping Mom and the PJWC on Adopt a Highway Cleanup Duty!
I actually find it EASIER to use out and about because you tie the wrap first and THEN add baby, so you don't have that learning curve to get around of typing the wrap (babyhawk!) with the baby hanging in there as you try not to drop him. (how many times have you tried to add a baby without dropping them on the pavement in the parking lot? Always practice a new carry or carrier at home in front of a soft surface like the bed or a couch! Do it until you feel comfortable wrapping without the safety net below.) Especially nice in cold weather because it really minimizes the time that baby is "outside" a vehicle while you wrap. I also like that I can tie it on the side (easily! comfortably!) and then I can continue to wear it while sitting or driving without a knot digging into my back. I wear it all day when I shop, and just remove the baby and put him back in his carseat when we are driving, and then just pop him back into the wrap in the parking lot in a store. Also works great for places like vacations, restaurants, museums, and on walks. I've used it EVERYWHERE. I wore baby at the indoor waterpark while on vacation, I wore him at my daughter's Kindergarten Class field trip to the museum, I wear him all over. And I can wear him on the front, and put a backpack on my back, and be completely hands free. Also, unlike the moby, you don't have to perfectly fold it in half lengthwise when you use it, they give you great directions for a gathered or a folded cross wrap style and I LOVE the gathered. No folding! Not complicated! I was a pro at this wrap in NO TIME!

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