Friday, December 8, 2017

To The Parents of Well-Behaved Children


My two and a half year old twin boys are good at a lot of things.  They can climb the tallest walls at the playground.  Slide down the biggest slides.  They can use real cups and eat chili without making (too big of) a mess.  They can buckle their own booster seats and clear their places after meals.  They take three hour naps and sleep twelve hours at night.   They take turns and share (most of the time), and they say please, thank you, and you’re welcome.  They show compassion for others; they are helpful.  They give excellent hugs and kisses, high fives and fist bumps.  My boys are good at a lot of things.  But they are not good at sitting quietly.

Recently, a Facebook friend posted about attending a story time with her well behaved child.  She was frustrated by the number of kids who were not doing what they were supposed to.  I know exactly what she is talking about, and it broke my heart.  Because those are my kids.

We weren’t at that particular story time, but we’ve been to plenty of others.  And while the other children in attendance sat quietly with their parents, my boys ran full speed around the room.  While the other kids sang along to the welcome song, mine tried to open doors that were meant to stay closed.  During the first story, while the other kids told the librarian what cows say, mine climbed on chairs and giggled uproariously.  During ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, while the well behaved children sang along, mine let out unbridled war cries and took turns tackling each other.  My twins touched the felt board, over and over and over again, even though they were asked politely not to.

The boys were having a fabulous time, but I was in hell.  I grabbed at little wrists as they flew by in an attempt to keep little bodies from ricocheting around the room. I stood in front of doors, my hands guarding the handles.  I scooped little boys down off of chairs and tried to corral them in my lap repeatedly.  I sang along animatedly, hoping to get the boys interested in the activities.  I constantly worried whether it would be more distracting to go to the front and retrieve the boys from the felt board or to sit in the back and wait for them to get tired of it on their own.  On those rare occasions that we made it until the end of story time, I tossed hurried apologies over my shoulder to the librarian before darting after whichever boy had already escaped into the lobby.

More often than not, I left halfway through story time in tears, hauling sixty-five pounds of screaming, writhing toddlers evenly distributed under my arms.  But for a while, I kept going back anyway.  

Because I desperately want my boys to enjoy story time.  To be able to attend a music class.  I want them to learn to sit quietly and to become active listeners.  I thought the best way for that to happen was to keep practicing.  To keep attending story times and music classes until we had more good minutes than bad.

There were always one or two exceptionally kind parents at story time.  Fathers who told me that their sons were rowdy and loud and couldn’t sit still, just like mine, and that they can do all that and more now that they are in kindergarten.  Mothers who assured me that it was okay, that it would get better.  That we were all parents and everybody understood what it was like.

We were all parents, but I’m not convinced everybody understood what it was like.  Because I’ve been on the other side, the side with ‘well-behaved’ children, and I had no idea.  My girls sat through story times like champs and received nothing but praise in pre-school.  I could easily take them to the park by myself without worrying how I’d round them up and get them into the car when it was time to leave.

I may have thought the same things detailed on the Facebook post: that those poorly behaved children needed parents to set proper limits and insist on appropriate story time conduct so that it wasn’t ‘ruined’ for everyone else.  I may have wished those rowdy and loud children would stop going to the same story time as me, or stop going completely.  I may have thought those things, but I hope I didn’t.

Parents of well-behaved children, please be tolerant.  Please be kind.  Please understand that the frustration you feel when you see kids acting out is nothing compared to the frustration their parents feel.  Because parenting is never easy.  It’s joyful, amusing, messy, daunting and gratifying, but never easy.  Parenting is hard in all kinds of ways, and we each have our own struggles and successes.

To the parents of well-behaved children: the ones whose kids who sit and speak quietly, who follow the rules and happily hold your hand when you are in a parking lot,  I commend you.  Without your children leading quietly by example, pre-schools, story times and grocery stores would be absolute chaos.  Children’s Librarians would quit and the cost of day care would triple.  Your children will become the steady force that gently pushes society into order and helps the world change for the better.

And to the parents of the rabble-rousers, the rapscallions, the imps.  To the parents whose kids play hard, love hard, live hard, and live loud, all while in continuous motion, I commend you too.  Your children teach patience and add color to everything they touch (unfortunately sometimes literally).  Your children will become the interminable force that rocks society to its core and helps the world change for the better. 

To all the parents: hang in there.  As a wise woman once told me, “I can’t guarantee it will get easier, but I can guarantee it will get different.”

Thursday, December 7, 2017

How We Roll with Twins: Potty Training, Day 3


Well, the moment we’ve all been waiting for arrived.  Last night, our Baby Bjorn potties were delivered!!  I was at work so I missed all the fun, but Chris filled me in when I got home.  Apparently both boys enjoyed carting their new potties around, and both enjoyed wearing the liners of their potties like hats (We’d like to thank Henry, of “Potty Time for Big Boys” for that particular party suggestion).  They even hefted them onto the couch and sat on them like kings, ruling their peons from their thrones.  A good time was had by all.

I was eager to see how it would go with the new additions.  As has become our routine, I took off the boys’ diapers when we got back from dropping the girls off at school.  Only this time, I just left them naked from the waist down.

I’ve heard from several reliable sources that training can happen much faster with no clothes at all, and the evidence of Joel’s absolute terror upon finding a turd in his bed added proof to this theory.

I was willing to give it a try, though there were aspects of this that seemed risky.  Of course things could get messy, but it’s potty training.  Things are going to get messy.  The more pressing problem to me was the boys’ already well honed desire to not wear clothes.  

The first thing they do when I put them to bed is take off their shirts (and sometimes their pants).  The last time we went to the park, both boys had their socks, shoes, and shirts off within minutes.  A week ago we attended a toddler music class in the one of the classiest St. Louis neighborhoods.  Not only were my boys running around tackling each other like miniature WWF stars, they were doing it half naked.  It seemed that condoning nakedness at home might be a slippery slope, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

What a difference a day (plus nakedness and two tiny potties) can make.  Ryan had half an accident in the morning, but then no accidents the rest of the day.  He even had success with, ahem, number two.  (I’ve never in my life been so excited to see poop).

Joel was decidedly less interested in his potty, which is fine.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my ten years of parenting, it’s that you can lead a kid to the potty, but you can’t make him pee.  There are few things worse than attempting to potty train a kid who doesn’t want to be trained.  It’s messy.  Really messy.  And stressful for the parent and the child.

So the question is, where do we go from here?  I think if I were diligent and consistent with Ryan, he could likely be trained in the not too distant future.  However, for us, the not too distant future includes a trip to Washington for two weeks at my parents’ house, where the floors are carpeted and the carpet is new.  I think for the sake of their home, and my sanity, we will keep Ryan in diapers (or maybe pull-ups) for the time being and encourage him to use the potty whenever possible.  We’ll let Joel go at his own pace as well, and encourage him if he shows interest.

Through the years, I’ve lost track of the number of people who have told me not to worry too much about potty training.  That nobody’s kid goes off to kindergarten or college still wearing diapers.  And the mom part of me thinks, “Phew.  Thank goodness.”

But the mathematician part of me, the part that understands statistics, thinks, “Somewhere out there is a kid who will go off to kindergarten or college still wearing diapers.”  I just hope that kid isn’t mine.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

How We Roll with Twins: Potty Training, Day 2 (Pee-pocalypse)

The little potties have still not arrived, and I debated whether we were even going to attempt training today.  But when we got back from taking the girls to school, Ryan asked to sit on the potty.

I figured I better capitalize on his interest, so I put both boys in big boy underwear and set the timer.  They both had wet diapers when I changed them, so I figured I was good for a couple of minutes while I ran some laundry upstairs.  Unfortunately, I figured wrong.

A sudden chorus of “uh-oh, wet! oh no!” rang out from the living room.  By the time I got back downstairs, Ryan was hopping up in down in a small puddle and Joel was running around in circles shouting “Ryan, wet!  Oh no!”

I took Ryan into the bathroom and cleaned him up.  When I poked my head out to check on Joel, I saw him standing still looking down at his pants.  He looked up at me for a second and then said, “uh oh.”  We both looked down.  A small puddle was forming between his legs.

What followed is a blur.  I actually can’t remember the details.  It just seemed that every where I looked, another little boy was peeing on my floor.  The floor was littered with small, wet, boxer briefs, and it felt like I had been cleaning and changing boys for hours.  

But then the oven timer went off, so it turns out the pee-spree had only lasted thirty minutes.  Thirty minutes I didn’t want to repeat any time soon.  Or well, ever.


It was back in diapers for the boys, and back to the kitchen for me for a well deserved Coke.  We’ll start potty training again when the little potties come.  Probably.

How We Roll With Twins: Potty Training, Day 1



Even though the potties from amazon have yet to arrive, I decided to go ahead with potty training this morning.  After dropping the girls off at school, we came back home and I let the boys each pick out a pair of ‘big boy underwear’ to put on.  I gated off the great room in the hopes that accidents would be contained to the hard floor.  Then I set the oven timer for 30 minutes, the plan being that I’d have the boys sit on the potty every half hour to start getting used to it.

The first time the timer went off, things were going swimmingly.  No accidents, and Ryan came with me happily to give it a try.  “I on da potty!” he announced loudly, his legs swinging back and forth over the sides of the toilet.

It was then that I noticed something that was bound to become a problem sooner or later.  I am no expert in potty training, or in physics, but I know just enough about boy parts and gravity to deduce that when little boys sit on the potty, their pee is not going to go where I want it to naturally.  With little girls, you have them lean forward a little, and I’m guessing there is some sort or trick with boys too (or maybe not, and that is why all my friends with boys say their bathroom floors are perpetually covered in urine). For now, I don’t have to worry about it because the point is just for them to sit on the potty and get used to it.

Anyway, we sang the ABCs, twice, and then Ryan and I both clapped on account of him being such a good boy.  I helped him off, washed his hands, and gave him his M&M reward for sitting on the potty.  I asked Joel if he was ready to sit on the potty.  He side eyed me and scowled at the same time.  “No.  No potty.”

I re-set the oven timer and did some dishes while the boys watched Kung Fu Panda.  When I turned off the water, I heard a noise that sounded alarmingly like splashing.  I found Ryan, sitting in a puddle, slapping his hands in it (?!?!).  “Water!” he shouted, gleefully.

I explained that it wasn’t water and that he had a pee-pee accident.  Once he was aware of this, he was happy to help clean up and put on clean pants.  Apparently all the cleaning made him a bit peckish, because then he asked to sit on the potty again and delightedly ate another M&M.

Joel saw him eating the M&M, and asked for one.  I told him of course he could have one.  He’d just have to sit on the potty first.  “No.  No potty,” he replied decisively. 

After several more trips to sit on the potty (Ryan), two accidents during snack time (Ryan and Joel), Ryan was definitely catching on to the whole M&M thing.  So much so that he visited the potty three times in the span of 2 minutes.  That’s when I started making him sit for longer amounts of time than just the ABC song.  Not so ironically, that’s also when he stopped asking to go every 30 seconds.

It was minutes later that a little boy came over to me and asked to sit on the potty.  I looked carefully at his face, because I thought the little boy would be Ryan, but it was in fact Joel.  I checked.  Twice.  And just like that, I had two boys willing to sit on the potty (in exchange for chocolate bribes).

That was plenty of success for one day.  Not wanting to push my luck, I stuck both boys back in diapers and put them down for a nap. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

How We Roll With Twins: Potty Training, Making the Decision To Train

Ready as they'll ever be...
Potty training experts agree that you should not attempt to potty train a child until they show signs of readiness.  These include telling a parent when they are wet or dirty, showing interest in bathroom habits, being able to sit quietly for a few minutes, and the ability to pull their pants up and down.

The boys are almost two and a half, so I’ve been on the lookout for these signs of readiness for a while now.  One morning I found them both buck naked in their cribs with their (thankfully just wet) diapers strewn on the floor, and I thought to myself, "Pants off.  Check."

A couple of days later, I went to get them from their cribs and Ryan pronounced happily, “I steen-ty!”  
“You’re stinky?” I asked, hoping to clarify.  
He threw his arms up in the air and yelled, “YEAAAAHH!!!!”
Awareness (and pride) of soiled diapers?  Check.

Over the next weeks, the boys were more often naked in their cribs than not, and I was beginning to think it might be time to start training, if for no other reason than to avoid washing sheets every day.

But the real push to potty train came when I heard the boys screaming in terror after I put them down for a nap.  I rushed up, thinking someone was hurt.  When I opened the door, Joel was naked and pointing at his blanket yelling, “blankie wet!!!!!”

It turned out blankie had been defiled, but it wasn’t wet.  Joel and I both turned to look in his crib at the same time.  Sitting just inches from his bare feet, on top of his Pottery Barn Kids whale sheets, were two medium sized turds.  Joel backed away and started crying again, “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

I’ve never read that fear of one’s own turds is a sign of readiness for potty training, but it probably is.  I went out and purchased two packs of tiny boxer briefs and a training seat, and loaded up on potty books and movies from the library.  My plan was to read them the books and show them the movies on Sunday and start the actual training on Monday.  

Allie and Coco were definitely on board to get this whole potty train moving.  Mostly because years ago when potty training the boys was nowhere on my radar, I may have said something like, “We are definitely not getting a cat before the boys are potty trained.”  What Allie and Coco heard was, “We will definitely get a cat the second the boys no longer need diapers.”

Anyway, the girls were more than happy to help speed things along.  Allie read the twins one of the books while they ate breakfast.  Unfortunately, Curious George was on the TV behind her, and the boys spent a lot more time yelling, “Nooo,” and shooing her away with their hands than they did listening about Henry, the little boy who discovered his potty was not a fish bowl or a hat or a bird bath.

We all sat in the basement and watched ‘The Potty Song’ followed by the “The Potty Movie,” and the girls and I wondered why Henry, who was able to brush his teeth, get dressed, put on his shoes and do calculus, was not yet able to use the potty.

One thing I did learn from all the books and movies was that it seemed everybody used those little potties and not the seat that just sits on the big potty.  With all of my kids, I’ve hoped and hoped that we wouldn’t need to use the little potty (because they’re gross), but with all my kids we’ve ended up using it, at least at first.  So I caved, and ordered two tiny potties from amazon prime.

That night, I decided to check on the boys over the video monitor one last time before I went to bed.  Joel was sleeping peacefully with his legs tucked under him and his blanket covering his back.  Ryan was also sleeping peacefully with his legs tucked under him and bum in the air.  “Umm, Chris?” I nudged him.  “Is that a crack?”  


Pants off?  Double check.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Yellow Means Speed Up

There was a time that I was embarrassed to call my maternal grandmother, ‘Mumsy.’  I was neither British nor 5 years old, and the name felt awkward and juvenile.  Of course, I was in my early teens, so I was awkward and juvenile.

In retrospect, the name Davalee Bohnenkamp chose to have her grandchildren call her could not have been more fitting.  Though she wasn’t British, there was a certain properness about her.  A stern-ness that inspired children such as myself to sit up straight, keep our elbows off the table.  Be seen and not heard.  

My earliest memories of my grandmother are not really of her at all.  They are of epic phone calls between my mother and her, punctuated by visits where Mumsy and Mom would work on extensive sewing projects or redecorate a room.  There were ornaments every December accompanied by extravagant, ruffled Christmas dresses that required scratchy lace tights. 
Ruffled dresses, scratchy tights.
Every other summer, and the occasional Christmas, my family would fly from Seattle to Missouri to visit.  Mumsy’s home was immaculate.  By the time I can remember, her children had grown and left, and she had been widowed for years.  It was perhaps the absence of children and men that allowed her home to become what it was: a rich haven of floral prints, delicate accents, and ornate oil paintings.

My sister and I would tiptoe from pristine room to pristine room, enjoying the air conditioning that blasted away the sticky heat of a midwest summer.  We snooped through the forgotten belongings of our mother and aunt in their childhood room or played monopoly with our cousin.  We watched our uncles play tennis on the courts behind the house and climbed the low hanging branches of the juniper tree at the edge of the driveway.

Christmases with Mumsy were lively affairs.  The whole family would gather on Christmas Eve for food and conversation.  The night culminated in the shuffle shot gift exchange, where we all competed for the best items, and one of my uncles would inevitably go home with a pink scarf or baking tins.  The party would commence again on Christmas morning, when presents were opened and everybody could hunt for the pickle ornament hidden on the tree.  The prize for finding it was provided by Mumsy, and it would range from five dollars to one hundred, so I’ve heard.  The honorable distinction of finding the pickle was never mine.
Mumsy never went home with baking tins.

The summer of my 16th birthday, Mumsy invited my friend and I to her house for a tennis camp with my Uncle Marvin.  She had witnessed one of our abysmal losses on the courts, and where our coaches saw mediocrity, she saw potential.  Also, no one in her family had ever been abysmal at tennis, and damned if she was going to let that start with me.

Though our days began and ended on the courts, the time in the middle was our own.  Mumsy would work the daily jumble on scratch paper so that I could do it too, and we’d give each other hints on words the other struggled with.  We did crossword puzzles without the help of the internet, the table littered with encyclopedias, the dictionary, and the almanac.  

In the evenings, Mumsy would take us out to dinner somewhere in Park Hills or Farmington.  I remember her racing through a yellow light on the way saying, “Now, your driver’s ed teachers and your mothers won’t tell you this, but yellow means speed up!”

One Friday night, we returned from dinner to find traffic backed up all the way down Main Street.  Mumsy explained the-foreign-to-us concept of cruising, where the youth of town would drive from one end of the strip to the other blaring music, showing off their cars, and checking each other out.  To further enlighten us, she rolled down all the windows in her white Chevy Malibu and turned up the classical music until the speakers shook.  The three of us crept through main street, our heads thrown back in laughter as teenagers peered wide-eyed into our car with expressions of shock and amusement.

Graduation at Pacific University, Oregon
I went to graduate school an hour and a half away from Mumsy.  She and Mom came with me to help me get settled.  I had purchased an entertainment center from Sauder.  It was the kind that came in a big, heavy box and required fourteen hours of assembly if you were an engineer, more if you were not.  We opened the boxes and arranged the pieces neatly on the floor, ready to begin.  Mumsy swiped up the instruction booklet and began to read, “Place part A into part B, and use part C to secure.”  We muddled through for a while before I asked to see the instructions for myself.  Mumsy peered out over the top of the pages, her eyebrows raised.  “You don’t need to see them, because I am telling you what they say.  Now, just connect parts F and G using four part Ls.”

Throughout grad school, I spent the occasional weekend with Mumsy, braving the curvy backroad drive from Rolla to Park Hills in my ’89 Cabriolet.  We still did the jumbles and the crosswords.  We spoke about books we’d read, current events, and the topics of her most recent Monday Club.  I’d pour over old albums, marveling at the pictures of Mumsy as a young woman and watching my mom, aunt and uncles grow up through the pages.

Mumsy regaled me with stories from the past and present.  She told me about the time the Jehovah Witnesses showed up at her door wanting to speak to her about religion. She invited them in for tea and listened to all they had to say.  Then she brought out her bible and her book of Morman and began sharing her thoughts on various religions.  She laughed gleefully when she told me, “As keen as they were to come into my house and tell me what to believe, they sure didn’t like it happening to them!”  It was probably the only time Jehovah Witnesses have been seen running away from a house.

Mumsy told me about meeting her husband, Marvin.  Their first date was Mumsy’s high school play.  She acted the lead while Marvin watched on from the audience.

She told me about the time she was at the theatre seated behind a man and a woman.  The couple kept leaning together, making it impossible for Mumsy to see.  “I blew gently on their necks so that they felt just a little draft and learned not to lean in that way,” she said, her eyes sparkling.

One of my favorite pictures is of Mumsy brushing my mom’s hair.  My mother was three or four years old at the time, neatly clothed in a dress and patent leather shoes and seated on the kitchen counter, her legs dangling down.  Mumsy stood behind her, radiant, with hair and make up already complete. It could have been a poster for the fifties.  I know there was a time when Mumsy wore thin-waisted dresses, cooked elaborate meals and spent her days keeping children and keeping house.  

But to me, Mumsy was Alfred Dunner pant suits and Diet Coke with a straw.  Little Debbies for dinner and omelettes from the Schwann’s man for breakfast.  She had email and online banking, and she played and won thousands of Spider Solitaire games, keeping track of the numbers of the few games she couldn’t solve.  She owned and actually used an iPad and a Wii at the age of 80.  She played ping pong at 85.  She was as likely to spend an afternoon at the symphony as she was to spend it watching a Cardinals’ game. 
Mumsy at Greg's baseball game.

We call aging, ‘growing old’, but it isn’t growing so much as it is becoming smaller.  We become more stooped, less energetic.  We see less, hear less, and remember less.  We become less able to care for ourselves.  

Fortunately, with the enormous support of her children and caregivers, Mumsy was able to spend most of her life at her home, which she designed herself, right down to the front door with it’s door knob smack dab in the center.  She lived with her two cats, Putty-Tat and Tinker Bell, who enjoyed the kind of lives most cats can only dream of.
Living the good life.


When pneumonia and an infection made it impossible to keep Mumsy at home any longer, her children made the difficult decision to move her to Parc Provence, an assisted care facility.  It is the kind of place that at one point, Mumsy would have appreciated.  It’s halls are adorned with handsome wood wainscoting, elaborate crystal chandeliers, and enormous golden bird cages.

When I visited Mumsy at Parc Provence, it was so saturated with old people in wheel chairs that I had a hard time picking out which one was her.  Her head was slumped, her back curved, her ankles swollen.  Her cheeks were hollow, and the gleam in her eyes was gone.  When I spoke to her, she seemed unable to understand what I was saying, and I couldn’t understand what she said in reply.

My mother and I sat on either side of her while one of the workers played guitar and sang.  We occasionally tried to engage her in conversation, but her head would droop down toward her chest and her eyes would close in sleep.

Then Nathan, a young, attractive, care giver, walked by.  He cocked his head to one side, smiled, and waved at Mumsy.  She smiled right back and lifted her hand in greeting.  I, on seeing she had awoken, asked Mumsy if she was enjoying the music.  Her head dropped down toward her chest.  Her eyes closed in sleep.  My mother and I exchanged a glance.

Twenty minutes later, when Mumsy was still sleeping, we decided to leave and let her rest.  As we said good bye to one of the workers, I glanced back.  There was Mumsy, sitting erect in her chair, listening to the music with the hint of a smile on her face.  My 91 year old grandmother had feigned sleep to get rid of us.  

I’d have been offended except that I could see her again.  The woman who blew on the necks of strangers, who befuddled Jehovah Witnesses.  The woman who rolled down her windows, blasted classical music, and laughed out loud for all the world to hear.


Mumsy was mischievous and proud.  Generous with her time and with her money.  She was clever, well spoken and well read.   She surrounded herself with the people and things that she loved.  I count myself fortunate to have known her, and to have learned by her example that life was meant to be lived.
Living big.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Kinda-Sorta Minimalist's Guide to Baby's First Six Months



I can’t claim to be an expert in what to buy for baby raising.  If they hand out awards for that, we were certainly neither informed nor nominated.  However, we had Allison in a tiny one bedroom apartment for her first 9 months, and I’m me, so we were more careful than most about what we bought and kept during that time.  Here's a pretty exhaustive list of what we found necessary for baby.

TRANSPORTATION:

The thing you will not be allowed to leave the hospital without is, of course, the car seat.  I recommend a travel system that includes a pumpkin seat, a base, and a stroller.  Yes, I know the baby can only fit in it for about 9 months and then you’ll have to get a different one.  But the benefits are huge.  Mainly, when baby falls asleep in the car or stroller, you can just lift him in the seat and plop him down in your place of choice in the house.  So worth it.  Trust me.  [Also they are a huge help when you are running errands and making multiple stops--no strapping baby in and out all the time).  The travel systems can be pricey, but they make spectacular shower gifts.  So go ahead, do some research and register for the one you want.  Or, you can always check craigslist.  The first system we got was used and only $40 for the whole shebang.  However, check the dates.  The typical life of a car seat is seven years, which is something to think about if you suspect baby will be getting a sibling or two at some point.

I also recommend getting a ‘bundle-me’ for your pumpkin seat.  It’s a blanket that straps into the car seat and keeps baby nice and cozy no matter what he is wearing.  This is clearly not a necessity, but I was so happy to have mine with Nicole.  You don’t have to worry about bulky coats or snow suits (which look pretty uncomfortable and are actually unsafe in a carseat), and if baby spits up or leaks any other undesirable fluids, you only need to wash the bundle me, not the whole car seat cover.

The final thing I recommend in the transportation department is a baby carrier.  The Ergo is fabulous, as it allows you to carry kids weighing up to 40 lbs on your back.  HAHAHAHA.  As if any sane parent wants to carry their 40 lb kid on their back.  The ridiculous weight limit aside, the Ergo is very comfortable for both parent and child, and it works as a front or back carrier.  My one complaint is that I didn’t care for it with the infant insert (we had a basic front carrier I preferred when the girls were very little).  Try some different carriers on; strap a 20 lb weight in them (or a friend’s baby if you have one accessible).  Try walking around, vacuuming, doing dishes, and bouncing on the balls of your feet while singing nursery rhymes.  And try putting it on when you are tired--maybe 4 am or so.  This is a valuable part of training for parents-to-be and will help you select the correct carrier for your family.


THE NURSERY:

I use the term ‘nursery’ loosely of course, as it doesn’t have to mean an entire room devoted to baby.  But it should include somewhere for baby to sleep, be changed and dressed, and somewhere to store all of baby’s clothing, accessories, and any additional paraphernalia.  I use the phrase ‘additional paraphernalia’ in loo of “baby’s multitude of crap’ because it sounds nicer.  But let’s not sugar coat it.  Baby will have more things than you and your partner combined.  The smaller the person, the more stuff they have.  It’s probably Newton’s fourth law or something.  Anyway, if you can swing it, it’s nice to have an entire room devoted to your newest family member.

You will probably want a crib or a pac n’ play.  Even if you think you will co-sleep, it’s nice to have a safe place you can put your baby while you cook dinner, open mail, or scream into a pillow when nothing seems to be making baby happy.  You should probably also get a couple of sheets for it and a waterproof pad or two, you know, just in case your baby isn’t quite as fluid free as you may hope.  I really liked having a crib and a pac n play.  A small pac n’ play is nice for the first few months because you can set it up in your room for easy access to the baby during its multiple night wakings or in the living area as a place to change baby without walking all the way to the nursery.  If your house is all one level, you may not see the perks of this.  But add in sleep and sanity deprivation and your perception of ‘so far away’ may change.

I’d buy a crib that works for a boy or a girl in case mini-you has siblings.  You can always make it gender-cutesy if you wish with sheets/bumper pads etc.  If I could do it again, I’d pick a crib that can transition to a toddler bed.  From what I’ve heard, the move from crib to big-kid bed goes much more smoothly if it is, in fact, the same bed.

For the pac n’ play, I know there are a ton of options out there.  They have ones in adorable girl or boy prints, ones with ruffles, ones with lights and sounds and mobiles, and ones with automatic diaper changers and wine dispensers.  Wait, no, those last two were just wishful thinking.  Honestly, I’d go as simple as possible.  Sure, get one that’s cute and that folds easily (they probably all do now).  But all the extras tend to make it hard to store, and we found we didn’t use them much anyway.  I do like the bassinet/changer features; we used them a lot when the kids were wee.

***Another less expensive option is to just put a mattress on the floor from the time the baby first comes home.  The idea is that there will never be a need to transition to ‘big kid’ bed because the baby has been sleeping in one all along (just make sure the room is baby-proofed).  And with the wisdom that comes from transitioning two kids to big kid beds, let me tell you, not having that transition would be amazing.  In fact, after finally getting Nicole to stay in her big girl bed at night, I swore I would do the mattress on the floor method if we ever had a third child.  But then children three and four arrived simultaneously, and what better way to spend a boatload of money than to buy not just one crib, but two?!  I’m really looking forward to transitioning two at once [please note the sarcasm].  But if I ever have a 5th kid—no crib for sure.

As for a place to change baby and keep all the clothes and such, I suggest a regular dresser with nice deep drawers.  Get some drawer organizers to help keep all that itty bitty clothing neat and visible.  Ikea has some great organizers and relatively cheap dressers. 
I really like the idea of a regular dresser because you can attach a changing pad to it when baby is young, and it will be a more useable piece of furniture in the future.  Also, you can pick a height for the dresser that’s comfortable for you to change the baby on.  I recommend using a basket or something basket-like to keep all of your diapering essentials together and accessible.  We’ve always had a basket on top of the dresser with diapers and wipes (not sure what all you need with cloth-diapering if you’re going that route), and a smaller bin for diaper cream, a nasal aspirator, and any medications or special creams you may need at any given time.

Another item for the nursery that is not a necessity, but can feel a lot like one, is a rocking chair.  We didn’t get one before we had Allie, but I sent Chris out to buy one the day after we brought her home from the hospital.  I kid you not.  Get one.  Get one used.  Borrow one from a friend.  Steal one from an enemy.  But get one.  You can thank me at 3 am when you are rocking a snugly baby that will only sleep in your arms.  Just don’t call me to thank me.  I will be sleeping.


ACCESSORIES

There are roughly eight thousand accessories available for baby.  I’m estimating of course, but just check your local Babies R Us if you need confirmation.  We didn’t try all of them, but I have a few must-have items and a few don’t-need items that I can share here.

The must haves include burp-cloths, bibs, and receiving blankets or swaddling blankets.  For burp-cloths, I recommend the tri-fold cloth diapers.  You can make them cute by sewing strips of fabric on either end, or just leave them white.  Either way, they are hands down the best for wiping up spit up, protecting your shoulder (if you are into preserving your clothing and not changing three times a day), and can even double as a blankie in a pinch.  I wore one over my left shoulder for three months straight after having Allison, and even longer when we had Nicole.  One pack of 6 should suffice.

A three pack of drool bibs is a good place to start.  If your baby is prone to spitting up and large amounts of drool, you may need a second pack, but for starters three should be fine.  I like the ones from Carter’s.  They are cloth covered and waterproof, but don’t feel overly stiff.  They also make them with a snap which is important once baby figures out how to rip off the velcro ones.

As for receiving blankets or swaddling blankets, I think three or four should be adequate.  Actually, I’d probably recommend a three or four pack of receiving blankets in addition to two swaddling blankets.  The receiving blankets are great to keep in your diaper bag as a light weight blanket or a place to put baby at friends’ houses.  The swaddling blankets, I’m convinced, make for much easier nap times.  The nurses will make perfect baby burritos with simple receiving blankets, but Chris and I found that we were gloriously inept at this most coveted of skills.  Enter swaddling blankets.  They are a fool proof way to keep baby’s arms and legs from flailing inconveniently, thus allowing for more peaceful sleep for baby (and for you!).

One accessory that I think you can definitely forgo if you are tight on space (or even if you aren’t) is the baby bathtub.  That’s what sinks are for.  The baby tubs are big and just one more thing to clean.  When baby outgrows the sink, you can move him directly to the bath tub.  Sure, it’s a little hard on your back, but babies are small and quite quick to clean.  Ten minutes.  Tops.  All this talk of baby baths has reminded me of a couple other things you may want:  hooded towels and baby wash cloths.  We used the baby wash cloths minimally (just for sponge baths), but we still use hooded towels for the girls (albeit bigger ones).  We just have one for each kid and have never had an issue, but you may want two depending on how often you do baths.


CLOTHING:

It is tempting to go out and buy every cute little outfit you see for baby.  They are just so little.  And so cute.  In reality, our babies lived in a few basic pieces.  Sure, they had some special outfits in each size, but these really ended up being just for pictures, holidays or the occasional visit with great-grand parents.  Likely, baby’s grandparents and great grandparents will provide such outfits, and you will not have to buy anything special.  But go ahead and get a couple if you must.  After all, they are just so little.  And so cute.

Keep in mind that overalls, button down shirts, slacks, or little sweaters are often not the easiest clothes to put on baby.  Or take off.  And it’s not as easy as you might think to dress a baby.  All those uncontrolled limbs flailing about.  The giant head.  The feeling that you might break their little arms as you shove them into long sleeves.  Here are the basics that I suggest for babies up to 6 months old (and rather than repeat myself over and over, all of these things you can get at Carter’s.  They are well made, relatively inexpensive (watch for sales), and wash well):

1 Pack of Newborn size side snap long sleeve tees w/hand covers
    The side snap is for before baby’s belly button heals, the hand covers are so you don’t have to worry about baby scratching himself with the long fingernails you are too afraid to clip.  Both of our girls basically lived in these and diapers--no pants--their first week or so.

1 5-Pack of White Short-sleeve onesies in each size (NB, 3 months, 6 months)

4 or 5 Footie Pajamas in each size (NB, 3 months, 6 months)
    Bonus points if you find zip up ones.  They are far easier for middle of the night diaper changes.  You may need more or less depending on how messy your particular baby is.  The rule in the Claussen household is that there is no need to change baby’s clothes unless they have spit-up or some other bodily fluid on them.  Up until 6 months, footie pjs can be worn day or night, or day AND night.  Our kids wore them 24-7 until about 9 months (don’t judge!).  Not only are they versatile, but the ‘footie’ part keeps you from having to worry about trimming baby’s toenails and about socks that won’t stay on anyway. 

2-Pack Soft Elastic Waist Pants with 5-Pack Coordinating Onesies
    Just in case you feel baby should be more ‘dressed’ than footie pjs, these are nice for easy and comfortable everyday wear.

1 or 2 Hats 
    The hospital will likely give you one, and you may want one or two more since babies look adorable in hats.  Also, if you take baby outside and he doesn’t have a hat on, every women over 65 in a five mile radius will ask why ‘mommy didn’t put a hat on that poor baby.’ 

Socks
    Maybe.  Some parents like them.  We had little use for them until the kids were closer to walking, as the best way to get them to stay on is by covering them up with shoes.  We had little use for shoes until the kids were close to walking as well, and the ones we loved were Robeez.  They are adorable and they stay on.  Score.


TOILETRIES

This is a nice short section, as babies are pretty low maintenance when it comes to skin, nail, and hair products.  I’d suggest a baby bath soap and shampoo in one.  We had one medium bottle of Johnson and Johnson’s baby soap and shampoo that lasted us a good 12 months, and was all we ever needed to keep baby clean.  A good diaper cream is crucial; we like Desitin, but I suspect you can find one that you will like just as well.  You may want a bottle of baby oil or baby oil gel in case of cradle cap, but you could also wait and see what your doctor recommends if the problem arises.  You may want to buy baby lotions, but babies are so soft in general that it seems unnecessary.  If your baby develops eczema or some other common skin condition, your doctor will likely recommend something specific, and you can buy it then.  You will want to have a gum brush (they go on your finger to brush baby’s gums and first teeth--no toothpaste needed),  a comb, finger nail clippers (I suggest one with a removable guard), a thermometer (I think it’s worth it to get one that is as fast and unobtrusive as possible), and a nasal aspirator (the hospital will probably give you one that is better than one any amount of money can buy).


FEEDING/NURSING:

For the first five or six months, your baby will eat almost exclusively breast milk or formula.  Some doctors seem to recommend you start feeding your baby solids by four months, but even if you go that route you will just need one or two little baby bowls and a couple of baby spoons.  Easy peasy.

If nursing works out for you, and you are not comfortable nursing without a cover, I suggest a ‘hooter hider.’  Babies are small, but they are quite adept at exposing you at inopportune moments during feedings.  I preferred mine to a regular blanket because I lacked the coordination (and extra hands) necessary to keep myself covered and get the baby latched on at the same time.  I also suggest a lanolin based product (like Lanisoh) for the first few weeks.

If you will be bottle feeding, you will need 6 to 8 bottles, a fabulous pump (if you are planning on using breastmilk), and a bottle brush and/or a bottle cleaner insert for your dishwasher.  I feel guilty even admitting this, but for the girls, we loved the Playtex bottle liner system.  Not fabulous for the environment, but oh so very convenient for parents.  However, for the boys, who were exclusively bottle fed, we opted for the Avent natural bottles.  If baby is not picky, I’d use a bottle system with the fewest number of parts per bottle.  All those dishes really add up.  If you intend to use formula, I’d find one your baby tolerates, and stick to it.  You’ll probably get plenty of samples from the hospital and in the mail.

I would forgo the highchair if you are tight on space.  We got a sassy seat that clipped to the table, and that is all we used until the kids were big enough for a standard booster chair.  I think they even sell boosters that recline for smaller babies now, so you could probably get away with just having one of those.


TOYS AND ENTERTAINMENT

You do not have to buy any toys for baby.  No, that is not a typo.  One day you will look around your house and think, “We have way too many toys!!!”  They will just appear and then procreate like bunnies.  People will give them to you as gifts, you will get hand me downs.  And if you don’t, for the first 6 months, baby will be perfectly happy chewing on your tupperware lids and drooling on your phone.  Of course, if you can’t resist that adorable little stuffed animal or perfectly educational set of rings, go ahead and get it.  It is fun, and not all phones are created drool-proof.

Even if you are trying to stick to the basics, you may want to splurge on a bouncy seat or swing of some sort for your baby.  It’s nice to have a portable place to set them down and keep them nearby while you shower, fold laundry, eat dinner, or more realistically, snooze on the couch.


FOR THE PARENTS

Find a diaper bag that you love.  It will be your purse (or murse) for the next three plus years.  Lots of pockets are great.  Easy to clean is great.  Personally, I have not regretted for one moment my purchase of the Petunia Pickle Bottom backpack diaper bag.  It is high quality, it doesn’t slide off my shoulder when I’m chasing munchkins, and has everything an organized fanatic like me would want in a bag.  It also hooks to my stroller with these nifty little stroller hooks that are sold separately.  I’m not going to lie.  It was pricey.  But worth every penny, and the only bag I’ve ever needed.

Read some baby books BEFORE you bring home baby.  If you are like us, you’ve spent plenty of time reading up on pregnancy, labor and delivery.  You may even have read some books on breast feeding.  That’s great!  Just don’t forget to read a book on baby and sleep.  (We like Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child).  Because it turns out, most babies do not know how and when to sleep on their own.  I know.  It’s shocking.  Unpleasantly so.

Go on some dates.  As many as you can.  Spend some lazy Saturday or Sunday mornings in bed.  Go to restaurants that don’t have a dollar menu.  Go to the movies.  Go somewhere overnight and only pack one small bag.  Slam your doors and stomp around the house at all hours.  Speak above a whisper.  Use your doorbell.  Stay up past 9 pm.  Enjoy your remaining time as a family of two.  Because in just a few months, life is going to get much more complicated.  And much more fun.