last minute d.i.y. gifts from kids

Here’s a quickie D.I.Y. project I did with Sophie tonight for her grandparents:

I was a bit ‘stuck’ on what to get my parents. Really, when you’re in your 50s, you don’t need anything. But I also didn’t want to give them “junk.”
When it occurred to me in IKEA a week ago, why not get two of IKEAs 9×9″ RIBBA framesfor $9.99 and let Sophie paint the mats and put her picture inside… then they can bring it to work for their desks. :)


Source: via Crystal on Pinterest
I already knew Sophie would love painting them – I had her fingerpaint a canvas for Father’s Dayin June.So, after she was done making art all over her high chair tray with her macaroni and cheese, I washed her hands and took her to the bathroom for her D.I.Y. project!I typically don’t do DIY projects IN the bathroom, but seeing as a 17-month-old + paint = very very messy, I figured it would be easiest to plop the painted mini-artist right in the tub as soon as her masterpiece was done, and tile + tubs are MUCH easier to clean then walls & carpet. (last time I let her paint, I took her out in the grass). So, I got a couple containers of Martha Stewart Acrylic Paints (non-toxic), the weekly grocery fliers and the mats from the RIBBA frames ready for her arrival. Boy was she excited when she saw!!!! but I quickly had to explain that the fliers were there to sit on so we can play with paint, NOT so we can tear them up. ;)

I’d let her pick which color, then I’d squirt a little paint on the mat, and she would paint with it. Then I’d let her pick another and let her go at it!

As soon as she was all done, I put her right in the tub and cleaned up the floor!!! Then I let the paint dry, then re-assembled the frames! :)

Supplies Needed:

  • Frames with mats
  • Photos (or additional art to frame)
  • Non-toxic Paint
  • Newspaper or Fliers

Time Involved:

  • 5 minutes prep gathering supplies
  • 10-15 minutes to paint both mats
  • PLUS: 10 minutes in the tub!

So it took about half an hour start to finish!
I’m sure she will be very proud of herself when she wakes up and sees the framed art!

GIVEAWAY: our favorite babywearing toys

So, I began International Babywearing Week with a post about my favorite carriers for babywearing as a parent in a wheelchair, so I thought I’d end the week sharing about my 5 favorite TOYS for babywearing- and do a share-away with 2 of them!!! [see the bottom of this post for your chance to enter]
#1: Haba Pacifier Clips & Chains:  
For Newborn + 
I must say that pacifier clips & chains have been a huge lifesaver for me! There is nothing like having the baby all cozy or sleeping in the carrier, then dropping their toy or pacifier and trying to reach down to get it, right?
So I found these fantastic pacifier clips & chains when I was pregnant and had to get a few! Haba products always have cheerful colors and I love that they are made of wood instead of plastic.
We briefly did a pacifier so I used it for that early on, before using it to attach toys to my ring sling & beco carriers. It was fantastic to be able to bring a toy along everywhere without worrying we’d drop it and lose it somewhere along the way. Yes, I’m the type of person that always get a little sad for a kid when I see a lost toy out on a sidewalk, knowing it’s little owner might be missing it. :'(
 I’ve had a hard time finding these toys locally (in Boston) but I’ve found these pacifier chains & clips online at stores such as Maukilo, Oompa, Moolka, and PadLilly costing about $4 for the clips & $14-17 for the pacifier chains. Check out those shops to see the awesome product variety they carry! You might have a really hard time choosing just one(which is why we have 2 chains & 2 clips at our home)!The clips are awesome if you have a toy with a small lanyard so you can clip it to your carrier. Or you can always  tie a small ribbon from the clip to a toy. :)


#2: Haba Rattles & Clutching Toys
For 6+ Months
Around 4 months, Sophie started getting ‘bored’ in the carrier when we were out, so I got her these two toys to take along – Corella Clutching Toy & Nana Clutching Toy. We were working with Early Intervention for gross & fine motor issues (likely the result of a perinatal stroke) so these toys were perfect in helping her learn to use her fingers. The Corella toy’s wooden segments are attached via an elastic ring so the babu can turn them and make different shape creations. The Nana has a rotating flower petal and 2 sections strung together on elastic. Both are made of beech wood with a non-toxic finish.
We have several more Haba Rattles & Clutching Toys so I often rotate which we bring out of the house with us since they can pop on the clips easily. Haba has a wide variety of similar toys – here are a few more – several of which could easily tag along on a babywearing day out!


Larum Rattle, $14; Lirum Rattle, $14; Color Snake Clutching Toy, $12;
Flower Trio Clutching Toy, $14; Jungle Caboodle Clutching Toy, $14;
Klick-Klack Rattle, $8; Trioli Clutching Toy, $8; Kastagnetta Rattle, $12;
Jingle Train Clutching Toy, $14; Magica Clutching Toy, $12
#3: FunKeys from B. toys: 
For 6+ Months
Another favorite toy – from another of our favorite toy companies – are the FunKeys from B. toys! They were one of the Christmas presents I bought for Sophie’s First Christmas!
They are a fantastic little set of keys with 4 sounds & a push button flashlight! They are super durable – made of safe stainless steel! B. toys has such an awesome website that you can go check out the sounds right on their page that the keys make! How cool is that? (sometimes playing with their website is as fun as playing with their toys!)

The lanyard attached to the “key chain” makes it super easy to attach to many babywearing carriers! Sophie has recently figured out the light – to look down inside the carrier (searching for lost cheerios on-the-go?)
FunKeys retail for about $9 at Target. A must-have for any babywearer and a great stocking stuffer idea for kids under 3! Or you could put it under the tree since it’s a self-wrapping gift! - How cool is that?

#4: Hellophone from B. toys: 
18+ Months 

As Sophie has gotten older (she’s now 15 months), I’ve realized that to keep her entertained all day I need more then just 1 toy on the go…  so, lately we’ve been wandering around Boston with the FunKey’s on the right side of the carrier, and the Hellophone on the left. I’ll explain all the entertaining features:

Like the FunKeys, this toy also makes some awesome noises – which you can try out on B. toys website! Of course it’s not as cool as the iPhone since we can’t play the music video for Jai Ho (which my daughter thinks is the best song ever), BUT you can record messages on it so your child can hear your voice (or part of a song!).  How awesome is that?

If you close the phone for a few minutes, it will randomly ring – then when you open it it either plays your recorded message, a dial tone or a busy signal (but don’t worry – if you don’t answer it the first time, it will stay quiet – this isn’t one of those toys that will wake you up at 3am)! Of course this feature is always a conversation starter on the MBTA when people hear a phone ring and a 1-year-old “answers” the toy phone. :)

For babywearing, like the FunKeys, this phone has a lanyard too – making it easy to attach to a carrier! And, in typical style, Hellophone comes in all sorts of awesome colors!  You can find it at Target for about $8-9!

#5: Alphaberry from B. Toys: 
18+ Months 
As I said, we are big B. toys fans! They are affordable toys, come in great colors and are from a company who wants to B. nice to the planet! And for me, they are also happen to be locally-based! :)

So if you were impressed with the FunKeys & Hellophone, you’ll really be impressed with the Alphaberry! I don’t think there could be a cooler way to learn your ABCs then pressing the buttons on Alphaberry and watching the letter appear on the screen and getting to hear it’s name!

It also sings the Alphabet in 4 different styles! Wanna hear them? Just check out the Alphaberry Page and try the “i make sounds” buttons! Way better then listening to the “classic” alphabet song over and over and over,  right?

This is the toy we never leave home without. In fact – we now have two of them! As a parent in a wheelchair, I needed something to keep Sophie from touching my wheelchair buttons on-the-go and this was fabulous! If she tried touching mine, I’d hand her this so she could have “hers.” It has buttons and a cool screen just like mom – but even cooler was the fact that it has sounds – now we never touch mom’s buttons because the $13 Alphaberry is WAY cooler then the $20,000 wheelchair (cheaper is always better with kids, right?)

Right now, I’m totally sporting it with my Beco Gemini Luna Carrier  I realized after how well the Alphaberry matched our carrier! – I told you B. toys has great colors!

Hellophone & FunKeys Share-Away:

Sometimes, when you have really fantastic toys, you end up with duplicates, right? Well that happened at our house! And since we already tell our friends about b. toys, and they love them too, we haven’t been to any parties where we could share our extras… So we contacted B. toys to see if a give-away was all right with them… and they came back with an even better plan: a share-away! to quote B. toys:
We’re big into sharing.  That’s why our toys come not with cross-sell brochures but with kids’ words of wisdom.  That’s why Hellophones and Alphaberries come in boxes that can be shared with mom or big sister to store notecards or hair doo-dads in.  That’s why we send 10¢ from the sale of every toy to Free The Children.
  • I have an extra brand new set of Red FunKeys & an Orange Hellophone that I want to share with 2 lucky readers 
  • PLUS: our friends at B. toys would also like to share a set of funkeys & a hellophone with those 2 readers favorite charities!!!
How To Enter:
  • Mandatory Entry: leave us a comment below telling us what your favorite children’s charity is, and why that charity is important to you! 
  • Extra Optional Entry (to increase your odds) in a separate comment: Tell us about a child you’d love to give the hellophone or funkeys to – who is he/she and why are they special to you? 
Only TWO comments per person please! Each comment counts as an entry!
TWO winners will be chosen - one for hellophone & one for funkeys – but if you enter twice you have a chance to win BOTH – plus one for your favorite charity!
Live outside of the US? no problem! We are happy to SHARE with readers all over the planet – after all it is INTERNATIONAL Babywearing Week, right? ;)

Oh, and while you wait for the share-away to end, be sure to stop by the B. Quotes and read some words of wisdom from kids – or share some of your own child’s quotes!

Don’t forget to come back on October 24th to see who we are sharing these great products with! –
and we have a few more upcoming giveaways so “follow us” to stay tuned for future share-aways & giveaways!

Links You Might Love:
Little Free Radical: facebook | twitterblog etsywebsite

DISCLAIMER: This shareaway is open to anyone on the planet! It will begin 10/16/2011 and end 10/23/2011. The winners will be announced in a separate post and have 48 hours to respond with their contact info & choice of charity. I was not financially compensated for this review. The opinions stated are my own. 

That’s all! I just wanted to tell you a few more of my favorite things when babywearing, and share our extra B. toys! I can’t wait to read your comments!

PS: Did you hear about the Babywearing Flash Mob Boston Babywearers did Downtown Boston? You won’t want to miss this! :)

Babywearing from a Wheelchair

Since it’s International Babywearing Week, I thought I’d blog about the adventures of babywearing at our house!
Sophie, 15 months wearing Bitty Baby in her Beco Mini

“Babywearing” simply means holding or carrying a baby or young child using a cloth baby carrier. Holding babies is natural and universal; baby carriers make it easier and more comfortable, allowing parents and caregivers to hold or carry their children while attending to the daily tasks of living.

Babywearing helps a new dad put a fussy newborn to sleep. It allows a new mom use both hands to make a sandwich. It lets an experienced parent or caregiver carry a baby on her back and wash the dishes, do the laundry, take a hike, or weed the garden, all while keeping the baby safe and content.
Babywearing was something I knew I would do years before I actually became a parent. I had several friends with ring slings, and I thought they were fantastic! So while most of the other parents on 1st trimester pregnancy forums were chatting about the cutest little outfits they saw at the mall, I was busy looking at slings, wraps, and soft structured carriers.
I was totally excited when I went to Diaper Lab (Somerville, MA) and discovered that in addition to cloth diapers, they also sold several types of baby carriers. And of course I was even more excited when they were offering a babywearing workshop where I could drag my husband to go learn about babywearing safety and have someone demo the various types of carriers.
Being a soon-to-be-parent living life from a wheelchair, due to neuromuscular disease (Mitochondrial Myopathy) sort of complicated things.  As I began researching, I decided the important things I needed in a carrier were:
  • One that would be easy to put on while sitting.
  • It needed to be comfortable to wear while sitting – no lumpy ties or buckles between me and the back of my chair.
  • To be able to breastfeed from the carrier on the go.
  • And it needed to be very supportive of the baby without overworking my muscles as mitochondrial myopathy is an energy metabolism disease – and finding ways to “conserve” cellular energy – including muscle use – is key to managing the disease.
  • I should also note that I’m in pulmonary failure due to neuromuscular disease. I deal with collapsing lungs due to lung muscle weakness. A carrier with minimal pressure on the chest is very important for me! I do have a wheelchair with both tilt & recline functions which can relieve some of the stress of the carrier on my muscles & chest.
I also found the Boston Babywearers group and went to a meeting while 7 months pregnant since I wanted to try some carriers to see how they felt before I was “TOO big” to get a good feel of what it would be like.
Wraps: I figured out quickly watching at Boston Babywearers & Diaper Lab’s workshop that a wrap would not be ideal to put on in a wheelchair. It’s essentially a long piece of fabric that you can tie around yourself to hold the baby. Moby Wraps are a popular brand – but watching a demo of how to put it on, seemed way too tricky for me to attempt with a newborn in a wheelchair!
Mei-Tai: While pregnant, I thought the Mei Tai would be awesome. A friend gave me her pink BabyHawk since she had a boy the 2nd time. I did use it several times, from my manual wheelchair when Sophie was a newborn, but found tying it to be difficult from a high-back power wheelchair. I do plan to try it again now that she’s 15 months, to see if I can get the hang of it, since she can sit up independently – unlike how it was at 2 months when I tried. Also, the ties got “lumpy” behind my back.

Ring Sling:I knew this was the must-have,as they are easy to get on/off, are great for a wide age-range, and breastfeeding was easy in this position.

Pouch Sling: I loved these too, but because I ended up with severe generalized edema while pregnant,  I decided against getting one since my size would change as the fluid distribution shifted. I didn’t want to buy one only for it not to fit me later. Plus the way you wear it looked a bit limiting from a manual wheelchair when I needed 2 hands – a ring sling was a bit more adjustable.
Soft Structured Carrier: I’d heard many pro’s & cons about these – carriers like Bjorn, Snuggli and Infantino (aka in the babywearing community as “crotch-danglers”) tend to give all soft structured carriers a bad reputation because of the unnatural positions they put babies into which can be stressful on a baby’s developing hips and spine. While they might be “safe” for an occasional walk around the mall or a trip to the grocery store, these are far from ideal when babywearing for hours – much like how it’s not good to leave a baby in an exersaucer or jumperoo for extended periods of time. but unlike these toys where the baby’s feet can touch the ground, a baby “hanging” in a soft structured carrier for hours just has his or her legs dangling. Of course it’s slightly different in the case of a parent in a wheelchair who would wear the baby sitting instead of standing, but to avoid these issues, I almost overlooked this category of carriers altogether… must after much research, I decided to give them a try – I’ll explain later.

My first baby carrier was a Sakura Bloom Linen Ring Sling - which I got for about $88 at Diaper Lab. I had it packed into my hospital birth bag so that I could start using it the day Sophie was born! And yes, she was less then 24 hours old (or new?) when I first put her in. She was cozy and happy right from the start. Here she is 2 days old… is it me, or is that a smile I see in the photo on the left? :)
I loved my ring sling in the early months! As a newborn, Sophie and I went everywhere with it. Of course people see a parent in a wheelchair and all have to point & stare… I must have been asked a good dozen times, “is that a real baby in there?” (like what, did they expect me to be rolling around with a doll? um, no)! Of course once I clarify that yes, Sophie is a real baby, people want to know “where I got her.”  – but I’ll save the questions I get asked as a parent in a wheelchair for an entirely separate blog. :)
Babywearing with Central Line Access: The only thing I wasn’t thrilled with was the baby’s head being so close to my accessed port. If you look closely in the photos you’ll see the yellow port needle, where it’s accessing the port implanted in my chest (for IV infusions). I always had to adjust the sling low enough early on so her head wouldn’t be resting on the hard plastic and hurt her or me. I ended up with sepsis when she was about 2 months old and ended up losing that port – so I had them replace it with a tunneled central venous catheter instead – not soley for babywearing reasons of course, but it seemed the best option after meeting with Infectious Disease, my infusion company and doctors. I found this type of line to be much more comfortable for both of us while babywearing. It’s softer and doesn’t hurt as much having a head against my chest all day.
Babywearing Sophie at 7 weeks old – in Colours Razorblade Manual Wheelchair – Rockport, MA
Babywearing a High-Tone Baby: I did find the ring sling easy to use from a manual wheelchair with a newborn. However, Sophie has hypertonia (high muscle tone), so it did get tricky at some points trying to find a position comfortable for both of us. By around 4 months, she decided it would be wicked awesome to spend her days like a jack-in-the-box. I put her in the sling asleep so we could go out, and suddenly she’d wake up and pop up to see what was going on in the world. I’d have a hard time repositioning her in a way that she would stay. She would stand all day and play at home by 5 months – but was unable to stay sitting unassisted til she was 7 months due to her muscle tone. Having a “stiff kid” can be a bit tricky in a sling. It was at this point where I decided to re-think the idea of a soft-structured carrier.

I did my research again about carriers, visited Boston Babywearers again to try products with Sophie this time, and was torn between the Oh Snap! BabyHawk and the Beco Butterfly 2 - but finally decided on the BB2 as seemed to be more comfortable for me personally – of course “comfort” may vary depending on people’s sizes & shapes.

I loved the Limited Edition Echino Scooter Beco and ordered it from Pax Baby for $205 in October. It was supposed to arrive mid-October, but sadly it took til mid-December for it to arrive since she was importing it from overseas. So, October-December were very long months waiting to test it out. It was worth the wait though!

Sophie loved it right away! Once again, I could take her out all day and she was happy. It was comfortable for me too. I have low muscle tone & poor “trunk control” due to neuromuscular disease but we had a great first 6 months with it!

But around her birthday, it started to get a bit trickier for me to carry her – She decided it was fun to “stand” in it all day, and as she was getting taller, her face would be in my way. I’d be trying to roll down the sidewalk, but Sophie kept standing trying to look me in the eye. If I moved my head to see where I was going, she’d follow me – she thought it was the best game ever!

Then she started finding new games including:

  • Let’s pick mom’s nose!
  • Let’s take off mom’s glasses I can pokey mom in the eyeball!
  • And my (least) favorite: Let’s take the chewed food out of my mouth and put it in mom’s mouth, then take it back for my mouth! 
Plus all this standing/jumping on my lap all day was putting a lot of pressure on my back and shoulders. That’s when I decided to re-think the front facing carrier issue. Babies can get overstimulated easily in a front-facing carrier which is one reason NOT to (in addition to the fact that most front-facing carriers are also the crotch-danglersI described earlier). But Sophie was now over a year old. I thought it seemed to be an okay time to let her sit front facing on my lap.

I looked at several carriers – checked weight ranges, hip support, and other factors before deciding to go with another Beco – the Gemini It had the option for the baby to face in either direction. It was also easy for me to turn Sophie between front & rear facing without having to take her completely out – something I wanted – in case she fell asleep or if I wanted to talk to her.
As soon as the Gemini arrived, we took it out for a test-drive around the neighborhood. Sophie had a blast  “flying” (yes, with her arms straight out) on mom’s lap! It was a whole new view of the world for her! She’s happy & content and isn’t jumping on me all day – I love it, she loves it!
I’m hoping to get at least another 6 months of use out of the Gemini. I’ve also been using the Sakura Bloom Ring Sling again. It got a bit easier as Sophie got older to position her in it and I’ve found a few of fantastic positions over the summer that can be done in a wheelchair!!!

We are going to Boston Babywearer’s group on Wednesday to look for “Toddler Tricks” from other moms and of course to celebrate International Babywearing Week! But this summarizes my experiences with my first 15 months of babywearing as a parent living an active life from a wheelchair.

NOTE: If you’re pregnant or a parent in a wheelchair, feel free to comment or contact me if you’re shopping around looking for carriers and baby gear! I’d be more then happy to give you more details on what worked – and what didn’t work from my experiences. :)