Saturday, August 9, 2008

PER·SPEC·TIVE



"Its all in the eye of the perspective." The wise words of a high school ex-boyfriend. Actually, they are not wise words at all. In fact, they make no sense. I just can't seem to forget Thomas declaring these profound words. I don't even remember what it was in regards to, but I do remember saying, "That makes no sense!" And him replying, "You just don't understand." Now I can't help but laugh whenever I hear the two phrases "It's a matter of perspective" or, "It's all in the eye of the beholder." I came to the conclusion a very long time ago, that I was much smarter than Thomas Yates.

PER·SPEC·TIVE

Pronunciation:\pər-ˈspek-tiv\
Function:noun
Etymology: From Latin perspectus, past participle of perspicere to look through, see clearly, from per- through + specere to look

I was realizing how quickly my perspective had changed when I was feeling extremely irritated the other morning that Aislynn was whining SO much and not handling well, Isla's attempts to interact. Granted, Isla's attempts to interact are more those of a demolition baby than a playmate. But a mom can only take so much whining and hearing the word "no."

I decided it was time for a change of scenery after it became clear that Isla had a one track mind-climb on top of Aislynn and anything she is playing with. Aislynn had a one track mind as well-whine and yell "no!" over and over any time Isla looked in her direction. I decided to move Aislynn up to an elevated level that would be out of the reach of my little climber. I set Aislynn up to paint at the table, "just like in Miss Mouse's Day," she excitedly pointed out. She was very excited, and began painting away. I sighed a sigh of relieve to have a whine free moment. Which was quickly brought to an end by Aislynn whining about Isla grabbing at her (Aislynn's) feet from under the table. Did I say one track mind! Sure enough, Isla had strategically found a way to still get a hold of her big sister from under the table, she was more than happy to at least have a hold of her big sister's foot.

It was at this moment I realized how much my perspective had changed and how I needed to "see more clearly" or "look through" this situation just a little harder. Months ago, I remember waking up and going to bed thinking of activities I could do with Aislynn to help her with expression, and interaction. Instead of looking at the annoyances, I needed to see the lining around this picture. I have a little girl who whines. A little girl who is aware of her surroundings, her sister, and a whole lot more. 7 months ago we thought this little girl might be autistic. And my biggest fear was that she would not be able to express herself to me. Well these days she makes her feeling very clearly known, both good and bad! Including the feeling "Mom no sing." which was declared today in the car as I was forbidden to sing along to any and every song. I still think whining and complaining is unpleasant, but it is an encouraging reminder at how far we have come. Yes, whining can be an encouragement at times. And my littlest peanut Isla, that wants to be into anything and everything as well as on top of everyone-I am so thankful she is healthy, and mobile, and curious. She is full of life and enthusiasm and I can only imagine what she has in store for us.

I am realizing that a different perspective can breath fresh air into a situation. Even situations that are little and you think are easily perceived, and especially situations that are difficult to perceive. And so today I will try to "look through" all the areas of my life and things I am facing both big and small and see what I can see more clearly if I just shift my perspective.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Blueberries


Today we picked blueberries. The last time I picked blueberries was with my mom and my aunt and I was a child. Blueberry picking takes on a whole new meaning when you are the mom holding one child's hand with another child strapped to your back! I worked hard for my 4 lbs of blueberries we picked today.

Ever summer it is my goal to find somewhere nearby to pick something. I am clearly not that picky since I am open to picking just about anything. This summer was the first time I actually found that somewhere, Tammen Treeberry Farm, to pick something, blueberries. Today was the first day of the season. The farm opened at 8 am. After picking up my little junior high assistant Carly, Aislynn, Isla, Carly, and I arrived at approximately 8:30 at the Treeberry farm. We pulled in and I saw only a few cars parked. I turned to Carly and said, "Great! It doesn't look like that many people are here yet!" Then I saw a sign that said "Blueberries staight back" It was then that I saw the rows of cars, and eventually the rows of people in line waiting to become migrant workers.

The people at the front of the line, needless to say, meant business. They had collapsible stools in hand, special bucket necklaces and knee pads. There were no smiles, only game faces. Of course when I asked the people at the front of the line (which I thought was the back of the line) if that was the back of the line, they were very quick to point me away from where they were standing.

So we waited. I have not stood in a line that long, since riding amusement park rides when I actually had the time or desire to do that sort of thing! More than an hour later, and two baby carriers later with Isla, we were hauled away by the tractor pull to blueberry bush land. Not being professional blueberry pickers and toting two children with us, put us behind everyone. It took us a while to realize that we were basically trailing everyone and getting their "left-overs". There were more than enough blueberries to go around, but we were sort of getting second pick. We also made the mistake or lounging around eating blueberries, when 20 minutes in to our "picking" we realized we had been doing too much "eating" and really had hardly anything in our bucket! The girls did great and Aislynn enjoyed putting the blueberries in the bucket. However, she was a little too undiscriminating and was putting ones off the ground in the bucket, green ones, smashed ones. Her standards were a little too low. She wouldn't cut it as a migrant worker.

After picking about half a pound and already being hot and sweaty with two little girls who were about ready to call it quits, that is when we kicked it in to overdrive finishing off the day with a strong 4lbs. Our bucket only barely half full, looked like nothing compared to everyone elses, one, two, and three buckets full (roughly 10-30 lbs). I have a keen sense for blueberry poundage now.

My goal for our morning of blueberry picking was not to see if we could pick enough to feed our family for the entire year, which was a good thing since we did not come anywhere close to meeting that quota! My goals was to get my little girl to eat a piece of fruit. With Aislynn's food sensory and texture issues, she currently does not eat any, zero, fresh fruit or veggies. And I mean zero. Sometimes in feeding group or at home she'll barely try a piece or something, but it is rare. And for some reason, she really wants nothing to do with fruit, even though it is sweet and yummy, most fruit has very distinct textures and flavors, and she wants no part of it. So I started thinking, maybe if she was totally surrounded by ______ fruit she might just try it in its natural environment. So my biggest goal was to get her to eat a blueberry on her own. She has previously only been open to smashing berries or giving them small kisses.

After Carly and I picked and ate more than the daily recommended antioxidant and fruit intake for the day, Aislynn distributed some berries, "One for Carly, one for mommy, one for Aislynn." We all did a count down, one two, three, and ate our berries, including Aislynn! She gagged a little, but she chewed it up and swallowed and did a small cheer for herself. I was very happy.

Aislynn did not inhale as many berries as I did, but she ate at least 4. I wouldn't say they are her favorite food by any means, but its a baby step in the right direction. All it took was an early morning wake up, a drive, a long wait, a tractor ride, and hundreds of rows of blueberry bushes to get Aislynn to try some fruit. That's not so bad. And definitely worth all 4 hours.



This girl means business...well maybe not, I think she picked like 3 ounces.



Isla was a little confused, since when she fell asleep she was on my front in a carrier in a line of people. It was getting too hot, so I took her out of the carrier and tried to relocate her to the stroller (unsuccessfully). Sho woke right up and was a little confused to now be in the midst of blueberry bushes, clearly a different location!





My sweet little assistant Carly. She earned her blueberries!





Back at home, Aislynn was happy to feed me that handful of berries. "Mommies turn!" she said...somehow Aislynn's turn never came.



Thinking about trying another one. Maybe not.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Take a try!"

Aislynn trying some brownie batter

She realized that chocolate wasn't so bad after all.

Friday was Aislynn’s 6 month re-evaluation since being enrolled in the Child and Family Connections program back in January. And again, I am I was reminded of how far we have come.

Our therapists had all completed up to date evaluations of Aislynn and they met along with our service coordinator at our house to discuss Aislynn’s progress and continuation in the program.

Six months ago, Aislynn’s enrollment in her various therapies felt extremely overwhelming. We went from rather unscheduled weeks to feeding group once a week, speech once a week, nutrition twice a month, developmental therapy once a month, not to mention numerous evaluations and the push to get her interacting with other kids her age. Isla was only 2 months old and one high maintenance little baby which made things feel all the more intense.

I remember feeling this sense of urgency. I have never been known for my ability to be patient, and waiting to see Aislynn’s progress in the CFC program seemed unimaginable. I would wake up in the morning thinking of activities and games I could make to help Aislynn with her social skills, taking turns, and language. Any free moment I had to be on the internet, I was hunting for information that I thought might help. Then I would go to bed at night brainstorming more ideas for things to try with Aislynn. I was obsessed! All this, while waking up every few hours to feed a new baby. It really was an exhausting time.

Reflection is important. I was getting frustrated the other day that Aislynn still wouldn't eat fruit. But then I remembered how far we have come. These were Aislynn’s initial “feeding group goals”

1. 1. Aislynn will engage with food not currently in her repertoire

2. 2. Aislynn will bring a non preferred food within close proximity to her face/head/neck.

3. 3. Aislynn will interact with puree with fingers or another food.

4. 4. Aislynn will separate from her parents to tolerate being seated for snack.

Reflection. I remember feeling like there was no way Aislynn was ever going to sit through “snack time” and engage happily with the food and other children. When we first started feeding group, I had to sit in the room so that she would not have a meltdown. And Aislynn was one of the kids that had to be seated next to a therapist in case she had major issues. We have come a long way. Now Aislynn loves snack time. She says “Snack is fun! Friends are fun!” She is the kid that sits at the opposite side of the table from the therapists because they know she’ll do fine. She is usually the happiest, most energetic one there, and most willing to interact with the new foods. She doesn’t even think twice about me not being in the room with her and she now eats things like chicken, eggs, and cheese, which she never would have touched 6 months ago.

6 months ago this was our Social Summary goal: “We want Aislynn to increase her social skills so that she can communicate her wants and needs.” This is a goal she has met over and over again and continues to meet.

“Take a try.” This is one of Aislynn’s favorite phrases. We are always encouraging her to try new things, but we never quite phrased it like that. This phrase is all her. When she wants you to try what she is eating its “Mommy, take a try!” When she wants you to toss the ball to her, “Daddy, take a try!” Every time she says this phrase it makes me smile. One, because she sounds so cute when she says it, and two because she thought it all on her own. “Take a try” from the same little girl who adamantly was against trying all new things.

There are still new things, books, foods, toys, and experiences that Aislynn insists “No try it!” But she usually comes around. Reading is one of those things where Aislynn has her opinions. Many times she has her mind made up before I even open a new book that she does not like it, and of course it becomes the story she wants to read over and over again. Just the other night I tried to read The Runaway Bunny to her before bed. “No run away bunny!” she exclaimed. The next night the same thing happened. She was not about to give these bunnies a chance. Finally, the third night she sat on my lap to read a book before bed, and I quickly whipped out The Runaway Bunny. As she began to protest I hurriedly started reading the book excitedly and I had her hooked. We read the whole thing and when it was finished she said, “Runaway Bunny again?” So we read it again. I put the book on her shelf and tucked her in to bed. In the back of my mind I had a sneaking suspicion that come morning, The Runaway Bunny would find its way into her bed. Lately Aislynn has been waking up in the morning, and bringing books into her bed while she waits for someone to get her up.

Later that night, I checked on Aislynn before I went to bed. And there it was, tucked under her arm at 10:30 PM, The Runaway Bunny-who had clearly run away from the bookshelf a little earlier than I had expected! It made me smile.

I love that Aislynn loves books. I love that she is trying new things. I love that she is growing and developing and expanding her vocabulary. I love that when someone asked her at Starbucks the other day, “What are you eating?” referring to the piece of coffee cake she had, she responded, “I’m eating spaghetti!” and then laughed because she made a joke. These are all experiences that make me smile and encourage and excite me to see what new things she will “take a try” with tomorrow.

By the way, take a wild guess what book has been number one on the bedtime request list for 5 days and counting?

The Runaway Bunny.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Grateful

Today I am grateful that I have a little girl that likes to run around barefoot, roll around in the grass, run up and down a small hill like it is an amusement park ride, fling the bubble wand around with so much enthusiasm that bubbles truly go in all directions, and sing songs indoors and out with great passion.




We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need
And if You never grant us peace

But Jesus, would You please . . .

Last lyrics in the song "Gratitude" by Nichole Nordeman


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Puddles aren't for licking

Living in an apartment building provides some outdoor obstacles we try to combat. While we do have a small hill (very exciting) next to our apartment entrance, we do not have a fenced in yard. Sometimes I dream of the day I can slide the back door open and say, "go out and play," while looking at the kids out the kitchen window. As for now, we will have to be a little more creative in creating outdoor experiences.

We are blessed to have many parks surrounding us. They might actually outnumber the Starbucks! We do make plenty visits to various parks, but that is not quite the same thing as playing in the back yard. There is a tennis court in our complex and a few afternoons I took the girls to the court, and let Aislynn run around in this fenced in green asphalt play pen. We took some balls over the other day and she spent a good amount of time throwing them back and forth over the tennis net. Last week we played a little family tennis I use the term "tennis" extremely loosely, and hit some balls around. And I do mean around, not so much back and forth, since Aislynn confiscated our rackets and balls throughout the "match."

Tennis takes on a whole new meaning when it includes 2 little girls. When we were first married, Andy and I used to go play tennis together, and we would actually break a sweat from our rigorous play. Now I am breaking a sweat from having an 18 LB warm little body on my back while I try to bend over to get the ball. Last night in my overly ambitious state, I suggested we all head over to the court for another family "match". We all put on our tennis shoes and I put on Isla (on my back). I found a little racket for Aislynn, since on our last tennis day, she seemed extremely interested and territorial with our two rackets. Of course now that she had her own racket, the interest was minimal and she soon found gathering up the tennis balls and putting them back in the tube to more exciting. This was only a problem when the balls she wanted to gather up, included the ones we wanted to hit around! However, this problem was soon remedied by her realization that there were a series of small puddles in the court next to ours. We do live in a "luxury" complex you know (at least that's what the sign says), so we have 2 playing courts!

I think children are drawn to water of all kinds. It is like this magnetic force. Besides being totally grose, dirty, germ pools, I think puddles are fun. Aislynn thinks they are even more fun. In her mere 32 months of life she has already made many "puddle memories" some which I encouraged, many which I did not.

The other day I let her stand outside in the rain, holding an umbrella (don't worry, no thunder). She was out there for a good 15 min before I made her come in.
What is it with kids and water? We'll dive into that question on another day! Back at the tennis court, Aislynn did her regular circling of the puddle, like a wild animal and then began to "pounce" quite similarly to a wild animal. Although her "pouncing" involved splashing in hydrogen and oxygen and a little bacteria I am sure. I looked at her happily splashing away, and thought, "what's the harm, she'll take a bath after this and she is conducting experiments! I love it!" First she stomped slowly, then faster, than she ran through it, touched it with her hands. Although none of these things would be ok with many parents, I am not one of those parents. However what happened next, definitely would not be ok with any parents including me. Aislynn quickly bent down and tried to lick the puddle water, "Yuuuuuummmmy!" She exclaimed, she really does drag that word out. I immediately shouted, "NO LICKING THE PUDDLE!" Three words I did not envision myself yelling when I decided to let Aislynn "experience life" in the form of playing in dirty water. She just looked at me almost shocked that this was not considered proper puddle etiquette. And I looked at her almost shocked that my little girl with sensory food issues found it more troubling to lick a piece of pineapple than to lick a dirty puddle.

It only made sense that the next thing she did was sit down right in the largest puddle. As I went to shout my next round of "I thought these puddle rules went without saying" words, I just sighed, realizing her whole back side was completely wet. Might as well let her experience getting wet. I would like to clarify that I do not condone my child sitting in puddles on a regular basis, and I will probably kick myself for letting her do so, since now she will think this is acceptable to do. But on this particular occasion, on this night, in this tennis court, in that outfit, right before a bath, it was ok. And believe me, it didn't stop there, she as practically rolling through the puddles, at which point we decided to reel her in. We felt we had given her more than enough freedom to experience puddles for one day-probably more like an entire year!

Reluctantly, Aislynn left her puddles. Actually leaving these pools of water was such an emotional experience for her that she had started to cry before we escorted her off the court. She looked up at me as we walked away, almost soaked from the waist down, and said "Wipe the eyes?" She was apparently bothered by the water in her eyes from her tears, the other 50 percent of her that was wet, not so much. I wiped her eyes with the corner of my shirt. "Thanks Mom," she said.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Experience Life


"One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, "What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again? -Rachel Carson (excerpt from Amanda Blake Soule's book The Creative Family )

Yesterday Aislynn wanted to help me wash the windows. After I had thoroughly sprayed and wiped down both the inside and outside glass on our back door. Aislynn announced, "Aislynn's turn!" Lately when she wants to do something, she simply declares it her turn. Sometimes you let your child be "helpful" even when its not. I gave Aislynn a spray bottle with water and some paper towel, and she went to work. She started out spraying the window and then wiping it with the paper towel, but soon found it was more fun to just use the spray bottle. So much for streak free shine!

It is rare that I turn down Aislynn's offer to "help." And a two year olds assistance is seldom more help than trouble. But I love that she is experiencing new things and exhibiting that desire. Many of the things I love to do around the house are because my mom let me trouble her with my "help." Cooking, sewing, being creative, these are all things my mom let me experience at an early age as I grew to love being in the kitchen, unsuccessfully attempting to sew barbie clothes, and creating more mess than artwork!

Life experience. It doesn't have to start when you are a teen or in college or out on your own. It starts the day you are born. I want to make every day count for my kids and give them as many opportunities and experiences doing and trying new things as they can get their little hands on.

Yesterday I received an email bulletin from "Parent Center," a prominent online parenting source. The title read, "How to raise an imaginative child." That was the featured article. I immediately thought to myself, "Do parents seriously need to be told how to raise imaginative children?" It all comes back to those life experiences. If unimaginative parents provide their children with little experience in exploration, getting messy, discovering new things, and creating; then when those children grow up they will have no imagination and raise unimaginative children. So I will continue to explore, get messy, discover new things, and create right along side my children.

SMILE!


"Smile! Isla! Isla! Aislynn...Aislynn! AISLYNN SMILE!!!" And this is what I got. Vigorously shaking a tambourine in one hand, camera in the other, I attempted to fulfill once again, my life long dream of taking a cute little picture of sisters, smiling at the camera, holding hands and singing Bible songs. Ok, maybe that's a little over the top. At this point I am half way content to simply get them in a picture together. If they happen to both be looking at the camera by some miracle, I am a little more satisfied.

I love taking pictures. I especially love getting down at eye level with the girls and seeing what they are seeing and capturing them in the moment. Thanks to digital cameras you can now get a half decent picture of your child without having to develop a whole roll of film, hoping that you have one good one in the bunch. Some day my dream is to have something with so many megapixels I don't even know what to do with all of them! For now, my 4 little megapixels will have suffice.

Clean


It was a sunny day outside. I thought how nice it would be to open the shades and let the light pour in. Since spring no longer exists as a season, and winter seems so dreary, when there's finally one of those blue sky/sunny days-I just want to milk it for all its worth. I pulled the blinds open to reveal an extremely dusty, dirty glass door. I could see out just fine, but things were a little skewed and it was just plain dirty. I grabbed the "green works" spray, some water, and the paper towel ready to get the job done.

After successfully scrubbing the outside of the window I realized my job was not yet complete. I had removed all the dirt, but I could now see that the inside window pane was terribly smudged and dirty as we well. I had to clean both the inside and outside before the window sparkled like new.

There are so many times I am like that window. Its so easy to go through a day and appear nice and clean to everyone around me, like a half washed window, cleaned on the outside. But if people could look inside, they would see the smudges of imperfection and the dirty sin. Thankfully there is someone with something more powerful than a bottle of "green works" to clean up my mess! Jesus is the ultimate washer, cleaner, purifier of every kind of smudge, stain, and dirt. All I have to do is call on Him. It is so simple, and yet in the business and distractions of life, I find myself forgetting this simple truth.

There is nothing like looking out a clean window. Once the light was shining through, I thought, "Why I have I just gotten around to cleaning this window, things looks so much better!" And its the truth, when we let Jesus come in, do a thorough cleaning, things look so much better inside and out.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Jesus is fun

One of the scariest and most exciting things about being a parent is that you don’t know how the story will end…that journey your child makes from baby to adult. I have a general idea how I want things to turn out for my girls. It is a collaborative effort, which I am already reminding myself of now 13 years early in preparation for the teen years.

I do know I want my girls to be strong, confident virtuous women with a good amount of self esteem who love Jesus. In these early years, I wonder, “What effect does going to church really have on them? When we talk about Jesus or pray before bedtime, does it really make a difference?” Sometimes when Andy says, “Let’s pray, can you pray Aislynn?” Before dinner Aislynn will say, “No pray, no prayer!” I jokingly say sometimes, “Well SHE’S not a Christian.” On the other hand, she does pray for the entire cast of the Mickey Mouse Club House. I think those two balance each other out!

So what does all this mean anyway, these attempts to spiritualize our children? To “expose” them to Jesus?

On the way to feeding group in the midst of our Christian jams, a Ginny Owens song came on. I heard Aislynn sing the first line of the song (she is very musical and has an excellent memory for music we are discovering). “All I want to do is give this life to you, all I want to do is give this life to you…” she sang. The song goes on “Oh all I want to do is give this life to you. And let your will be done. Till it’s all I want to do.” Very powerful words and here is my 2.5 year old singing them. She doesn’t know what they mean but she is saying them out loud. This is what is going in and what is coming out. I prayed in that moment that she would really sing those words one day and mean them in her heart and soul, and truly live them out. A deep moment in the midst of a dreary day.

Back at home, I heard Aislynn pretending with her Little People castle toys. She had the king and the queen out, “It’s the king! It’s the queen!” I heard as I glanced at her from across the room. “King go for a ride? OK lets go for a ride!” It was a very exciting day in this kingdom. She placed the king and queen carefully in the carriage, making sure that they were facing one another. These sorts of things were important in medieval travel. “Close the door!” she exclaimed. She attached the knight to the horse and the horse to the carriage. Off they went (with side effect hoof noise). And then there it was, “Time to go to church. Let’s go to church. Ok!” The king and the queen were going to church. I smiled to myself.

Of all the places the king and queen could go, and we (and they) go a lot of places. Just last week we went to a gymnastics gym, the park, mcdonalds, feeding group, gym class, etc. and the list goes on. And so I asked, “What are the king and queen going to do at church?” “Making music!” she replied. Aislynn gets very excited about worship. I usually go and get her early from the nursery, just so she can hear some worship songs in the service. She has been known to clap enthusiastically at the end of a song and shout “Hooray! Good job!” I know Carlos, our music minister appreciates this affirmation. So then I asked, “What else do we do at church? Do we learn about Jesus?” To which she replied, “Jesus is fun!” Now granted, Aislynn thinks a whole lot of things in life right now are “fun” (we are working on other adjectives); but just hearing this sweet list voice utter those words made me smile again. When was the last time I thought of Jesus as fun? Have I really ever thought of Him that way? And so I learned a little lesson from a little girl with a little imagination. “Jesus is fun.”

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

One of those days

Today I woke up thinking, “I could take a nap right now.” An option that ceased to exist September 28, 2005 when I gave birth to Aislynn Rae at an ungodly hour. I would like to wear a t shirt that says, “Take all the naps you can get while you can!” We had feeding group today and just like every other Tuesday we loaded up at 9:30 a.m. (really 9:52) and headed off to Easter Seals. Today’s music selection: a compilation of Christian Slow Jams. We like to change it up a bit. We do everything from Alicia Keys to Jingle Bell Rock, to Onward Christian Soldier. Aislynn usually comments “that’s a pretty song…” or “it’s the piano!” or “No! No! No!” -sometimes she’s not feeling it.

Anyway, we are traveling to feeding group, its rainy, I feel like a robot because I am just tired and sort of in a daze-I know-great advertising for defensive driving! But it’s just one of those days. Its humid, overcast, looks like rain. I feel a little tired and empty and just going through the motions. Sometimes you have those days. Its just one of those days.

We get to feeding group. Water our plants, do some occupational therapy, sing our songs, do the parachute, march to snack, time to eat. Sitting there with Andy and Isla and our friend Carrie (who has a little boy in the group) I think out loud “I wish I could take a nap for like 3 hours!” Carrie agreed that this sounds like a good idea. I’m sitting there on one side of the two way mirror looking in at Aislynn as they go through their repertoire of foods, wanting to just close my eyes.

Number 6 on the list: Dolphin shaped chicken finger. She gobbles it up. Number 7: Tyson chicken strip. She takes a little more time, but she finishes it off. Now Aislynn is looking around for more chicken strips. Now the point of feeding group is not consumption, but getting comfortable interacting with different foods, so they only try a little bit of many different things. A few minutes pass, and one of the feeding therapists looks away for a second as Aislynn swipes the chicken strip from the therapist's plate and starts eating it like it was always hers. Both therapists notice Aislynn has more chicken and are a little puzzled as to where it came from. Now the funny thing about being on the other side of the two way mirror is that we see everything that goes on even when the feeding therapists do not. We are sort of laughing to ourselves.

I sat there thinking, “My child is stealing chicken.” Then I realized the significance of that sentence. Not that she is predisposed to a life of crime as a thief, but that she liked that chicken so much she wanted to steal some more. Almost 5 months ago we started the feeding group. They asked us, “What are your goals? What would you like to see her eat?” I remember says, “We eat so much chicken, I wish she would just eat some chicken, even processed chicken!” Well, today she is eating chicken, she is eating processed chicken, she is eating homemade chicken fingers, she is stealing chicken. So I opened my eyes wide. I was still tired but at the same time awakened to how far we have come, how far she has come. And so it turned into one of those kinds of days.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Peanuts and Pink Nails

Last week I bought some bright pink nail polish at the store on a grocery run-how easily I wander off task! But when I saw that the 60 sec fast dry nail polish was 50% off, I added it to the list.

Every once in a great while I feel this strange motivation to buy nail polish, though I rarely, hardly ever paint any of my 20 nails. And when I do paint them, I always think "Why did I paint my nails! I am horrible at this!" And I do not have particularly attractive hands or feet-especially the feet. I have been known to be called "clay toes." But that is a story for another day...

So I took my nail polish home and put it in my bathroom where it had the potential to sit a very long time. A few nights later, I was getting Aislynn out of the bath when she noticed the nail polish, "Pink!" she exclaimed. I smiled to hear my little girl's enthusiasm and appreciation for a truly wonderful color. "Yes," I said, "It for painting nails." To which she responded, "Aislynn pink nail?" "Do you want Mommy to paint your nails pink?" "OK." She said, as if it was my idea and she was going along with it. She is sneaky that way.

She held out her little hand and I slowly painted one nail. Since this was her first beautifying experience with nail polish, I thought I had better stick to just one, in case she changed her mind half way through and I was without nail polish remover. Although I had purchased the "60 second" super fast drying polish, this was the first testing of this claim. The nail looked very pink to Aislynn's delight. "One pink nail!" she shouted, holding up her finger triumphantly. She bolted from the bathroom and showed Daddy and Isla her pink nail as well as herself this wonderful sight in a free standing mirror. Throughout the rest of the week she had many opportunities to happily show people her pink nail. I am sure people halfway wondered why she only had one nail painted. Or maybe they just thought she got a hold of the polish-I will admit the paint job was not my finest.

After one full week with just "one pink nail" I decided Aislynn might be ready for the full set. After she showed me her pink nail while drying off from a bath, I asked her if she wanted me to paint more nails. "Ok!" she exclaimed. We sat on the rug in the bathroom and she patiently stretched out her little hands as I attempted to paint just her nail and not her whole finger! As I painted each nail, she pointed to the next and said, "And this one" just in case I happened to skip over it like I did the other nine last time!
Once they were all painted I blew on them to try to help them dry faster. To my amazement, Aislynn did not try to touch them or scrape off the polish. She held her hands still and then up in the air and declared, "Oh that's nice!" Then she bolted from the bathroom ready to go on her "nail show-and-tell tour" throughout the house.

For me, this was about more than pink nails. 5 months ago this could not and would not have happened. If I had tried to paint Aislynn's nail she would have not been happy about it. She would not have sat still at all. If I had tried to explain it to her, she would not, or could not have understood it. If I had tried to just dialogue with her about this seemingly random and unimportant event, there would have been little said or understood. This experience is just another reminder to me how normal things are now and how far we have come. 4 months ago I half wondered if I would ever be able to have a real conversation about anything with my little girl. Today I sat on the bathroom floor and painted my little girl's nails upon her request.

Today I feel grateful for where we are and how far we have come. I feel grateful that I can ask my little girl a question and she can understand it and respond. I feel grateful that my little girl wants me to paint her nails. I feel grateful that tonight, she walked over to the pantry like it was nothing, pointed up to the shelf and said "Peanuts please."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

On a personal note...some GOOD NEWS.

Some of you may be aware that a few months ago we enrolled Aislynn into a "feeding group" to help with her food sensitivity/sensory issues through the Early Intervention State Program. At the same time we had some concerns about her speech and social development. After some developmental evaluations were conducted, it was suggested to us that Aislynn might be exhibiting signs of mild autism, placing her on the Autism Spectrum. At this point a recommendation was made for us to have a developmental diagnostic done by professionals who specialized in early detection of autism. This was a lot for us to take in, especially while dealing with a newborn with her own set of needs. Regardless, we went full force ahead. Aislynn started the feeding group and nutrition, as well as speech therapy and developmental therapy. In addition, Andy and I worked with Aislynn at home as much as we could, focusing on some of the concepts she was struggling with. We got on the waiting list to have a diagnostic completed (a three month wait) and trusted God had His hand on the situation.

I felt like we were at a very critical point where things could go one way or the other. Aislynn's delays might just be that, delays, or they could be signs of mild autism. No matter what the outcome would be, we felt that early intervention was definitely the way to go. As the weeks went by, I really had a piece about the situation. I felt that everything would be alright, no matter what the outcome, but only time would tell.

Over the last few months we have really seen an explosion in Aislynn's speech and social development. She is a very affectionate, smart little girl who has a sense of humor. She loves to read, sing, cook, be thrown around, and chased.These last 12 weeks, I really have felt more and more like Aislynn's issues were/are developmental and not autism.

On Sunday, we went into Chicago to spend the night in preparation for our early appointment at Illinois Masonic in Chicago where Aislynn's diagnostic would be conducted. Monday morning she was evaluated by developmental, speech, and occupational specialists as well as psychologists. They were all in full agreement that Aislynn is NOT autistic and never will be. They said that her speech and social issues are developmental delays and that she should catch up just fine in these areas over time and with help. We were very relieved and encouraged by this news! I was really praying that we would find out one way or another exactly what we were dealing with. If it was autism we would do what we needed to do, but I wanted to know for sure. If it was not autism, I wanted to know what we should be doing to help her catch up. I am so happy that this prayer was answered!

I just wanted to share this good news with all of you and thank you for your prayers and concern throughout this whole situation!

Love,
Brooke

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A year ago (A & B)

A year ago there was no Isla
A year ago there was no Ella
A year ago we were preparing for your new arrival!
A year ago you were trying to convince me to join the 2 baby club (little did we know my membership was doing to begin the following month!)
A year ago we did not know what to expect
A year ago one baby seemed like a lot of work at times (what were we thinking!)
A year ago we did not know the journey that was ahead
A year ago our faith and trust in God was about to be tested
A year ago seems like it was so long ago and yet it has flown by
A year ago we never expected to be where we are today
Stronger.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

10 things i hate

1. static cling
2. chapped lips
3. cuts on the tip of your finger
4. the doodlebops
5. guys that "holla" at the ladies
6. wind chill
7. dry hands and no hand cream
8. breast infections
9. mornings
10. getting in a slow checkout line with a child that is checked out

Thursday, January 24, 2008

birther of babies

1. I am not the average woman.

I have seen many episodes of "Baby Story" that are very similar. However, I have never seen a woman on the show like me. As I entered heavy labor for Isla, I remember shouting, "I don't want to be like one of those women on Baby Story!" And I got my wish, I was not like one of those women, I was weirder.

I was replaying in my mind today some of my "discussion topics" aka things I was shouting while in labor with Isla, and I realized they really did not make any sense. While shouting, "I feel like an alien! I'm an alien! I can't control my body!" is already very strange, it really doesn't make any sense. What do aliens and intense pain have in common? Do aliens feel intense pain? I think what I meant was that I did not feel like myself, therefore, I was an alien. I think for a brief moment in time I experienced what it might feel like to be insane. I will keep that in mind when I think I am losing my mind some days. I'll just remind myself of the whole "alien thing" and then I'll think, "now that's crazy!"

2. I'm pretty cool.

After I delivered Isla without any medical assistance (drugs), I felt like I was the bomb. It was not necessarily my intention to go o-natural, but that is how things played out and I really felt like I deserved an award after pushing a baby out the "old fashioned way". However, I was not biting on a piece of wood at the time like they did in the olden days (I think I saw that on an episode of "little house on the prarie").

3. I really love talking about birth stories!

Today I heard the best story. To sum up what was by far one of my most favorite and amazing birth stories ever, this mom had a doctor delivering her twins (vaginally) that kept falling asleep while she was pushing, she had the narcoleptic doctor and another doctor coming in and out tag teaming, it took two hours for the second twin to be born after she pushed out the first, and the idiot doctor left 1 LB of placenta inside of her, from which she almost died when she returned to the hospital a week later with a serious infection. Now that is a birth story. That makes pushing hard for 11 minutes look like a cake walk. I don't think I will ever look at this woman the same again. She is a true rock star.

4. I think more women need to share their birth stories. It is one thing we as moms all have in common. Maybe I'll start a club...or make a t-shirt.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Mommy Brain" ???

Today I left my husband at the grocery store. To make a long story short, his car was in the shop and a coworker dropped him at the grocery store, where I happened to be (since we did not have his house key). As I loaded the groceries into the car, I urged him to go back in to the store for multigrain cheerios (very important item). As he hurried into the store, I drove away. It was not until I was bringing the last bag of groceries into the house and heard the phone ringing that I thought "I bet that is Andy! Who I left at the grocery store!" In a matter of minutes I had totally forgotten that Andy did not have a car, which is why he had met me at the store in the first place. Please keep in mind we live right across the street from the grocery store which should lessen the severity of this story.

This left me wondering...where DID the other half of my brain go? If I figure correctly, I lost 1/4 of it when Aislynn was born, and another 1/4 when Isla was born. SO, now I am left with half a brain. The term "mommy brain" is often used to describe this foggy headed mommy syndrome. However, I did read an article recently (based on a book) where the author suggested that this whole "mommy brain" thing is totally off, and that women actually get smarter after having kids. Well, I am looking forward to the day when that happens! To bad that day was not today.

I would like to say though, that I have come up with a small list of ways I have gotten wiser from baby number one to baby number two. Currently, I have not thought of that many ways as I am working with half a brain here.

Hope

Hope...
that things will get better
that your child will use the toilette before she goes to college
that your house will stay clean for more than 5 minutes
that one day everyone will take a nap at the same time (including you!)
that someday jeans will feel more comfortable than elastic waist pants (probably not)
that you will find the other half of your brain
that what you are doing now really does matter
that your children will be best friends
that you are a good mom even without a shower
that you will get through the roughest day
that things aren't so hopeless
in the Lord.

"Our problem is not so much that God doesn't give us what we hope for as it is we don't know the right thing for which to hope...Hope is not what you expect."-Max Lucado God Came Near

Monday, January 21, 2008

I love Mondays

I love Mondays. This is a phrase you will never probably see on a t-shirt in any language, in any country, on any continent. However, if you are looking for a conversation starter, I recommend you get yourself one of these shirts made. Most people dread the weekend to be over as they must return to work bright and early, Monday morning. The reason I love Mondays is actually rather stupid and in no way deep and insightful. It is simply because my favorite show is on from 8-9 which I find to be inspiration for the week ahead. Currently, I am in love with the show, "John and Kate Plus 8." The show follows the life of a real family living in Penn as they raise their three year old sextuplets (that's 6) and twin, seven year old girls. Hence the John (dad) and Kate (mom) plus 8 (children). It should be fairly obvious why I find this show inspirational. When I feel overwhelmed sometimes raising and taking care of my 2 little girls I just think, what if I multiplied them by 4, or what if I had 6 Aislynn's. Whoa. Those thoughts help me shake off the stress and be thankful I have only birthed 2 babies and am not driving a commercial van. While things could always be calmer, cleaner, and quieter, they could also always be crazier, messier, and louder. At the end of one episode of the show, Kate said, "Every day is painfully the same, yet drastically different." I completely agree. Sometimes I feel like I am doing the same thing over and over each day, yet each day is unique and different than the day before. I am learning to embrace the newness of each day, view the monotonousness as consistency, and be thankful I do not have 6 two year olds all at once!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

matching pajama pants

The meeting of my non-biological twin was a very stressful and exciting day. Especially since I did not know that I was meeting my non-biological twin on that day! If someone would have told me, "When you go to college you are going to meet your best friend. You will have tons in common, sometimes lead parallel lives, make similar mistake and triumphs, marry college roommates, work together, have babies at the same time, oh-and by the way-she will be your "randomly selected" freshman year college roommate," I would have never believed it. I think that Angie and my pairing as roommates has to be the most successful match in all of roommate selection history.

There was a survey, a phone call, and then, the infamous introduction. On taking the survey I thought, "I am going to get the left over roommate that I have nothing in common with when we are the last two people left that they have to pair together. Or I will end up with a home schooled missionary kid with a stuffed animal collection." On making the call I thought, "Wow, I am glad she knows what Doc Martins are!" On meeting her I thought, "She looks pretty cool in her Tommy Hilfiger tank and jean shorts. I think she might be normal." I should have known, when we went to bed that night and had matching pajama pants, this was the real thing!

If there is ever a doubt in my mind that God knows what he is doing in my life, or that he has somehow forgotten about me; all I need to do is think about my best friend. I went to college a somewhat unstable girl with an identity crisis. I needed a true friend and confidante. Someone to dance with and share crazy stories. Some one to cry with and share hard times. Someone to kick me in the pants when I was being an idiot and help me see bad choices. Someone to pray with me and encourage me to make good choices. I did not know I needed all of those things when I went to college, but God did, and He decided why not bring a person into my life to be all of those things I needed.

It did not take us long to discover that we were very much non-biological twins simply birthed from different mothers. Hardly anyone believed we were randomly matched college roommates. It seemed like we had known each other our whole lives. Today I realize we will know each other for the rest of our lives. She will always be my best friend. If my daughters ask me someday, "How do I know if she is my best friend?" I will say:

A best friend...
wears matching outfits with you even if they do not find it to be as exciting as you do.
A best friend...
shares clothes with you and teaches you that there are more laundry categories than simply "dark" and "lights."
A best friend...
dances with you at 2a.m.
A best friend...
tells you things you don't want to hear.
A best friend...
lets you color her hair with a marker in class so that you can both stay awake.
A best friend...
keeps your secrets and tells you hers.
A best friend...
lets you sleep with her on your birthday even though thats not her thing.
A best friend...
saves you when you need to be saved.
A best friend...
stays your friend even when she's not sure who you are.
A best friend...
finds you when you are lost.
A best friend...
trusts you even when trust has been broken.
A best friend...
stands up for you on your wedding day.
A best friend...
embarrasses you when she tells your wedding guests you wear men's underwear.
A best friend...
knows you don't have to talk every day to stay friends.
A best friend...
visits you in the hospital when you have your first child.
A best friend...
travels to the opposite end of the globe from you so you can truly rule the world!
A best friend...
dreams big dreams with you and for you.
A best friend...
always tells you what you need to hear.
A best friend...
just knows.
A best friend...
will always be there for you no matter what.
A best friend...
knows that your friendship can withstand anything.
A best friend...
wears matching pajama pants.

Friday, January 18, 2008

a young old woman

I recently went to the doctor's office to see if my 78 day old baby ( I heard them refer to her as 78 days old when they were checking something with my insurance) had conjunctivitis-aka-pink eye. As I proceeded to the reception counter to check in, the nurse (who looked like she was in her early thirties) gasped, "You look so young!" I did not hear what she said at first as I was bending down to shove back in the pacifier that had popped out. I was sure she must have said something like, "You look so tired!" or, "You look so bad!" Both of which were very true at the moment. I stood back up and said, "I'm sorry, what did you say?" She repeated, "You look SO young!" I didn't quite know how to respond, one, because I do not think I look that young, two, I did not know if she was happy about this declaration or mad, and three, I have never been greeted that way at the doctor's office or anywhere for that matter before. My immediate response was a somewhat defensive, "I'm 27!" I did have to think for a split second to make sure I was in fact 27. The nurse half smiled as she proceeded to pull up my daughter's file. After a couple more typical doctor's office check in questions she laughed, shook her head, and declared once again, "You just look so young!" I wanted to shout back, "WHAT the heck are you talking about! Do you not see the lines starting to form under my eyes and the patch of gray hair sprouting out of my hairline!" Instead I again, somewhat defensively replied, "I also have a two year old (like that some how makes me look older) and a husband, and I had the husband before the babies." I hoped that reciting my stats might age me in her eyes. She just smiled. I went to sit down in the waiting area and thought to myself, "That was weird."
Here are a few reasons I am not That Young:
1. My body has been producing gray hair for 8 years. I now officially have more gray hair than I can remove with tweezers. I try not to look at my face too close in the mirror for fear of discovering even more gray hair.
2. When I hear current rap music as I am flipping through the radio stations I think to myself, "What IS this crap! This is the most pointless song ever."
3. I look at my sister who is currently turning 20 and a college student and think that she and all her friends don't look old enough to drive!
4. I have suffered a serious decrease in brain power. Recently at the store I was asked how old I was and I replied, "28." I did not even realize until I relayed the story to someone later that I am in fact, not 28.

I guess I am a young old woman.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

a nanny day

This morning as I slowly opened my eyes and rolled over towards my stirring baby girl I was met by projectile spit up right across my chest (ironic that it should land where it originated from). Immediately it soaked through my shirt and through my favorite nursing bra. I was particularly sad about this part, since I would now need to do a load of laundry to wash this bra. That was how this morning started.
On this particular morning, more so than other mornings, I felt like I had been hit by a 5 ton truck. Not a good way to start the day. Before I even had a chance to think about a cup of coffee my 2 year old was complaining and whining about something the little einsteins were doing. Apparently, she did not want them to help the little blue car and this was very upsetting to her. Well, what started out as a simple protest of the the little einsteins, turned into a 3 hour tantrum which brings us to this point in time where I am hurriedly writing down this experience before Isla grows tired of looking at her tiny love animals on her activity mat. Finally, Aislynn appears to have stopped crying and fallen into the sleep which she so desperately needed this morning. And so I have learned four important lessons all before noon.
1. Aislynn should not go to bed at 10pm. She will wake up early the next day and she will be in a bad mood about it.
2. Aislynn should not watch the little einsteins when she is in a bad mood. She will have no patience for their adventure.
3. Owning 20 bras but having one you currently like in the rotation is not a wise idea when you are lactating and have a baby that spits up as a part time job. Buy a new bra.
4. Having a nanny is a wonderful idea. Never judge anyone for having one. Instead congratulate them for being so smart and rich.

Monday, January 14, 2008

stop it

Aislynn just started saying, "stop it!" to me in a very snotty voice. Now there are certain phrases that I use that she repeats or models, but "stop it" is not one of them. This one is all her. She has been using this phrase quite frequently-when she doesn't want her diaper changed, she doesn't want me to touch the toy she is playing with, she doesn't want my help with something, she does want my help with something, I am not giving her something she wants. So we have begun the dialogue on how to talk to mommy and how not to talk to mommy. This is a conversation that I have a feeling, we will be having about 13 years down the road when my two year old with attitude becomes a teenager with attitude. I really hope that day does not come, but if it does I will do one of two things: Take her bedroom door away or send her to mountain camp. Or I could come up with a less harsh solution. Its a good thing I have thirteen years to think about that one.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

life in a moment

I find it interesting that there is a game called "Life." I don't even really remember how to play it...I just remember that there were a lot of pieces that went with the game board. I do remember that you basically tried to plan out your life, get a lot of money and end the game with the most stuff. Obviously the choices you made in the game for your chosen "life" impacted the outcome and your chance of winning. Isn't funny how many times we have our minds made up about how real life should work and what should come next, yet seldomly does it turn out that way at all. I remember praying earnestly on hands and knees as a seventeen year old girl that I would marry Thomas Yates. Thankfully God did not answer that prayer. Then I remember praying a similar prayer a few years later that I would marry my college boy friend. I could not see how things could really turn out any differently. Thankfully God did not answer that prayer either. Sometimes we want things to turn out so badly a certain way, but God has other plans. Sometimes it does not make any sense to us in the moment, why life is the way it is. But there is someone who sees the bigger picture. He sees past the moment, down the road. And thankfully sometimes He does not answer prayers the way we would like him to. Sometimes I wonder, "What would my life look like if everything went according to my original plans?" I don't really have to wonder though. My life would be a mess! I would not be where I am with the man I am married to. And I would not have two beautiful little girls. I am in a moment. Things do not make perfect sense, but I can see that someone else knows what is going on and if I look at our history, I can see that He knew/knows what He is doing. And all I can do right now is live in this moment because if I look down the road with my human eyes I am afraid. So instead I look behind me and am encouraged to see what has brought me to this moment.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

DIY HOOD TO HEADREST MEI TAI TUTORIAL is back!


BROOKE'S DIY HOOD TO HEADREST MEI TAI TUTORIAL
(private use only)



The Finished Product...



A little background...
PS: If you don't really care and want to get right to it, just scroll on down to the tutorial!
I have been making carriers for almost four years. I discovered the world of “babywearing” when my foure year old was just a few months old. I was looking for an alternative to the baby bijorn I had at the time, that was starting to hurt my back. Through surfing the web, I stumbled onto numerous unconventional carriers and was amazed and excited. I wanted to purchase a mei tai right then and there! Money was tight at the time, and I didn’t feel I could justify the purchase, especially without being able to try on the carrier or even see if my daughter liked it. I wondered if I might be able to find some instructions on how to sew one, and sure enough, I stumbled onto a DIY pattern. Of course I did everything wrong, made every mistake, and used the worst materials! But in the end I had my first mei tai. I felt so proud of myself, especially when my daughter loved it.
I still have that carrier. I had a lot of great memories with it. I remember feeling a sense of freedom in discovering the concept of “hands free.” I remember feeling so much love for my daughter when she snuggled up close to me the minute I put her in the mei tai. And most importantly, I remember feeling like I had succeeded at something-which as moms-can mean the whole world sometimes when you feel like you are doing everything wrong.
I decided it was my turn to “pay it forward.” So this is my Do It Yourself Tutorial for a hood to headrest mei tai. I loved the concept of a hooded mei tai, and wondered if the hood could do more than just be a hood. So I added padding and some additional loops to allow the hood to fold down into a padded headrest. I am a very visual person and so I have tried to be very vivid with my description, especially for that mom who only has sewn straight lines up until now! I also tried to include pictures and a few video clips of some of the trickiest parts in the assembly process. I hope you find this tutorial helpful in your attempts to make this mei tai whether it is your first one or your fourteenth! Above all I hope you feel successful and proud of yourself. If you have questions about any of the steps or need clarification, you can email me at bfuller@meilawrap.com and I will try to answer your question.
If you are interested in finding out more about babywearing, styles of carriers, or DIY patterns, www.thebabywearer.com is a wonderful resource.
Happy Sewing!
Brooke

(Above) My first DIY mei tai with my 3 year old when she was 9months and 14months

3 Years later! Isla 1o months, Aislynn 3yrs
and is for PRIVATE USE ONLY.
_______________________________________
PART I: ASSEMBLE YOUR SUPPLIES
Supplies:

  • Rotary cutter or sharp pair of sissors (maybe this is silly, but I thought I’d offer it anyway…don’t use your sewing sissors to cut paper…they will be sewing sissors no more and incredibly dull!)
  • A fabric marking pen or chalk to mark on fabric (I use chalk, a chalk pencil, a invisible ink pen, and a white marking pen all interchangeably).
  • A tape measure and ruler or yard stick
  • High quality thread (I use guiterman)
  • Iron/ironing board (sometimes I use spray starch too)
  • Long straight pins
  • A piece of paper or something for cutting out your pattern (I use my daughters 11x17 construction paper and I just tape a few pieces together)
Fabric:
  • 2 ¼ yards long of a sturdy fabric such as canvas, denim, twill (for straps), at least 33 in wide (as you will cut three straps a little over 10 inches wide each)
  • Between 5/8-3/4 yard a decorator fabric, apparel fabric, or quilters cotton
  • Between 5/8-3/4 yard sturdy fabric for center stabilizing body piece (a canvas or dense denim)
  • Between 5/8-3/4 yard a fabric to go on the inside panel that your child will be against. This could be anything you want ( the material you used for straps, a décor fabric, something super soft like a microfleece or flannel, etc.
  • Padding material: I use nearly natural batting, I love it. I have also used regular fleece, foam, nu-foam, and regular batting. You will need ½ yard of warm and natural batting (if you are using something else for padding you will need to calculate how much padding you need based on the dimensions of the padded items). Warm and natural batting usually comes 60 in wide.
**5/8 yard is enough for a smaller baby. For an older baby or toddler you should use ¾ yard and make the body longer (I will explain how to do this later.)
PART II: CUTTING EVERYTHING OUT

  1. Once you have all your materials gathered, it is time to cut out your pattern.
  2. Referring to my pattern diagram cut out your own pattern. You can make half a pattern you are planning on folding the fabric in half (which would help it to be more symmetrical)
a. You can make a basic mei tai by eliminating the hood.
b. For a taller mei tai simply lengthen the body 1-3 inches. For a smaller mei tai you can shorten the length of the body pattern 1-2 inches.
c. Make sure you label the top of your pattern and the fold.
(Above) Pattern:Half the body
to clarify dimensions-starting at the top and going clockwise,
6 in, 21 in, 9 in, 5 in, center 1/2 width 8 in, strap angle 5.5 or 6in, 2.5 in

Full body once unfolded (above)
Hood dimensions
Step 1: Cutting out the body pieces
  1. Lay your pattern on top of your fabric. Make sure the top of your pattern is at the top of your fabric. If you made half a pattern, make sure to fold your fabric in half (the fold will be the center of the body and the other side will be the edge of the carrier)
  2. Use your chalk to trace your pattern onto the fabric. Then cut out the body, or lay the other two body pieces underneath the piece you have traced and cut all three out together. This is ideal, but only if you have very sharp scissors or a rotary cutter.
Step 2: Cutting out the padding
  • You will need ½ yard of warm and natural batting (if you are using something else for padding you will need to calculate how much padding you need based on the dimensions of the padded items). Warm and natural batting usually comes 60 in wide.
  • Cut out the following pieces of batting with the following dimensions: 2 straps 16x22, 1 waist strap 15x28, 1 hood 15x13 (two layers for this one)
  1. Take the two strips of 16x 22 batting and fold the short ends (16in) into the center.
  2. Then fold the whole strip in half. You will fold the waist piece the same way, short ends into the middle and folded in half.
  3. You will end up with 2 pieces of padding for the straps approx 4 in wide, and a piece of padding for the waistbelt 3-3.5 in wide.
  4. Make a small stitch in the two bottom corners and the center edge, just to keep the layers together when you stuff them.
  5. The hood pieces you will set aside
Folding the padding into the center (below)

Folded in half again

The waist piece


Below are the spots to sew a small stitch

Step 3: Cutting out the Straps

  1. You need between 78-85 inches of fabric (lengthwise) for the straps. Approx. 2 ¼ yards. I would recommend making your straps 80-85 inches long because you can always shorten your straps. Longer straps also give you more options for tying. Remember that 5 inches of your strap will be inside the carrier.
  2. You will now cut three strips for the 2 straps, and 1 waist belt. Using a yard stick or ruler, draw a line as long as you are making your straps (approx 84 in), and 10 ½-11 inches wide. Your straps will end up being about 5 inches wide. If you like narrower straps, simply make your strips of fabric between 7.5-9 inches (that will produce straps 3 1/2 -4 ½ inches wide). Cut out the three straps.
  3. Fold your shoulder straps in half widthwise, with the wrong side out (right sides touching inside). Pin along the edge.
This video shows how you should fold the straps
video
Step 4: Sewing and Assembling the straps
  1. Using a straight stitch, sew all the way down all three straps using a ½ to 5/8 seam (meaning there is a ½ to 5/8 inch to the right side of the stitch you are sewing). Now you should have three long tubes.
OPTIONAL STEP: You can iron flat the seams which can make it easier to straight out the straps when you flip them if you like or you can just skip to step.
2. Flip all the tubes so they are right side out. Since I make my straps so wide, I usually just reach my hand all the way down the tube bunching as I go and flipping. The seam will now be one of the long edges of the strap.
3. Iron all three straps.
4. Lay the 2 shoulder straps flat . Using a ruler and a special marking pen or chalk, draw a
line 5-6 in from the left raw edge-horizontally.
5. Now draw a line 22in. from the line you just drew (essentially 29 to 30 in from the left raw edge of the strap).
6. Peel the left edge of the straps back all the way past the line 30 inches in. You should have wrong sides facing now pulled over part of the strap you turned previously. Slide a couple inches of the padding material into the opening.
7. With one hand firmly holding the portion of strap that is still right sides out, use the other hand to slowly “unpeel” the strap back over the padded material, trying to keep it as straight as straight as possible until the strap is completely unpeeled and covering the padding. You may need to reach your hand in and pull the padding down a bit or make some adjustments to straighten it out. Repeat this process with the second shoulder strap. The straps should fall in between the two lines you drew on the outside of the straps.
This video shows how to put the padding in the strap
video
8. For the waist belt, find the exact center of that strap and mark it. Then find the exact center of your piece of padding for the waist belt and lay it on top of the waist belt in the center. Draw a small line on either side of the padding. You will follow the same process used for the shoulder straps to get the padding inside, except you will have to peel the waist belt almost all the way back to get this piece of padding in the direct center.
9. Now you are ready to sew in the padding. Some people like to sew rows, some people sew rectangular boxes, I like to sew rows. I have included a short video clip explaining how I sew clean rows. You can follow these instructions or just sew your own straight rows across the padded portion. At least three of them.
10. Using a straight stitch, stitch straight down the center of the strap until you are one inch from edge of the padding (you may want to mark this spot before you start the stitch-you can also draw line straight down the middle for a guide if you are concerned about sewing straight!) You do not want to stitch over the edge of the padding as it will make it more difficult to keep your rows from bunching. Sew at least 1 row on either side of the center row you just sewed (see my video).
This video explains how to sew in your padding so you only have to break your stitch once!
video
***In order to create a nice clean edge for your straps (the ends where you are tying). Simply fold the edges into the tube about ½ to 1 inch. Then press them flat and stitch closely to the edge, to create a nice straight edge with sharp corners. You will do this while you follow my instructions to sew in the padding, or you can do it when you stitch around the perimeter of the strap after #19.
This video shows how to fold the ends down to get a nice clean edge
video
11. If you followed my instructions for rows, you should have already stitched around the edge of the strap all around the entire thing.
12. If you did not follow my directions, and just stitched over the padding, you will now need to stitch very closely with a straight stitch all around the entire strap (except the raw edge you will attach to the body.
13. For the waist strap, sew all around the entire perimeter of the strap, making two very nice sharp edges for strap ends (like you did with the shoulder straps).
14. Now you should have 3 straps ready to attach to the body. You will sew rows into the padding of the waist belt once you attach it to the body.
PART III: Making a Padded Hood
  • Front and back hood pieces
  • 2 layers of padding cut out
  • Bias tape or two strips of fabric for hood ties
Step 1: Making a decorated hood
(skip step 1 if you are just using two pieces of fabric for the hood)
  1. If you would like to make a fancier hood, you can take a strip of fabric that is the width of the hood (it can be fat or skinny). Press under the top and bottom edges so that there is a nice crisp edge on top rail going widthwise, and the bottom rail widthwise.
Strip of fabric with edges pressed under
2. You can pin this piece to the right side of the hood piece that will be facing out, and stitch very close along those pressed edges, so it is attached to the hood piece. I like to use a decorator stitch along the edge, but you can use a straight stitch very close to the edges or a zigzag
Fabric laid out (above) Pinned to hood flap (below)
Finished decorated top hood flap, ready for assembly


Step 2: Constructing the hood


  • Loops and ties:
  1. Press under the one edge on each of the two strips of bais tape or hood ties you cut out
  2. Stitch along this tiny edge then while leaving your needed down, turn the strip 90 degrees and sew along the edge of the strip lengthwise.
  3. Take your 4 inch strips of bias tape and fold the short ends under and press. Stitch around the edges. Now you should have 2 ties ready to attach to the hood and 4, 4 inch long strips to attach later.

the bias tape I use

Here are 4, 4x4 inch squares of fabric you can use for the loops in place of bias tape



Step 3: Sewing and flipping the hood
  1. Lay the 2 layers of batting (or other padding material) down.
  2. Lay the hood piece that will be showing to everyone, right side up, on top of the padding.
  3. Take your two hood ties and position them on either side of the hood sides about two inches from the bottom. Since the hood is rounded, there is not really a corner for you to place them in, and I prefer them coming out the sides.
  4. The ties should lay straight across the hood so that about ½ to 1 inch of the raw edge of the ties come out the sides.
  5. Carefully lay the inside hood piece (the piece that will show when your hood is use-the underside) wrong side up, on top of the ties, careful not to shift the ties.
  6. Pin all around the perimeter of the hood, especially where the ties are.
Layers ready for sewing:
padding, decorated piece (rightside up), ties, inside hood panel (wrong side up).

7. Using a straight stitch, sew all around the edge of the hood, careful to turn the hood as needed to keep the rounded shape. Leave the top of the hood, the straight edge where you will be attaching it to the body, open. This opening will allow you to flip it rightside out!
8. Flip the hood right side out, and press it with an iron.
9. Now top stitch very close to the edge all around the hood still leaving the top open.
***Tip: If your hood is two different colors, for example the top is piece is black and the reverse is white, you can use different colors of thread. The thread in the bobbin will show as the stitch on backside of your sewing. The thread going through the needle will show on the top. Keep this tip in mind for top stitching the body and x boxes later. You may want to practice this on scrap fabric to make sure your tension is correct. If the bobbin thread shows on the top, you need to decrease your tension. If the top thread shows on the reverse, you need to increase your tension.
Now your hood is ready to attach!
PART IV: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Step 1: Attaching the body and shoulder straps
1. Lay the interior, structure piece flat (this is the piece that will be sandwiched between the other two pieces).
2. On top of that, lay the piece of fabric that will be facing out for everyone to show, right side up. This means, you should lay it exactly as you want it to be seen.
3. On top of that, lay the hood piece, exactly as you want it to show when it is not in use.
4. Take one strap and lay it so that the 5 inches you are going to sew over, that are going to be inside the carrier are angled up, directly centered in the upper right hand corner. DO the exact same thing with the other strap. Angling the five inches you have marked, up.
5. Careful not to shift the straps you just laid out, fold the long portions of the straps up so they lay nice and flat inside the body and don’t get in the way while you sew around the perimeter.
6. Now carefully lay the last body panel (the one that will be against the baby on the inside) wrong side up , on top of the straps and the rest of the pieces. Remember, this piece should have the wrong side up, the side you don’t want to see. Line it up directly on top of the stack and pin all around the perimeter of the carrier.
Notice I have traced around the edge of the hood, so I don't accidentally stitch over it
Pin around the entire body
7. Now take a marking pen or chalk, and draw a line ½ to 1 inch from the edge of where the straps are coming out. Then trace around the sides of the straps underneath the layer. This will help be a guide when you stitch around the straps so that when you flip them they are nice and even. Draw a guide line all the way down the sides of the carrier and across the top approx ½ from the edge. Make sure you will be sewing over all the layers with the line you are marking.
8. Now starting where the corner of the strap edge meets the edge of the top of the carrier where the hood will be, begin to sew all around the carrier careful to watch the guidelines you have drawn. DO NOT sew across the bottom. This is how you are going to flip the carrier rightside out.
9. Make sure you sew nice neat lines along the edges and where the straps are going to come out so that your carrier looks nice and symmetrical.
10. After you have sewn around the body, go back up to where the straps are attached, and close to the straight line you sewed (across the 5 inches of the width of the strap), sew a zigzag stitch straight across this space. Do this across the top of the other strap too.
11. Now remove all the pins and flip the carrier inside. It should now look the way you want it to for use. If it seems to be getting a little bulky around the strap edges, flip it back to the way you sewed it originally and trim your hem a bit, careful not to snip your stitch.
12. Smooth out the shape and body of the carrier, and iron all around the entire body.

Step 2: Sewing in the X boxes and top stitching

1. Now trace a nice rectangle around the inner edge of the straps that you attached inside the carrier. Draw a nice rectangle on top of the carrier surface with an erasable pen or chalk. Draw a nice X in the center of the rectangle, corners to corners. Now top stitch over the rectangle. Make sure you are using a matching thread, or two different colors-one for the top-one for the bobbin (underneath color) if you have different colors of fabric you are using. This is only important if you are trying to blend the X boxes in subtly.
2. Once your X boxes are sewn, top stitch, using a straight stitch, all around the entire bdy of the carrier, very close to the edge.
3. At this point, you can fold bottom edge of the body under to make a nice straight edge across the bottom, iron this edge flat, and pin. You can top stitch this edge closed when you are stitching around the body.
Step 3: Attach the waist belt
1. Now you will lay the waist belt directly across the bottom of the carrier on the outside, centered. Line up the bottom edge of the body with the bottom edge of the waist belt.
2. Pin all across the top and bottom edge.
3. Sew a straight stitch very close to the edge across the bottom edge of the strap and body, attaching the two. When you get to one end, leave your needle down, and turn the whole piece you are sewing 90 degrees, so that you can sew up the side, to the top edge of the strap. When you get to that point, leaving your needle down, turn the whole piece you are sewing 90 degrees again.
4. Now sew a straight stitch across the top edge of the waist strap, attaching it to the body. Leaving your needle down turn your whole piece you are sewing 90 degrees one last time to sew from the top edge of the waist strap to the bottom.
5. You have essentially sewn a long rectangle attaching the body to the waist belt. Now you can sew at least three rows, straight across the waist belt spaced out, or rectangles.
6. You can sew the rows from one end of the padding to the other end, careful not to go over the edge (this pattern uses a piece of padding extra long beyond the shape of the carrier body to add more comfort for your sides). Or you can just sew across the padding directly in line with the body.
Step 4: Attach hood and headrest loops! Last step!
1. Using a ruler mark a small line 8 inches from the edge of the straps on the outside of the straps. This is where you will tie the hood if it is in use. Use a little straight stitch or zig zag to attach the two edges of hood loops. One on the outside of each strap going lengthwise across the strap.
2. Now attach the head rest loops on the inside edge of the straps. Attach the same way up on the corners of the straps


Done!

Here is the finished product (left)
Here is the inside where the headrest loops are attached (right)
Using the hood as a headrest...
Fold down once,
Fold again for a high headrest. Pull tight through the loops.


Fold down again for the thickest headrest. Pull tight through the loops.
This would be the ideal for a tiny baby or newborn






Hood in Use:


2weeks old








*If you make and love this tutorial, I'd love to see pictures! I'd like to start posting a gallery of completed carriers to inspire other moms! Email me a picture or two.


My personal Putting on baby mei tais

411: EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT A PUTTING ON BABY MEI TAI

Style: All POB mei tais are unique. While I may use the same fabrics to create another carrier, I never create the exact same carrier twice. Your Putting on Baby Mei tai will be one of a kind, just for you! All carriers are reversible. Some reverse to create another pattern combination, some reverse to a completely plain side to encourage those husbands to wear it!

The Fabric:
Most POB (putting on baby) mei tais use a sturdy, but soft twill for the strap fabric. Some have a soft canvas or denim strap. Patterned fabrics are a quality cotton apparel fabric or quilters fabric. Some have a decor fabric for the patterned piece. All fabric has been machine washed and preshrunk by me. All carriers have a piece of canvas inside to stabilize for safety.

Washing Instructions: I use all machine washable fabrics. These carriers can be washed in the washing machine, but you should keep machine washing to a minimum to keep colors bright. To wash, put the carrier in a pillow case and wash separately in a gentle cycle. It is best to lay your carrier out flat to air dry. But you can put it in your dryer if you wish. However, air drying, or just fluffing it for a few minutes in the drier will reduce fading. Ironing of the straps might be needed.

Hooded carriers: Fold the hood up to keep a sleeping baby comfortable. All the hoods are rounded and long, which is different than a lot of hooded mei tais. This allows the hood to fit the baby longer into "toddlerhood!" You can also fold your hood in if you don't want to use it or don't want it hanging down. Some hoods are padded and fold down to create a padded headrest. If a carrier has one of these hoods, it will say so in the description. The "hood to head rest" conversion hood tie onto loops on the inside of the straps to create this cushion. See the May post entitled "Just sold" to see this feature in action. The hood also can be tied up provide extra support for a small baby. See post titled "Ty" to see a newborn in this carrier.

Straps: Most straps are cushioned. I use warm and natural batting for the cushioning in the straps and some cushioned headrests. Warm and natural has a high standard for their product using no glue or resins. It is extremely soft too. Straps are nearly 80 in long unless otherwise specified. This allows the carrier to be "one size fits all".

Wearing instructions: Links to Youtube videos I have recorded are coming soon! All carriers purchased include my own instructional dvd for wearing positions.

Pricing: Determined by materials, time and features. All carriers use a variety of quality fabrics that are purchased, washed, sewn, and ironed by me. Features such as padded straps, a padded hood, no hood, specialty fabrics, and reversible features add to the price as well. Each carrier is custom made and takes hours to create.


PS As always, if you have any questions about the tutorial, my carriers, or my personal creation-the one and only Mei-la Wrap, don't hesitate to contact me via email.


Mei-la Wraps at www.puttingonbaby.blogspot.com: