Showing posts with label Babies. Show all posts

Umbrella Strollers - what to do when you need one but hate the concept?

So after 3 years of hard living, our beloved Valco Baby Snap stroller gave way (note: watch for "kneeling buses" kneeling onto the wheels of your stroller if you get off the bus too quickly and the bus driver is still in the process of lowering the vehicle) with a crack in the frame. Faced with both the terror of choosing a new stroller to use daily and the freedom to pick something that doesn't need to take an infant, we restarted our hunt for the Best Urban Stroller - Umbrella Stroller Edition.

Umbrella Stroller Options

Option 1: Buy the same thing again. We'd narrowing things down to the Snap and the B-Agile last time and they remained compelling options for all the same reasons. You can see our post on choosing an infant stroller for more on this.

Option 2: Cheap umbrella strollers. There are a million of these out there. Many are light a inexpensive, making them compelling at first glance. However, many are poorly made which can put you in a real bind if you not just "at the mall," and more importantly, most have wheels that are simply inexcusable for use on city streets, in the snow, or over train tracks. Hell, even the week we borrowed a MacLaren Triumph was awful while getting around cracked sidewalks and over the Green Line tracks, and that is not a cheap stroller.

Option 3: BabyHome Emotion stroller. Dina seriously lusted after this stroller the first time around but we opted against it due to a lack of lie-flat capabilities. Had we owned our amazing Doona stroller/carseat combo at the time, we may have more seriously considered this option though.

Honestly, we scoured Craigslist until we saw a Valco, Britax, or BabyHome come up and the BabyHome hit first. Having owned it for a couple months now, here are our thoughts.


The BabyHome Emotion Pros and Cons

It's light (13 lbs), maneuverable, has good shock absorbers, and supports one-handed driving. While we were used to the other features, it's hard not to notice how much more maneuverable it is.  Being a couple inches shorter (due to the lack of lie-flat), it's also a bit easier to get into the area of flipped-up bus seats and take up less space on transit of all kinds. It can also remain upright when folded and folds pretty flat, which is great for the restaurants that require it.

A couple downsides... the basket is roomy but the opening is not. The wheels are acceptable but not amazing (they are made from the material of skateboard/Rollerblade wheels which make them durable but are still a bit too small for our tastes).

The BabyHome Emotion: Our Final Take

This is a great, but not perfect, stroller. Second-hand on Craigslist was perfect for our needs. That said, even at full price, the Valco plus BabyHome is still less than having bought a Bugaboo or City Mini system.

In a slightly less snowy city (or one with better sidewalks), you could easily do a Doona + BabyHome for all carseat/stroller needs in the first year (and beyond for strollers), especially if you invest in some comfy carrier options as well.


     

Thinking and talking about race with kids: Our Friends at We Stories

This post that is a bit off our normal programming, but seems especially appropriate this week. Unfortunately, the topics are evergreen. 

As our then-two-year-old became increasingly observant, we were suddenly no longer been able to hide in a world where we didn't have to talk about race or other obvious physical differences between people. Living in a diverse city, taking public transit, and seeing people with all sorts of appearance, abilities, and cultures made the issue quickly a topic of everyday conversation (and occasional embarrassment on the train).

Because our children are still very young, and because we have the privilege of being able to choose at times not think about race (i.e., we are white), this is an issue where we are very far from experts. Luckily though, I grew up with someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about these issues professionally. For that reason, I would like to take this post to highlight some of the great resources at We Stories.

Note: We Stories's primary activities are focused on a) the St. Louis area and b) figuring out how to make race something that white families think and talk about. That said, the resources, posts, and other materials linked to by them are appropriate across geographic areas and many are intended for audiences of any race or background. 

Consider this post mostly a round-up of links with commentary by me.

Why talk about race at all? Aren't kids color-blind? 

Post: It turns out they're not, even (in fact, especially) if we never talk about race. 

You can also read more about this in NurtureShock - a book we discussed in a post of our own: Some Stuff Science Says about Parenting.

Just thinking about how to do this is terrifying. 

Post: Where to Start: 12 Small Steps for White Families who Want to be a Positive Force for Change on Racism 

While I like all of their suggestions (really, go read that link), numbers 7-9 on their list about diversifying your bookshelf and mixing up your media really stuck with me as it’s something I’ve confronted over the last year. I know I was startled when I realized just how few black (and other) voices I was hearing - let alone my children - without ever having consciously chosen one way or the other.

Side note: Thanks to the past year’s changes at Comedy Central, we’ve all had the opportunity to experience some new perspectives about the news. Much as I loved Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, the cast of the Daily and Nightly Shows have brought to the fore voices and experiences otherwise lacking in much mainstream media. (see Roy Wood Jr., especially at the 2:50 mark for a moving example).

This whole book thing seems doable. What should I get? 

Post: How to use Children's Books to Talk to Kids about Racism 

One day our daughter came home from school talking about pink and brown people. The next day, she assumed (loudly and in public) that a black man busking at Park Street was the same black man on our Green Line train. We knew books would be our first attempt at discussing the topic. From We Stories, we saw recommendations for The Skin you Live In and We're Different, We're the Same and our daughter has loved them both.

Side note: The latter book is a Sesame Street book from the 90s, which means it
  • a) has someone with a flattop, 
  • b) has characters that are no longer on the show (looking at you Barclay), 
  • c) does not have new characters (Abby), and 
  • d) is pretty awesome all around. 
One more aside: It's easy to think of Sesame Street as old, boring, and square, but they have consistently and justly discussed diversity, accepting all people (including yourself, see Segi's I Love my Hair for a powerful example), and living among density and occasional grime (bonus for our target audience).

Any other posts I should be sure to check out? 

Post: What they See. What we say, and don't

That post is a bit of a manifesto for We Stories and helps me understand their mission and how we’ll take their lessons and apply them at home. The stories we tell our children and the stories we tell ourselves matter. Many of us chose urban, vibrant environments for our families in order to engage with diversity. But that choice (or even frequent trips to the Korean grocery market) can't be the end of our story. For our family, it's something we spend a lot of time thinking about, and increasingly, it's something we're spending more time talking about. It is also one (of many) topics that came up in my appearance on the recent TransitMatters podcast.

These guys seem great! How can I find out more? How can I help them? 


For readers on the East Coast: St. Louis? Didn't they lose to the Sox a lot recently? 


Fear not, childhood friend and co-founder Laura Horwitz has spent significant time in Boston, NYC, and Philly.

For readers in St. Louis: Sounds like an Outsider... What High School did this person go to? 

Where was I during Jose Jimenez’s almost second no-hitter in 2 weeks against Randy Johnson? Laura’s basement, as the party drifted toward the TV and away from whatever else was going on. Also, the whole high school thing seems a lot less cute when you realize why it's such a useful statement about your childhood. Our city/county school systems are disturbingly tied to race, income, religion, and other factors that really homogenize childhoods, whatever part of town you are in. 

Totally nerdy policy wonk note 

I absolutely love that the site includes a section on the "Theory of Change." Program Evaluation for the win!

      

Listen to us on a Podcast! (TransitMatters episode 30: Kids on Transit)

I had the pleasure a few weeks back to discuss kids, transit, living carfree, and other urban issues with the folks on the excellent podcast TransitMatters.

If you're not familiar with TansitMatters, check them out - especially if you're in the Boston area. They are an advocacy organization "dedicated to improving transit in and around Boston by offering new perspectives, uniting transit advocates, educating riders and promoting a level of critical analysis normally absent from other media."

The family-centered episode I appeared on went live this week and you can listen to it here: PODCAST 30 - KIDS ON TRANSIT WITH LEE BIERNBAUM

Subscribe to their podcast on iTunes, your favorite podcatcher (yeah, I'm holding on to that term), or at their RSS Feed.

Also find them on Facebook, Twitter, donate, or volunteer.

If you liked the episode, be sure to let them know too.




P.S. If you are familiar with TransitMatters, know that I spend days considering what Parks and Recreation reference I was going to make following the intro and I came up with nothing. I hope I can go back on someday just so that I can reveal my inner Perd Hapley.

Practical Advice for How to Fail and Be a Good Parent

The child is clearly not strapped in... but IS learning social skills!
Parenting is an exercise that humbles everyone. Once you find out that you are going to become a parent, whether it's by peeing on a stick, hearing the results of your partner peeing on a stick, receiving a phone call, or accepting delivery from the stork, you vow that you will do everything right for your soon-to-be progeny.  And it's that sense of responsibility, and setting of high expectations, that can be so crushing when things don't go as you planned.

The sense of parental failure is often exacerbated by looking around and seeing all the parents who you think aren't failing (oh and know-it-all bloggers, of course).  But, when you observe parents who seem calm in the face of a volcanic tantrum, brave in the face of a daring climber, equipped in the face of a hurt child, you are only seeing them in that one shining moment.  You can never know if they are ashamed that their child threw the tantrum, climbed too high, or got hurt in the first place.  That parent may very well be snatching victory out of the jaws of parental failure.

And that there is the secret all experienced parents everywhere know - the measure is not in avoiding parent fails, but in the response. Some days the best you can do is hold it together until bedtime (look for my recommended wines that pair well with self disappointment, coming soon!). Other days, you can aim to fail in ways that cancel each other out.  So here are some real life examples of turning parenting lemons into lemonade.

  1. 1. Does seeing the ever present and insurmountable piles of laundry stress you out? Put the hamper in the closet and stop worrying about it.  Let's be real.  Your kid will love nothing more than wearing a pajama top and a tutu to school and everyone will compliment his creativity and brave sense of style.

  2. 2. Did you wake up in the morning refreshed only to realize the baby monitor has been off the whole time? You win - the baby sleep trained herself and you got a good night of sleep. Enjoy it!
  1. 3. My daughter went through a phase of hating the bath and this really bothered me. Eventually I just shrugged and let her bathe infrequently, figuring it saved time and built her natural immune system.

  2. 4. I constantly forget to give my baby his Vitamin D supplement. Then I remember that I forget to put sunblock on him too - it's called letting nature take its course.

  3. 5. Skip the headache of baby food.  Is your baby eating food off your plate? Congrats! Chili fries is now baby food (beans totally have protein and are a vegetable, right?) and you have an excuse to eat chili fries. 

  4. 6. Proudly parent your second child in the relaxed way you always wished you could parent your first. By "relaxed" I mean that your second child will be largely left to their own devices while you attend to the heretofore unimaginable antics of your first.  I think this is called "encouraging independent play".

  5. 7. Finally, teach your children how to make amends after losing your temper by modeling that behavior yourself.  After all, losing your temper is inevitable. (If your kid hasn't unscrewed all the light bulbs in your room while they were supposed to be napping, or poked the baby in the eye a couple of times, just take a moment to picture them doing it... feel that need to scream yet?). Demonstrating to your child how to act in the face of strong emotions is the real victory.

What Nursing Moms Really Need, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Kindle (Guest Post)

My friend Kate and I met in a birth class more than 3 years ago when we were pregnant with our daughters.  Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her as one tough cookie of a mom and an all around wonderful lady.  I’ve been lucky enough to have her calming thoughts in my life, and would love to share them with you, our dear reader.  Take it away Kate…

**************************************

It’s 3 a.m. Your baby has woken you for the umpteenth feeding of the night. You’re sore and you’re tired but you think, “Hey, at least I get to catch up on some reading.” So there you are, with your sweet babe nestled into her Boppy, while you do finger gymnastics trying to turn the pages of your book with one hand—until, inevitably, you lose your spot, the book goes splat on the floor, the baby snaps out of her milky reverie and starts screaming.

You think: Why won’t someone just invent a book that you can read one-handed in the dark already?

Dear reader, someone has. It is called the Kindle. Perhaps you already have one. Or perhaps, like me, you have a sentimental attachment to paper books. Perhaps you feel that e-readers violate the sacred intimacy between book and reader, that their tracking software intrudes on your private mind-space. Perhaps, like me, you tough it out with paperbacks and hardcovers while you nurse your first baby.

And then, pregnant with your second, you realize that you no longer require the crisp and creamy paper of a “real” book; you realize that privacy is a luxury that belongs to people with two free hands; you realize that, for about $100, the one thing you really, truly need to survive those sleepless newborn nights can be on your doorstep in one to two business days. You realize that you are ready for an e-reader.

So, what should you look for in an e-reader? If you want to read without having to turn on a lamp and wake up your partner, look for one that lights up. (Note: if you desperately want to wake your partner, I hereby empathize with and absolve you). The Kindle Voyage, Kindle Paperwhite, Kobo Glow, and Nook GlowLight are among the readers with built-in lighting. You can also buy a clip-on light; there are plenty of choices under $15. Also recommended: a reader that features wireless downloading, because when you finish one book in the middle of the night, you want another one immediately, and good luck finding your USB cable with an infant attached to your chest. Do be aware that your book-buying judgment may be compromised by sleep-deprivation, and when you emerge from the postpartum haze a few months later, you may wonder why, exactly, you spent so many precious newborn moments reading Dune.

Actually, I take that back. You will not wonder, because it was awesome.

So, thank you, Kindle. Thank you for being there when I needed you. Thank you for 1:00 a.m. And 3:00 a.m. And 5:00 a.m. And 5:45 a.m. I do still love my real books—you know, the ones made of paper—but maybe, just maybe, I am learning to love you, too.



   



Kate Becker is a science writer who spends most of her time writing about astrophysics, cosmology, and other mysteries of the universe, like toddlers. Read more and get in touch at facebook.com/katembecker or http://www.spacecrafty.com/.

Get ready for summer! (aka how to apply sun screen to a squirmy baby, toddler, or child)

As we approach Memorial Day weekend here in the US, we can officially declare summer to be upon us.  If you live in the Northeast, where winter this year has been mild but very very long, it's about dang time. Perhaps only a week or two ago, you were likely still wrestling your wee ones into their jackets, and may have been caught off guard by the sudden switch to needing sun gear.

And so, we come out of our hibernation (as in we've recently gotten some actual sleep) to tell you everything you need this summer to keep your kids outside instead of destroying your house.
  1. 1. Sunscreen for home.  Putting sunscreen on a baby is really hard and it doesn't get easier as they get older.  Let's face it, kids are squirmy at all ages and the last thing they want to do is stand perfectly still while you make sure every nook and cranny of their delicate skin is covered in cream.  For that reason, I could not recommend using MD Moms Baby Sunscreen Wipes highly enough.  Are they a little expensive? Yes.  Totally worth it? Also yes.  One wipe has a ton of cream on it.  Enough, to put on big sister, little brother, mom and dad.  It requires much less cooperation from the littles, gives you peace of mind, and stores easily and cleanly in your diaper bag. In my book, this is a baby product totally worth throwing a bit of money at.

  2. 2. Sunscreen for day care.   Did you already buy sunscreen and are totally regretting it because you hate the 20 minute fight to get it on your kid and have only just found out about the wipes? Send the tube of cream to day care and go buy yourself some wipes. Fact - day care teachers are ninjas! They somehow magically get 8 kids to line up peacefully and stand there while they douse them from head to toe.  I don't know how they do it, but I'm so happy they do.  And for that reason, we do not splurge on wipes for day care. Instead we buy tubes of Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen

  3. 3. Hat. Hats and jackets are items that somehow invite the general public to comment on your
    child's attire.  If you thought you were done with community comments when you were done being pregnant,  you were wrong.  Be prepared for every little old lady on the street and bus to helpfully chime in when they think your child needs one, whether they actually do or are willing to wear one. Some kids just hate hats and others love them. If you have the former, don't worry, I promise they'll survive childhood somehow. You on the other hand, should do your best to let go of the guilt over that.  If your kid loves hats, or is willing to wear one, nothing beats the wide brimmed comfy ones of iPlay. They come in a variety of colors and prints, are adjustable, and offer a lot of sun protection.

  4. 4. Swim/water wear.  Once again, this is a place where iPlay just dominates. Their bathing suits with built in swim diapers are a must for hitting the beach.  I would also recommend getting some swim shirts and shorts (often sold as "rashguards") to reduce the area on which sunscreen needs to be applied (see photo to right for one of their shirts).  And as always, these are the kinds of things that are best purchased at the end of the season for next year if you want to save some money.
Happy summer everyone!


    

Baby proofing for the lazy or 'reasonable' parent

Balancing hovering with letting go, aka "parenting"
If you ever looked at a website that told you about themes for your nursery and gave you a list of 101 things you must remember to pack in your hospital bag, then you’ve probably already been urged in ALL CAPS to remove anything sharper than a ball from your house. I personally find babyproofing
to be a very uninspired topic of conversation.  My theory on babyproofing was something along the lines of

“I don’t want the kid to die, but also don’t want to spend 20 minutes getting into my own cupboards for the next 5 years.”

So with that in mind, here is a list of products we’ve used, liked, and hated. And since our house doesn’t feature stairs prominently, we’ve brought back guest poster Alice whose house resembles an MC Escher palace of staircases.

  1. 1. Outlets.  This one is real. Curious babies or toddlers can actually hurt themselves here but… many ways of making outlets safe are extremely inconvenient to you, the parent.  The problem with solutions that are very inconvenient is that with time, it’s easy to stop implementing them (see every time you’ve ever seen outlet covers on the floor of a room), and then what you’ve done is actually nothing at all.  For this reason, I am not a fan of outlet covers.  Instead I recommend putting in modern outlets. Basically, these have little internal gates that don’t give way unless they have equal pressure in both holes, easy to do with a plug, hard to do with a paper clip or finger.  They are formally called “Tamper-resistant electrical receptacles,” are available from multiple manufacturers (look for the “TR” on the outlet), and you can get more information from the National Fire Protection Association.

  2. These are super easy to install yourself. Or you can, of course, invite an electrician or “helpful” (aka meddling) parent-in-law to your house to do all of them at once. At a minimum, I urge you to do this with all the outlets in  your child’s room so that it is a safe place for them to explore on their own. Someday, before you realize it, you may be putting someone in there for a time out and you want to minimize the damage from that experience.

  3. Practicing climbing on the playground to implement
    on your bookshelves when you're not looking!
    2. Attaching heavy things. Please do attach your bookshelves (and anything else a resourceful little monster can climb or tip over) to the wall.  Many furniture items come with the brackets to do this (we previously had a whole drawer of IKEA provided ones), but if you have a piece that did not, you can get something like these 40mm Angle Brackets. This is another good project if you’re learning some DIY, or you like power tools, or have an over-eager relative who needs to find some way to help. And once again, this goes double and triple for anything in the child’s room. 

  4. 3.Also take a look at your television.  The transition to flat-screens has turned TVs into large, precariously balanced, light-enough-to-tip-but-heavy-enough-to-injure devices.  Given that they are usually in prominent locations within a room, kids can easily hit their stand with a running start and cause an accident. There are two major ways to address this, straps to hold a TV down on its current surface or mounts to permanently attach to the wall or furniture. Mounting your TV to the wall is pretty standard these days in various room types, but for those of us without an obvious location to do so, there exist TV stands/entertainment centers that contain an upright arm and standard mounting bracket so you can still feel confident with a TV in the middle of the room. You can find many such things on Amazon, though the subset with doors is frustratingly small. 

  5. We actually own one of each, a stand (no longer manufactured) for the living room and a Parent Unit Anti-Tip Anchoring System in the home office. This is a non-standard type that allows you to mount the strap to the top surface of the stand as the cardboard back of the cheap rolling TV stand would not support any tension. 

  6. 4. Stair gates - We live in a 1 floor condo and thus did not have to solve this problem ourselves. So, take it away Alice: 

  7. We live in a split-level condo with a living/play room at the top of one steep set of stairs and our dining room at the top of another. So, while I hate the extra inconvenience, this is a bit of baby proofing we really couldn’t do without. Gates at the top of stairs also have more stringent requirements than those at the bottom or in regular doorways. For one, you want to make sure these gates are screwed into the wall, not pressure mounted, since you don’t want a kid to bring the gate crashing down the stairway while roughhousing or trying to climb over it. You also particularly want to avoid trip hazards, like a bar along the bottom of the gate. For this reason, we chose Retract-A-Gate mesh gates. These gates are extremely flexible. They can be made to fit almost any size opening, and can be installed at an angle, where the gate is not perpendicular to the wall -- particularly important in bizarre old attic spaces like our place. They are easy to open and lock once you get the hang of it, and you can even install multiple frames and move the actual gates between them depending on where in the house you’re located, although we just splurged and got two gates for the two frames. And it is a splurge - these are definitely some of the more expensive gates on the market. The only other negative is that these gates can be a challenge for guests, since they may not know to release the lock before pulling the gate open, or may forget to lock it when closing. Then again, chances are that most gates on the market won’t be great for visitors.

  8. We don’t use gates for the bottom of our stairs, and also don’t gate the 3-step mini-flight that leads to our hallway - if the kiddo wants to experiment with falling down the stairs, this is a better place to do it than most. (Yes, he has already fallen down a set of stairs in his 15 months of life. Yes, he was fine. No, I don’t think he learned a lesson yet, unfortunately. Yes, mom was far more traumatized by the experience than he seemed to be.) If you do want a gate between rooms or at the bottom of your stairs, I’ve heard good things about the Summer Infant Gate. 

  9. 5. On to the little things
    1. a. Corner guards.  We honestly hardly have these because we wanted our kids to learn to be careful and that hitting their heads hurts. Of course, there is a difference between an “ouch” and “child needs stitches” so we did get a couple of Rhoost Corner Protectors for the really sharp corners.  They have mixed reviews on Amazon precisely for the reason we like them - they merely make sharp corners dull. We also like these because they attach to furniture without glue and so won’t damage it and also because they come in multiple colors to blend in really well so your house doesn’t look like a padded room in an insane asylum… at least not for that reason.

    2. b.Cabinet locks. We didn’t use these at all because our kitchen is a separate room and our children aren’t allowed in there without supervision. Once in the kitchen, our toddler is allowed to open and close the cabinets, but not take anything out.  We are there to enforce this and remove her if she doesn’t comply. However, if you live in a home with an open floor plan, constant vigilance may not be an option and locking up the cleaning supplies may be a necessity. For this reason, we turn to Alice yet again…. 

    3. If you only have cabinets with side-by-side round knobs you can use a multitude of products - heck, you can use a rubber-band and wrap it around the handles a couple times if you don’t need to get in there too frequently. But for other types of cabinets (and even for your toilet seat, if need be) you can use these latches. We ordered a bunch and have been using them freely, as well as handing them out to the grandparents as needed.

    4. c. Spout cover. This is Alice again adding a link to this tiny bath-time whale. We don’t yet have this guy because we’re still using the infant tub with our under-sized toddler, but I look forward to getting it - there aren’t too many child-proofing products that actually look good. Of course, a mat for the tub is also a must. We have this alligator one from IKEA.


    

Taking Transit with Kids: Boston MBTA

This is the first in (hopefully) a series of guides for riding public transit across the world with your kids. Would you like to help add information about your city? Drop us an email at transitinfo at acrossb dot com.

It doesn't matter how long you've lived here, there are some new things to think about when riding the MBTA with kids...

Taking the MBTA with your little ones will make you think about the MBTA in new and unexpected ways. Maybe you've never really cared much about "new" vs. "old" style Green Line cars, or why using an elevator at South Station forces you to go outside when switching from the red line to the commuter rail, or which exit from Harvard involves the fewest street crossings when connecting to your bus. Now you are going to see a slightly different version of the MBTA.

Our system
  1. a. Is proud of being among the oldest in America (the first subway!) but also 

  2. b. Lacks any sort of standards in stations, vehicles, or much of anything else. 
Consequently, unlike a roundup for, say, WMATA in Washington, D.C. (which has a handful of station types and more-or-less the same trains throughout), we'll have a lot of variations along the way. But at least it's simpler than the old token/quarters-only Green Line fares before 2006... progress!

Also, have you read our guide to getting started on transit with your stroller or non-strollered toddler?

Kids ride the T for Free! 

Kids 11 and under are free with an adult (maximum 2 kids per adult).


Pay Attention to Close Stops!

Because the system is not fully accessible and because dragging a toddler onto and off of various vehicles might be less fun than walking outside (at least on a nice day), it's time to take a look at a good Boston map with the MBTA routes on it. Especially downtown, lots of stops are closer together than you may think if you haven't really walked around much. The canonical example here is Aquarium is a short walk from all the other lines without having to transfer to the Blue line.

Stations and Boarding

Red, Orange, Blue, and Underground Portions of the Green and Silver Lines

  • - Most stations in the MBTA are accessible now (check the MBTA map for the latest), which is really quite impressive (even if it took a few lawsuits to get there). Keep your eyes peeled as you head toward the station because elevators may be at the same entrance as the stairs (Porter), or just a few feet away (Copley), or somewhere else entirely (South Station). In other cases, elevators may be inside the fare gates (Charles/MGH).

  • - In recent years, more elevators have been added to secondary entrances (Harvard, Porter) and to make transfers more direct (Park Street).

  • - Every station has at least one "Reduced Fare" gate that's extra wide for wheelchairs and strollers. It's also good for kids walking through while holding your hand.

  • - Each two-car Green Line train is usually made up of one "high floor" car and one "low floor" car. 
    • * If you have a stroller, you should aim for the low-floor car to avoid having to lug it up the steps. Head to the middle doors and there is a large open wheelchair bay right by each set of doors. This is the place to camp out. 

    • * With a mobile kid, take your pick of cars and seats though you may prefer the high-floor Green Line car as it has pairs of forward/rearward facing seats rather than sideways seats. This way you can worry less about interactions with others on the train (i.e. opportunities for your kid to kick people).
  • - On the Red/Blue/Orange lines there are not any obvious places for a stroller but you can either try at the front/back of the car (where there may be seats missing to accommodate a wheelchair) or the area at the doors is usually workable. Just be aware of which set of doors will open at each stop so you can be sure to get out of the way.

  • - Silver Line buses are all "low floor" so enter at any door. Check out the bus discussion below on flipping up seats.
  • - Final note of interest: we've used station staircases and escalators as places to learn to go up/down lots of stairs and to learn escalator safety (and also about removing escalator grease from kids... fun times). That said, while we're willing to go down Harvard's many stairs during peak times, we still use the elevator at Park Street given the large hurrying crowds arriving from all directions simultaneously.

Green Line Surface Branches

  • This is similar to the situation above, but the need to pay up front creates a few wrinkles. To recap, each two-car train is usually made up of one "high floor" car and one "low floor" car. 

  • If you have a stroller, you should aim for the low-floor car to avoid having to lug it up the steps. The front of the train is NOT low, so you'll have to reach up to the farebox to tap your CharlieCard. The driver will generally open the back two doors for you (if they're not open already) and you can walk back on the train and enter one of those doors just a (usually) short step up (sorry outer bit of the B and C-lines). There is a large open wheelchair bay right by each set of doors. This is the place to camp out. 

  • With a mobile kid, take your pick of cars and board normally though you may prefer the high-floor car as it has pairs of forward/rearward facing seats rather than sideways seats so you can worry less about interactions with others on the train.

Buses (including Above-Ground Silver Line)

If you're with an unrestrained or carrier-contained kid, you don't really need any special information, though I will note that sitting in the seats on the steps or further back improves the ability of the child to see out the window so we aim for those. 

All buses are technically accessible though there are still a few "high floor" buses still rumbling around the fleet. They're being phased out as of early 2016, but I imagine you'll see them for a while. If you come across a high floor bus, board it the same way you would the Green Line at the surface - i.e. pay up front and then board with the stroller in the back door (and lug it up the stairs, sorry). The area of flip-up seats is directly across from the doors (generally 2 sets of 3 seats that flip up).

On a low-floor bus, you can board normally through the front. On most types of buses, the entire set of front seats folds up. With a small enough stroller, you should only need to flip up one of the four potential sets of seats. Note: There are a few variants of buses out there that have slightly different configurations including a brand new set of buses that basically just has a spot to park a stroller specifically.

In any case, there are two ways to flip up the seat. On some buses, there will be a ring underneath the seat. Pull the ring toward you and then pull the seat up (see picture to the left for how to find the ring). To lower the seat back to its original position once you're about to get off the bus (polite but not necessary), pull the ring up and push the seat down. On other buses, there is a lever behind the seat (sometimes left, sometimes right, but the back of a bus seat is probably not the grossest thing you've touched today anyway). Push the lever to the wall and pull the seat up. To lower, there is a knob on the bottom front of the seat, pull out and push the seat down.

Commuter Rail

Any readers have tips for the Commuter Rail? We haven't tried it with the kiddos.

Ferries

Any readers have tips for the Ferries? We've not tried it with the kiddos either.

Exiting the T

For the most part, you'll just do the reverse of what you did to enter the vehicle and station.

The Green Line technically does not allow rear door exiting during the off-peak, so if the driver does not see you waiting to exit, a shout of "REAR DOOR" is usually sufficient to get them to open it. Hey, it's Boston, you made it this far in the article before someone had to shout at someone else.

Wrap-up

So yeah, that was a lot, but you can do it! 

Other Bostonians, what did we miss? What did we screw up? Let us know in the comments below.

Are you interested in helping to develop a guide for your city? Even if you know only a part of the system, drop us a line. We will help you put something together and build out a great resource. Email us: transitinfo at acrossb dot com.

If you live in a small space you need a plan to deal with diapers

Diaper pail, seen in the background of this heartwarming
parenting moment... smells not included
I think diaper disposal methods are one of the lesser known battlegrounds of the parent internet (just Google "do I need a diaper pail"). Lesser known... but no less important or full of smug self confidence.  There are definitely those, otherwise of sound parenting judgement, who do not believe in "fancy diaper disposal" systems and tell you to use a garbage can. I think the diaper pail denialism stems from two places.

  1. 1.Different lifestyle.  Meaning, some people either live in large enough homes that they cannot smell the horror, or they run every poopy diaper to out to the garage once their kiddo starts solids (breastmilk fed babies have slightly less foul smelling diapers... slightly being the operative word). Of course, not everyone has a garage (I don't) and some of us live 2 floors up from the big garbage bins that would remove the diaper from our actual living space.  Walking down and up 2 flights of stairs every time the kid poops seems... impractical at best.

  2. 2. The belief that diaper pails don't do anything to control the smell. Having been around some different diaper pails, I would say that this is true if you buy a not great diaper pail and/or don't buy the bags that are designed to go with it.

I personally only have a lot of experience with the Dekor Diaper Plus Diaper Disposal System so I suppose I cannot speak so authoritatively to the efficacy of other systems (I have been in other people's houses though).  That said, we picked the Dekor for its excellent Amazon reviews and the glowing write up in the Baby Bargains book. Having now used it for almost 3 years, I will say that while not perfect, it totally 100% cuts down on the smell A LOT. I will also say that I like how easy it is to put the diapers in one handed (pretty much no different than a regular garbage can with a push lid and a foot pedal). I also like that it doesn't look like a baby item because once the kids are out of diapers, this bin will take regular garbage bags and can be used as just a trash can in their room (it now also comes in so-called "Designer Colors" if you want to match your decor better).

Don't be tempted to use the regular garbage bags with diapers though - the refills are made out of special plastic that is much better at controlling smell than regular garbage bags.  Using regular garbage bags will totally defeat the purpose of buying the pail in the first place.

This brings us to the lifetime operating cost of the pail, a.k.a. "omg how much does a refill cost?" How the refills (or bags) work was very unclear to me before I bought the Dekor and I  just assumed that I would pay a fortune for bags and that's that.  Not so! Yes the refills aren't cheap, but 1 refill does not equal 1 regular garbage bag.  This is because each refill cartridge is used to create many many bags by tying off and disposing of a Dekor-full of diapers each time the can fills. Even with 2 kids in diapers, it takes us about a month to go through one cartridge. Coming in 2-packs, $7 a month for diaper pail bags is not cheap, but definitely not that bad.

Finally, this is another one of those great items to register for (and don't forget to put the refills on the list) because it is pricey enough that getting it as a present is awesome.

  

Using a baby feeder: Review of Munchkin vs. Kidsme

Using a Munchkin feeder to smear blueberries everywhere,
occasionally even in the mouth...
As a first time parent, introducing solid food to your baby is probably equal parts daunting and exciting. You may be thinking:

  • "My little tyke is becoming a person!"

  • "Am I qualified to be in charge of a person?! I just barely have the hang of this baby thing..." (Yes you're qualified - you'll do great!) 

Once you actually start feeding, you may be surprised at how much the baby loves food, or hates it, or is indifferent to it (because I think all parenting firsts are ultimately a surprise, or at least they were to me...). Regardless, before you know it, your baby may be ready to self feed at least a little. As early as 6 months, your child can certainly bring a toy to their mouth to gnaw on - a fact that has surely not escaped your notice.  And as such, even if they haven't developed that fine motor pincer grip yet, they can self feed with a little help from a feeder.


Baby says "Squash in a Kidsme feeder is fun!"
A feeder is a plastic handle that comfortably sits in your baby's hand and has a strainer of some sort attached. You put soft chunked food in this strainer (ex. baked yams, banana, avocados, blueberries, etc.) and the baby essentially turns that food into puree by chomping on it. We have had the opportunity to use two different brands of feeders - the Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder and the Kidsme Food Feeder.

The Munchkin one came into our possession from a work baby shower. Our baby instantly loved it and it made family dinner so much easier since everyone - both parents and children simultaneously - was feeding themselves. Unfortunately, it was super hard to clean. Yes I soaked it in hot soapy water, yes I ran it through the dishwasher, yes I tried a soft brush... All per the instructions on the package. It was still really hard to clean. The mesh strainer doesn't detach from the plastic frame and has seams that are perfect for holding on to little bits of food. Bananas were the worst.

Then one day I was discussing this with another parent at our day care and she said she had just ordered a different brand of feeder that was silicone! I honestly went home that night and did the same. Yes the Kidsme feeder is more expensive but so worth it. The silicone piece comes right out and has no seams for things to get stuck on - woot!  That 20 minutes several times a week I used to spend cleaning the feeder gets you a lot of blogging time. (Kidding, I actually write a lot when I pump... But really I can find some use for the time.)

Tales from the Trenches: Day Care - I love you so!

When you're pregnant, people feel like it's their job to ask you inappropriate questions. When I had the joy of fielding them while carrying my first, I riddled off the answers on autopilot by week 3 of my second trimester.
"June 7th," I'd smile and say. 
"My husband IS excited it's a girl, thank you for your concern" I would mumble, rolling my eyes internally. 
"Yes I'm sure it's not twins," I'd growl while visualizing unleashing the full extent of my pregnant lady wrath.
Occasionally, someone would run out of inappropriate prenatal questions to ask and would move on to questioning our postnatal plans. Suddenly, everyone was interested in what we were going to do for childcare.

We had always intended to send our progeny to day care.  I don't remember why we had assumed this, but a nanny never seriously entered the discussion.  As such, we dutifully and proactively toured a couple well regarded centers in our area and got our names on the waiting lists for ones we liked. Well, it turns out that sending your kids to day care is perceived in some circles as being just shy of leaving them in the crib all day with a water bottle and an open bag of Cheetos. Day care, it seems, has a bad rap.

Three years and two kids later, not only do I have no regrets about group child care, I could not be more pleased. I know there are many fantastic nannies out there, and it's a great choice for some two-working-parent households, but I am here to speak up for day care and write it the love letter that it so thoroughly deserves. So without, further ado...

Reasons why I   day care

I don't want to have employees

Adding children to a family is already logistically difficult and comes with tons of paperwork.  Not having to add payroll into the mix is a huge win.  I know lots of people pay their nannies in cash, but that's not something I could really see myself doing.  If I was going to hire someone, I would want to give them benefits and pay taxes and do all sorts of other formal things I don't know how to do. I know Care.com has recently started advertising that they'll help you set all that up, and that's great but it still seems daunting.

Not only that, but having interviewed and hired people in my professional life, I know that not every employee turns out awesome.  Some have trouble showing up on time, some seem like they are going to be far more competent than they turn out to be, and some end up being jerks. Given that I needed childcare from the time both of my children were 3 months old and thus couldn't speak up for themselves, the idea of leaving them with an unsupervised stranger sent my first time mom fears into hyperdrive.

Day Care teachers are professionals

It turns out that people who dedicate their professional lives to taking care of children are on the whole amazing souls. They definitely don't do it for the money (as shockingly expensive as day care is, the teachers are grossly underpaid in my opinion). Sure, the skill and dedication is true for many professional nannies as well. This point, however, is largely directed at the lady who once said to me that "obviously all working moms feel really guilty about not staying home." Well, I would like to tell her, with as few choice words as possible, that I sure as heck don't. I love and miss my kids, but I like to work and I know my children are in excellent hands.

Not only have all the teachers we've encountered been kind, friendly, and amazingly loving towards our children, but they also know what they're doing.  They were able to get my daughter to nap in a stationary object, they taught her how to dress herself and drink from a cup, and they've had tons of suggestions for us as parents for things to try at home.  It's almost as if they have a degree in this stuff and do it for a living or something... crazy I know!

I send my kids to school so my house can remain intact (somewhat) 

I am not the kind of mom who can craft and get messy with her kids. If you can stay sane while your kid redecorates your house with paint, chalk, or glitter I say "Respect!" I just can't do it. My toddler and I cook together, both my kids spend tons of time playing outside with me, my husband takes them to music class, we have a great time.... but we don't do art projects.

The great thing about sending my kids to "school" is that they are equipped to let the little monsters be "creative".  The lovely teachers are willing to set up for, and clean up from, 7 toddlers using finger paint and play dough - bless their hearts.  They also have lots of great big toys like a water sensory table and a huge play kitchen.  Those are fantastic things for kids to play with, but I live in a condo that feels filled to the brim even without those behemoths.  As a result, I get the best of all worlds: children who have a wide variety of play experiences, a house that one can walk through while only tripping on a couple toys, and I don't have to scrape paint off the ceiling... win, Win, WIN!

They get all those diseases out of the way

Kids being sick all the time is a common concern voiced by "helpful" strangers (ok... and also my mom) about group child care.  And yes, their first year in day care was constantly full of runny noses and mystery rashes. But, keep them home until preschool, smugly proclaiming how healthy your kids are... And it turns out science says, they'll just get all those same diseases their first year of school. There's just no way out of the cesspool of disease that is early childhood. I figure since no one expects anything out of you when you're a new parent just back to work, you may as well cash in on those low expectations and stay home with your constantly sick baby then.

All the kids have working parents

Finally, all the children my children interact with live in households with two working parents. From before they could remember, Mom and Dad took them to school and then went to work.  There is no confusion as to why Mom and Dad can't stay and play with them.  They don't go to playgroups with a nanny where other children came with Mom or Dad. I'm sure at some point when they're older they'll ask why we have to go to work, but given how normalized it is in their world I'm guessing it's going to be a lot later. Frankly, my almost 3 year old has "why" and "what" on repeat already, so if we can cross one off the list - score!

I have a nanny/am a SAHM/have magical children who sit quietly while I work... Are you judging me?

Nope!

If you found a child care situation that works for you and your family I salute you because this stuff is HARD no matter how you slice it. I know that when we're being honest with each other, we've all had the experiences so universal, they are cliches. Like... wanting to run away from our children and join the circus when the toddler has spilled her third full cup of milk in one meal despite repeated warnings to be careful, or when you've bounced the baby for 2 hours to finally have him blissfully drift off to sleep only to start howling because someone rang the door bell and woke him up. Conversely, I know you've stood in your child's room watching her sleep at night, shedding a tear at the thought of how fast she's growing.

So no, if you love and care for your children I have no grounds to judge you no matter how you do it. Just know that day care is not an "only if you must option" for child care.  It is, in fact, a great option for many families.  As for my family, it will forever have a special place in my heart as the place that loved and cared for my children for those hours of the day that I could not.

Review of the Babyletto Bookshelf: The Book Falls too Far from the Tree

Sometimes even the most savvy of parents (and clearly you are already savvy since you're reading this blog) get taken in by something that seems cute but really fails to perform even very basic functions. Today is the story of one of these times...
Cute, right?

When setting up the nursery for our first child, we had trouble finding ways to add splashes of fun and color in a room that was too small for much clutter but also sparse (given the amazing custom-installed closets eliminating the need for dressers). Knowing also that books would be a key feature in our little one's life, we were quickly entranced with the babyletto Spruce Tree Bookcase.

Given that the babyletto Hudson Crib came highly recommended by the Baby Bargains Book (and looked impressive sitting in the nursery) and that their bookcase was a third the price of similar alternatives, we were IN.

It's true, assembling furniture with a newborn around is not for the faint of heart, however...

Bookcase Bottoms Should Not Be Round

The bottom of the bookcase was not flat. LET ME BE CLEAR. It's not that it wasn't level, it was NOT FLAT. It was instead rounded, making it rather difficult to stand up or support the weight of, you know, books. I guess they assumed that it would be entirely supported by the brackets they provided but that seems awfully optimistic.
...Strike 1...

Bookcases Should be Made for Floors as They Are

Like many folks living in old buildings, or medium-aged buildings, our floors are also not quite level. Had the folks at babyletto been on top of this and provided some kind of leveling mechanism, the problem with the bottom of the bookcase being round would have been mitigated. Unfortunately, we were left with a situation where even IF we'd just had some weird manufacturing error, there was no way to set up the bookcase to safely hold things. Plenty of furniture around the house has shims for leveling, but something designed for cute appearance should do better.
...Strike 2...

An Aside: Power Tools and my Awesome Wife

Undeterred, we went to work, purchasing T-Nut Furniture Levelers, an extra large drill bit, and finding time between not sleeping and cleaning up from our constantly pooping newborn to do some light carpentry. And by "we," I really mean my wife. Anything requiring a screwdriver or wrench, I'm your guy. All other tools, and especially power tools, are trusted only to her. Here you will see her a mere three-weeks post C-section going to town to make this freaking bookcase stand.
Pretty awesome, eh?

Bookcases Should be Made for Walls as They Are

So, to their credit, babyletto did supply brackets to attach the bookcase to the wall (we're not huge on obsessive baby-proofing, but we're 100% on attaching furniture to the wall). The babyletto engineers (rightfully) assumed the bookcase will be pushed up directly against the wall as it has no back and the wall would be the only thing preventing books from falling down the back.

However, the included brackets were very short. As a result, the bookcase makes no ability to leave space for a baseboard. So out came the drill again as we affixed longer curtain-rod brackets to the back. Lest you think I'm being unfair, other furniture manufacturers, such as Ikea, provide a space for a baseboard (see below).

The Ikea Billy bookcase, with space in the back for a baseboard;
still letting the back of the bookcase rest against the wall
(though without leveling feet as well).

Babyletto failing to anticipate a common household architectural feature...
...Strike three...

Bookcases Should Hold Books

Undeterred (and because we didn't know there'd be a baseball theme to a write-up 3 years later), we did not stop at strike three. But at least we have a cute bookcase, right? 

Turns out, shelves at irregular angles are hard to use. Some books only fit in some places, some places are too small to fit most any book, Moreover, the shelves were pretty shallow.

Put all that together and books frequently fell off in droves.
...Strike, uh... Four?

Kallax, a Bookcase that Works as a Bookcase!

Note the tree decals allowed us to keep the
general theme
Once it was time to do some re-engineering of the room for baby #2, we'd finally had it with the Spruce. For the same floor space, we got the Kallax at IKEA. It offered significantly more ease to build, brackets to secure properly to the wall, and tons of additional storage (including room for toys!). It will also grow with the kids as their desires (and the room decor) change. 

We stuck with white (and added accented inner shelves for some color and to give the bookcase a back), but it comes in many colors. Once they're a bit older and have decorating opinions of their own, we can easily add/remove various decals for additional (flexible) fun.

So there you have it. babyletto makes a great crib (we even bought a second of the same for baby #2), the chair you see is theirs too, but the bookcase is a strong Do Not Buy.

And once again, it's Ikea with the win.