British Beer Company not-so-handicapped friendly

I’d wanted to try them for awhile now, but they always seem so packed. Then a friend who moved to Seattle last year was in town for work and Westford was the halfway point, so I suggested British Beer Company.

By the time Jen got home and I was able to leave, the crowd had thinned so Caitlin didn’t have a wait for a booth in the bar area. She told me where it was and I found her…and the outrageously high booth height!

I assessed the situation and measured the booth to my stature: it came up to about my belly button. How the heck do they expect people WITHOUT a muscle disease to hop up, let alone me, with my CMT? Yes, there was a rail at the foot, but nothing to grasp in order to hoist me up!

I chuckled at the sight, probably to avoid the nerves I had. Usually Jen is with me to boost me when I need help, but no one was with me this night except tiny Caitlin and a bunch of jocks at surrounding tables. Nothing else to do but give it a whirl.

I heaved, I hoed, I hoisted—nothing. The only thing that moved was the unstable table and that did me no good. After a few tries, I did it.

Left leg was on the bar beneath the bench, and in a few pseudo jumps (think getting on a horse), I landed ever-so-gently (not) on the edge of the bench. To make matters worse, the cushion slanted down, so the entire dinner I say with clenched thighs, grabbing onto the bench constantly so as not to slide and have to re-hoist myself.

So while the food and service were both great, I will not be able to return to a place where my dignity comes into question just to settle in to dinner. I’ve been to other bars and never had an issue. Yes, bar tables are higher than typical ones, but these would be considered high for a giant! Handicapped fail!

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Thank you, Tervis, for a tumbler I can handle!

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I find it harder and harder to hold glasses without dropping them or having to physically maneuver my fingers and thumb around the outside. Plastic is great, but can smell after awhile and doesn’t really please me aesthetically.

But then I was introduced to Tervis! My life has changed! They are made-in-America, double-walled, BPA-free, insulated plastic tumblers. They can be used for hot or cold liquids and even come with travel lids and straws for those who want to take them on the go (hi, me!)!

The best part: They don’t feel like cheap plastic. They feel cute and beachy (I just purchased one with a sea turtle, one with bling-y flip-flops and one with Lab puppies!). The way the glass tapers, it allows for me to grip it normally and not feel as though I will drop it. Also, because they are insulated, the ice never melts! I left it overnight this week and woke up to ice cubes remaining!

Another plus: They are dishwasher safe.

All around, they rock my world! I don’t feel like I am settling for what works when I use these; I feel normal.

Thank you, Tervis!

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An Unexpected Ikea Workout

With our growing toddler comes the end of an era—the Graco Pack N Play era. He shakes and shimmies until two of the four feet are off the floor and then giggles (bordering on cackling) with delight. And with every heave-ho the four walls that used to contain him nicely moves toward a wall or table. In other words: trouble. 

And so it goes, along with our little baby boy. 

But what to replace it? Where would he eat snacks? Play with his toys? Taking a page from my nephew and his wife, we headed to Ikea for a Sundvik children’s table and two chairs.

I won’t lie, though. The prospect of a trip to Ikea is nothing short of daunting—the traffic, the people, the cinnamon buns they tease you with at the exits! And my least favorite part: the carriages.

I need a stroller or carriage to use as a crutch for me so I can make it through the long and windy maze they call a store, but knowing we were searching for furniture, I knew the stroller would not work. Carriage it was.

But the Ikea carriages are like no others. They make me feel like I’m on Candid Camera or Punk’d, with the way the wheels move on a 360-degree axis instead of locked in place to go only one direction. It’s like a cart at the funny farm, with the wheels circling every which way except the way you need them to circle! To have these carts at Ikea, where you waltz through not aisles, but a roadmap of windy lanes lined with walls of people who are also driving the carts-gone-wild, is maddening. To pass anyone, you need to jump the “curb” of displays and forget about making sharp turns. To top it off, the floor is a smooth concrete, which means my feet have to work extra hard to grip and not let me fall. It’s no better than an ice rink, I’d say.

For us, who only went for the kids furniture (and cinnamon buns!), we were walking briskly through the maze of people and lanes almost the entire store before we arrived at the kids section. By then my upper body had done a 5K trying to keep the cart from attacking other Ikea patrons! My hands were so sore from my white-knuckle driving that I had to have my wife copy the aisle and bin numbers for the furniture we wanted.

It’s a Catch-22, really: I need the cart to walk, but my hands are mush by the time we check out. I could barely strap J into his car seat because my CMT was flaring up so bad from pushing the crazy carriages.

Days like this I am reminded why a trip to Ikea is only done when absolutely necessary! Looking at the positive, though: We procured the furniture we went in after and Jameson found a new friend in Rolf, who was a $19.99 add-on, with whom he’s been snuggling since we plucked him from his bin!

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10—plus 1—Items I tried and loved at the Baby Drool Expo

The Drool Baby Expo (hosted at the Westin Waterfront by Magic Beans of Brookline) had me excited to attend, but I had no idea how much fun and informational—and organized!—it would turn out to be! From people greeting us at the elevator to maps and well-placed signs, the setup was easy and made sense. Since I brought my wife and toddler son with me I was stoked to see a special changing station set up with sample, complimentary wipes and a super-soft changer cover by Aden & Anais. Their material makes ME want to be able to use them!

Being pragmatic, I entered the room and immediately turned right and proceeded in a circle until we hit every. single. vendor. There were nearly 100 and each one was worth the time we spent chatting, reading, trying and learning. The big names—Bugaboo, BabyBjorn, Chicco—were present, along with the smaller or lesser-known ones—Ubbi, ZoLi and Rhoost. European brands like Nuna were there, as well as local places like Treat Cupcake Bar (with samples—um, delish!). I have to say the gift bag I picked up at the end was amazing; it had water bottles, toys, treats—you name it, it had it.
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I loved the snacks you had around the room, but the bar and mocktails took the cake! We enjoyed a couple of them because walking around for so long, you get parched!

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My main reason for attending was to try new products that I would be able to use with my hands despite my CMT. I had success all around, even with the products I couldn’t use because it saved me a trip to the post office with a return! I found 10 products I’d recommend to those with physical limitations in their hands/feet or with balance, like I do because of the CMT.

1) ZoLi takes the cake for toddler/baby plates and cups. Jameson is king of wanting to be in charge of his own plate, but sees no problem mid-meal throwing it across the room. But ZoLi has a stuck plate, which suctions to the table or highchair tray. It was amazing and I could actually work it with minimal force. The package comes with a bowl that holds food, a 3-part insert that sits on top and a cover that snaps on tight enough that he can’t undo it, but easy enough for me to use. Also part of the package is a fork and spoon in a travel case. The only sad part was they didn’t have these in the store, so I will have to go online and buy some. Their cups looked great, too, and they sold those at the Expo, but he’s not that into straws yet, so it would have been a waste.Image

2) Nuna carseats had me intrigued with the leg-like extension on the base of the Pipa. To be honest, I wasn’t going to stop here because we are diehard Chicco fans, but the leg-like part drew us in. That and the sun shade that appeared over the bucket seat. Turns out they are a Dutch company, new to this country. I think they will be well-known very soon! Their Pipa is the equivalent of our Chicco Keyfit30, except it has a rigid LATCH installation, with a support leg that rests on the floor for extra stability. It is also only 7 lbs! That’s 2 lbs lighter than the Keyfit30! The sunshade, called the Dream Drape, zips into the canopy when not in use and attaches to the bottom when in use. Love it!

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3) The only no-no we almost broke was putting bumpers in the crib because J would hit his head, get his chunky thighs stuck and chew on the wood. In the end, we opted to let him get his bruises because the doctor swore it was safer. I wish I had heard about Wonder Bumpers at that time! They zip on to individual slats of the crib as well as the tops, so none of the bruising would have happened, but there would also have been air circulating! For the next one we’ll definitely be using these!

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4) You can imagine how many carriers I had to try before I found one that I could manage with the buckles, assembly, comfort, weight bearing and ease of use when alone: 8 to be exact! I ended up loving the Baby K’Tan and the Ergobaby carrier. However, when we do decide to have another, I will be getting the Bitybean. It’s made of ripstop material (think LL Bean raincoat) and folds into the tiniest little cinch-top sack for easy travel. Talk about light! It also has a wicking interior and can be worn front- and rear-facing. It holds toddlers to 40 pounds and has an extender strap for larger parents. Being able to try it was key and the staff at their booth was super knowledgable!

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5) We are a cloth diaper household, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need ways to hold and keep our stinky diapers and used inserts! I have tried the Genie ones before and had trouble with opening and closing it. The Ubbi, though, I tried at the Expo, was amazingly easy, can be used with any bags and any diapers. I think I’d even use it with the cloth diapers as a holding pen until the wife does the wash—anything to get rid of the pee smell! Also, love the vibrant colors—pistachio is my fav!

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6) We loved our Playtex “bent” bottles and Tommee Tippees for when I fed J his breastmilk meals, but after seeing a demo of the Foodii system, we are thinking about buying it for the next one! Not only can you pump directly into the bags, once you add a nipple and squeeze once, it fills with liquid and doesn’t allow air in! I also love that it can be used for toddler squeeze pouches I make. Seems super easy all around!

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7) I really wish I found Rhoost before we child-proofed! Their products require no adhesives or screws and actually look attractive, like they are meant to be part of the furniture. Highly recommend!

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8) You’ve no doubt heard of Citrus Lane monthly boxes with goodies based on your child’s age, or Bark Box—similar to Citrus Lane, but for canines. What I hadn’t heard of was Supplet, which is the same idea, but for expecting moms. What a cool idea: a little treat every month, with items geared toward your month of pregnancy. I love it and will be buying it when my wife gets pregnant again!

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9) Jewish Family & Children’s Services is not a product, but I think a necessity. They host support groups all over and on all topics from postpartum depression to breastfeeding. The table was hopping with those interested or who had been and loved their services. Full disclosure: My dear friend Kate works there, but I see the work she and the agency does and know how much of an asset it is.

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10) Last, but not least, is an item I actually bought because I loved it so much! It’s a Skip Hop padded mat for the edge of the tub. With my lack of balance, I am always slipping when I give J a bath. No more! This mat, which matches the kneeler I already have, is soft and comfortable and will prevent me—or my son—from any safety issues caused by my slipping on the edge.

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10A) I also bought a book because it was a cute one about Boston and because it kept Jameson occupied while we waited in the checkout line!

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I can’t end without a thank you to MJ O’Connor’s, an Irish pub inside the Westin Waterfront, for a most welcome and most delicious Black Velvet to cap off a great time at the Expo! Your food came out yummy and hot and so fast that my son didn’t even get antsy!

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Drool Baby Expo is next week!

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I’m so excited to be attending the Drool Baby Expo next Wednesday! 

Why? 

It’s not often I get to actually try products before I buy them. And not being able to try before I buy, makes for many calls to companies after said items arrive, asking to get a return authorization number. About 8 out of every 10 purchases gets returned, I would estimate.

I never know if I’ll be able to grip the items, tie the laces—will the pants close with a snap, hook or the worst: a button? 

But by actually attending the Drool Baby Expo, I’ll be able to go table to table, trying out products, talking to the people behind the tables and asking them questions that will allow me to make an informed decision—and save me trips to the post office top return items!

Some of the vendors who are attending this year’s expo are: Magic Beans, Bugaboo, Ergobaby, Aden & Anais and Baby Bjorn, among others. The full list of exhibitors—more than 70!—can be found here.

The expo, which still has tickets available, is Wednesday, May 7, from 3 to 9 p.m., at the Westin Waterfront, Boston. More information can be found here

There will also be demonstrations, giveaways and tons of local companies, if you, like me, support local businesses whenever possible!

I won’t lie. I am also very excited to enjoy some of their mocktails!

I’ll report back after on any of my finds, but follow this blog, my Facebook page or Twitter account that night to see my excitement come through in virtual real-time! 

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Gym Class!

 

 

 

 

 

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I’d been looking for a place to bring J to get out his energy where falling wouldn’t mean bruises and cuts, as it does on our all-hardwood-floor house! I checked online and found The Little Gym, which offered a free trial class. As much as I wanted this, I was hoping I would be able to participate with him and not be limited by my disability. After that first class, his weekly gym class at The Little Gym in Westboro is a highlight of his—and OUR—weeks! 

His leader, Mr. Christian, is great with him (though we could do without him giving J a nickname!) and J lights up when he sees him. At the first class, he didn’t shake the bells, put them away or play with the balls. He clung a bit to our legs, which is uncharacteristic of him. He wouldn’t touch the balance beam, either. He’d look at the rings and the high bar and touch them, but refused to wrap his pudgy fingers around them. The bubbles at the end of class perplexed him. The only thing he would do is let us stand him on the edge of a round platform and let go of him so he fell softly on its squishy center. The other thing he was able to do? Chase the girls in the class!

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He’s come a long way, though! He’s been able to learn to do a forward roll, shake his bells, chase and play with the balls. He’s grown to love the bubbles and now reaches to grasp the bars and rings!

 

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While he isn’t yet fully walking, he’s exploring more on his feet, holding our hands or cruising along the gym equipment.

The best part is he comes home tired and happy. And my fears about my CMT interfering with our experiences have been unfounded. While I have trouble maneuvering on the soft mats because of my balance, Mr. Christian or my wife help. I can’t get up on my own from circle time, but it’s OK. I instead make a game of it and crawl race J to the closest piece of equipment I can use for leverage. All in all, we love the Little Gym and so does J!ImageImageImageImage

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When will the boy walk?

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I have an amazing little guy. He’s always ahead of the curve with milestones and learns new things in lightning time. The one thing he’s not-so-fast with picking up: walking.

He crawls like he’s on fire, cruises where possible and races his Fisher Price walker activity push toy around beaming with pride and joy. He climbs on stools, chairs and couches with ease. He stands up on his own, and doesn’t need to hold on while he’s standing there. He even teases us, looking like he’s ready to move one foot in front of the other after he is done standing still. But, alas, he has yet to actually do the walking.

Everyone says it’ll happen in good time, including the tips at the Baby Center. We don’t know when the donor started walking, but my wife started at 15 months, according to her baby book. He’s only 14 months. So we have time. Still, when every baby within 6 months of him on either side is walking, it makes us, err, me, a tad jealous. I want my smart boy to be ahead of every curve.

To be fair, it’s a selfish reason I’m hoping he walks soon: he’s nearly 30 pounds, which is heavy for most parents to carry around, but for me, with my CMT and limited upper body strength, it’s crucial he start walking soon! He’s great at climbing the stairs, which is a tough carry for me, so that’s one good point. But even carrying him the short distance from the car to the doctor’s office has me nervous I’ll drop him, but it seems silly to put him in the stroller or K’tan for such a short distance. It’s funny how I measure myself to other “normal” mothers out there, but it’s hard not to. I see them slide their kids onto their jutting hips that seem made to hold them, with one smooth move. The kids sit there, with only one of mom’s hands under their bottoms, and most often that hand also carries a bottle or cup of coffee.

I, on the other hand, have to make sure his armpits are positioned just right on my hands so my wrists don’t flop back from muscle fatigue. When he’s in place, I lift him carefully to my torso and then, in a few short jostles, he’s positioned onto my left hip—for some reason I can’t do the right one. Before I’ve even closed the car door, I’m readjusting because my fingers and arms can’t work simultaneously, which means I can’t lock the door from the keyfob while I am holding him. Instead, I schlep him to my front, use two hands to lock the door, and re-jostle him into position on my hip. Thank god for the new car—a GMC Acadia—and its automatic liftgate, which opens and closes with one click on the keyfob, but again, he needs readjusting so I can have both hands to push that one button. Once he’s finally on me and the car is set, forget me being able to carry a cup or anything else, especially in my left hand. My pocketbook is a right shoulder thing, but because part of being able to keep him hoisted on my left hip means leaning to the right, the purse straps won’t stay secured on my right shoulder.

Fast forward 10 minutes to the check-in desk—yes, it takes me awhile to walk so I make sure my foot lifts off the ground each time and I don’t fall—my newly washed-and-dried hair is a frizzy mess, and I have sweat droplets dotting my forehead and dripping down my back. Somewhere in there I pray the doctor is in a room close to the entrance instead of the back rooms.

In the end it always turns out fine, thanks to the voices in my head that remind me I AM strong, I AM a good mother and I WILL be just as good as other mothers even though I get things done differently than them. I may end up driving home with “Jell-O” arms, but I look in the backseat and see my little guy safe in his carseat and happy as a clam and I know I will be OK.

I know that once we get home, it’ll be back to the same ol’ routine: I work with him to encourage his walking, then he sees it as a game and will promptly swallow bricks and slither out of my grasp, onto the ground, where he can once again speed through the house on all fours.

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