Sensory Bins, Take One

Earlier this month, I suddenly thought to myself, “Oh my god! I’m stunting my babies’ growth by not doing sensory bins! I need to do sensory bins, stat!” And then I looked at pinterest and like twenty resulting blog posts about sensory bins.

The main thing I kept thinking was, “But my babies are going to eat everything.” Which put most of the bin ideas right out.

But I did see one with giant pasta shells and plastic links. I already had links, so I went to the dollar store for a couple cheap, small bins, and WalMart for some cheap big pasta.

I was all proud of myself and my new sensory bin. I sat the babies together and set the bin down, anticipating all kinds of fun and exploration.

Immediately, Malcolm grabbed a shell and put it in his mouth. Emmett grabbed the bin and shook it until it was empty.

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Malcolm did also figure out he could bang two shells together to make a nice sound. So he alternated between eating them and clapping them.

Sigh. So much for exploration and growth and Pinterest-worthy anything. Oh, babies.

Then I realized that I could easily do a water sensory bin, too! And even easier than the pasta one! They love splashing in the bath and in the baby pool. So just put some water in a bin and let them go to town!

So I filled the second bin three-fourths full with water, and put it in the kitchen, then brought the babies over.

After half a second they started splashing splashing splashing away.

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I quickly realized that I would need a towel for the water being splashed onto the floor. I ran upstairs and grabbed an extra bath towel from the linen closet. By the time I got back, less than sixty seconds later, all of the water was out of the bin and on the floor.

Sigh. Oh, babies.

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At least I have backup activity if the babies get bored–give them some pasta shells to eat or a bunch of water to spill on the floor.

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Helmet Graduation!

Wednesday was Emmett’s last day wearing his helmet! See you later!

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I realized that I never posted any follow up after that emotional first helmet post. (And once again, thank you so much for all those kind comments and support!) So I guess now is a good time to review everything that happened after that. (Which isn’t very exciting, really.)

The total time he wore it was about three months. The orthotist says most babies average 4-6 months, which is what she initially told us. I am really happy that it ended up being less time!

So first, a few more details about the how and the why:

We went to one of the local Hanger Clinics, and worked with a wonderful orthotist. The helmet is basically a mold. They scan the head and then I guess they project out what they want the measurements/shape to be, and make a foam model of that, and mold the helmet from that. So it forces the head to grow in that direction. The helmet is hard molded foam with a hard ‘shell’ outside.

They have to leave room for normal head growth–they make it a certain maximum diameter. If the baby’s head grows beyond that measurement, then the helmet is obviously no longer worn.

There were two things that the helmet was supposed to improve for Emmett’s head shape. First was the flat spot (plagiocephaly), obviously; he had an asymmetry of 10mm. The other was the roundness of the entire back of his head. This is measured as a percentage of length versus width. “Normal” people have like 75%. Emmett’s started at 95%–meaning it wasn’t long enough for the width. The back needed to round out.

Emmett took to the helmet like a champ. The weaning-on process takes about a week, as the baby wears it longer and longer until it’s up to 23 hours a day. By then we were getting used to it, and soon enough all that emotion had completely dissipated. I found him really cute in his helmet, and it just became part of him. I kind of forgot to notice it anymore.

We did get a few comments here and there, from strangers while out in public, or from acquaintances looking at photos. I was relieved that the comments weren’t mean-spirited or anything, either it was a polite question or something about football or whatever.

Getting him dressed was a pain–we tried to only change him during his helmet break. There were plenty of times when we had to change his clothes while he had his helmet on, and we would usually put on his onesie from the bottom up. That was really annoying. Though, a few weeks ago, we noticed that our nanny was able to get some of the onesies over his helmet, which made things a little faster and easier.

Also, his head was smelly and sweaty when we took the helmet off. Really, it was the helmet that was stinky–but during the helmet break, it wasn’t pleasant to smell his head. I obviously tried to get in extra snuggles and kisses, but the odor was very noticeable.

Emmett had some skin issues with a few contact points–along his forehead and along the right side of his head, especially his right ‘sideburn’. Every time we took off the helmet, he would scratch at the back/right areas of his head. It was adorable and kind of pitiful. On our visits, the orthotist would shave down the foam to make it more comfortable. The redness and irritation never stopped occurring, though.

If he was really, super tired, sometimes he would kind of grab at the edge of the helmet as if to take it off. And sometimes Malcolm liked to grab the helmet if Emmett’s head was close. And Emmett figured out how to undo the velcro! He would only do it while he was lying down drinking a bottle, and he would do it over and over, kind of meditatively.

I honestly thought one of us was going to suffer a  broken nose. When he was tired, Emmett would kind of drop or throw his head down (you know what I’m talking about, right?), and he bonked us in the face with the helmet numerous times, often on the nose. It hurt! A lot!

At the one-month follow-up appointment, Emmett’s asymmetry had shrunk to 4mm! This was unusual–it usually happens much slower, so the orthotist was very surprised and pleased. She said we must have gotten the helmet on right before a growth spurt, which is fantastic timing.

By the second month, it was down to 3mm, and then we were basically waiting for the length/width measurement to go down. She wanted it to get anywhere in the 80s. I think at that point it was 91%. But it still looked much rounder in the back than it used to:

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A couple weeks ago, his head measurements were getting close to the maximum–like two millimeters. She cut out a section of the foam in the back (so that part was ‘open’ to the inside of the outer shell, but his head wasn’t directly in contact with it) to give some more room. She said we could continue or stop now–we said we might as well go as long as we can.

Last week, we noticed an area of red, scaly bumps on the back of Emmett’s little head. I wondered if it was irritation from the new edge of the foam. So I took him in, a week before our scheduled appointment with the orthotist. She had never seen that kind of reaction, though she did determine that it lined up with the foam edge. His head circumference was basically at the max for the helmet, and his length/width percentage was at 90.1%, which is so tantalizingly close to the goal.

So we decided that we should just stop the helmet. (Andy was out of town and we’d discussed it by phone earlier, so I was glad that I wasn’t making the decision alone on the fly.) Apparently there’s usually a weaning off process, where the baby wears it only for naps and bedtime. That irritation needed to heal, though, so we figured we’d try for quitting cold turkey.

She took another scan of his head to compare, and gave us a little ‘graduation’ certificate for the scrapbook.

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It’s now been a few days with no helmet. Emmett has had no problems going without it–I guess he doesn’t miss it! And we don’t either. I was happy to discover that his head stopped smelling the very next day. The irritation on his forehead and sideburn are fading and healing, though the bumps on the back are still there.

I was looking at a few photos from just recently, and already the helmet looks kind of odd and out of place. I guess I got used to him looking like himself again right away. I sure am loving being able to kiss his head while snuggling him.

Also, his hair has grown bigger. It used to stick up in funny shapes, but now it’s too long for that. Somehow in the back it puffs up and over to make his head look much bigger (and rounder) than it really is. I guess that’s good?

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So now that both of our babies are headgear-free, we have realized that um, dang, these babies can look reaaaally similar sometimes. We got lazy about really looking at their faces! I am excited to be able to focus on both of their adorable selves the same way again.

Big Bad Apple

I lived in New York for eight years. There are a lot of great things about the city, which everyone knows: tons of cultural events, bars stay open really late, it’s really easy to get around via public transportration, great restaurants everywhere, interesting and diverse mix of people, it’s never boring.

However, the thought of New York City life while also the thought of life with two babies…well. I’d been wanting to get out of the city for years anyway, and having twins was my ultimate trump card. We would have had to move out of our awesome apartment and neighborhood to somewhere with more space and less cost. And everything in general would have been a pain in the ass. I’m pretty sure I would be stuck inside all the time, partly because it would be hard to get out by myself with two babies, and partly because we wouldn’t be able to afford childcare.

So the main reason we moved to Portland was for the lifestyle change–to make our lives with two babies easier and more affordable. Obviously plenty of people raise lots of children in NYC and are happy about it…we just aren’t those people. 🙂

We’ve been in Portland for less than two years, and it’s been hard to get to really know the city, since most of our time still revolves around babies (and we haven’t been able to do lots of the fun baby-and-me groups that many singleton parents attend). But no doubt that our lives here are much easier than they would have been in New York!

So here’s a summary of the lifestyles in New York and in Portland.

New York City
Huge, booming thunder and frequent lightning.
Our apartment had a gorgeous view of the harbor and lower Manhattan.
Roof access for photos.
Traffic everywhere you go, all the time.
People people people everywhere you go, all the time.
Hipsters.
The Strand.
Tons of great restaurants.
Lots of activity/exercise walking around the city all the time.
With two babies and a double stroller, public transportation is not possible (not enough elevator stations).
Therefore hard to get out and socialize.
Walk-up apartments.
High rents!
Higher nanny/babysitting rates.
Years-long waiting lists for daycares, preschools, and schools.
Crazy fucking drivers.
Parking difficulty. (Understatement of the year.)
Difficult, time-consuming, expensive to get out of town. Only strip malls to see nearby.
Small living space, no extra storage.
One bathroom.
Dishwasher/laundry not likely to be in-home.
Pain in the ass to do Costco/Target trips.

Portland
Can’t see the sky (from our house).
No good photo opportunities from our house (though Mt Hood is just visible from our bedroom window!).
Hipsters.
Powell’s.
Lots of great restaurants.
Some traffic at certain times/places (don’t ever EVER go northbound on Friday after 3pm, for example).
No through streets.
Most street signs are illegible in the dark.
“Slow racing” drivers who drive UNDER the speed limit, ON PURPOSE.
Green space, right outside our door.
Easy to get out of town; lots to see near by–mountains, coast, state forests.
Easy to get of the house in a stroller.
Easy to find parking.
Parks nearby by foot and by car.
More affordable housing costs.
Childcare costs slightly less outlandish.
Dishwasher AND washer/dryer!
GARAGE!
BASEMENT STORAGE!!
MULTIPLE BATHROOMS!!!
Easy to go shopping and run errands.
Easy to stay inside the house for hours.
Easy to sit on one’s ass all day long (working at home).
Hard to meet new people, what with so much time inside sitting down.

Summer Bucket List #7: The Coast!!

Woohoo, we finally made it to the coast! This was the outing I’ve been most looking forward to all year!

This was our first ‘real’ vacation with the babies. We’ve only stayed overnight at someone’s house before, but after the success earlier this summer, we were hopeful that the babies would do okay with a hotel.

It was about an hour and a half drive–west on 26 and then meet up with the famed Highway 101. (In 2001, I drove 101 all the way to LA; that was the last time I was on the Pacific.)

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Our first stop was Ecola State Park in the town of Cannon Beach. This stunning vista greets you to one side:

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And the open ocean is straight ahead. We got out to stretch and to feed the babies their lunch. Happily, we’ve done a lot of al fresco ‘dining’ with them, so they were totally cool eating outside in this new environment.

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Make sure to change your focus settings before handing your camera to a stranger/non-photographer:

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We continued into downtown Cannon Beach and found lunch for ourselves, and the babies had their bottles. Then finally it was time for the beach!! There’s the iconic Haystack Rock behind us. Again, this was a stranger…she almost hid the rock behind us and also shot vertically (I cropped it).

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We rolled up our jeans and dipped our toes in the Pacific Ocean! The babies had been cranky but they quieted down with their little feet in the water. No doubt they were trying to figure out what kind of giant bathtub they were in and why it was so cold! Emmett even managed to kick and splash while Andy was holding him up.

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On the way back to dry land, one of Andy’s shoes fell out of the plastic bag I had everything in. I suppose that’s a worthy sacrifice for an adventure. He needed new shoes anyway. He grabbed some flipflops from a gift shop and we made a detour to a mini mall so he could buy some new sneakers.

Then we continued on to our hotel in Tillamook. Babies’ first hotel stay!

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We had a ‘king suite’, so there was a little sitting area across a half wall. We set up the pack n plays there and crossed our fingers that the babies would be able to sleep. It took them awhile to quiet down (which happens plenty at home too), but they slept quite well. Andy and I watched stuff on our laptops with headphones.

Our first stop the next morning was the Tillamook Cheese Factory. For the record, 8am is a great time to visit; hardly any tourists are out yet. 🙂 It was a quick stroll and then we got back in the car.

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You can buy an empty ice cream bucket for fifty cents! I was stoked.

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There’s a little cape to the west Tillamook, and we drove out there to see the Cape Meares lighthouse.

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On the way back we stopped at the beach in Oceanside, a town so small it didn’t show up on the map on my iphone. We had more time this time and so the babies got to hang out and enjoy some quality beach time. IE, playing in the sand. Yes, they definitely ate some.

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And then we went back to Tillamook for ice cream before driving home! Andy got black cherry and I got s’mores. Dee-lish.IMG_1211

Overall, things went really well! It was a great family adventure. I hope we can find a closer beach-type place to bring the babies this fall, since they had so much fun. I loved seeing such pretty scenery and exploring new areas. Can’t wait for our next family vacation!

“Boys will be boys”

In response to the icky Mrs Hall post about the dirty dirty girls poisoning their precious sons’ minds with ‘provocative’ photos on social media:

This post at Put Down the Urinal Cake is a lovely, thoughtful, heartfelt reply to Mrs. Hall.

Iron Daisy’s post is a hilarious opposite-land ‘letter’ exposing Mrs Hall for exactly the person she’s showing herself to be.

Another thing that really bothered me about the original post: a lot of commenters pointed out that Mrs Hall had included half-naked photos of her sons. And Mrs Hall responded, “Oh, that’s different.” And then re-posted the post with different clothes. She had NO IDEA how hypocritical she was being not only by using those beach photos, but by insisting that photos of teenage boys half-naked and showing off are not ‘sexy’ or ‘provocative.’

And Parentwin’s post is exactly what I wanted to write. Mrs. Hall’s statements sound exactly like someone who would say that a girl was “asking for it” (whatever “it” may be) because of her clothing. Because teenage boys have no self-control and no responsibility over their sexuality, and they’re just victims of those overly sexualized girls.  Because “boys will be boys”, har har har, those crazy boys! Good thing we don’t need to teach them how to be respectful citizens of the world!

A roundup of a few more blogger responses here.

A friend who didn’t want to post publicly wrote to me about this issue and included this: “The young woman posting a “provocative” photo of herself is celebrating the beauty that she finds in herself. She is delighted with herself and unafraid to show her delight to others. Looking at her beautiful form is equally innocuous and could be delightful for those looking. We as adults add all the weight of lust and impropriety to even the most innocent.”

To that, I would add that the young woman is trying to find herself, trying to find her beauty, her place in the world, her place in her own little world, trying on a persona that seems to get many girls attention. And I think that we should give positive attention to girls who are trying to find out who they are, or playing with all the possibilities, or exploring their social world, and make sure they know that adults in their lives are there for support and guidance. I think girls need a lot more discussion about inner beauty, the inner self, being true to that, intelligence both academic and social, the difficulties they will face as females in the future. Women like Mrs Hall are judging them, boys like Mrs Hall’s sons are judging them, men like Mrs Hall’s husband are judging them. We need to help those girls find strength in themselves, and faith in their true beauty that comes from being a well-rounded human being.

A few more of my thoughts:

I will be raising two teenage boys. I have no idea how to do that. I do, however, know that I want them to know that they are in charge of their minds and their bodies. I also really want them to know that girls are in charge of their own minds and bodies too. And that they, as boys, MUST respect that, and they have the ability to choose how to respond to and interact with girls their age, and that I will hold high standards for them about that.

I will not throw God or Jesus at them, because we’re not that kind of people, and because good values don’t have to come from a Bible. And I won’t blag on about ‘modesty’, because it seems to be mostly the girls who need to be modest, in fear of sullying themselves in the eyes of not just God, but also boys who will surely go all HULKSMASHSEX if they see so much as a bare shoulder. I do want to teach them about morals: doing the right thing; being a good person; taking a moment to ponder the ramifications of their actions.

I hope that my boys grow up seeing their father respecting not just their mother, but all women, and all people. I hope that we are able to teach them that it is their job to do the same. I hope that my boys will grow up seeing their mother as a fully-realized human being with thoughts and feelings, and that they will understand that other females are the same.

And here is the exact future ‘conversation’ that is just perfect!

Nine months

DSC_0922-6 Dear sweet babies,

You are nine months old! Three quarters of a year! As always, I can’t believe it. You’re getting so big  and you’re still so adorable and fun to hang out with.

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Your official stats from your 9 month checkup:
Malcolm: 20lbs 14oz, 28.5 inches long
Emmett: 20lbs 4oz, 28 inches long

You’re both right in the middle of the growth charts. Hurray!

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Here’s what you’ve been up to this past month:

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The day after you turned eight months, we put away the six month outfits and put you in nine month clothes. For some reason it’s always a surprise to me when you grow out of things–maybe something about how changes are so slow but constant. Nothing is static but I can only see it in hindsight. Here are your first nine-month outfits:

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You each still have your same two teeth; no new ones have popped up yet. I have a feeling that future teeth may not be as easy as those first two.

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You’re still not crawling. However, you are both clearly heading in that direction, slowly. You sit up and lean/reach forward forward forward, until you flop onto your belly. Sometimes you can keep one knee up. Nothing happens then except you getting confused and frustrated. Also, you still do your little butt bounce, and you can actually scoot forward that way, albeit very slowly. When we sit you both on the playmat, within a few minutes you have each moved so that you’re sitting really close to each other. It’s impressive and cute and a little nerve-wracking (thinking about how mobile you’ll be before I know it! Ack!).

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You are starting to interact a lot more, on purpose. Sure, a lot of time it’s stealing toys back and forth, and sometimes it’s hair grabbing. But you also like to look at each other, screech back and forth like you’re ‘talking’, and you’ll as freely grab the other’s hand or foot as your own.

You still like to talk–your syllables are getting more distinct and more frequent. You can’t quite imitate us yet though. You still like to do raspberries:

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One new thing is that Malcolm, you seem to get angry and ‘yell’ at us. Mainly it happens in the evening as we’re getting you ready for dinner and bedtime. You hate being laid down on the changing table and getting your outfit changed, and you will ‘cry’ in an extra loud, yell-y tone with no tears. Clearly you do NOT like it and want to make sure that we know it! You also started making this “Ah! Ah!” noise. It’s not a mad kind of noise; more like sometimes indignant and sometimes to get attention, and sometimes probably just to make noise.

Emmett, you’ve been exploring holding things in a new way–you like to hold a toy or your little hat up in the air with one hand, and then bat at it with your other hand. You also like to practice this with nothing in your hands, especially while lying in your crib. It looks like you’re playing an invisible triangle. Adorable.

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Malcolm, you have discovered your hands. Mostly your left one. You move it, open and close it, while staring at it as if it doesn’t even belong to you. It’s kind of hilarious.

You’ve both figured out how the mirror works. You smile whenever we put you in front of it. Malcolm, you like to grab the edge of the mirror, while Emmett, you like to pat the surface of the mirror itself. You both also look around to see another person behind you in the room or on the playmat. Pretty smart!

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Your standing is really coming along–you can pretty much stand on your own while holding onto things. Very impressive! (Also, I can’t get enough of those chunky thigh rolls!!)

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Emmett, you’ve had your helmet for two months now. You are making really good progress. The orthotist is very impressed! The asymmetry is almost gone and so now we’re just waiting for your head to round out a little more in the back.

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Rattles are great toys for you right now: you love to shake them and hear noise. (And then put them in your mouth.) Your favorite is a super-plasticky one I got at the last resale that clacks really loudly.

When you’re in your crib or on the floor, you’ve started to lift your arms when you see one of us approaching–it’s like you’re telling us, oh good, you’re here, pick me up please. It melts my heart a little every time!

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Emmett, you started doing this thing when we carry you, you put one little hand/arm on our shoulder like you’re our buddy just hanging out. Malcolm, when you are excited about something, you flap and wave both your arms. No mistaking your feelings! Both of you do an excited pant when something is fun or funny–you sound like little puppies instead of babies. 🙂

We finally moved you out of your little baby car seats. First we put the ‘regular’ seats in our stroller. You go back and forth between enjoying the view, and getting overwhelmed by it. We also finally put the new, giant convertible car seats into the car. I can’t believe how big you are now–how big you were looking in that little carrier seat, and how much space you have in the big-kid seat.

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Speaking of big kids, you got your first real haircuts! I had done little trims of the mullet edges a few months ago, but you were both starting to get really shaggy all over, so it was time to get a professional to take care of it. You look so much older now!

Also, we passed a sentimental ‘milestone’–you reached 36 weeks 1 day of age, which is the same amount of time you spent on the inside. I still can’t believe I grew you in my body. And that now you’re so big.

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As cliche and cheesy as it sounds, we are really enjoying seeing you become more aware of the world and your opinions about it, and watching your personalities develop. We still love to hold you and hug you and laugh with you!

love,
mama

Milestone: First Haircuts!

The babies have been getting seriously shaggy-haired. It was time for professional help, so I made an appointment at Little Clippers for the day before their nine month ‘birthday.’ It seems to be THE place for baby/kid haircuts in the Portland area. Of course, it’s in one of the Portland suburbs, which meant the total time (travel+haircut+travel) could cut into danger territory (ie, overlap with feeding and/or nap or something). But I figured I should just do it already.

I know that this is traditionally an emotional event for mamas, and that a lot of them either cry when their baby’s hair is cut for the first time, or just don’t get it cut at all. However…I haven’t really felt that. I did feel a pang knowing that this hair being cut was their ‘original’ hair they’d had in the womb. But I’d already trimmed their mullet wings a few months ago and had saved snippets of hair; I also knew that this salon did a special thing for First Haircuts.

Anyway, I was a couple minutes late for our appointment, made even later because I had to put both babies into the double stroller in order to get from the parking lot to the salon. Can’t just pick up two babies and all the stuff and waltz in!

I was asked what cartoons or shows they like to watch. I was like, “um…I don’t know?” thinking, they’re nine months old, why would they be watching anything at all? What makes this place kid-friendly is A) kid videos playing at each station to entertain and/or hypnotize the kids to keep still, and B) cute ‘cars’ instead of regular barber seats.

The second I got both babies down into their cars, they both starting bawling. Like loud, seriously upset crying. I think they were just confused and overwhelmed and overstimulated. New people, lots of noises (they hate loud sounds like hairdryers and blenders right now), lots of bright colors and moving screens and mirrors. I think it was just all too much for them.

So–two screaming babies and of course there’s only one of me. I picked up Emmett because he seemed more freaked out of the two. I did my best to soothe Malcolm while not being able to pick him up or do much at all. I grabbed his pacifier from the diaper bag and tried to hold it in his mouth. This only sort of worked.

I said wryly to the ladies, “…And this is why I don’t take them out by myself.” I seriously pondered just leaving, if it was going to be such a disaster. Argh. But we were there, I figured we should just power through it and it would be over fairly quickly.

Malcolm quieted a little, but was still clearly unnerved. Another lady came over to hold the pacifier for Malcolm and try to calm him down.

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His stylist finally got to work, but Emmett was still really upset. I put him in his seat anyway as he continued to bawl. Huge tears rolling down his little cheeks. He continued to sob as his stylist got going. And of course, me being the terrible mama that I am, I had to grab my camera to document everything. I mean, come on, this was my babies’ first haircuts!

The chaos definitely helped me not feel emotional or anything. If anything, I was stressed, not sad.

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By the end, Malcolm was totally quiet and Emmett was only sniffling. The stylists worked really quickly and in broad strokes to get some shape/control to the babies’ hair.

And now for the rest of the photos. They make me laugh in such an ‘awww’ way.

Here’s a couple more of Malcolm:

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Just look at that face! Poor baby!!

And here’s Emmett.

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So much hair!

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Awww, poor baby!!

In the end, we got in and out fairly quickly, considering the meltdowns. I do think it was worth it so that their hair wasn’t falling down into their eyes. They do look a lot older with “real” haircuts, though. By the time they need another haircut, I think they’ll be ready for the experience and it will go smoother. I hope so anyway. 🙂