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  • Review: Kozy Carrier Mei Tai (& Special Offer!)

    As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m very happy with my BabyHawk and Mei Tai Baby mei tais, but I was very happy to acquire a third mei tai from Kozy Carrier. Even before I got my Kozy, I knew that I would love it because everyone who has one is crazy about theirs. One of the things I like best is that the larger panel and sturdy materials allow a Kozy to be used for longer than a BabyHawk or Mei Tai Baby – in fact, unlike the others, the Kozy doesn’t have a weight limit.

    I have to admit the larger panel size threw me for a loop at first. The first time I put Tyler on my back, he was so far down, he couldn’t see over the top of the fabric! But I rolled the bottom a couple of times to make the panel smaller and that’s helped a lot.

    The Kozy’s wide straps also took some getting used to, and are a little awkward to tie compared to the other mei tais, but the advantage is that they don’t slip as much, especially when I bend down while wearing Tyler in the front. There’s also a nifty little pouch sewn into one of the ends, which I didn’t even realize until I read the online FAQ. I did have some trouble flattening one of the shoulder straps after I washed the Kozy, since the sewing was a little bit off. This also prevents the straps from rolling up completely flat (to tote my mei tais around, I fold the body into quarters, then gather all of the straps at one corner and wrap them around the folded fabric). Like my other mei tais, the Kozy comes with some padding at the shoulder for comfort.

    I really like the built-in headrest for the extra support and privacy that it gives Tyler. My Kozy is the widest of my mei tais at the bottom, so I’m not sure how comfortable Tyler would have been when he was smaller – though Tyler is at the smaller end of the spectrum for his age, so this may not be a problem for most babies, especially if, unlike Tyler, they don’t mind having their legs “froggied” when they’re little. The Kozy fabric seems to be the thickest of all three mei tais, but it is not the warmest one I have (that would be the BabyHawk, since it has the minkee lining). The Kozy is made of a very strong canvas that should last for years, and hopefully will get a lot of use even after Tyler starts walking.

    I love each of my mei tais for different reasons, and I encourage you to try at least one because they are a fantastic way to wear your baby. In fact, to promote babywearing, I’m excited to announce that Kelley and Kristi over at Kozy Carrier have agreed to give CFO readers a 10% discount. Just put the code CHIEF FAMILY OFFICER into the “Notes” field when you place your order, and you will receive a 10% credit when your order is processed. The discount excludes tax and shipping, and the code expires 30 days from today (on October 17, 2007).

    Interview with Kelley and Kristi of Kozy Carrier

    I am very excited to present the first interview here on CFO, especially because it is with Kelley Mason and her sister Kristi Jennings. They are the owners of Kozyware, which makes the popular Kozy Carrier mei tai. I’ve posted before about mei tais, and I just acquired a Kozy, which I love (I’ll post a review on Monday – and it will include a special discount code that you won’t want to miss!). Kelley has three boys (ages 7, 3, and 7 months) and one girl (age 5). Kristi doesn’t have kids yet but is learning a lot about them!

    Me: How do you two know each other and how did you decide to work together? What is your working relationship like?

    Kelley: Kristi and I are sisters first, then partners in KozyWare LLC. I am the
    designer/founder and work the creative side and she handles everything on the business side. (She has a finance/accounting degree, naturally.) It is a very nice relationship and we balance each other well. As sisters do, there’s the occasional spirited debate and disagreement, but it’s all good. It really is a complimentary partnership with each of us bringing our strengths to the table. ;o) At the end of the day, we’re still sisters!

    Me: How did you get the idea for the business and how did you go about getting started?

    Kelley: I had no intention of starting a business. Since my first child was born in the fall of 2000, I was mostly using ring slings and pouches, many of which I made myself. But when my daughter was born she was very “high needs”, I was alone a lot of the time with my husband traveling and my back was killing me from doing one shoulder carries for 8+ hrs a day. I needed a 2-shoulder carrier. When I saw a picture of a Mei Tai I knew it was the answer I was looking for. Having no money to buy one, I figured out how it was constructed (4 straps and
    a rectangle for a body) and using scrap fabric at home. I just made one, completely winging it. (There were no instructions online for making one back then. Those didn’t come out until after I started my business.) I read around online and figured out how to use it and from that moment on, I was hooked!! I actually tried another Mei Tai a couple months later, and that is what prompted me to pull out the sewing machine and work on my design. After > months of notes, calculations, trial and error, and sewing prototypes to try out with my daughter, I came up with the Kozy!

    That was early 2003 and the design has actually changed very little since then. When we were on a family vacation in early spring of 2003, my dad (being the entrepreneur that he is!) noticed how I was getting asked often about my carrier. I had no desire to start a business but after much prompting, I allowed him to put me up a website, mostly to pacify him. :o) I think I sold one locally and not really wanting a business, I was fine with that. But in the late summer of 2003 someone online found my website and posted it to a nationwide babywearing list. The Kozy was the only Mei Tai “out” at the time to have the options of padded straps, reversible, pocket etc. These things hadn’t really been seen on a Mei Tai before, and people were anxious to try them. I started getting orders from around the country! Wow! I guess then technically the “business” started in the late summer/early fall of 2003. I was completely unprepared and had a waiting list immediately. Within months I was having to hire stay at home moms w/sewing machines. The demand and amount of work was overwhelming! Kristi joined May of 2004, just one month after getting married. I simply couldn’t handle it all myself. We became an LLC shortly after that.

    Me: What was your vision for the company, and how does it compare to your vision for the company today?

    Kelley: I never really had a vision for the company. I simply wanted to help as many moms as I could by providing comfortable carriers for them to carry their babies. I would say my goals initially were to simply keep up with orders and get through the day without having a nervous breakdown, and still being there for my 3 kids and husband. Now, our vision is to simply provide as many moms with Kozys as possible, and to spread the word about babywearing. This will reach more mothers in the mainstream who might not be familiar with the overwhelming benefits of wearing their baby. We would love the business to grow to support our families as well. What would be better than having a profitable business that is helping mothers and babies as well as our own families? That is a win-win all around!

    Me: How many hours a week do you work? What are your secrets for balancing work and family?

    Kelley: Initially, I was working 40+ hrs a week. I would stay up till dawn some mornings answering e-mails and sewing. Now that we have people sewing Kozys, and Kristi and my dad working on other aspects of the business, I have much more time to devote to my first calling, my family, which is a blessing. I think the secret is to know your limits. No one person can do everything. It is VERY easy to get burned out. You want to help others so much and you see the overwhelming impact that providing a comfortable carrier has on other mothers and families, that it is easy to overlook your own family and your own well being.

    Starting a business is overwhelming, and when you consider that most people will work for years building their business before they are even able to make money, it is cause for pause. I think it is all about knowing where you want to go, getting everything worked out ahead of time, and then realizing when you need to ask for help or delegate. There is no way I would have been able to do it without help, and Kristi was the perfect partner. Having her help in areas where I lacked, but she thrived, allowed me to relax, knowing that the business was in good hands, and allowed me to resume the most important job of all, which is being a mother to my kids. I still spend quite a lot of time on Kozy, but now I am able to balance that with time with my kids, which is extremely important.

    Me: What is the funniest story you have about the business?

    Kristi: I had a lady once tell me she was sitting inside at a window table in a downtown café and a lady walked by outside wearing a Kozy. She leaped up from her chair, and told her husband she had to find out what kind of carrier it was. She chased the lady down the street! We’re always hearing funny stories like this about customers being stalked at the zoo, the grocery store, or the mall. We have a whole army of marketeers out there! ;o)

    Me: What are the best and worst parts of being a work-at-home mom?

    Kelley: The worst part is having “work” around you all day. When you work from home, you are always at work and it is hard to get away and separate the two. I have found myself answering work e-mails at midnight, because the computer is there and the kids are asleep so I can. That is OK as long as it doesn’t interfere with family time. The best part is that I am able
    to work to make some extra money for my family, and still take care of my kids, which is what I consider to be my #1 priority. I consider that to be a huge blessing and a true gift from God.

    Me: What are the top two pieces of advice you would give a mom considering starting her own business?

    Kelley: Do your research ahead of time, so that you know what you are getting into. Know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it. Have everything set and in place before you start with a business plan, a list of goals and all your resources at your fingertips, so that you don’t get in over your head.

    I would say next is to know your limits. Be ready and prepared to find help if/when you need it, so that you don’t burn out and are able to continue being a parent to your children. You will absolutely crash and burn if you don’t seek out assistance. Many a good home business has cratered because the stress of trying to handle it all has become too overwhelming, and it’s easier to just call it quits.

    Me: What is the best part about your job?

    Kelley: The best part of my job with Kozy is being able to help other moms care for their babies. I consider that a privilege. I also consider Kozy to be a gift from God, allowing me to do something that I find so rewarding, while also having the benefit of helping to provide for my family. To me, it’s more about a mission and a ministry than a business. But nothing compares to my job as mom, I wouldn’t trade that for anything!

    Review: Fisher-Price Rainforest Peek-A-Boo Leaves Musical Mobile vs. Tiny Love Symphony in Motion Mobile

    Before Alex was born, I did my research and registered for the Tiny Love Symphony in Motion mobile, which was highly recommended by Baby Bargains. We received it as a gift from kind friends, and indeed, there was a sticker on the box indicating the mobile had won some kind of award. There was an exciting moment when Alex was a few weeks old when Marc turned to me and said, “He’s actually looking at it!”

    When it came time to set up a mobile in Tyler’s crib, we put the Symphony in Motion mobile up and Marc pushed the button to make sure it worked. He listened to the first five notes of Beethoven, turned it off, and turned to me, ashen.

    Me: “What’s wrong?”

    Marc: “We can’t have this!”

    Me: “Why not?”

    Marc: “It reminds me of when Alex was born.”

    You see, when Alex was first born, life was miserable for us. I was having such a hard time breastfeeding and trying to cope with postpartum depression. Alex was always hungry, cried all the time, and didn’t sleep from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. on a daily basis (I can still tell you the TV schedule for those hours). Marc did most of the childcare, since I was either pumping or crying, often both. It wasn’t until Alex was about six weeks old that I started taking More Milk Special Blend, my milk supply finally met demand, we put Alex on a two-hour feeding schedule, and things started to look up.

    All of this flashed through my mind as I watched the color slowly return to Marc’s cheeks. “Okay, honey, let’s go get a different mobile.”

    So off we went to Target, in search of a mobile that had the option of working without music. We couldn’t find that option, but we found the Fisher-Price Rainforest Peek-A-Boo Leaves Musical Mobile, which had a “rainforest sounds” option. We took it home, installed it, and Marc let out a huge sigh of relief when he turned it on and heard leaves rustling and birds chirping instead of tinny, melancholy musical notes.

    We had to take the mobile down a couple of months ago, since Tyler started pulling himself up, but we loved this mobile while we used it. It is easy to install, and has two volume options and three music options in addition to the rainforest sounds (though we rarely used those). The animals rotating around the mobile are cuter than the Symphony in Motion creatures (there was one monkey on Alex’s mobile that had what can only be described as lobster claws for arms). It comes with a remote control that we never used, but which did turn the mobile on and off from a distance.

    I think that perhaps the Symphony in Motion might be better for visual stimulation, with its bright colors and black and white contrast. The scraping sound of the plastic pieces that slide along the arms was grating to Marc and me, but it didn’t seem to bother Alex (though who could tell), and perhaps its rhythm is intended to be soothing for baby.

    I can’t say that one mobile or the other was loved by the child that used it, although Alex frequently asked us to turn on Tyler’s mobile. If I were to do it all over again, I would just start with the Fisher-Price rainforest mobile for the rainforest sounds option. You’ll have plenty of toys that play awful music all too soon anyway.

    BabyHawk vs. Mei Tai Baby

    As I’ve mentioned previously, I now own two mei tai baby carriers, one from BabyHawk.com and one from Mei Tai Baby (their image pictured). I love both carriers, and now (finally!) so does my baby. However, there are some differences that affect when and how I use them.

    1. Mei Tai Baby is known for its wonderful adjustable crotch. I ordered the full snap tab and minimized the crotch area for my baby until just a couple of weeks ago, when I began using the middle snap. I believe he hated having his legs in the “froggy” position, and until he was about four or five months old and able to comfortably fit in a full-width mei tai, the adjustable crotch was the only way I could wear him. The adjustable crotch feature was therefore a lifesaver for me. Until a couple of months, I used my Mei Tai Baby exclusively because my son simply wasn’t big enough to go into the BabyHawk with his legs hanging out.
    2. The Mei Tai Baby is more breathable than the BabyHawk so it’s a better summer carrier. The Mei Tai Baby is a nice cotton material that’s not too thick and firm but soft. My BabyHawk, on the other hand, is a thicker, stiffer material and has a gorgeous minkee lining that’s super soft and feels wonderful but makes the mei tai pretty warm. (Because my sonwas born in December, I thought the minkee would be nice during the colder months. It never occurred to me that he’d hate the carrier and that I wouldn’t be able to use it regularly until it was already hot outside!)
    3. Because the non-minkee material on my BabyHawk is stiffer than the material on my Mei Tai Baby, the straps stay flat better at the side. Flat equals comfort (i.e., no digging into my sides).
    4. Both mei tais have padding in the straps at the shoulder, which makes them a little more comfortable. However, the BabyHawk is a tad bulkier. Both mei tais are extremely comfortable to wear – a world of difference from the Baby Bjorn that I had with my older son (and which I never used). If my back starts to hurt, I just tug the straps slightly to adjust them and it’s all better.
    5. The BabyHawk has a wonderful headrest, which means it comes up higher behind my son’s head. This was particularly reassuring when my son’s head control was questionable and I worried that he might fling his head back without warning. I love this feature as much as I love the adjustable crotch on the Mei Tai Baby and wish that I could combine the two for the perfect mei tai. However, now that he’s older and likes to look around, I think my son is less fond of this feature than I am since it impedes his view. I’ve folded it down at times but I don’t think it helps that much. It turns out, though, that Mei Tai Baby offers a removable headrest. At $25, it’s a pricy extra but would combine my favorite features from each of these mei tais nicely.
    6. They have very different fabric selections. That’s what attracted me to BabyHawk first since they offer a camouflage pattern. I wasn’t crazy about the Mei Tai Baby patterns but they’re the only ones who offer the adjustable crotch.
    7. A basic Mei Tai Baby is less expensive (about $70) than a basic BabyHawk (about $80), though both have options (such as Mei Tai Baby’s adjustable crotch) that can quickly add up.
    8. Finally, both mei tais are super easy to wash. I put them in a large lingerie bag and then into the washer. I machine wash them, but hang them to dry, taking care to flatten the straps.

    So which do I like better? Neither! I love them both, and I’m glad I have two carriers so that I can keep one in the house and one in the car. But, if I could only have one, I would have to pick the Mei Tai Baby simply because I live in hot Southern California and the Mei Tai Baby is more breathable.

    Keep in mind that there are other great mei tai brands out there, too (Kozy Carrier is one that’s extremely popular). If you want to learn more about baby carriers, a good starting place is The Babywearer, which has information on just about every kind of carrier out there.

    Safety Tips for Choosing and Using a Stroller

    Tyler is ready to move out of his car seat when it comes to strollers – he’s sitting up, he’s very interested in looking around, and he gets restless being strapped in so a regular stroller would make it easier to pick him up. As I’ve mentioned before, we have a Graco Metrolite that I purchased specifically for Tyler. We also have a Combi Savvy that we got for Alex, which I’ve come to hate.

    Because I hate the Savvy so much, I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a new stroller. I’ll probably wait to see how our current situation works out, but in the meantime, I’ve found some safety tips to keep in mind at the JPMA website:

    • Select a stroller with adjustments that reduce the size of seat openings in the front to prevent your baby from falling out when seat back is reclined into the flat position.
    • Make sure the stroller has a base wide enough to prevent tipping, even when your baby leans over the side.
    • If the seat adjusts to a reclining position, make sure the stroller doesn’t tip backwards when the child lies down.
    • Always secure the baby by using the restraint straps.
    • Don’t hang anything over the handles. If your stroller has a shopping basket, it should be low on the back of the stroller or directly over the rear wheels.
    • Use the locking device to prevent accidental folding (i.e., make sure the stroller clicks into position when opened).
    • Use the brakes when stroller is stationary.
    • When you fold or unfold the stroller, keep the baby’s hands away from the areas that could pinch tiny fingers.
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