Ok, I'll confess that the first ridiculous/obnoxious thing I did at the conference was on Wednesday afternoon when I went to the volunteers' meeting at Reed. (in case you're wondering, I took MAX and then a bus to get there from where I live in Beaverton) I had El Niño in the panel Kozy and Kelley Mason, the wonderful mamma who sewed it, was pretty much at the door when I arrived. She hugged me right away and we chatted like old friends. Then my friend Lori came down the stairs and suprised me! She's visiting from UAE and we'd kept missing one another while she was in town. Our whole group of volunteers and visitors toured the gorgeous Reed campus and went over some last minute stuff for the conference. Then everyone went around, drooling over everyone else's "stash" and I asked Kelley if I could go in her room & pet all the Kozys she'd brought! My uncivilized behavior went downhill from there...
Thursday was amazing, to be surrounded by babywearing mammas, to see so many different & beautiful kinds of carriers all in one place (even an Amautik that night during the first fashion show meeting!). I've never experienced this before -- I just recently joined the Portland NINO group and haven't yet been to a meeting -- so it was quite exciting and strangely comforting for me, like I was in a happy dream that I didn't want to wake up from. It felt like I was finally among my own kind. I was discussing it with Mo that night on the way home (on the bus), that it felt great to walk around during breaks and see lots of people -- moms AND dads -- meandering while they wore and snuggled their babes, and to see mammas happily and comfortably nursing everywhere. Ahhhhhhh, if only this was such a normal sight to see in the general population! I've been told that babywearing & NIP is a much more common sight in the NE and SE neighborhoods of Portland but where I live on the West side it's very rare. Oh, and to top off my day, Lori surprised me by giving us a beautiful batik embroidered FreeHand MeiTai, which my honeys napped in on Saturday.
This conference was an awesome opportunity to meet babywearing celebrities (like Maria Blois, author of Babywearing: The Benefits and Beauty of this Ancient Tradition) and many mammas who are starting their businesses and will likely be very successful in the next few years. There were also literally tons of carriers to see, touch and compare (we affectionately refer to them as fluffies, BTW). I'm overwhelmed, exhausted and excited all at the same time. I loved being there... it was still like a dream by day three. Even my normally-shy & reserved husband was chatting with everyone and having a great time. I met so many wonderful mammas and their kids. I learned so much. It's really hard to describe just how it feels to have this kind of opportunity, to learn about the creative process that goes into each person's sling design, to learn about the highs and lows of having a business (how many times did I hear one or another of them say that they wished they could give more carriers away and that they didn't get into this to make money but to spread the love?), to watch them be clumsy, creative, silly, clever, witty, loving, frazzled... to hold and love on so many other people's kids. I held so many babies I thought my uterus would figure out a way to self-pollinate! Oy!!!
OMG, did you *know* how gorgeous ChicKen ScRatch RingSlings are??? I must be living in a cave or something because I just hadn't realized it, and I don't even care for ring slings, seriously. But I'd volunteered to help at Along for the Ride's booth in the exhibit hall on Saturday and got to see and pet several of them up close. I think Kristen Gallagher (the owner) thought I was being really helpful and nice by staying at her booth to help as long as I did but I just really wanted to be close to all those prettyful slings she was selling! As Lori would say: YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! Kristen thanked me at the end of the day with a Brown Velveteen Hotsling that I just can't stop touching or looking at. I'll post pictures of my two new carriers soon... But I can't say enough how special it was to help people find a carrier they loved and were comfortable in.
We had a fashion show on Saturday night (sponsored by EllaRoo) and I think all the manufacturers tried to show off at least a few new products/colorways at the show. I'd volunteered all my guys to model but Hyde came back from Camp with an injured leg and had to stay home. Then Kelley asked me to model one of her panel Kozys, and I was honored. Of course, I had to say yes because she was asking. (I have a whole other post to write on the subject of me modeling) In addition to carriers, we had nursing clothes that had been donated for the show, so I got two tops out of that. One of them was multistriped and didn't match any of the carriers, so it was decided that I'd just walk out on stage with my boy in arms, tilt him sideways and nurse. All I could think about when I heard that were my mother's and Mo's mom's reactions if they knew: they'd be horrified!!! The show was chaotic backstage, and made me think of Dutch at BlogHer, since Mo and Kelley's husband got to see a lot of half-naked women running around backstage, trying to keep the show going at a nice clip by tossing off clothes and carriers before putting on the next ensemble. It was fun to get a sneak peek at some things that aren't yet available for purchase. There was the EllaRoo Extra Fino Rebozo that had a beautiful sheen to the fabric; I didn't get to pet it because I only ever saw it on Charlie Mason (of the Kozy Masons; I make it a point to never caress other women's husbands). But it looked really nice and soft, and the dark/light grays in it made it look very sophisticated. I really liked the contrast of browns in the new Moby-D too, very earthy and warm (much nicer IRL than in pictures). *sigh* There were so many beautiful carriers!!! (have I said that already?) The colors & pattern of the EllaRoo Selendang were rich, and I was surprised that it didn't have a "wrong" side to it. I really wanted Mo to wear that one too and was bummed that he couldn't because El Niño was having a meltdown. He did get to model the new bECO XO, he was actually the perfect model for it because at 6'5" 285lbs, he's exactly the kind of user it was designed for. Not only that but he loves it for its comfort and ease of use, so we'll be getting one soon. Gabby Caperon, the designer/CEO behind the bECO and Ecobabies, modeled one of the Fall Collection Hotslings, a (crocheted?) turquoise lace overlay on navy cotton sateen.* Yum! I want this one sooooo badly. And Kristi Hayes of Gypsy Mama was probably one of the biggest hits of the evening, since she not only modeled the most amount of carriers including the Amautik (I need to get her permission to post those pics) but at one point her toddler was so sick of going out on stage that she told him it would be a game and he should run towards her onstage... which he did, and she ran towards him, caught him, and wrapped him on her back so fast everybody was talking about it for the next two days (and he was laughing). The woman can wrap, and we have a huge crush on her. In fact, we were crushing on her so hard that at one point I was worried she'd think we wanted her to become our "sister wife" (and no, we're not into that). She's just another truly awesome, creative, funny woman & mamma that we were lucky to spend time with this weekend.
Ok, I need to go to bed so I'm just gonna mention a couple of other things that got my attention: the white Nori vest made out of solarveil fabric; it isn't up on their site yet, only the WindPro fleece one is. I think it's supposed to be a swimsuit coverup-type piece of clothing. Regardless, their fleece vest is definitely worth checking out. The MOM Tai with hydration pack; the water pack is stored in a cargo-type pocket on the back of the carrier and it holds 50oz; I've wanted something like this so many times! And then there's Rebecca of maMa by Design who makes beautiful carriers and bags, as soon as I can afford to I'm getting her to make a OOAK custom diaper bag to fit all my (neurotic) requirements. And her MeiTai has a very creative design twist to it that allows for the child's legs to be strapped in to the carrier, making it easier to put on, switch positions, and take off safely. My favorite of the ones she had for sale at the exhibit hall was the fairy-print fabric one w/ detachable fairy wings (for your tot to wear) that was absolutely adorable! I was very impressed with her designs and creativity.
A huge thank you to Jennifer Rosenberg (and her very supportive husband Andrew, daughters and parents) for this major undertaking in making the conference happen. And to Über-volunteers Kristine, Arwyn, Kelly, Nichol and Leslie for EVERYTHING. Also to Alison for lending me her adorable 3yo son so I could model a panel Kozy in the fashion show when my own child was having a complete meltdown. It was so sweet, he fell asleep on me before I even got him in the Kozy!!!
We didn't get to go on Sunday, Mo & El Niño apparently caught a cold and I twisted my ankle after the fashion show. It was so hard to say goodbye to everyone on Saturday night. I will definitely make the effort to go to the next conference in two years, wherever it is (probably the East Coast).
* as an aside, I wanted to add that if I'd been the right size -- a 3, I'm a 4 -- Kristen DeRocha (the woman who owns and designs Hotslings) would've given me the sling... Yeah, these women are THAT nice! This is after she was walking by our booth that afternoon and took the time to help me explain some things about the fit and design of her sling to a couple that had their baby in a New Native pouch that was at least one size too big.