Activities with Children, Dealing with Challenges, Parenting Essentials

The Perils of Apple Picking

Picture: B sitting in his car seat enjoying the world’s biggest apple. He gnawed on it with only four teeth for nearly an hour. .

I love fall! One of my favorite fall must-do’s is to go apple picking. It’s become a family favorite. Shortly after moving to Maryland (pre-marriage and kids), my friend Betsy and I started making it a yearly thing. Now, it’s like a family tradition and it’s so fun to share with my children. We missed last year too on account of the factthat Betsy was in grad school, so we all were especially excited to go this year.

My two older children are six and four, so this was one of the first times that both of them could help with the picking. I usually do it, with a little verbal guidance from Betsy as to where to feel on the tree for an apple, but this year I welcomed the change from picker to pack mule. Upon our arrival at the farm, I realized I had forgotten my Ergo (baby carrier backpack). This was a very big deal as I would need to carry our one-year-old, new walker around. I’ve been carrying my kids this way when we’ve gone apple picking for years. I was so mad at myself for forgetting this! It’s not like we could go home and get it (we drove over an hour up to an orchard on the other side of the border into Delaware), and it wasn’t like there was a Walmart near-by for us to just zip down to either for a temporary replacement one. So, not wanting to ruin our day, I did the next best thing. I couldn’t realistically carry big bags of apples and my twenty pound son, nor could Betsy and the kids carry them all either, so we took the Sit n’ Stroll with us. Just a note, the Sit n’ Stroll is our car seat/stroller combo. The wheels retract into the base while being used as a car seat. It’s worth its weight in gold and one of my favorite baby products as a blind parent. (See my post on this gem) but it’s not really the most road worthy as it’s mostly designed for airport or mall travel. Definitely not farm land.

After a quick perusal of the craft displays and a visit to the port-a-potty, we headed down the road to catch our tractor wagon down to the orchard. You can imagine the sight of me helping the other two kids onto the wagon, passing one of them my cane to hold, and then climbing up myself while hoisting B strapped into his car seat in front of me. But, we made it and soon we were all excitedly picking some of the biggest apples I’ve ever seen and enjoying a little snack along the way.
After a while, we had three large backs (about 50 lbs.) between Betsy and me, and the kids had enjoyed themselves. Thankfully, the car seat had hung in there only getting stuck occasionally. We decided to load the car seat with the bags of apples and that I would carry B back to the wagon. WE thought this would work easier. And then it happened! One of the wheels got stuck in a rut and we were a bit too forceful in trying to free it when it suddenly snapped at the shaft of the wheel. I could have cried! Not only are these car seat stroller combos expensive and hard to repair, but I rely so much on it since I have to transport car seats so often from car to car and place to place. The other frustrating thing is that the same thing happened to our first Sit n’ Stroll which we practically wore out because we used it so often for our first two children. In that case, however, the wheel must have had a crack or something and already been compromised because it snapped off in the same way one night when I was pulling it up our driveway. I was never able to contact customer service to find out how to repair it as all the website contact info was outdated. I ended up finding a used one on Amazon and just purchasing a second one. The thought of having to go through the same process again, or purchasing another one was so disheartening.

Somehow we made it back to the wagon, though it was rough going. I carried B, one large bag of apples and sheparded the other two kids while Betsy manhandled the stroller with the other two bags of apples trying her best to keep it level so we could at least push it with the three wheels on the uneven ground. I’m sure her arms ached the next day. We finally made it back to the wagon and loaded everyone on. When we got back to the drop off in the parking lot, the kids, apples, and I stayed there waiting while Betsy went and got her car and drove it back to pick us up. Did I mention she’s a really, really great friend? Everyone needs a Betsy in their lives.

Picture: K standing with head and hands out from behind a wooden cut out photo prop of stocks with thought bubble that reads: “I shouldn’t have taken the apple off the trees at Milburns!”

By this point, the kids were cranky and so was I. It was time for a late lunch and to head home.
Upon leaving, we stopped off for lunch at Wendy’s where I tried drowning my sorrows in a chocolate frosty before calling Jesse to share the bad news with him. All in all, not my favorite apple picking adventure, but definitely one that will be remembered. Isn’t it funny how the things that go wrong later are the memories we look back on with a smile and fondness? I can’t wait until this feels that way because right now I’m still a little sad over the whole thing. It’s been a few weeks now and I’ve not yet replaced the stroller, but I’m going to have to as there is no way to send it in for repairs—at least to my knowledge. So, that will be dipping into the “Mary Jo shopping spree fund” (as if I really had one.  It’s also made some of our outings a bit more difficult, but I’m getting arms of steel from carrying the car seat when I’d normally pull it, and saving us a little money on rides on nice weather days since I’m more inclined to walk or take public transit so as to avoid having to juggle multiple car seats. So, I guess there are some small perks to be enjoyed. I’ll end on a positive note though and say that we’re still enjoying some delicious apple treats. Hopefully we’ll have better luck next year.

Parenting Essentials, Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

What’s in Your Bag?

The other day I was sitting at my daughter’s ballet class with my two boys. In our haste to make it to her lesson on time, I didn’t grab anything to keep my boys (3 and 9 months) occupied while we waited in the lobby. So, I began ransacking my bag for random happy meal toys, snacks, or interesting items that would hold their attention. Bonus… I ended up doing a much needed cleaning and purging of my diaper bag/purse.

As I was going through my items, it reminded me of those youtube videos where the women show you what they carry in their bag. I’ll admit, this sounds so silly. I mean, why would anyone really care about the contents of your bag. But, apparently these videos are highly popular. I’ll admit I have found myself watching a few in fascination—like a train wreck—and even with a little curiosity. Maybe it’s because I learn about new products, or just find it strangely fascinating to see how others live or what they do. I mean, isn’t that really why we all love Youtube anyway? In any case, it gave me an idea.


No, I didn’t make a video, but I did think that maybe it would be mildly fascinating to share what I carry in my bag as a blind mom. And, maybe this will help a new blind parent out.  I’ll spare you the typical “mom stuff” (i.e., diapers, wipes, snacks, keys, etc.) and stick to the unique essentials I keep with me on a daily basis.


  • Extra bells and twist-ties—I put bells on my children’s shoes so that I can keep track of them when we are out in public like at parks, the library etc. It allows me to hear where they are and track them better. But, sometimes the bells get caught on things like the metal grates on the playground and the zip or twist ties break off. My motto, be prepared.
  • Extra plastic bags –this may seem a bit odd, but sometimes locating a trash can is a bit of a challenge when you can’t scan around you visually to locate one. (I.e. like at a park or play area, etc.) If I’m by myself with my children, I don’t always want to take time to go hunting around to locate one with my cane. So, I keep an extra plastic bag in my bag for trash like food scraps or dirty diapers. I can put these items in the plastic bag and keep them in my big bag until I can locate the trash can, or get back home and throw the bag away. Grocery bags work great and you can tie them closed to keep them from spilling or stinking up your bag in the meantime.
  • Small foldable cloth tote—an extra small tote like a mesh bag or those reusable grocery bags which can be folded up and made compact come in handy. For example, when I go to the library, I am usually carrying car seats and don’t have a way to carry books we may check out. It’s difficult to shove them all in my regular bag, so having an extra bag comes in handy. This is also helpful when out somewhere and you stop off to make an impulse buy but don’t have a stroller or car to carry your items home.
  • Cane tips—this is a no brainer if you’re a cane user. Inevitably, your cane tip will wear out at the most inconvenient time, and trying to use a cane with a dead tip is no fun at all.
  • Portable cell phone charger—okay, not really a blindness thing per say, but if you use your phone as an accessibility tool like a magnifier or scanner, these apps can take a toll on your battery. Also, you don’t want to get stuck somewhere when you need to access apps like Uber or Lyft to get yourself home. You charge the portable charger ahead of time and then keep it in your bag for when you need it. No hunting around for a place to plug your phone in.
  • Carabiner clip—this is a great little accessory for hanging things on your stroller. I’ve found this very handy for times when I’m walking home from the grocery store or farmers’ market and have filled the bottom of my stroller up, or ripped the lining of it from overloading it. . . You can hook several bags on the carabiner and attach it to the handle of the stroller.
  • Headphones –again, not necessarily a blindness thing, but since so many of us rely on some kind of speech to use our phones or PDA devices, headphones are almost a necessity. It helps me hear the speech on my phone better when I’m traveling in loud environments or on public transit, not to mention keeps me from annoying other passengers with my phone jabbering. And, it keeps my texts or email messages private. Also, many ATM’s are now accessible with speech installed on them and headphone jacks, but they do not always come with a set of headphones. Additionally, when my husband and I go to see movies at the theater, we like to take our own headphones rather than use the large bulky ones provided with the descriptive listening devices.
  • Umbrella—this is pretty self explanatory when you walk a lot of the time. I also keep a bigger one in my stroller, but the small ones are great to keep in your bag just in case, especially if you need multiple one’s for you and your children.

In writing this, I also thought of two tips to share with new parents out there who may be trying to figure out what kind of gear to get. I find that having a messenger/cross body bag or backpack style bag is great because it allows me to have my hands free for using a cane and navigating a stroller, carrying a car seat, or holding onto a child. It also minimizes the times the bag will slip off your shoulders when you bend down to pick something up or are walking along (big pet peeve of mine.)  Second, since I pretty much have to carry everything I need with me rather than leaving it in a car, I find having a bigger bag that is lightweight works best. Keep in mind, you have to carry it all and may also be carrying a child on your front or back in a carrier.

So there you have it. I hope that maybe this is slightly interesting to some of you, and helpful to others. I’d love to hear of any staples other blind parents find useful to have on hand when you go out. And again, thanks for reading.