Monday, July 21, 2014

Lily Jade "Baby Bags"

The two diaper bags that I had from when Pickle was little were pretty girly - lots of pink and flowers.  Even the "gender neutral" one I had from Petunia Picklebottom (that I didn't really like that much, review HERE), was pretty feminine.  I felt like I wanted to look around for an inexpensive, inventive solution that doesn't lock me into it being solely a traditional diaper bag.

That's when I found the "Baby Bag,"  part of the line of designer diaper bags by Lily Jade.  Put simply, this is an insert with all of the regular pockets, zippers, and cubbies of a traditional diaper bag, but you can put it inside of another bag you already have to transform it.  Here's what it looks like sitting on its own:

And looking from the top down:

This is the Medium Baby Bag Organizer in red, but they also have a large size - both the medium and large sizes are available in both red and khaki, and both run $55 regularly.  (Right now, however, they're running a sale for $10 off!  LINK - they're also featuring all of their gorgeous new bags that were released this month, which all still come with a free Baby Bag for a 2-for-1 value!)  

You can't really tell from these photos, but I have stuff inside all of the interior pockets, diapers in multiple outside pockets, and diaper balm in yet another pocket - and there's still a ton of room.  I don't have changes of clothes or the like yet, as I'm still only 34 weeks and still nesting - but you can see that I can fit a ton in there in addition to what I have already.  The medium bag is 15" x 8.5" x 5", but is made of flexible, washable material, so it expands really wide beyond the advertised five inches.  The tote has a zipper on top, as well, to that makes it additionally versatile.

Have a $7 tote that you want to turn into a diaper bag, or a $300 Coach tote purse that you would prefer to keep using rather than switching to something with a cartoon on the outside?  The Baby Bag works for either of those, and more!  I took a simple, inexpensive tote that I had from Amazon, and transformed it into a cute, gender-neutral bag that doesn't scream "I have dirty diapers in here!" just by popping in the Baby Bag Organizer:

As you can see, the Baby Bag just slips right inside, and is low enough that diapers and the like don't pop out of the top.  If I wanted to personalize this more for the young man we'll be having soon, I could easily get the bag embroidered with his initials or something similar.  Due to the wide base of the Baby Bag, I didn't have to worry about attaching it to the tote at all, it just sits right inside.

I tried this, as well, with a purse I had:

Again, just a standard-sized tote purse.  The base on this exact purse is a little narrower than the Lily Jade bag is at its full expansion, but it easily accommodated all of the items that I already had packed inside of the Baby Bag.  I took this with us out to dinner with our 4-year-old and packed it with some snacks, books, and so on, and it was such a better solution than just throwing everything in my purse.  I could still put my wallet and checkbook in the pockets of the purse, so I wasn't losing any functionality as an actual purse.  This was the perfect way to crossover a purse and a diaper bag without having to invest in a new bag that I may not like quite as much!

The other great thing about the Baby Bag is that you can just carry it around the house as a diaper caddy/organizer.  It has spots for a nursing cover and a changing pad, so you can easily fit in any supplies that you might need around your home.  It's not huge and cumbersome, so you could easily tuck it out of sight in a drawer when you're not using it.  With it being washable, it also makes it a great option to keep at a changing table without fear of it being ruined.

I'd recommend this organizer easily for any parent.  It's a convenient, inexpensive alternative to the traditional diaper bags on the market, yet is stylish and full of features.  When I'm done using this as an insert for a diaper bag, I plan on using it as a camera bag - the pockets are the right size for lens attachments and memory cards, and it keeps all of the items organized without them being a mess.  So, I'll be getting use out of this bag for years to come!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter

I don't get exceptionally large when I get pregnant - rather than going out, I tend to carry really long in my torso.  That keeps me from getting all-over stretch marks, but I did get a couple near the end of my pregnancy with Pickle where her head was sitting (I was pretty lopsided and carried all to the left).

Those two stretch marks had gone away by the time I got pregnant this time, so I wanted to try and keep them away.  I invested about $11 in Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter (LINK). 

I started using this around 26 weeks or so, when I popped.  It's got a great smell (as Burt's Bees is so great at doing!), and isn't super-greasy.  It's mostly just like a thick hand lotion.

It worked great for the first three weeks or so, but I've still developed a couple of small stretch marks in the same area where I had them with Pickle, as well as new one.  I don't know that there was much the belly butter could have done to prevent the ones in the area that I had before, but the new ones are a little less encouraging.

All in all, this is one of the cheaper belly butters on the market, and it may be doing SOME good, but I don't know that I'd purchase it again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Baby Bump Kick Counter App

So, I’m sort of nuts.  This has been well-established.  I’m a worrier, particularly during the pregnancy stages when there’s almost nothing I can do to control what’s happening.  To try and balance that out a little bit, I track as much as I can.

Kick counts are something that I track pretty religiously.  When I was pregnant with the Pickle, I had an early Android phone, which had no apps available at the time for kick counts.  I purchased and downloaded an app for my iPod Touch, however – the Baby Bump app.  (LINK)  

At the time, it was about $5.  It looks to be free currently – I’m not 100% sure, as I just re-downloaded the already-purchased app onto my iPhone.  The app is currently more robust than it was when I originally had used it – it’s got a kick counter, contraction counter, links to a pregnancy forum and daily updates about your baby’s development, info on names, and more.

I have used the kick counter extensively.  It’s pretty simple – you just go into the application, and you select to do the kick counter.  You start a new session, and this screen comes up:

You simply tap the button at the top whenever you feel a kick.  It will keep that session active until you reach ten kicks – or, I believe, two hours, whichever is first.  We’ve never gone beyond about four minutes, so I’m not 100% sure on that, but I believe that the app explains that you have not hit the expectation of ten kicks in two hours.  

You can then go out to the screen where it has recorded all of your previous kick counts for this pregnancy.

You can then, in this screen, use the pencil icon in the lower right to send all of your recorded kick counts via email.  This is nice if you want to keep track of this info, or if your OB maybe requests it.  

OR, if you’re extra insane, you can create a spreadsheet into which you can copy all of this info, such as the one shown below, and then graph the results.  I will not verify whether or not this is our little dude’s info from last week:

Since we had a scheduled C-section with Pickle, and I had contractions from 16 weeks on,  I didn’t use the contraction counter.  It seems to work similarly, however, you simply click start whenever you’re having one, and then it calculates your frequency.  It seems like it’s about as handy as a stopwatch, but you’re much more likely to have a phone on-hand than a stopwatch (unless you’re a track coach or something).

I really have enjoyed using this application.  It’s an easy way to do kick counts without losing track of how many times he’s kicked, when I started, and so on.  I also love that it keeps the log for additional security.  And, assuming it actually is free, you will definitely get more out of it than you put in.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Multi-Purpose Lap Tray

Pickle loves to draw, color, paint, write, and pretty much anything else you can do with craft products.  We have an easel for her in her playroom, but some of these projects are easier to do upstairs while I am working in the kitchen or something similar.  I wasn't all that wound up about her using markers on the big leather ottoman we have in our living room, since she's still 3 and has her moments when she forgets to put lids back on things when she's done.  Hence, I wanted to get her a little station where she could do all of the crafts that she wants from the comfort of the living room.

First I checked Amazon, and found a decent plastic tray for about $17 (LINK).  That was okay, but it's just plastic and is bound to take some preschooler abuse, so $17 seemed like maybe just a tiny bit more than I wanted to spend for something that would likely end up being almost disposable.

We were in Hobby Lobby shortly after that initial internet search, and found a Multi-Purpose Lap Tray (LINK) for $6.99.  As far as I can tell, these seem to be fairly identical.  It was in the section next to the kids' crafts and toys - so while it would definitely work for an adult, I think it was geared for children.  Perhaps most importantly to Pickle, it came in pink.  Seeing as how she told me just last night that she "just wants everything around to be pink," this was a pretty big bonus.  

This set up is really convenient.  There's the little tabletop part on the top which is the drawing/crafting surface.  Off to the one side, there's a deep pocket that goes the entire length of the table - this is great for spare construction paper, notebooks, anything you might need.  On the other side of the flat surface, there's a cup holder and a separate little pocket.  We store markers, kiddy-safe scissors, glue sticks, and so on in that smaller pocket.  The cup holder is perfect for a sippy cup, but we also have put a glass of water in there so that she can use watercolors before.  It's really convenient and kids love to hide crap all over the place, so it also makes Pickle feel like she has her own little special cubbies that are just hers.  It was definitely worth the $7 we paid for it.

I have read that some people use this tray in bed or in the car (or a child uses it in the carseat).  It's not incredibly durable, so I'm not sure how well it would work for that - Pickle put a crack in one edge of it by putting a lot of her weight on it (keeping in mind that she weighs less than 40 lbs).  We'll likely be replacing this one in the near future, but it's continued to be usable even with that cracked edge.

The only other minute complaint I might have about this would just be that there is a lip around the edge of the flat area.  If, let's say hypothetically, glitter happens to spill into that little area, it's almost impossible to clean out.  Pickle does occasionally eat snacks at her little tray, as well, so it's also a food trap.  I've dug dried paint and such out, so it's definitely possible, but we have since learned to just put down wax paper before doing any crafts where much of anything can spill.

Pickle loves her little table, and it saves our floor and furniture.  All in all, a pretty solid win for $7.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Pregnancy Items I'd Love to Review

There are lots and lots of items on the market that are designed for use by pregnant women.  But some of the biggest day-to-day problems still aren't addressed.  I would love if someone would invent these products, I would review them in a second:

1.  Belly protection - Being pregnant while having an older child in the house is wonderful and magical.  That older child really gets to interact with your growing belly.  However, toddlers/preschoolers are accidentally dangerous.  They don't mean to kick/punch/headbutt your belly, but it happens - and you fear every time that a little tiny person is going to fall out of your uterus.  Pregnancy Kevlar vests or something would be a great idea to wear around the house.

2.  Extend-o arms - I know that there's no way to really make your arms longer, but it would be nice if there were some sort of hook or something that could help you put on socks in the morning, or clip/paint your toenails.  There's a certain point in pregnancy at which you just sort of think, "Eh, flip flops are fine, even if my toenails look like a wild animal's."  

3.  Belly rearview mirror - I'm not sure how else to say it, so I'll just go for it.  After a certain point in pregnancy, personal grooming becomes a guessing game.  Please take this poorly-illustrated cartoon as an example of a pregnant woman's field of vision.  
So clearly drawing hands and faces aren't my thing.
That grey area is the area that a woman can see effectively when she's looking downward.  Anywhere from the belly down pretty much becomes a mystery.  You could be growing a goiter on your upper thigh and have no clue (I know that's not medically possible, but stay with me here).  If there were some way to attach a rearview mirror to a belly belt or something so that you can see what you're shaving, it would certainly make things easier.  I don't know many people who love going to weekly OB appointments with unruly body hair all over their lower half.

4.  Food-o-meter - I think I'm fairly well on-top of what you're not supposed to eat when pregnant.  Anything lunch meat-y, fish with mercury, soft cheeses, caffeine.  Wait, there's also herbal tea, alcohol, raw vegetable sprouts, sushi, and more, you say?  Wouldn't it be nice if there were some little sort of food-tasting device that you could put a little bit of the food in question into, and it would tell you if some sort of baby-harming bacteria or chemical is in it?  I suppose a phone app is probably more practical, but sometimes you are really craving that roast beef sandwich and want to know if "just this once" will hurt things or not.

There are lots and lots more, but these were just the ones that came to my mind based off of my last 24 hours of pregnant existence.  I would give any of these the most positive review ever.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Maternity clothes on a budget

There are something like 4 million babies born in the US each year.  I’d guess that would mean there are something like 3.25 to 3.5 million pregnant women, after accommodating for multiples (does that sound reasonable?).  WHERE ARE THEY ALL FINDING THEIR MATERNITY CLOTHES?  I ask this in super-serious all caps because I have scoured most of the state I live in, and I can barely find anything.  What I do find feels like it’s ridiculously expensive for something I’ll wear four or five months at most per pregnancy.

Target does have a maternity section (our local Wal-Mart and K-Marts do not, so I’ll skip mentioning them).  We have a pretty decent-sized Target, and yet there are maybe only three small racks of maternity clothes, and even fewer styles.  Despite the fact that this is a discount store, even the most basic V-neck tees generally run $20 or so.  Their online offering is more robust, and using their Cartwheel app can sometimes score you some discounts that makes it worth asking fellow mamas where the Target is with the biggest maternity section.

Old Navy and Gap both have online selections that are really pretty good.  Their in-store selection definitely varies based off of the location.  Our Gap’s maternity section is at the back of the babyGAP, and it’s about seven or eight racks’ worth.  I’ve found that they generally carry the more expensive items in store, which can be a little annoying, but their pants are probably the most comfortable on the market.  The key is to try and hit at the end of a season and score on the sales (both in-store and online).  Old Navy’s in-store selection is a little more haphazard, in my experience.  It seems less organized, and all of the items are sort of just thrown in a little corner.  I have been able to find a few sale items that I liked, but prefer to shop their selection online, and then return in-store if something doesn’t fit.

Motherhood is our local store that clearly has the biggest selection, as it’s entirely dedicated to maternity and nursing garb.  I will admit – I will usually go to their store to try something on, and then order it online.  The reason for this is that they seem to run more sales online than in the store (a common sale is to buy two clearance items and get the third free).  I also find a bigger selection of petite pants online than I generally do in-store.  

JC Penney and Kohls have a very, very limited section for us locally – two or three racks in each store.  Their selections online are definitely more complete, but a little pricier than most of the above options (other than the Gap).

These next two places don’t have any stores local to me, so I don’t have any experience with them in-store, but they’re both great choices for cheap, cute items.

Asos is a site that I believe originates out of the UK, but they have a US site.  They have lots of options that are inexpensive and trendy.  They have a lot of casual stuff, maybe less in the way of work gear if you work in a formal or business casual office.

H&M has probably the best maternity selection I’ve seen as far as looking remotely modern, and the prices are incredibly reasonable.  What’s great is that you can also pick up some kids’ items at the same time for a low shipping price.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Medela Pump-In-Style Advanced Breast Pump

While nursing the Pickle, I used a Medela Pump-In-Style Advanced breast pump.  I pumped in varying degrees during the entire two years that she nursed, so I became very familiar with it.

The PISA is sort of known as one of the main workhorse pumps.  It's a dual pump, so if you're more coordinated than I am (this shouldn't be tough), you can pump both sides at the same time.  It has two speed settings - when you first begin pumping, it is a faster/harder suction to accommodate the initial letdown.  Then, after about two minutes, it slows down.  I ended up needing to press the button to go back to the first setting usually just to work with my particular needs, so I sort of wished at the time that it didn't automatically change the suction setting, but I think that would be a bonus to people with more standard needs.

With the pump, you get the following items (or at least you did 3.5 years ago) - cooler bag with ice pack, standard-sized flanges and connectors, tubing, an AC adapter unit for mobile use, and four Medela bottles.  Mine also came with a little sample of a few milk bags, and some Medela lanolin.  We didn't want to have to completely wash all bottles every single evening - since I was pumping multiple times a day at work and even more at home, this meant that we needed about 8 extra bottles.  The bottles have come down in price since then; at the time, this meant about $15 for three extra bottles.  I also needed a different sized flange.  Once I figured out the best system, it worked great.  Our daughter had a small mouth, so we pumped around the clock for the first few months - other than the fact that I felt like the pump was talking to me during the middle of the night pumping sessions on zero sleep, it worked really well despite all of the rigorous use I put it through with round-the-clock pumping.

I got my pump in July of 2010 - it worked great for about a year, and then the motor burnt out.  This was part of a big group of pumps that had this issue during that time frame, so I was able to contact Medela and get a new one sent out immediately.  Their customer service was great - they express sent me the new one and prepaid shipping packaging, so all I had to do was box up the old pump and send it back.  

I'll be using the same pump with our upcoming arrival.  I don't see any reason to change - the only reason I might have considered changing would be to get a hospital-grade pump, but I think those are much more expensive.  This one works great for the cost.