Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Star Kids Snack & Play Travel Tray

I have the sweetest four-year-old on Earth, but she is a little whirlwind of messiness.  Miniature disaster areas follow her, despite me cleaning up after her and her cleaning up after herself.  I sort of imagine her to be like a real-life Pigpen from Peanuts.

So, when we recently bought a new vehicle to accommodate our recent addition, I tried enforcing a very, very strict "No food or drink in the car" rule.  This lasted a few weeks, but life happens - we run late to school and need to eat breakfast on the go, or we have a long car trip that spans snack time.  Best laid plans get put aside... and the interior of my car becomes a crumb-filled disaster.  

And then we got a Star Kids Snack & Play Travel Tray (LINK).  

It's a cool invention - it's a small nylon table that has a strap that goes behind the child in their car seat, and sits on their lap as a table.  It has mesh pockets in the sides for sippy cups, food, toys, and so on.  It's pliable so that it can bend to fit different car seat sizes, but is firm enough that a little one can color or play on top of it.  It's the perfect size to fit a few toys or a small art set.  Since it's nylon, it wipes down easily and looks just like new.

We decided to put it through the paces with a doughnut breakfast this week, to see how it kept the seats clean.  Here's a shot of Pickle enjoying her breakfast:

She had a sippy cup of water in the mesh pocket on the side, and this easily fit across her entire lap.  The best part is that it caught every single crumb!  It saved my car from becoming a disaster area, and all I had to do was wipe it quickly with a wet washcloth, and all of the frosting and crumbs were gone.  It dried quickly, and then we used the tray to practice handwriting on the rest of the drive.  Since the tray only runs about $19.99 (LINK), it was a great price-point for such versatility!

If your child is still working on the whole "neat and tidy" thing, I really recommend the Star Kids Snack & Play Travel Tray.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nurse Purse pump bag

Our little man is here!  He is amazing, and he is just perfect...  We do, however, have to pump on occasion after nursing due to a tongue tie - and we will be pumping daily once I return to work.  

I have a Medela Pump In Style Advanced breast pump.  Due to the Affordable Care Act, most insurance plans do not cover the black backpack with new pumps; a bag must be purchased separately.  

I looked around and researched the available off-the-rack bags available.  Nurse Purse (LINK) and Juno Blu (LINK) are the two main ones, with Sarah Wells also available I off the rack.  

Here are some basics on how the different bags break down:

Nurse Purse:
Cost - $129
Material - cotton laminated canvas, water resistant lining. Easy to clean.  
Extra space - Rear pocket fits folders, exterior pockets fit bottles, interior storage for laptop, zippered interior pockets.

Juno Blu:
Cost - $185
Material - Vegan leatherette.  Harder to clean.
Extra space - exterior pockets are thermo-insulated, interior zipper pocket, cell phone pocket, key ring clasp.  

Sarah Wells:
Cost - $145
Material - Faux leather.  Harder to clean.
Extra space - Exterior pockets for bottles, interior zip pocket, padded pocket for iPad or small laptop.  

To me, the lower cost, spaciousness, and ease of cleaning made it an easy decision that the Nurse Purse was the most practical choice.  Like the others, it also has sufficient interior room for a cooler or baby items, and can transform to a tote when you are done pumping.  

I got the opportunity to try one out, and it is everything promised and more.  The spot for the pump in the front pocket is big enough that you can leave the Medela pump in its canvas case and still have storage space for the cord and plug.  You don't have to disassemble the whole thing every time you are done pumping - which, for a mama exclusively pumping, can be up to 12 times a day.  

There is awesome attention to detail in this bag.  My favorite part is that there is a little spot for a photo of your baby inside the zippered area for your pump - this tiny little addition aids in letdown, which is an added bonus for mom.   The canvas and cotton exterior is not only practical, but the brand has by far the most fun designs of the off-the-rack pump bags.  

My laptop fits perfectly in the exterior pocket, so this will be an easy bag to use when I return to work; I can get work done while pumping.  There is also just a ton of storage inside, due to the bag's size - I have an entire box of breast milk storage bags, pump parts, and much more inside of this bag, and still have ample room for more.

All in all, I think this is a great, efficient bag.  Of the three off-the-rack options for a pump bag I looked at, this one is the most economical, spacious, and practical.  

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.