Friday, August 30, 2013

Squinkies

If you are like I was about six months ago, you read that title and went "WTH is a Squinkie?"

Squinkies are tiny little toys - I'd say they're a little less than an inch tall, about the length of my fingertip down to my first knuckle (although, I have really small fingers, so this may not be a scientific measurement).  Here's a LINK to the Amazon collection, and a photo:




These come in packs.  I guess some of the packs are rare or coveted or something, because prices for a pack of 12 seem to range anywhere from about $6 to $30.  You can also buy houses, castles, cars, furniture, accessories, etc. for these, all that are just tiny enough to get lost until you step on them at 3 a.m.  Why are you up at 3 a.m.?  Don't sass me.

A friend of mine introduced the idea of these to me as a potty-training bribe.  (Little A is very, very stubborn - she has been able to go on the potty since 21 months, but just has no desire to stop playing long enough to go to the bathroom.  Diapers are easier.  I'm not sure I can even fault that logic, it IS efficient.)  I wasn't really huge into the idea of tiny little toys that she could feasibly choke on, but we needed something more long-term than M&Ms.  She's old enough to know not to put these in her mouth, so we went with it.

Our system:  every successful trip to the bathroom gets a Squinkie.  If she stays dry in her underwear for a week, she gets the Squinkie castle that we had in eyesight.  She did really well at going to the bathroom, so she literally has dozens of Squinkies - every single one represents a bowel or bladder movement, which is a little creepy.  I sort of love telling people that when she shows the Squinkie collection to them, just to see how it goes.

She wasn't all that motivated by the random packs, so we stepped up the game.  Of COURSE they have Disney princess packs.  And of COURSE they are more expensive.  They've actually come down a little recently, but I think a Beauty and the Beast pack was something like $16.  This became a less cost-effective bribery system at this point.  Eventually it worked, however.

They're small, they can be relatively cheap.  The accessories and houses and stuff are actually quite inexpensive, too, so the "big bribe" (if you're using it as such) won't really put you out all that much.

However - these things really are tiny.  They are invariably going to get lost in your couch cushions.  And you're going to step on them, like I mentioned before.  If you have younger children or pets, they may not be great purchases.  There's also not a great system to organize them - I'm a touch OCD, as I've mentioned, so I got sewing boxes with compartments, and we broke up each Disney princess movie into their own compartment.  And then I go a little crazy if Sleeping Beauty is in with Ariel's crap, but regardless.  I saw giant storage tubs of these on Google that were all just mixed together, and I think I need to lie down for a bit.

If we have to potty train another child, I think I might really talk up the M&Ms.  But it worked.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stride Rite shoes

I have terribly high insteps.  Little A has the same problem.  Both our feet look like this, but much less knobby and Microsoft Paint-y:



As you can tell from this fantastic painting job, we're also both very narrow-footed, which is a pain because you have to get bigger shoes to accommodate the height, which means that your foot slides around back and forth.  The old adage is that a high instep is a sign of aristocracy (higher the instep, more elite the bloodline) - all it means these days is that it's a giant pain in the crack to buy shoes.  

We didn't buy A shoes until she was walking - from everything I read (and I read a LOT), it said that you should wait to put them into shoes until after they were used to the feel of the floor.  Also, it was cheaper.  Win-win.  Her first pair of shoes were some "Tommy Tickle" ones I got off of Zulily - they were soft-soled so that she could still feel the floor, but sort of eased her into shoes (which she was fighting by throwing themwhenever we tried to put them on her).  They worked well, and accommodated her high instep/tall foot well.  It was also a gentle way to make the transition.

We had a pair of little Keds next to make the transition to hard soles, but she refused to wear them - so we next bought some squeaky shoes.  Not squeaky as in "oh, they just need to be broken in" - no, these shoes had some device in the toes that squeaked like a dog toy every time she took a step.  It was cute for, oh, say, the first hour.  Then I wanted to throw them away - as did our amazing nanny.  Unfortunately, A loved them, and was bummed when we did transition her to the Keds.  The Keds worked okay, but her little foot was fairly crammed into there pretty tight, and I hated seeing the little marks they left on the top of her foot.

I looked at Target, Payless, Penney's.  Nothing really has much in the way of options for infant/toddler shoes, so you're sort of left looking online.  I looked on Amazon, and the reviews showed mostly shoes that weren't going to be tall enough.  Seriously, where do people buy toddler shoes, and where did they do it before the internet?

So, I made the next step up.  Stride Rite.  I was a little nervous about this because their shoes are a bit pricey when you consider that toddlers grow shoe sizes every few months, but we really had very few other options.  

We went with the Stride Rite brand of tennis shoe.  This isn't the exact one, as it was an older style, but it's pretty similar (LINK), ran about $35:




It's probably hard to tell when there is no point-of-comparison, but this is actually pretty tall.  I don't know that it had a whole ton of arch support, but it at least didn't gouge into her tiny little feet when she wore them.  They held up really, really well, and they had really good traction.  They were still a little wide for her narrow feet, but better than the Keds had been with the wide, flat bottoms.

Their sandal options weren't quite as great, most of them were a little low and cut into her foot, so we've changed to Adidas sandals since.  Flip-flops don't really work all that great on a climbing toddler, so we only use those for the pool or hot tub.

This post is relevant to maybe 10% of the parent population, as I think wide feet are a much bigger issue with littles, but hopefully it will be useful to someone.  I did just order a pair of New Balance tennis shoes, I'll see how those go.  There seriously needs to be some sort of "rent-a-shoe" thing online where they'll mail you shoes and a return box, and you get the shoes for 48 hours to try on your child, it's impossible to eyeball shoes on the internet.

Value:  $35.  A little more than I want to spend for multiple pairs of shoes every few months, but it's literally the only option I've found.
Child entertainment level:  N/A
Practicality:  If your toddler has high arches/insteps, this seems to be the best option available.

Monday, August 26, 2013

IKEA - CIRKUSTĂ„LT children's tent

A's godparents are pretty amazing people.  They are always thinking of her and us, even though they just had a new baby of their own.  So, even though we truly didn't request any birthday presents for her 3rd birthday party this summer, they had already gotten her the Cirkustalt children's tent from IKEA (LINK):  




According to IKEA's site, this runs about $19.99 (although, if you get anything shipped any sort of distance through them, it costs an arm and a leg).  

The assembly was insanely easy.  There was a little bit of adjusting, and it was all done.  I think it took me all of 30 seconds in our living room, and then we had to tear it back down and reassemble it down in her play room the next day.

We moved it because this thing is pretty big.  You're going to want to make sure ahead of time that you've got the 3.5 feet diameter free (it's also about 48 inches tall).  We had plenty of room in her playroom, as they knew, so this was an amazing gift - but definitely check that out before purchasing.  Otherwise you may just want to move the crib in here.

...Which is almost exactly what A has done.  She loves her circus tent.  Here is her shortly after it was assembled (please pardon the dollhouse figures on the floor, we'd had visitors earlier that day):




That is a smile of pure, unadulterated joy.  When we got it down into her playroom, she immediately put a ton of stuff in there, her most prized possessions.  Her sleeping bag is in there to use as a backrest, several of her most special stuffed animals (they perform in the circus), and a couple of fake CDs she had on which she pretends to play circus music.  (This mostly means her telling me to do the "doot doot doo doo doo doo doot doot doo doo" song at key moments.)  So, I guess she's sort of the de facto circus barker, because she's super-duper bossy when we're all up in there.

What I like about this best is that it's all of the fun of the circus, without the depression of thinking of abused or neglected animals performing for our amusement.  Win-win!  

Value:  We got this as an amazing gift, but I think it runs around $19.99.  For an enormous circus tent that's really well-made, that's a pretty sweet deal.
Child entertainment level:  10/10.  This thing is a great fort, as well as a circus tent.  We also play house in here, etc., etc.  Great toy!
Practicality:  For us, this is a 10/10.  You'll really want to make sure you have room first, though!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Where the Wild Things Are - Book review

It is fair to say that sometimes I over-analyze things.  It's just sort of how I am.  I fear that I may be going a little overzealous on the book Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (LINK):




I am admittedly a little confused on the message of this book.  I mean, Cat In the Hat?  Message there is obviously not to let a 6-foot talking cat into your house, he's going to screw crap up.  Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? has the whole exposition of the concept of endangered animals, I get that.  But I'm not really sure what the point of Where the Wild Things Are is, as delightful as I find the book.  And it's a very fun book, we read it often, I just am not entirely sure what message I am delivering.

The book starts with a child named Max in a furry suit (a wolf, more specifically).  We see him chase the dog with a fork and tell his mom that he's going to cannibalize her.  Here, check out this poor dog's face:




That dog is giving nothing short of an "oh, crap" face there.  Anyway, Max's mom decides the appropriate method of dealing with her possessed child is to withhold food from him, and sends him to bed without dinner.  (I guess she didn't want to feed the beast?  Maybe he's like a Gremlin, and he gets evil with food?  I don't know.)

So, then Max appears to go into some sort of dissociative fugue.  His bedroom turns into a forest.  This admittedly is one of my favorite parts of the book, I looked all over for tutorials on how to make A a bed that looks like this, but came up short:




So, then his floor turns into the ocean, and he sails over hours and in and out of days, etc.  He gets to a land of monsters.  At first he wants to make as much noise as possible, so he leads them on a rumpus and they make him king of the monsters.  But then he must get pissed or something, and decides to also send THEM to bed without any food.  So, I guess it's sort of like a cycle of food withholding, which really isn't anything to joke about.  Anyway, he gets sort of bored and wants to be back near his mom (Stockholm syndrome?), so he sails back home just in time to see dinner waiting on him.

I use the book to explain to A about all of the places her imagination can take her and so on - but I really do wonder that maybe Max is an undiagnosed, untreated, possibly violent schizophrenic. What if this poor boy is crying out for help when he tries to eat people and dogs, and then he loses time in reality?  Surely the treatment can't be to keep him from eating, unless all of the food you're giving him is laced with hallucinogenics.  And if that IS the case - just stop feeding him hallucinogenics.  It's actually pretty easy, I just don't eat hallucinogenics all of the time.  I'm doing it right now!

Seriously, though, we do love this book.  But, yeah.  It's sort of weird.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fisher-Price Dora The Explorer: Playtime Together Dora and Me Dollhouse

We had a conundrum this past Christmas.  Little A really had been infatuated with the dollhouse at our daycare provider/nanny's house.  So, we had to decide what kind we wanted to get.

There were the big ones made by places like KidKraft that were about four feet tall, each of which would accommodate a Barbie standing up.  (We do not currently have any Barbies, mind you, but this was a potential concern.)  We looked at the Fisher Price Loving Family dollhouses.  We looked at bookcases that could double as dollhouses, little tiny toy animal dollhouses, etc., etc.  

There were things I liked and disliked about each of them.  We lived in a tiny townhouse, so the KidKraft ones seemed a little impractically large.  And do you have to, like, secure them to the wall if they're 4 feet tall?  That seems odd for a dollhouse.  The Loving Family ones were nice, but A didn't know anything about them or care much about the families - so, while the price was okay, the expansion packs all ran around $20 on up, which made it add up pretty quickly.  

A and I were at Target walking through the toy aisle, and we found this Dora dollhouse (LINK):



These are currently listed on Amazon for about $50, I found it on super-sale for around $35 or so.  It comes with Dora and her parents, a toy dog, bed, couch, sink, stove, and a little table thing.  This was a pretty sweet deal, and she LOVES Dora with a passion I will never understand, so we went this route.  We purchased the dining room add-on and the master bedroom (each running between $8 and $15 at the time), and my husband's mom got the bathroom and living room, I believe.  We got some of these in the store, but it was fairly picked over, so we went on Amazon for most of them.  

This add-on is for Dora's friends - Boots, Tico, the Iguana thing, and Swiper (because a Dora dollhouse is sort of useless without Boots or Swiper):  LINK.  We were going to get it before Christmas when it was listed at $12, but decided to wait because we'd already gotten all of the other crap.  This must have been the Holy Grail of Dora expansion packs, however - we watched it go two weeks later to $15, another week later to $18, and by the time we were ready to buy it, it was at $25.  We decided to wait until they came down.  I think we instead got a pack that had Diego, the twin babies, and Dora's grandma.  Swiper and the gang came later, once the laws of supply and demand were on our side.

Anyway.  So, even though A roughly knew ahead of time what she was getting, she had mostly forgotten by Christmas.  So, this is how we spent the entirety of Christmas morning:


(She was obsessed with fairy tales at the time, so her grandma made her a red cape.)

This toy has been a staple in our house.  First she was a huge fan of the fact that the doorbell rings.  She just wanted to lie out there and have Dora's daddy or someone from inside of the house open the door.  She'd be waiting outside with a cake or something, depending on the day, and want to be invited in.  Then we had to trade places.  Also, the toilet can make noise, so that was a lot of fun, too.

Later she liked to take the little puppy that comes with the set and play hide-and-seek with him.  He fits inside of a footstool that comes with the living room set, under the beds, under the stove and sink, inside of the bathtub but not the potty, etc., etc.  The puppy is also really good at staying hidden if you accidentally leave him under a toy or book you left out somewhere, too, which results in a pretty hideous meltdown.

We've had this toy for 8 months, and it's a staple in our house.  She goes through phases where she's not as attached to it, but overall it's been a great toy.  It folds up nicely so we can take it both upstairs and downstairs easily, and it's small enough that it fits in a corner.  I feel like it was a good purchase for us, and we can always upgrade to a big dollhouse later.

Value:  $50 (we got it for $35), expansion packs are between $8 and $20.  Pretty good in comparison to other dollhouses out there.
Child entertainment level:  10/10.  Constantly playing with this.
Practicality:  9/10.  Very portable, the pieces are just sort of little.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Diapers

Ah, diapers.  One of the most expensive things that will ever catch your child's feces.  Not only are they expensive, but we also have the benefit of either filling up landfills (disposable) or using a ton of the earth's water supply (cloth).  It's a great feeling, isn't it?

I have mentioned previously that A inherited my husband's and my insanely long torso and short legs.  This means that she has a longer than average butt area.  Not weird or anything, just long enough that diapers that were even the littlest bit too short would cause blow-outs.  Sort of like this, from the back:




We decided to go with disposable diapers with A.  We were such new parents, we decided to go with the easiest decision at the time; we'll likely go with at least some cloth in the future (and they're so cute!!).  However, since the only cloth we tried with A as a baby were gDiapers (which I did not like), this blog post will only cover disposables.

Anyway - so, when A was born, the hospital put her straight into Size 1 Pampers.  I don't know if they just don't usually carry Newborn size, or if they recognized right off the bat that she had a little amazon torso, or what.  They worked great and we didn't have blow-outs, they just seemed so big everywhere else and sort of started to rub against her umbilical cord stub (plus, we'd gotten a ton of Newborn diapers as shower gifts).  Hence, when we got home, we decided to switch her to Newborns.

First we used Huggies Newborns diapers.  I liked these because they have a little cut-out for the umbilical stump.  You can sort of see it here:




This was more convenient than folding down the front on the bigger Pampers, but my problem was that the backs didn't go far enough up, and I didn't feel like the sides were great at holding in all of her little bodily fluids.  We ruined a few adorable little baby dresses this way.  We tried the Size 1 Huggies to see if it was just that they were too small; that fixed the issue with the back for the most part, but those sides just still weren't cutting it for me.  Plus, I honestly didn't really like the way they smelled.

So, next we tried some Up & Up brand diapers from Target that we'd received.  After I pulled the sticker tab things off of three of these in a row on three different occasions, we moved to the Pampers and didn't really look back.  I don't know if we just got a bad pack, as I know others have great luck with Up & Up, but it sort of frustrated me enough to move on.

We moved back to the Pampers Swaddlers, which I'd never had an issue with really at the hospital.  First we tried the Newborn size - the Newborn sizes are just not made for babies with long torsos.  However, we were right back to it working perfectly with the Size 1.  What I also really liked about the Swaddlers is the pee line.  I'm sure they have a more delicate name for it, but basically there's a thin yellow line that turns blue when there is some sort of bowel-ly emission.  It looks like this (not the bowel-ly emission, the pee line):


(Really hoping that they just used water to get the pee line to work)

This was nice so that I didn't have to smell my baby's junk and/or butt, and also so that I didn't have to put my finger in the diaper to check.  When they're so tiny that they don't have a giant pee diaper, it's sometimes hard to tell from the outside.  This method avoided pretty much all grossness.  

So, we became a Pampers household.  The Swaddlers only go up to about size 3 (boo), so we changed to Cruisers for the daytime and Baby Dry for the night when she outgrew those - the Cruisers specifically make a longer trunk area, so that was a help for us.  I know that the change in the type of gel Pampers used bothered some babies (although it was pretty well cleared of being damaging) - I really think some babies are just sensitive to certain things, and that wasn't something to which A was sensitive.  This was sort of a miracle, since she's got REALLY sensitive skin.

Pampers are not exactly the cheapest diapers out there.  Also, I'm sort of lazy and don't like going to the store twice a week for diapers.  So, we started using Diapers.com.  I think you had to get $50 worth of merchandise to get free 2-day shipping when I started; now it is $35 and over.  It's sort of awesome - you just log in, buy some diapers, and wait for them to show up at your front door.  (I wish someone would change the diapers the same way.)  I think Amazon Mom works similarly, I just didn't like scheduling out the diaper delivery, as I didn't really track A's diaper-use schedule that closely.  

Anyway.  That's today's chat on baby butts.  Please feel free to share your opinions - and if anyone has a "this is the best cloth diaper ever that even your husband who refuses to handle poop will like" recommendation, please share that, too!

Monday, August 19, 2013

JJ Cole Collections Diaper Caddy

As I mentioned previously, our old townhouse was three stories.  Since A's changing table and such were in her bedroom on the top floor, we were not near it for about 90% of the waking day.  Hence, we needed a mobile diapering system that could easily be transported between floors.

A friend of mine really highly recommended the JJ Cole Collections Diaper Caddy (LINK).  Here's a photo:




We got that exact one, in brown.  It currently runs about $29.99 (although, when we got ours, I could only find it at Babies R Us for about $40).  The side facing you has a drawer underneath (the part with the metal ring), and then on top is a little cubby deep enough for a standard baby wipes container.  The other side is as deep as the whole side of the caddy, so you can either fit approximately 60 (exaggeration) newborn diapers in there, or about 15 or so diapers for a bigger kid.  The little drawer on the front is great for diaper rash cream, or extra binkies, etc.  

There is an enclosed diaper lay-down thingie for the floor, too, so you can protect your carpet/table/carseat from poop stains.  Which, all in all, isn't a bad idea.

I'm not sure how to mince words about it, so...  We freaking love this thing.  My buddy Amanda was right.  It's the perfect size, super easily portable.  Even now, we still use it - here's a photo of ours (in the lower right of this photo).  I have thoughtfully edited out all identifying information:




As you can see, this thing is jammed with big girl panties, baby wipes (NEVER giving those up), pajamas, and so on.  I carry this thing up every night when we go to bed, and it comes down every morning.  

If we have another child, I actually plan on getting a second one of these, as well as maybe a replacement one for this.  After A accidentally bodyslammed this one, the handle became just the slightest bit bent.  It's still usable, so I won't replace it if it doesn't get worse, but that's Plan B.  

The only surprise I had when I got this really was just that I expected it to maybe be plastic or something inside, but it's just pretty reinforced cardboard.  So, it can bend if you or someone you love lands on it.  If that's a big potential problem in your household, you may want to look at, say, a fire safe or something to carry around.

Value:  $29.99.  To be honest, I balked at the price of this a bit, especially since it was even higher when we purchased it.  It seems a bit high just for the convenience of carrying around baby butt covers.  We have used the heck out of it, though, so I think we've gotten our money back out of it.
Child entertainment level:  Not applicable
Practicality:  This is very practical for households where you might be changing your baby in any number of locations.  If you live in a studio apartment or something where that isn't a concern, I'd probably skip it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I Can't Wait to Meet You (Book about IVF)

As I mentioned in a previously, we had fertility issues.  Me, specifically - and pretty severe ones.  We were finally blessed with our miracle baby (for a whole host of reasons) after five years and in-vitro fertilization.  Luckily, our area has an IVF clinic with a lab in the top 5% of all clinics.

During my pregnancy with A, I wondered how we would explain to her about what made her so special.  We already were going to have to explain her angel sister in Heaven, but that's somehow been easier than explaining that she is even more special than I can explain.  While I was on six months' worth of bedrest, I came across this book:  I Can't Wait to Meet You.



It's got a really nice idea behind it.  A mother who conceived her child via IVF wrote a book explaining the process.  There are some parts that are just so sweet, talking about how the child was treasured long before he or she was ever conceived - which is true, IVF babies are the culmination of a long time of hard work, expense, heartache, and physical pain.  It does a pretty good job of using terms a child can mostly understand, but it does throw in some terms that are a bit more clinical than I really wanted to dive into at ages 2 and 3.  For example, I think the word "sperm" is used about six times in here.  Not really a discussion I wanted to have for a few years, but I guess medical exactness can never be a bad thing - so we've just rolled with it.

What does kill me about this book is that it fairly imprecisely covers the emotions and physical discomfort endured in IVF.  For example, here's a crappy camera phone shot of the pages describing egg retrieval (sorry, my scanner is still packed somewhere from when we moved two months ago):



Anyway - first of all, it looks a little bit like that nurse is just going to suck the eggs out with that tubing there.  Um, there's actually an enormously long, scary needle that goes through the wall of your uterus and into your ovaries, sucking out the eggs one by one.  I don't know if long, snaky tubing going up into your vagina and then sucked on would be more or less weird?  Definitely less hygienic, and what if she accidentally swallowed one?  Many women are asleep during this, but I was not due to my resistance to narcotics - I was not comfortable like this lady in the photo is, and there certainly was no blanket discreetly covering my lady regions.  It hurt like heck while about six people got an up-close-and-personal view of my entire anatomy.  Also, I can assure you that a fishbowl filled with (presumably) toilet water was not the preferred storage device for the retrieved eggs.  I'm hoping the procedure would have cost a lot less if that's all the more technical it was.

Here's the book's depiction of the sperm donation (by the way - DUDE, guys have it so much easier):



Just a few dozen issues with this:
1.  No doctor ever has handled the creepy "hey, here's my semen" hand-off.  They pay other people to handle that.  If he had to, he certainly wouldn't be jovial about it, or get his clipboard (or bare hands) anywhere near that cup.
2.  The wife would not be present and upright for this transaction.  She's just been pumped full of narcotics and had the insides of her ovaries ripped out, she's probably not there to give the big thumbs-up to her husband, who only had to go into a dark room with a Playboy and have at himself.
3.  Wow.  I've got to say it - that's an impressive amount of semen.  That cup is at least half full, maybe more.  That's the only reason I can guess that old Charlie is grinning like crazy there - if their fertility issues had been male-factor like a low sperm count, just having a half-pint of semen there has to even out the odds.

So, Charlie and Grace have given their biological products, and the embryos are growing.  In the book, they get strong by hitting punching bags.  I don't know, I'm not an embryologist, maybe that is accurate, but I somehow doubt it.

They get ready for the embryonic joyride back into Mom then.  (This is where that tubing is actually used, but nobody blows in or sucks on it.)  Here's the depiction of the embryos being transferred into the neck of the uterus and hopefully implanting:



For a book that is fairly clinical, it did make me laugh that my fallopian tubes and uterus are depicted as a slip-and-slide.  I also see at least three embryos in this photo, which is not the statistical average reported by the CDC - but I digress.

Anyway - in short, I think this is a great book.  I change the names of Grace and Charlie to "Mama and Daddy," and the name of the doctor to that of our reproductive endocrinologist, so that A thinks it was especially for her.  It's sweet, and it makes her happy, and she loves to read it.  I love the last few pages where it drives home just how special IVF babies are, which is a lovely idea.  It's just a bit funny how it gets there at a few points.

Ideally, I would like to write a book for A and any future children (we have two frozen embryos left) that tells their unique story, including their sister who passed on.  But this is a pretty sweet way to explain it in the meantime.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Boppy

Breastfeeding is HARD at first.  I can barely cook macaroni and cheese, it terrified me while pregnant to think my body was the sole source of nutrition for a whole other human on the planet.  That's sort of a lot of responsibility for someone who sometimes forgets to put on two of the same shoes.

I really, really wanted to make it work, though.  I had very few friends who had nursed, so I asked around on how they accomplished it at home.  Several had used a Boppy (LINK) because that's what was at Target, so I got two - since I had a medically-necessary C-section, we had one upstairs and one downstairs.  Here's a photo of one of the ones I had, which runs $39.94:



In case you're unfamiliar with the concept - basically, you put the pillow around your waist, put the baby on the pillow, and you put your boob on the baby (well, in his/her mouth).  This just is meant to make it easier to cuddle them to you and get a good hold while nursing.

I may have mentioned before that I'm pretty busty.  Not enormous, but healthy-sized.  More than I actually need.  I felt like this made it difficult to hold A in a traditional cradle hold, so we wound up using the football hold (where you hold the baby off to your right or left side, their feet behind you and head in front of your breast).  The Boppy really did not accommodate that very well once she got much beyond a few months old - the top of the Boppy is rounded and not incredibly wide, so I felt like she'd start to roll off unless I really held her pretty close to me.  Heaven forbid you need to take a drink of water while nursing, your beloved infant is going to land on the floor on their head.  Seriously not cool.

What I did like about the Boppy was that it was great for her to recline in when she was small (only when awake, never let them sleep in it, ESPECIALLY unattended), and was then good for helping support her when she was learning to sit by putting it behind her when she got a little older.  Here's a photo of her around 6 weeks chilling on the Boppy while I was pumping:

(Apparently unamused with my 9 a.m. witticisms)

So they had their value, but I'm guessing I'd likely use the football hold again on a second child.  Additionally, due to the fact that we have to do in-vitro fertilization, our chance of twins is a lot higher than the average person's.  Scary high, to be precise.  If one baby can barely balance on a Boppy after a few months, two sure couldn't simultaneously (unless they're born to circus performers and have natural acrobatic skills).  Due to all of that, I've done some additional research since and will probably go with a My Brest Friend pillow in the future (LINK to their products page).  Even their most basic pillow has a larger flat surface than the Boppy, which would be beneficial.  What's great about the My Brest Friend, though, is that you can also get different models - in particular, there's a model for twins or plus-size mamas:



Lots more surface area there, enough that you could put a baby on each side.  I also love that the My Brest Friend goes behind you, as well, so it gives your back support (really, 360 degree support, which is nice.  It's more ergonomic than the Boppy.  I also like to imagine that this is sort of like wearing a portable picnic table, which is awesome - I could fit some chicken wings, pasta salad, and a lemonade on there!  Their prints are very cool, too, if you're into looks (which I admittedly sometimes am).

So, overall - the Boppy was okay.  It worked when A was little, and it worked for non-nursing reasons pretty well, but I don't think it was the best system possible.  

Value:  $39.95.  This is pretty normal for a nursing pillow.  Heck, even if you just purchased two bed pillows and tried to develop some sort of system, it would still be at least $14 a pillow, even at Target or Wal-Mart.  So the value is pretty good - you want a specialty product, you pay a bit more.
Child entertainment level:  Oddly, pretty high for a nursing pillow.  You can use it quite a bit for them to recline or practice sitting.  5/10, maybe?
Practicality:  For me, this was fairly low.  4/10 or so.  I will be using a My Brest Friend in the future, if we have another baby.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sippy cups

Even though A breastfed into toddlerhood, we still had to have a system to deliver milk and (later) water into her little belly.  Bottles were the obvious choice when she was little, but we preferred not to send her to preschool on a bottle.  So, we had to find a sippy cup system that worked for us.

The issue with average sippy cups is that she had difficulty getting it tilted up high enough to get the water at the bottom when she was super-little (even though she'd had it down with bottles?  I don't get it, either).  I researched a bit, and found a pretty decent solution - the Tilty Cup (LINK).  Basically, it has a diagonal shelf that divides the cup in two in a way that's pretty ingenious - it keeps the fluid high so that the child only has to lift the class part-way to get out their tasty drink.  The problem?  It looks sort of like this when you set it down (except I think the spout is actually on the other side - anyway):




That would be copious amounts of milk (our milk really isn't that color - usually) spraying out the top and landing all over the table, floor, your lap, whatever.  My daycare provider at the time wasn't the world's biggest fan of this one.  So, I'd say we used it for about three weeks, just until A understood the concept of tilting her cup.  Since they're roughly $28 for two of them regularly (although we found a sale on Amazon), this was not a stellar deal.  I'd probably only go this route if you don't mind your house looking like a dairy exploded all over it.  It was useful, but not $28 useful.

Next we went to a NUK sippy cup with a soft spout, because A was so used to nursing or bottles that she really needed that soft spout.  Here's a LINK and a photo, they run between $5.99 and $9.99:


These were pretty great, she had two handles onto which she could hold.  Here's a photo of her at just over a year, able to navigate this with a broken arm (that was terrible, by the way):




Again, I'd say the cost at the upper end was a little extravagant for a drinking cup that will, at some point, be used as a throwing apparatus.  It worked for what we needed it to do, though.  The issue with this, again, was leaking due to the soft spout.  A wanted some chocolate milk in one of these today, and it got ALL over her and her adorable little elephant chair - and she's three years old now, much better motor skills.  So it's not like this gets better over time.

Within, say, three months or so, she was ready for a hard-spout cup.  We are big fans of the Playtex insulator cups.  We have approximately 70 that look like this:



At $7.99 for two, they're the cheapest of all I've listed.  We get a ton of use out of these.  They don't leak, they don't break when they're dropped/pitched out of the car, they have a hard spout that is durable and cleans easily.  Here's A making a princess picnic, you can see her pink drank there in the midst of her fanciness (please note that the doll in the highchair at the bottom is apparently eating cookies and fuzzy pom poms):



Really, the only downside to these occurs if you happen to, say, leave one full of milk in the hot car for a couple of days, and you maybe only find it because of its smell.  Not that such an instance would ever happen.  Here's how the inside of one of these lids looks (the little plastic dealy comes out):



Now picture that plastic thing all caked in nasty, rotten, putrid milk.  Appetizing, right?  It washes out okay, but it always just seems a little funky to me.  I think maybe there's a way you can buy replacements of these, I just haven't found it quickly offhand - but honestly, at $4.99 for one or $7.99 for two, they're not terrible to just replace if they're too awful.  

With a future child, I'd probably skip the Tilty Cup and maybe even the NUK, and go for a MAM Learn-to-Drink cup (LINK).  I'm a big fan of MAM (that's a different blog post), and that is a learning sippy that is spill-proof.  They're also a little skinnier at the middle than some of the others, which is wonderful for tiny, pudgy little infant/toddler hands.  Once that's outgrown, we'd probably stick with the Playtex Insulated.  Hopefully we reproduce more girls, since pretty much everything we own is pink.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Babylegs

We live in the midwest.  Sort of the upper midwest - the part that gets mega-cold in the winter, and super-ultra humid in the summer.  We probably have more than four seasons - six, maybe?  Cold-as-crap winter, why-isn't-it-spring-yet, spring, I'm-going-to-melt summer, Indian summer (I hope that's okay to say?!), and fall.  So, as you can likely guess, that means we have to have a plethora of clothing on hand at all times.  Long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts, snow pants, tank tops, rain boots, snow boots, flip-flops.  We have to have them all available at any given moment, because you sometimes have no clue how the weather will be when you walk outside.

It also means that it's hard to climate-control your house sometimes.  We had a three-story townhouse when A was an infant - the top story is hard to cool in the summer, hard to heat in the winter.  Since the bedrooms were up there, it meant that you really had to dress according to the season - layers and layers and layers.  A was born in the middle of summer, so we got her those little sleep gown things:




They're sorta awesome because you can change the baby's diaper without unzipping or unsnapping anything.  We would just put some little socks on her (if it was a concern), and she'd be fine sleeping.  I mean, we had the occasional diaper blowout in them, so several of them sort of looked like this at the end, but I don't know ANY type of pajama that wouldn't have been similar:


(Yes, I AM a professional artist.  Thank you for noticing.)

Poop stains on sleep gowns aren't really the point of this post (mostly just gross filler).  The point is, I loved these sleep gowns and will totally use them again if we have another child, because I'm too lazy to take off pants for a 3 a.m. diaper change.

The problem became what to do once fall and winter hit.  I had a variety of thin and thicker ones of these, but they only go up to a certain size, and her little legs were now long enough to stick out the bottom.  I really was still pretty anti-pants-during-nighttime-diaper-changes, so I struck upon what I find to be the perfect solution:  BabyLegs!  (LINK)

What are BabyLegs?  They're like awesome little 80s-Flashdance legwarmers for infants/toddlers, usually made in either cotton or polyester, and they do have organic ones.  There are other brands, but I always did the BabyLegs brand because I knew it, and because I liked their designs.  What I would essentially do is put the BabyLegs on A, diaper, and then a sleep gown over the top - keeping her legs warm, yet still ensuring that I could change a diaper blindfolded in the middle of the night:




She was pretty young in that shot, maybe 5 or 6 months.  They went pretty well up to the top of her thighs, and had lots of room down by the ankles.

Here's a shot around a year - I know you're jealous of our fashion sense (we had probably 15 pairs, these went the best with this particular dalmatian print):


(Yep, that's a stuffed possum beside her.)

That's just to show that they still went all of the way up her legs with more room at a year old.  We've gotten our money's worth out of them.

The problems with BabyLegs?  There aren't a ton, but here's what I've got:

1.  At first blush, you think they might be a little expensive ($12 or so per pair, sometimes more for organics and such).  But the good part about that is that BabyLegs has monster sales a few times a year.  I'd save up and they'd have a crazy sale that was something like "take $20 off of a $40 order" - and most of the stuff would already be on clearance.  I'd wind up getting five to ten pairs for $20 or so.  They also have a pretty healthy clearance section at all times that's about 50% usually.

2.  They get sort of addictive.  That sounds silly, but you wind up wanting different ones that they can wear under a tutu out of the house - but then you'll need one to match a pink skirt, and a green skirt, and a... you get the idea.  And they also sell socks and tights - of COURSE you want to get the socks that match the leg warmers you have, right?  So it's sort of a hard habit to break.  I know some people just buy knee-high socks and convert them to baby leg warmers to accommodate this.

So, in short, we are BabyLeggers.  We've been BabyLeggers for a long time, and will be for a long time.  I will pump the Flashdance theme song and put them on any offspring I pump out for the remainder of my reproductive life.  I just wish I could find them in day-glo colors.

Value:  $12 or so regular, but look for their sales.  You can also find sales on these at places like Babysteals.com, mamabargains.com, etc., if you watch closely - not quite as many designs available, but they're still a great deal.
Child entertainment level:  Not applicable.  Unless they really like Flashdance.
Practicality:  10/10.  For me, these were THE only nighttime solution.  I have sort of a "thing" about my babies wearing pants during the day (it's related to germs, don't ask), but these were lifesavers when A would sleep through diaper changes.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Babywearing for a Dummy



When A was first born, I had an awesome-awesome-awesome friend let me borrow their Moby wrap.  (LINK - as you can see, not the techno dude from the late 90s.)  This thing was so soft and cushy for baby, and you could make it as tight or as loose as you wanted - but I'm not going to lie, I simply could not accomplish wearing this without my husband helping me.  It's, like, 9 or 10 feet long, and I'm 5'2" in shoes with short little arms.  I loved it when he helped me into it, but I couldn't do it by myself.  Since my husband and I were working opposite shifts at that time to minimize the amount of time A had to be in daycare, that left a lot of time with it not working for me.  I think I should be able to get it in the future, I just need to study more or train A how to tie a knot.  The price on these is pretty moderate, around $45 or so for a wrap - I think they're an amazing deal.  I know wraps are very coveted and can go up into the several hundreds, but this is a great starter!

Since I liked the idea of a wrap for a wee baby, I found the My Baby Nest carrier (LINK).  It essentially works like a wrap for people with short arms like a T. Rex.  

(I do not look exactly like this, just roughly)

Anyway.  It's basically two loops and a belt part.  So it's got the basic setup of a wrap, but you can do it on your own.  It was not the cheapest, ran about $70, but still pretty reasonable for a baby carrier.  Except remember how I told you I have big boobs?  Yeah - with it not being very easy to customize how tight this is (or, conversely, how loose), I had the choice of wearing this and smothering A with my giant rack, or returning it and looking for something else.  I went with option B, as I didn't want her most traumatic childhood memories to be linked with boobs stealing her air.

By this point, A was old enough to be worn in a sling.  So I tried, if I remember correctly, a SevenSling (LINK), roughly $40-ish.  Um, first off, I would not recommend this site because they got kind of weird with my credit card information.  (They also make Udder Covers - since they were advertising a free one where you pay shipping, I did that, and they charged a crap-ton for shipping and it also went weird with my credit card.)  Also, they NEVER STOP E-MAILING.  Anyway, the carrier didn't make me feel very good about my daughter, as she was still pretty little.  I think I'd have felt more comfortable with her in a sling if she were older, but this one was a pretty rough weave and I didn't really care for the construction a whole lot.  I'd probably look at Etsy or something next time.  I think I returned this one as well, I sure couldn't find it in my damn house.

So, I finally decided that she was big enough that I wanted to try a soft-structured carrier.  I am not coordinated to use a lot of the wraps (yet), too Chesty LaRue for the My Baby Next, and didn't really dig the sling at the point I tried it.  I did a lot of research between the Ergo and the Beco Butterfly II (which is actually no longer made, but I'm reviewing it anyway), and decided on the Beco Butterfly II.  Here's a LINK.  It ran about $140, which was the most expensive carrier I'd tried yet, but it was really well-made, had an insert for infants, could be used for both a front carry (which we love) and a back carry (which I have yet to figure out).  It goes up to 45 lbs, so I could still cram A in there if she'd let me (which she won't at this point, but it's nice to have options).

A loooooooved her carrier.  Here she is around 10.5 months, you can't tell the best due to the anonymity bars and binky, but she's grinning from ear to ear:

(I did not protect the anonymity of the dude in the background's butt)

I have pretty poor posture there and am slouching out at the waist, but even then it was really easy on my back.  She would let me wear her in it until a bit after two years old, which was awesome and so convenient, I didn't have to drag the stroller anywhere.  She loved this thing so much that she wouldn't let our care provider use it to try it out on any of her own children!

I guess I've read and learned a lot more about carriers since back then.  I think if we had a future baby, I'd definitely use the Beco again, and check out their new options, but consider the following:

- Look at an OnyaBaby and a Tula for a soft-structured carrier.
- Look at wraps like Oschas and Ellevills and such, but just not be such a dumbass and figure out how to use it.
- I REALLY want to use a mei tai.  It's the same theory as a soft-structured carrier, but with sashes that you tie instead of buckles and snaps.  You can get them from any number of places on Etsy, etc.




Friday, August 9, 2013

Itzbeen Pocket Timer vs. Eepples Milk Charms

As I have mentioned before, nursing was super-important to me.  We had a whole bunch of trouble in the beginning (and our fair share of other problems throughout the two years), but I am ridiculously stubborn and was GOING TO MAKE IT WORK. 

I'm also an over-planner - which sort of doesn't work that well with how laid-back nursing should be, but that's a different blog.  I knew my weaknesses well enough to know ahead of time that I was going to need a system.  (Everything needs a "system," as far as I am concerned.  You should see how I kept track of kick counts - even my OB with OCD thought I was nuts.)  

I did a bunch of research on ways to track when you'd last nursed/pumped, how old a bottle of milk was (which became important later, since we had to exclusively pump the first four months due to A's small mouth), etc.  I first found the Itzbeen Pocket Timer (LINK):




It ran about $25.  What it essentially does is tell you how long "itzbeen" since you did something last (i.e. - since you last fed baby, changed baby, since baby last slept, etc.).  It also has an alarm feature.

In theory, this is genius.  I mean, assuming you remember to click it.  Now, I had a backup system where I had organized a tiny notebook into hand-drawn columns that looked something like this, except with some other columns I've forgotten, but I could totes look it up because I saved 6 months' worth of these things:




So, if you're keeping track at home, I would first hit the little button on the Itzbeen, then cross-reference it in my spreadsheet.  This worked fine during the middle of the day - but I don't know if you knew this, babies eat and poop at night.  They just do, all of them.  It's a conspiracy.  And while there is a backlight on the display, my eyes are TERRIBLE and I couldn't tell what all of the dang little buttons were (since they're grey drawings on a grey background).  So, this became pretty worthless for about 12 hours of the day, since I wasn't going to wake A up even more to use this.  She's always been a crappy enough sleeper as it is.

So, System A got thrown in the toilet.  The Itzbeen was cute and all techy (which I had originally liked since we're both in IT), but it wasn't practical.

And then I discovered the genius of Eepples (LINK).  They look like this (three for $15):




If you click on the image, you can get a better idea of what those are (if your eyesight is as bad as mine).  They're genius!!  You just turn the little flower dial to the time of day you pumped the bottle on the one side, the day on which you did it on the other, and then you either put the milk in the fridge or set it out or whatever you do with it.  You don't have to guess if you're giving your precious baby some rancid milk that will leave him/her a pooping, screaming, uncomfortable mess.  This was even more than enough information for my planning self, because I had the other information (nap/bowel movements) in my little Notebook of Crazy.  It's a lot easier to handle a big, multicolored dial at 3 a.m. than it is a little electrical gadget (additionally, there are no batteries to fail you).

My normal summary thing doesn't work for this comparison, so I'd just say that I by FAR recommend the Eepples!  Cheaper, works better, and is a better long-term solution, because the Itzbeen clears all previous data every time you reset it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Graco Blossom 4-in-1 Highchair

For some reason, I was under the impression that we needed a high chair the minute the baby was born - even though we delayed solids until A was 6 months, and we were, you know, nursing.  I don't know if I pictured her sitting in her little high chair and me leaning over her face to nurse her?  I'm sure that wouldn't have traumatized her for life.

So, I looked around on Babies R Us - which, coincidentally, is almost the most expensive place you can buy anything.  There are a very few things that are exclusive to them, but you can get pretty much anything on Earth at Amazon, so I don't know why I thought that was a good idea.  Digression aside, I did a bunch of research on all of their models, and chose the Graco Blossom 4-in-1 Highchair (LINK).

This was not the cheapest chair on the market at around $180.  But I looked at it closely, and it grows with the child.  It works as a traditional high chair for when you need it (and have room):



If you don't have room for the whole high chair, or want to take it to Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma's or something and the base won't fit in the back of your Volvo, you can use it as an infant feeding booster by just yanking it off the bottom:



We passed that stage and are currently in the toddler booster, and then will eventually go to a youth chair:

 

So, anyway.  There's also a video about how it works that you can watch on the Babies R Us site, I think, if you're that weird into researching (like I am).  

Our old townhouse was tiny.  Three floors, so each floor was pretty small, and the bottom floor was really just useless square footage set up as the entry way.  We had a dining room, but it wasn't practical, so we'd end up rolling the highchair into the living room a good portion of the time and having to eat there.  Not ideal, and we've rectified that since moving, but it's what was functional.  We ended up using the high chair a lot - A would eat in there, but we'd also use it to make cookies (I'd just put some tin foil down on the topper thing and let her have at rolling them), and we'd also use it for crafts.  When we got snowed in for about a week around Christmas this past year and had no actual craft paper at home, here's a picture of A using glitter paint on cardboard with Q-tips in lieu of paintbrushes (which we also didn't have).  That's horribly jank, but at least she's adorable (please excuse the clutter due to limited space and cabin fever):



So, it was a good purchase for us.  The booster is working for us well, since our girl has a long torso it's the perfect height for our dining room table.

Around 1.5 years, A got rotavirus, even after being vaccinated.  It was terrible, just barf everywhere for days, I felt so terrible for her (until of course we caught it, then we all just felt terrible period).  We'd think she was doing great, she wouldn't vomit for almost 24 hours, so we'd give her food, and then she'd barf again.  Twice this happened in the high chair.  My note on cleaning barf off of this high chair is that it's terrible.  Straight-up terrible.  There are a lot of little crevices down by the butt area, and the straps were the worst.  I cleaned and sanitized them, but they smelled like puke for three weeks.  So, if your child is a puker, you may want to put him/her in a poncho or something before using this car seat. 

Also, this chair is heavy.  You're most likely not free-lifting this thing to move it without throwing out your damn back.  Also, if you stub your toe on it, you will possibly break that toe.  My husband did once, and I've had some pretty awesome swelling.  So, I guess the good news is that it's stable and not going to drop your child on the floor or anything.

Value:  Around $180, depending on retailer.  That's a little hefty, but if you look at it as a highchair plus a booster plus a chair, all of which you may or may not have to buy individually, it's not terrible.  They may have similar 4-in-1 systems now, as I purchased this three years ago.
Child entertainment level:  Not really relevant, but A was comfortable enough to fall asleep on occasion.
Practicality:  I'd say 9/10.  It's a little bulky, which brings it down a point, but it can be fitted to so many situations that I think it's a pretty solid purchase.