Monday, September 30, 2013

Baby Shampoo/Hair Care for Curly-Haired Babies

Shampoo has been a legitimate concern of ours since the day Pickle was born.  Here is her on her first day of life:



(Yes, those would be locks of hair on my newborn.)

She had enough hair for a mohawk for her very first in-the-hospital bath (we didn't think to get photos). 

We sort of had guessed that it was going to be that way - I had been born with enough hair for a ponytail, and had been experiencing insane amounts of heartburn throughout the pregnancy (which actually isn't just an old wives' tale!).  Hence, we had stocked up ahead of time on baby shampoos.  We received quite a bit as shower gifts, which was nice so that we could try different kinds.

We, of course, received Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo, because this is America and it is what pretty much every child ever had slathered on their head.  Pickle was born in 2010, before they removed formaldehyde from the list of ingredients in 2012 (LINK) - so I was a little wary of using it.  I knew it wasn't the kind of formaldehyde that was a carcinogen, but I still wanted to be as natural as humanly possible with the agents going on her skin - in particular because she's had very sensitive skin since she was born.  So, to be honest, we skipped Johnson & Johnson and all of the store-brand knock-offs of it.

Next we tried Burt's Bees shampoo/conditioner (LINK).  It was good, and smelled great, and was really great on the curly hair that Pickle was already starting to sprout around 4 months or so, since it was free of parabens, phtalates, sulfates, and other damaging products.  However, there was still sodium benzoate.  This is also a carcinogen in some cases.  And I know that it's not like Pickle was drinking this, but I just wanted to find something as natural for her hair as possible.

We ended up with Angel Baby Shampoo and Body Wash (LINK):




This shampoo has just nothing bad in it.  Hence, it left Pickle's hair incredibly soft, and smelled great.  It's about $10 for 5.3 oz, so it's definitely pricier than most baby shampoo, but that's because of the high level of quality in it.  

Now we had the issue of how to detangle and tame her hair after the bath.  Which was a bigger project than you might think.  I don't know a ton of 9-month-olds who had hair like this:




Like any small child, she would freak if I accidentally pulled her hair (a normal reaction, I'd think) - and unfortunately, this was harder to avoid than it might be with a child with less and/or straighter hair.  And, for the same reasons as I listed previously, I wasn't all that wild about using the Johnson and Johnson Detangler.

I had been using a product called Matrix Biolage Smoothing Shine Milk (LINK) for some time.  It does have Dimethicone in it, which some people avoid - but the reasons that they avoid it aren't really for safety, but because it coats hair a bit when you apply it.  This is actually exactly what we needed for Pickle, something to coat it and make it easier to comb, so I applied it to her hair directly after a bath, before combing.  It works great as a detangler, helps with frizzies, and additionally makes hair shiny.  It's got a few more chemicals in it than I am comfortable with, especially since it's in spray form, so we put a towel around her face before I apply it.

So then we had to worry a touch about hair gel.  Which is ridiculous with a child under 1 year old, but her hair just turns into a giant ball of frizz if we don't.  I have been begrudgingly using some gel that I already had, but I am very curious about this product from Poofy Organics:  http://www.poofscloset.com/servlet/the-78/healing-dsh-scents-unscented-hair-gel/Detail  Spray gel is much easier on an active now-preschooler than pomades and regular gel, and I feel like this one may be a good fit.  If we get it, I'll report back.

So, this is all fairly specific information for babies with a lot of curly hair, but it's been pretty useful info for us over the past three years.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: A Bargain for Frances

Earlier this week at Pickle's preschool, they had a bin of free books that we could take home.  I saw a book I had read when I was a child and vaguely remembered liking it in the fogs of my memory.  I'll preface this post by saying - I'm going to just spoiler the crap out of this book, so you probably want to stop now if you want to be surprised if you ever read this book to your child.  I'm not going to judge you for what is sort of an odd desire, but just reiterate that you are going to learn the ending if you keep reading.

The book I found and picked up was A Bargain for Frances by Russell Hoban (LINK):



It is the story of a young female rodent - a badger, I think, and her adventure with a friend.  I'll just jump right in on how the tale goes.

The scene opens with Frances talking to her mom.  The conversation goes approximately like this:

Frances:  "Hey, Mom, I'm going to Thelma's house.  See you later!"
Mom:  "Yeah, be careful."
Frances:  "Why on earth would you possibly tell me to be careful going to a girlfriend's house?"
Mom:  "Because Thelma's a little hag.  Remember the time you went over there to play boomerang, and she spent the whole time bouncing it off your skull?  Or the time you wanted to go ice skating, but the ice on the pond was really fresh, and she insisted you go try it first?  Remember how you came home with hypothermia?"
Frances:  "Oh, right, I remember now!  Surely nothing can go wrong this time, I'm just going over to play teaset.  See ya!"

But clearly Frances is wrong, and something CAN go wrong, or else there would be no premise to the book.

So, Frances goes over to play tea party with Thelma.  (Coincidentally - I don't think these names were really all that popular even in 1970, when this book was originally published.  Maybe with badgers, though, I don't know.  I haven't googled that.)  They get there, and start playing with Thelma's plastic tea set with red flowers, which is apparently the worst thing in the world.  Thelma asks Frances why she doesn't have one.  Frances, admittedly, gets a bit uppity and says that she's saving her money for a real china one with blue flowers, because they're so much better; she'd had one previously and broken it.  Here's a screen shot of Thelma's apparent plastic crap-fest:



So, what happens next shows that Thelma is the worst badger ever.  She starts working psychologically on Frances.  That conversation goes sort of like this, and it works best if you hear Thelma's voice in your head with, like, a vampire accent or something:

Thelma:  Well, you should buy my teaset.
Frances:  But I don't want this giant turd of a teaset.  I just said that.  I've saved up $2.11 for this new one.
Thelma:  This one is plastic and won't ever break unless you step on it [side note - this is a pretty suspicious thing to say].  And it's got these little red flowers on it.
Frances:  Yeah, I got that, but I want a blue china one with blue flowers and a dude on a boat on the side.  I have literally told you that six times.
Thelma:  Whatever.  I don't want to sell you mine anymore, anyway.
Frances:  Whaaaaat?  Why?  Well, I guess that's okay, since I still want the china one.
Thelma:  I don't think you can even buy the china one anymore.  I had a friend who saved up $2.12, and she went to the store, and her mom couldn't find them anywhere.  She even had a guy in the mafia look for them, and NO LUCK.  So, anyway, good luck, sucker.
Frances:  Whoa, whoa, whoa.  This sounds like a totally valid scenario.  Let me run home and get my money and give it to you for this teaset I don't like, just so that I don't end up with no teaset.

See the ninja mind tricks there??  Anyway, so Frances does that, and she takes home the red plastic teaset.  Her sister, I forget her name but she carries around a wooden duck on a string or something, asks her, "Why do you have that teaset?  It's ugly as heck.  I like the blue flower china one."  Frances explains you can't buy those anymore, and her sister says something to the effect of, "That's absolutely fallacious information.  My little friend bought one for $2.05 at the candy store that we visit on the daily just last week, they had dozens."  And then, in your brain, you can see poor little Frances' brain just explode into a million pieces when she realizes her mistake.

She walks to the candy store to confirm the duck sister's story, and she sees this in the window:



That would be the evil Thelma purchasing the exact tea set Frances wanted with Frances' own money.  But Thelma had said "no backsies" all super-foreshadowy like earlier, so there wasn't anything that Frances could do to say backsies.

So, does Frances take this lying down?  No.  She puts a penny in the sugar bowl or something of the crappy teaset, and calls Thelma.  And then she proceeds to exact psychological warfare on Thelma.  She calls her and it goes sort of like this:

Thelma:  Hi, Frances.  Remember, no backsies.  [Side note - and you just know from someone who picks up the phone and starts a conversation like this that they are the devil.]
Frances:  Yeah, whatever.  Anyway, since there's no backsies, I'm gonna go ahead and keep what I found inside the sugar dish.  See ya!

She hangs up, and sits smugly beside the phone waiting for Thelma to call back.  Which she does.  And it goes like this:

Thelma:  Hi, this is Thelma.
Frances:  Yeah, I knew you were going to call back.  NO BACKSIES, HAG.
Thelma:  Right, but I think I might have left my birthday present from Uncle Jerry in the sugar bowl.  Was it a diamond bracelet?
Frances:  Nope.  Not telling, no backsies.
Thelma:  Um, or it might have been money.  It might have been $2.  Or, wait, wait, $5!  That's it, it was $5!
Frances:  I don't have to tell you how much money I found in there, no backsies.  If you want it, I want my money back.
Thelma:  Well, I spent your money in the most diabolical way ever.  How about I bring you the new tea set I bought, and the 5 cents extra I made off of you, and then I can get mine back?
Frances:  Whatever.  I guess.

So Thelma gets there, and they do the switch back.  And Thelma finds out it was only a penny in there.  And then with the coldness of a serial killer, all she says is, "That wasn't very nice."  And Frances is like, "Nope, it wasn't.  Nor was what you did."  Thelma says she's going to have to be careful around Frances from now on (in a quaint show of irony), Frances says something like, "Do you want to be careful, or be friends?"  Thelma says, "Friends," so they take that extra nickle and go and buy candy at the candy store.  

I feel like the ending of this book is something of a letdown.  First, it's saying that if you just straight-up lie and stoop to someone else's level to exact revenge, you'll get what you want.  And that may actually be how things work in the business world, but this is a book for 3 to 5 year olds.  I'm not sure that's the exact message we want to be sending.  Also, Frances just goes back to trusting Thelma, who has screwed her over three times, just because Thelma says she wants to be friends?  If I were Frances' mom, I'd be pissed.  I wouldn't want that little badger anywhere near my daughter, I'd go all Mama Bear on her.  I find this all very unfulfilling.  I think maybe it would have been cooler if Frances, after saying, "Nope, what I did wasn't cool, neither was what you did," she did something like light a candy cigarette, glare coolly at Thelma, and walk out of her life forever.  That would be much more appropriate.  But whatever.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Petunia Picklebottom Boxy Backpack diaper bag

When I was pregnant with the Pickle, I was on bedrest for six months, so I had a lot of time to research things - I was lying on my back even while working, and then I was alone at nights because J was working second shift.  So I researched things to take up my time.

I felt like I found the best purchase for the best price most of the time.  I was probably flattering myself, but I'm okay with that - I mean, I was on bedrest.  Give me a little room.

I decided we were going to splurge on a Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag, though.  I'd read hundreds of posts of women talking about how much they loved theirs, best invention ever, nothing else was fit to hold their baby's soiled diapers.  Plus, it was trendy, I knew I'd be the only person in my tiny little midwest town with one (not that most people would have heard of it), etc., etc.  I found their clearance sale on their website, and got one.  I don't see the style I got on their website anymore, so I'll choose a random one (LINK):




If you clicked the link, you may notice that the price of this runs around $180.  I got it for a little bit cheaper, right around $100, and got a pattern that was gender-neutral so that we could use it for multiple babies AND so that my husband wouldn't feel emasculated carrying it.  But it was still about $100.  For a diaper bag.

Anyway - we got this shipped and I got it all set up before we went to the hospital.  It has lots of pockets inside, so I was able to organize pacifiers, extra clothes, bottles (which we didn't really need as we were nursing), diaper cream, whatever.  I was most excited about this feature - the front of it unzips into a portable diaper-changing station:




We took the PPB with us to the hospital, and it worked fine.  I mean, they already had diapers there for us, and it's not like we needed to use it a whole ton on the 15 minute trip between the hospital and home, so it was sort of illogical for us to bring with us.  But it carried her clothes back and forth great!

The more true test of the diaper bag came when we were out and about.  I found that, unless I was changing Pickle on a floor of a place I knew or something, I didn't really feel comfortable putting the diaper bag we were going to use constantly on a changing surface that was riddled with germs.  (I know, I'm crazy, I'm not ashamed.)  It's not like I can wash an entire diaper bag.

I also didn't feel like the pockets were very efficient, the more I used it.  We were pumping instead of nursing due to multiple issues within a few weeks of birth, and it felt like bottles had to be in 17 separate pockets since there wasn't a huge amount of room in the middle.  The pockets for diapers and such were nice, but I'll be honest - it was easier when I was running on three hours of sleep to just throw new diapers in a big sack rather than put them in individual pockets.  I couldn't put a bigger pack of wipes in here, I had to put them into a small carrying case - which always worked out TERRIBLY if we had a poop-splosion and needed more than six wipes.  

It was cute, but I also didn't think that the strap was incredibly useful.  It wouldn't work on a stroller, because the strap was too long and the bag would drag on the ground.  I did have a stroller clip, but always forgot where it was.

I ended up not using this bag after about four months, which still makes me physically ill.  We switched fully to a cute little personalized bag that my aunt had gotten Pickle when she was born.  It is basically just a big rectangle with a few small pockets, nothing fancy - but I can cram coats, toys, etc. in there.  We use it now for our portable potty seat.  

I hate to admit that I'm going function over fashion on this.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

MacGyvered Toys

So, kids like toys.  And toy manufacturers know that kids like toys, so they make them expensive, or sometimes hard to get, or possibly both.  It's a pretty ingenious system on their part - they just advertise during cartoons, whip billions of children into a frenzy over the toy that they are waiting just long enough to release that demand is at a fever pitch, release said toy, and then rake in the millions.  It's diabolical, and I respect it at the same time that I just a tiny bit wish it was acceptable in society to burn down businesses (after making sure nobody was inside to be harmed first, of course). 

At the risk of sounding all "I'm old as heck" or  "la dee dah, I'm pious and pretentious," sometimes I get really annoyed at the toys.  75 years ago, kids were pushing a hoop with a stick for hours, and that was an incredibly viable pastime.  It seems like pretty much everything on the market these days either lights up or makes noise, maybe even has a computer chip in it.  It's not like we refuse to let Pickle play with any of that, I just try to temper it a little bit.  

We also really like encouraging pretend play and a healthy imagination, so we'll sometimes MacGyver toys from junk we have around the house.  Or sometimes we will do this more because we do not want to leave the house or spend extra money, and less to do with ideology.  Basically we just sort of try to tailor a craft or a project to whatever her current interest is.  There is no way that these are Pinterest-worthy ideas that are super-cute, these are just things that will keep a toddler/preschooler busy for a few hours.  

For example, she was pretty obsessed with Little Red Riding Hood for most of the past year and a half.  For last Christmas her grandmother actually made her a gorgeous red velvet cape, but we made her little pink receiving blanket work for a while:


(Little Pink Riding Hood)

She walked around with that on her head for a solid month and a half - but that's only her MacGyvered costume.  She would have J and I take turns being Grandma - since we didn't have a wig or anything, she had us don a pompom she'd received as part of a cheerleading costume as hair, a Dora blanket, and put a poncho she'd received as a gift at our necks like a scarf:



We would then pretend to be sick and really want some cookies and flowers.  And you know what?  That stuff is awesome, because it brought her so much joy.  She had little baskets into which she would put pretend cakes, I bought her a little bouquet of flowers from Wal-Mart, and we had a whole scene to play.  

She was obsessed with lots of fairy tales during this time, such as Jack and the Beanstalk.  (But we would rework all of these fairy tales to not include death and everything/everyone being eaten by something bigger/angrier.)  She really, really wanted to climb a beanstalk.  First we got some glitter glue and painted some big lima beans to be her "magic beans," and then I fashioned her a beanstalk:



This literally could not be easier to make.  You need a pool noodle, some construction paper, some tape, a Sharpie, and some scissors.  Most parents have all of that (other than possibly the pool noodle) hanging around the house.  Make some leaves on the construction paper with the Sharpie, cut them out, tape them on the pool noodle.  (We got extra points for Pickle decorating the leaves with green markers.)  Instant beanstalk!  I have no idea how to ninja together a magical harp, so that's as far as we were able to go with this scenario.  Anyway - we designed this over six months ago, and she still plays with it constantly.  She likes to pretend to climb it by standing on the couch, and it cost a grand total of, like, $1.50.

I mentioned glitter glue previously, right?  That crap is like crack to little kids.  You have nothing around the house but some old socks and some glitter glue?  Instant craft!  Snowed in and just have a paper plate and some glitter glue?  Make a mask!  We had an old, small birdhouse in the garage - it wasn't riddled with lice or anything, it had never been used, I'm not sure why we had it.  We also had some glitter glue and stick-on jewels - this was two days' worth of fun:



It provided even MORE fun later when she picked off each of the adhesive jewels and hid them inside different potted plants around the house.  

One time when we lived in the townhouse, Pickle wanted to go sledding, but we didn't have a yard or anything - so we just took a printer cable and an empty cardboard box and made an indoor sled:  



She had me drag her around in this contraption for an hour.  My arms were cramping up from pulling around 30 lbs of toddler, but she had a BLAST.

I guess the point of this post was mostly just to say that, while I love finding great toys and games for Pickle, some of the things that give her more joy than anything else are just the little things we throw together with what we have on hand.  



Monday, September 23, 2013

Britax Advocate vs. Diono Radian RXT

I've mentioned BEFORE that I started off pretty concerned about car seat safety, and then slowly became more knowledgeable and knew more about my options.

Our infant seat for Pickle (our nickname for A) was a Chicco Keyfit.  This was a wonderful infant seat - got a really good close fit with the straps, we purchased an extra base that we could put in the other car, and so on.  We were able to use it until she was a year, at which time she became a little annoyed with reclining in an infant seat, and it was too hard to carry her in it all of the time.

I did a lot of research, and heard nothing but great things about Britax.  The top of the line seat at the time was the Britax Advocate 70 CS (LINK):




At the time, it was about $340.  Since we had to get one for each car due to our work schedule, this was a pretty hefty purchase.  (We had purchased one ahead of time when she was about six months as her first Christmas gift, because, hey, she was 6 months, what did she care?)  

We really did like this seat - it was pretty great.  The sides are incredibly thick, and great for side impact.  The LATCH system makes it fairly easy to install, but we did have to do the pool noodle trick.  The straps get a close fit (not quite as close as the Chicco, but still close) and are easy to tighten in a smooth motion with their "Click & Safe" technology.  

The problem was once Pickle turned about 32 months or so.  Britaxes are not made for children with tall torsos.  Which is, unfortunately, how Pickle has been shaped since she was in the womb - they were worried that her legs were measuring a few weeks behind the rest of her... until they looked at J and I.  We also have long torsos, short legs.  Anyway.  In theory, the Britax should be able to accommodate a toddler rear-facing until four years old.  Unless your child is shaped like this:


(I didn't screw up her hair - it's both brown and blond right now.)

Here's a photo of her from when she was about 34 months - you'll notice that her head is almost exactly an inch below the top of the shell, which is all the taller you can be rearfacing in a Britax:




So, our options were either to forward-face her, which neither supporting statistics nor I were ready to do, or find a new seat in which she could continue to rear-face.

I did a ton more research, and found the Diono Radian RXT (LINK):




Not only is the rear-facing weight limit higher (45 lbs), but the shell moves up significantly, so it's great for tall-torsod children.  Additionally, it works better with the new LATCH regulations (I'd recommend googling these, but HERE'S a brief description) - the LATCH will work for up to a 45 lb child rear-facing, rather than being the weight of the child plus the weight of the seat.  This wasn't relevant to us, because we only have one child, but it's also super skinny, so you can fit three of them across in a mid-sized car, which we never could have done in the Britax.  

Plus to Pickle:  we could get it in purple.  Also, she's super-comfortable in it.  And, I don't know if I mentioned, we could get it in purple.  




Clearly, it is also appropriate for pirate children.  

It was also incredibly easy to install.  J had always put the Britaxes in, but I put the Radian in all by myself and got a tight, correct fit.  Unless you have a small infant unable to sit up unassisted, you will want an angle adjuster.

Anyway.  Just because we're bound to breed tall-torsod children, any of our future children will likely just start in a Radian, or will maybe start in the Britax and switch to the Radian once Pickle outgrows it.  (From what I understand, you usually can only use it up to the limits of the five-point harness forward-facing, which is 80 lbs. - most children grow too tall to use it up to the 120 lb. booster seat limit.)

I think both seats are awesome, but for children with a tall torso, I'd go with the Radian.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

GIVEAWAY winner!

Thanks so much for the interest in the K'tanCloth from Baby K'Tan!  It really is a great product, and I'm really excited to mail it out to our winner!

Courtesy of Random.org, our winner is...

Erin L!

Congrats, Erin!  If you could, please message me on the Facebook site at https://www.facebook.com/motherknowsbestreviews with your mailing information, and I'll get this sent out to you!  

Thanks again to everyone!  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dora the Explorer - TV Show

Dora is an infectious disease that has been widespread across the United States since 2000.  That is 13 years of Dora everywhere in society, on shirts and games and TV and books.  But what exactly does she teach children?

First of all is the apparent lack of parental supervision.  This seems like it is really insulting to Hispanic families, implying that 6-year-olds (or however old she is) are allowed to roam Stinky Swamps and Raging Rivers, interacting with trolls and talking crocodiles without any sort of adult intervention.  In every episode, she just seems to be left to fend for herself with a backpack and a talking map.  And, I mean, I guess a talking map is probably better than nothing, but it seems like it would probably be filled with black magic and may not actually give the best advice to an impressionable child.  I've known many very attentive Hispanic families, so I feel like this is giving them a bad rap.


(Because nothing at all bad could happen from letting your kindergartner and a monkey drive a hot air balloon, right?)

It also teaches you that monkeys make good playmates.  This could not be further from the truth.  Monkeys are riddled with disease, rarely wear their boots, and are not known for sharing.  Has Dora even been properly vaccinated against the rabies that Boots will eventually give her?  Since her parents are absentee, I doubt it?

Foxes are just sort of dicks.  Sorry to put it so bluntly, but Swiper steals stuff.  Not to feed his starving fox babies or to pay for some really sad habit, but just so that he can throw it somewhere and jack up Dora's day.  That's not even practical thievery.  Swiper is spending hours and hours of his day just trying to screw up things for Dora.  That's maybe the most pathetic hobby ever.


(Universal parenting tip - nobody/nothing with a detonator should be around your child.)

Civil engineers in her country are apparently just idiots.  There are almost no bridges (at least in the first several seasons) in this show.  There are either caverns over which she need to walk a tightrope or rivers she needs to ford.  How is this practical?  When there are bridges, they are inhabited by a Grumpy Old Troll.  Also, there are no roads that just go from point A to point B, everything has to have three different stops through the worst possible traveling conditions.  I'm talking giant talking spiders, whirlpools, you name it.  They couldn't just... go around these places?  We have ravines here - roads just go beside them, rather than straight down into them.  Apparently it's not like that in... Mexico?  Is it Mexico?

And let's not forget the yelling.  She's always shouting demands at you to "abre" or "say it louder" - this isn't a good lesson to teach toddlers.  My daughter started loudly saying, "Cold water!"  I'll ask her how we should say that, and one time she said, "Cold water NOW!"  We explained quickly how that makes others feel - but the next time she catches a Dora episode, she'll likely just relearn the lesson.  

And then they pulled a Brady-Bunch-adding-Oliver thing when they were running out of inane storylines, and introduced the "SuperBabies," Dora's flying twin brother and sister.  I don't know, we don't catch a ton of episodes, but I don't think there has been any explanation as to why they levitate and Dora doesn't?  Are children throwing their siblings off of couches in hopes that they can also fly after watching this?  I mean, I get that any show with a giant red chicken, a talking map, and disproportionately-sized heads probably wasn't rooted entirely in reality, but it seemed like at least the humans were sort of normal.  

Anyway.  Despite all of that, Little A has an abiding love for all things Dora that I will likely just have to wait out.  I'm sure it goes away around age four... right??

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kiddopotamus Tinydiner Placemat

I've sort of belabored my hatred of germs (HERE), so I don't feel that I really need to go into a big long spiel again.  When Little A was just learning to eat, we mostly did baby-led weaning, where she fed herself.  Great for teaching hand-to-mouth coordination, allows the baby to lead the way on how much they would like to eat - and is easier for lazy parents!

Because of that, going out to eat at restaurants was a little bit of a situation.  I worked as a waitress in the past - I know that most places just put a rag in some already-dirty water and wipe off a table with it.  I don't know if there's been a Mythbusters on this or anything, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are more germs on the table after it's been wiped down than before.  Other places will use bleach water - which is great in theory, except when your child is going to put their food down when the table is potentially still wet.  Eating bleach doesn't sound like an awesome idea for a 9-month-old, but I'm not a gastroenterologist, don't quote me.

Anyway.  We were at Babies 'R Us, and found this item -- which instantly means I got it for about a 40% markup (LINK):




When it's unfolded, it is about 18 inches wide - the sides and top flap fold up to make it fit a little easier in a diaper bag or such.  It's pretty thick plastic, and wipes down very easy.  That little jobby down at the bottom that looks like a pencil case is a little cup area that catches the inevitable food that falls out of baby's mouth.  (It also catches baby barf, which is both a positive and negative.)

What I liked best about this is that it also has suction cups on the back (on each of the flaps) that keep it on the table even when your little one sweeps their arm back and forth on the table or grabs at it.

We used the heck out of it - we used to try and go to breakfast a couple of times a month with my parents, in addition to other trips, and so it got a ton of use:


(Those are hash browns, in case anyone is wondering what the heck we're feeding her.)

After a while it didn't fold up quite as nicely, but the suction cups still made it a lot more useful than the little plastic placemats that you can get that just lie on the table.  Plus, I liked that it was reusable, it seemed more environmentally-friendly.

We don't use it anymore now that Little A is fine eating off of a plate, but it was well worth $9.  I would throw it in the dishwasher for a deep clean, it was super-easy.  It was a bit bulky in the diaper bag, even folded up and then with some additional rolling, so I guess it really depends on how big your diaper bag is and how crazy you are about germs.  My answers to those were "huge" and "lots."  

Monday, September 16, 2013

American Plastic "My Very Own Nursery"

I know I mentioned it before (such as HERE), but Little A is very maternal and can be very girly.  She loves her babies, has about a million of them.  She loves the little high chair she has for them, as well as her little doll car seat.

So, when we were walking through the Wal-Mart toy department a few weeks ago (also known as "the worst place on Earth), we saw this "My Very Own Nursery" by American Plastic for $19.99 (LINK):




I was a little wary at first of buying this just due to the company name.  "American Plastic" does not sound particularly geared towards children, so I was a tiny bit worried about the safety of it. A quick Google on my phone didn't find any recalls or safety issues, and it didn't look like anything could eat a preschooler finger or anything, so we got it.  

The box said some assembly was required.  What that actually means is, "Yeah, I hope you've blocked off about an hour, because this thing comes in about 40 pieces."  And, true to its name, it was entirely plastic, so there were a bunch of those little plastic connectors that you have to bend back and forth to snap the item free of it.  I was doing pretty well at putting this together by myself, until I got to the parts that required a screwdriver, I needed some help holding the two parts together so I could get the screw in there.  At that point, my husband J came in and said, "OH, that's the same company that made A's vanity.  Yeah, that's gonna suck to put together."  He tagged in at that point and did the bulk of it.  It still took about an hour with me helping, but was better than it would have been if just one of us were doing it ourselves.  You first assemble most of the crib, then comes the sink part, and then the high chair thing off to the right in the photo above.  It comes with a little mobile, a sippy cup, plate and silverware, and some powder.

For the most part, it's fairly sturdy.  Even after taking them off twice and putting them back on, the doors are a little jacked.  They're just not quite even and don't close entirely.  It's not a big issue, and it still works really well.

Little A played with this for approximately three hours straight after we built it, went to sleep, and played with it for four hours straight the next morning.  She loves to put her babies to sleep and then direct us to shush all talking so we didn't wake them up.  Most standard dolls and stuffed animals fit in here, so it works well.  She would use all of the play food from her kitchen to make the baby healthy and delicious treats, would use several of her blankies to keep the baby warm, and actually even used a toy cleaning set she had to clean the sink like Mama cleans the "big" bathroom.  

Overall, I'd say this was definitely worth the $20 we paid.  It's not an heirloom piece or anything they'll be keeping for decades - but considering the price of Legos and Barbies these days, it's a pretty inexpensive toy that will keep an itty bitty mama happy for quite a while.  If a giant dog or something sits on this and breaks it, I wouldn't feel like I'd broken the bank or anything if we had to get a new one or something different.  It is a little larger than some toys, so it may not be the most convenient if you are very cramped for space - I'd estimate wildly that it was about three feet wide, 2.5 feet tall.

Don't forget about our giveaway HERE!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

K'tanCloth vs. Udder Covers - and a GIVEAWAY!!

I'm sort of a shy breastfeeder.  I am incredibly supportive of nursing in public, as I think it re-normalizes and encourages breastfeeding... but I am admittedly just a little shy about it personally.  Mostly because the positions in which we nurse aren't incredibly easy to do discreetly in public, and I'm just a little shy.

Hence, when I received a promo for a free nursing cover with the cost of shipping (which was slightly exorbitant) from Udder Covers, I decided it was a wise choice.  Here is an example from their website:




I was still pregnant when I received it.  The first thing that I noticed was that it was actually sorta scratchy and stiff.  And I don't know if I mentioned it, but I'm nursing under there - both my chest AND my baby's face are going to have that rough fabric on them.  I washed it, and it was a tiny bit better, but still just not comfortable.  

I figured that comfort wasn't necessarily the point of the cover, so I used it - yes, it's discreet... because it's sort of a tent.  It doesn't let the baby see anything, I couldn't see my baby very well, and it got hot under there in the summer.  Also, and more importantly - there was just pretty much no way that I could effectively nurse while babywearing in there.  An active baby moves this around and wants to see, and it just wasn't comfortable.  We ended up only actually using it a few times.

Starting in 2011, the makers of the Baby K'tan developed the K'tanCloth (LINK).  They've improved it even more since then, but it's designed to be a 3-in-1 mama's little helper:  burp cloth, blankie/lovie, and nursing cover.


(Photo courtesy of the Baby K'tan website)

At first glance, it seems so simple - it's a strip of cloth that's roughly 2.5 feet long, maybe 10 inches wide.  One side is super-soft cotton (which is why it makes such a great blankie for your little one), and the other side is micro-fiber mesh (so you can use it as a burp cloth that is easily cleaned).  One of the ends is a pocket (which catches all of that spit up that otherwise would inevitably end up straight down your back), and the other end has a great Velcro attachment that allows you to attach it to whatever you might need.  This could be a stroller or car seat, but (in my opinion, more importantly) also a nursing tank or a baby carrier. 

"But why would you attach it to a nursing tank or baby carrier," you ask?  For easy nursing on-the-go!  You don't have a 3-foot-long scratchy cover making it so your baby can't see anything that you have to wear around your neck like a bib - instead, you just attach the Velcro around the carrier or nursing tank, put it just behind your baby's head, and tuck the other end into the other side.  That's all there is to it.  It's super-simple, incredibly portable, and so very soft.  It's small, so nobody is overheating under it.  

I'm in love with this item, and it's really inexpensive at $12.95.  I personally recommend carrying two - Baby K'tan doesn't include this as a feature, but we also use one as a diaper changing pad when out and about if we still have accidents.  We originally had used the vinyl diaper changers because they were easy to clean from accidents, but it bothered me that it's difficult to actually wash and sanitize these - so I was left with the choice of germs remaining on there if I just used baby wipes, or using something like a bleach wipe on it that was too harsh for baby skin.  The mesh is still easily wiped down, but this can be washed successfully without damaging it, which makes it a far better option for a changing pad.  

This is a silly added bonus, but Little A also likes to babywear in it!  The little velcro is just long enough to wrap around her body, so she puts one of her many dolls in there and walks around with it.  I attempted to get a photo of this in action, but she kept going all preschooler Sean Penn on me.

So...  here's the deal!  We are hosting a giveaway (thanks to the Baby K'tan team!) of one of the K'tanCloths.  Here are the ways you can enter - create a comment in our notes below for each criteria you meet (so you can have up to four comments):

1.  Comment below to say you have liked the Facebook page for Mother Knows Best at https://www.facebook.com/motherknowsbestreviews

2.  Visit Baby K'tan's shop at http://www.babyktan.com/shop.html.  Come back here and comment to mention what item interests you most.

3.  Share the MotherKnowsBestReviews Facebook page, and come back here to comment that you have done so!

4.  Share the pin for this blog post on Pinterest, then come back here to comment and mention that you have:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/132645151498615160/

You can enter up through noon Central time on Friday, September 20.  Come back that afternoon to see if you have won (winners will be chosen through an internet randomizer)!  If I am unfamiliar with the winner, I would likely need them to message me on the MKBR Facebook page.

Thanks, and good luck!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dr. Brown's Microwave Sterilizer

Sometimes I feel it's fair to preface a post with a disclaimer on my level of crazy.  It's just fair to let someone going in know from where my actions and opinions are formed.  It's a service I provide.

So, I'm a little weird about germs.  And by "little," I mean that I hate the shopping cart with the fiery passion of a million suns.  There are somehow more poop germs on the shopping cart you use at the grocery store than there probably are in all of your bathrooms in your house combined - you know, the same shopping cart on which you put your hands, and some babies try to suck the handles.  And I just want to know how all of these poop germs got there.  I mean, I don't necessarily actually want to know the specifics, but is there a hand or some other item acting as a middleman?  This disturbs me on levels that I can't explain.  When I was pregnant with Little A, I used so much hand sanitizer that I got little blisters on my fingers.  (In my defense, my immune system is terrible from previous health issues.  But still.)

So, let's keep that all in mind.  I know I couldn't prevent all germs from reaching her, but I felt like I could control the majority of the items she put in her mouth (at least for a while, until she started putting everything she could reach in there).  I wanted to keep bottle nipples, the bottles themselves, and binkies all sanitized and sterile, as free from germs as possible.  Because, as we all know, I'm pretty sure that all pacifiers actually look like this if you look at them close up:



So, I did some research.  When Little A was little, my husband worked second shift (from 2 to 10 p.m.) and I worked early (7 a.m. to 4 p.m.) so that we could minimize daycare needs.  This meant that we were both a little short-handed and didn't have a ton of time to sterilize bottles, binkies, and nipples on the stove.  We found the perfect solution - the Dr. Brown's Microwave Sterilizer (LINK):



It runs about $24 on Amazon, runs full price around $33 at BabiesRUs.  Basically, you put X number of ounces into the bottom of the sterilizer, put all of your already-washed stuff you want to sterilize on the tray, and pop it into your microwave for the specified amount of time (in accordance with the wattage of your microwave).  For us, this was about two minutes, and we had a whole tray full of sterilized bottles, binkies, and nipples all ready to go!  No more dead bugs and hair and germs on the bottles, no germs from the dishwasher or sink left over, sparkly clean and bacteria free!

I should provide a safety clause here.  They provide those tongs for a reason.  You're gonna go ahead and burn the crap out of your finger if you try and grab something out of there without giving it a few minutes to cool down first.  We would usually take it out of the microwave, take the lid slightly off, and let it cool for about five minutes before starting to put stuff away.  We'd actually usually only get out items that needed to be used immediately, though, because they are all pretty damp - anything that wasn't needed immediately would sit in there overnight to dry off.  This was partially because I was lazy and didn't want to dry everything, and partially because I felt like using either a towel or a paper towel on a newly-sanitized item sort of undid everything we had just accomplished by introducing germs back on there.  That's sort of defeating my desired end game.

So, anyway - I really, really liked this item.  We used it up until Little A was almost a year (which is, if I estimate correctly, about 11 months longer than normal people sterilize stuff).  I will admit that I have done the total gross Mom thing when out and about and we only had one "bee-boo" (A's word for her binky) where I put it in my mouth and "cleaned" it if it fell, and then gave it to her.  THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA, DON'T DO THIS.  Adults can transfer their decay-causing saliva to their infants and cause their teeth to sort of rot (LINK) - I mean, this will probably happen as soon as they start kissing when they hit puberty if their kissing partner's parents shared saliva with them, so you're really only buying yourself about a decade or whatever, but still.  That is my tooth PSA for the day.

Value:  Between $24 and $33.  For me, using this every 1 to 3 days for a year, it was a very good investment.  If you're able to exclusively breastfeed without having to pump, or don't think you'll sterilize for that long, you may want to consider how much you'll use it first.  
Child entertainment level:  Not applicable.
Practicality:  I think this was incredibly practical for us, as we were essentially two single parents who happened to be married, didn't have time to sterilize on the stove, but I was still crazy about germs.  It didn't take up much room, was easy to use, and was not costly.  10/10 for us.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Toy Tea Sets

Little A is sort of a dichotomy.  She really enjoys smooshing whatever she's eating into her face and playing in mud, but she also is a huge fan of more traditionally "girly" pastimes, such as playing with her kitchen, doing some dress-up, playing with babies and dolls, and tea sets.

Oh, the tea sets.  HUGE fan of them.  A dear friend of mine, Nicole, got her this one (Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Say Please Tea Set) when she turned a year (LINK); it currently runs about $16:




This was a great gift.  She loved the music that the teapot makes, and it was a great hiding spot.  For what, you might ask?  Anything a 13-month-old might not want to eat:


(We really do provide better snacks, she just begged for a Nutrigrain bar that day)

It was the perfect size, and the little cakes are a toddler's dream!  Nothing is choking hazard-sized, the cups are actually a great way to try and get a little one drinking from an open cup if you want to put water in them, and it's fun-colored and cute.  

Once she was a little bit older, she wanted more options for her tea set in addition to this one (believe me, that first set is not out of commission).  My parents found this set for her, the Fisher-Price Magical Tea for Two (LINK), also around $16:




This one doesn't make music like the toddler one, it's designed for older kids.  The "tea" inside of the teapot appears to disappear when you tip it sideways to pour.  My girl is obsessed with this thing.  She will make my husband, J, and I each a cup.  She puts into it:  tea, sugar, milk (she incorporated a cup from her kitchen for that), and "creamy."  You can't forget the creamy.  It also comes with two cute little cookies, which she will put on the saucer.

Then, she hands it to us.  We start to take a pretend sip, and she says we can't, it's too hot.  So we sit there and make idle tea party chit-chat like sophisticated people, and then ask her about five minutes later if we can now drink it.  Nope, still too hot.  We'll repeat that about one more time, at which point it's been at least 10 minutes since the tea was poured, and she'll still say it's too hot.  We usually try to give back the tea or ask for ice cubes at this point, because we just want to drink our freaking pretend tea, so she'll finally allow it.  We, of course, then need some more tea in our empty cups, so this process is repeated.  

If I am drinking Powerade Zero or the G2 no-sugar Gatorade stuff, Miss A also likes to steal some of it and drink it out of these cups.  Because that makes "purple water" fancy.

I think these are great purchases.  They're both durable, don't really have any parts that will break without you taking a hammer or something to it, and it really doesn't make a big mess.  You throw in some funny hats and a princess dress-up dress, and this will entertain a three-year-old for about two hours.  They're also really, really easy to store - we keep these usually on a little wire shelf in her playroom, it takes up about a third of a small shelf.  The tray makes it easy to clean up quickly.  We use these to teach manners and etiquette, so I personally think it's actually a nice jumping-off point for a discussion of that nature.  Not sure how much of that is sticking at 37.5 months old, but at least we're laying the foundation.  I guess we should probably stop giggling whenever she does her "shaky butt" dance when she's naked to really drive that point home, but that's sort of ticky-tack.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Car Seat Covers

I've always thought I was really militant about car seat safety.  I researched car seats thoroughly before little A was born.  We got the Chicco Keyfit (which we LOVED) as her infant seat, and went with a Britax Advocate 70 CS (the top of the line at the time - great seat, but a different post) for her convertible when she outgrew it.

We live in the midwest, so winters get really cold.  I saw the JJ Cole BundleMe (LINK), and got one immediately:




We actually got a thinner one than this, the Lite, but the issue is the same, as a friend told me - nothing should go between a child and their carseat.  It's a hazard, and it can also make it so that you can't file an insurance claim if you're in an accident, since you're not using the seat properly.  This is a great item for strollers and the like, it's just not an approved device for a carseat.  Since this was a hazard, we stopped using it immediately - and I became even more vigilant than I already was about car seat safety!

Since A was so little and still in her infant seat, we tried another JJ Cole product.  We used the Car Seat Cover (LINK):




We loved this item, and it was entirely safe.  It is called a "shower cap" style cover because it works just like a shower cap - as shown in the photo above, you simply put it over the top of the car seat.  It's got an elastic band that squeezes around where it gets narrower.  Nothing goes between the baby and the car seat, and it unzips easily so that you can get the baby in and out without removing the cover every time.  Ours was an older model and it had a piece of velcro up by where the top of the baby's head is, and that's an additional way that it kept the wind from getting in.  It doesn't look like this newer model has that, which is too bad, as it was one of my favorite features until I got fuzz from blankets in the velcro enough that it didn't work anymore.  I am guessing that someone crafty could easily sew that in, however.  (I wish I were that person.)

At $29.99 it was a little more expensive than, say, the generic ones you can get at Wal-Mart, but this one is very durable, had the zipper and the velcro, and was a little thicker.  We would put baby A in the seat, clip her in, cover her up with a receiving blanket (or six, depending on how butt-cold it was that day), zip up the cover, and then velcro it up.  We didn't need anything else that entire winter (which is good, since coats are also not recommended in car seats).  

The next problem came the next winter, when she was in a convertible seat.  The cover didn't fit that, so we needed to look for something for her to wear directly.  We started with a Car Seat Poncho (LINK), about $39.99:




Little A was about 17 months around this time, and VERY active.  I loved the idea of the car seat poncho - you put the little in the car seat, buckle them in, and put this over the top of the car seat.  It can get them from the house to the car while staying warm enough, and you can put an additional blanket over them both on the walk and in the car.  

As I mentioned, A is active - and stubborn.  She had zero desire for this to be over her arms hampering her from whatever she wanted to be doing (oftentimes shredding paper all over the backseat).  Usually she tore it off in about three minutes.  And since she had also kicked off the blanket, she was left with not much warmth protection.  Since we keep the car plenty warm, that wasn't much of an issue inside of the car, really, but it meant sort of a struggle when getting her in and out when she didn't want to put the poncho back on.  Trying to wrap a flailing child in a poncho was not as easy as it sounds.  The theory of the poncho is absolutely great, though, it just didn't work in our particular household.

What we ended up with what an Osh Kosh B'Gosh/Carters 3-in-1 jacket.  I can't link it, as they don't seem to have them on the shelves yet for winter, but the theory is pretty simple.  You have an inner jacket that is Thinsulate on the interior with a waterproof shell outside.  Then, you also have a thicker outer coat that zips onto the inner shell for double warmth.  We would wear the thin inner jacket in the car (as it was car seat-safe), and then put on the thick outer jacket right before we took her into stores, daycare, preschool, whatever.  We've been doing this system the last two winters, and it works quite well.  Carters and Osh Kosh have huge sales pretty regularly on their website and in stores, so I could pace myself and pick it up at a cheaper price than the $60 or so at which it was regularly listed.  I'm sort of hoping that she can still wear hers from last winter again this winter, since we bought one a little big back then (I think).  I should probably pull it out and see.  

I noticed upon reviewing these blogs that it must seem like I buy a lot of junk and then it doesn't work...  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Diaper wipes

This may not truly fall into the category of a "review" - it's sort of more like a mission statement or missive.  

I freaking love diaper wipes.  I validly don't know how I got through 30-some years of my life without using them regularly.  They are a lazy person's dream for cleaning.  How do you know if you're a diaper/baby wipe addict?  Well, have you used a diaper wipe to do any of the following:


  • On nights when you just physically don't have it in you to fight your child into the bathtub, and they're not really that dirty, you use a diaper wipe for a quick sponge bath?
  • Removed makeup with a diaper wipe?  (Um, it's genius for eye makeup.)
  • Wiped down the kitchen counter?
  • Wiped up a small spot of pee on the carpet when you ran out of Resolve or something similar until you could run out and get some?
  • Used it to "lick" an envelope for you?
  • Cleaned the interior of your car?
  • Wiped down the table at a restaurant/shopping cart/whatever a lot of people and/or germs touch?
  • Gotten glitter paint off of the high chair when doing crafts?
I can keep going.  Believe me.  They're magical.  I recently theorized that diaper wipes are that secret that parents are keeping from non-parents to feel superior, and I want to break down that wall.  EVERYONE SHOULD USE DIAPER WIPES.  Just do yourself a favor - as cute as this is, you don't have to live like this:

(The Yogurt Joker strikes again.)