Tuesday, September 16, 2014

3 Baby/Toddler Products I Wish I Knew About When I Had My First Baby.

Does my life depend on the following three baby/child products? No. Perhaps it's more a case of "3 baby/toddler products I could live without but would never, ever want to," but any way you look at it, these three products are items that I've used nearly every single day since we welcomed them into our home and they are three products I wish I knew about (or I wish I knew were around) back when I had my first baby, four years ago.

First up is the mamaRoo. This is something we've used since the first day we brought Collins home from the hospital. Think of it as a baby swing-baby bouncer mash-up. It's that good. The number one question I'm often asked in relation to this item is, "is it worth the price tag?" Now, I can't answer that question flat out for everyone across the board. Some babies just hate things that move, move too slow or move too much and everyone is quick to tell me either they themselves or their second cousin's Aunt Judy had a baby that hated a swing. That said, I do believe the mamaRoo is absolutely worth its price tag, it's weight in gold, whatever you want to call it. Why? Because it's more than a "swing." In fact, it was never meant to be a swing at all. There's so much about it that makes it unique. 

With 5 unique motions that both bounce up and down and sway side to side, there's a variety of different motions available to soothe and comfort baby. These motions move in ways that mimic the same movement parents themselves use when comforting or rocking their baby. None of my babies preferred the vibrating bouncy seat. Why? Because, hello, parents don't vibrate! (At least, my husband and I don't). Our babies loved the rocking, swaying motion of being held in our arms or taken for rides in the car. Sometimes finding the setting your baby loves most can be a process of trial and error. For Collins, "Car Ride" on the medium speed setting and an aden + anais blanket was the magic mix that sent him right of to Sleepytown. 

When we first brought Collins home from the hospital, we would swaddle him tightly and place him right into the seat. We never used the newborn insert although some would recommend it. The seat slides on an easy axis allowing it to move from a nearly flat position to an upright position that I would compare to a small umbrella stroller or high chair. Now that Collins is older and much more interested in the goings on around him, he prefers to be sitting straight up and down.  

The mamaRoo boasts built-in nature sounds if your baby happens to be a fan of white noise or if he's ahead of the times with a penchant for say, Daft Punk or Carrie Underwood, there's a hookup that is compatible with any mP3 player allowing you to stream your own tunes while baby sways. In the beginning, I always forgot about this option and therefore we never really got into the habit of using it. 

It operates on wall adapter only which means no worries about having to constantly replace batteries and with a small product footprint and a variety of different fabrics/patterns to choose from, it doesn't scream "brightly colored baby item," if you're trying to keep your home looking less and less like the pages of a Babies R Us catalog. The mobile is pretty cool too, with reversible interchangeable balls. 

I love the mamaRoo so much that if I didn't already have three kids, I might go and have another baby just to be able to use it again! That said, the mamaRoo weight limit does not exceed 25lbs. Typically this is an appropriate weight limit for a baby seat in so much that when a baby reaches this weight, they're typically sitting up on their own and don't have much use for a baby swing/seat. At 4 months old, Collins weighs 21lbs so I fear that our time in the mamaRoo will be nearing an end sooner than I care to imagine. Also of note, if your baby can sit on his or her own before reaching the 25lb. mark, the mamaRoo can no longer safely be used. 

This is definitely a product I wished I knew was available three babies ago!

- - - - - 

Next up is the Joovy TooQool stroller. Oh how I love this stroller, let me count the ways! First and foremost not only is this an awesome double stroller but it grows and changes with your growing, changing children. Meaning that this stroller converts to a single and back to a double depending on your needs! 

The first two words that come to mind when I think of this stroller are versatile and luxurious. Coming from Joovy, this stroller is a huge deal and you can tell by the plush, stunning fabrics that it comes in as well as all of the top of the line bells and whistles this stroller boasts.

Each of the seats has a 55lb weight limit. Front seat riders are encouraged to begin riding at 3 months of age while back seat riders are encouraged to be at least 6 months of age before riding. Each seat boasts a soft padded liner insert that is easily removable for cleaning purposes. This comes in handy whether you're dealing with diaper blowouts or messy ice cream cones! Both of the seats recline but it's worth noting that the lower seat doesn't recline too far back for obvious reasons. 

In addition to the myriad of configurations that this stroller allows, one of my favorite features is the expandable canopy on the front seat. In addition to the neat sun visor flap, hidden by a zipper within the canopy is an extendable canopy that offers incredible protection from the elements.

I have used this stroller during walks around the pavement in our neighborhood, across grassy fields while visiting local farmer's markets as well as strolling the stores (and clothing aisles) of our local mall. It transitions easily between surfaces and doesn't at all feel like a heavy, bulky stroller, especially when used in the double capacity. 

Both my 4 year old and 2 year old have ridden in the second lower seat and they've each ridden comfortably and in style every time. My 4 year old is very tall (44") so while he's had to adjust himself a little to fit beneath the first seat, he manages to do so easily and comfortably. 

When used as a single stroller, the seat can be placed into position facing inward towards you or outwards, as most traditional strollers. Being able to constantly watch Collins and interact with him while strolling is something I was never able to do with any of our previously owned strollers so again, this is another one of my favorite features.

Storage beneath the stroller is on point for being able to hold all the things one needs while traveling with kids. Without a second rider, I can easily fit two bags in the storage basket below as well as extra blankets, lovies, snacks, etc. Of course when the second lower seat is engaged, storage becomes a bit more limited. 

My husband loves this stroller because the handlebar adjusts and as he's a bit taller than I am, he likes the ability to change the height of the handlebar to suit his comfort level. 

Lastly, when looking to store this stroller, it folds nearly flat! Yes, the stroller can be folded and stowed with one of the seats attached however, I have found it easier to remove each of the seats, fold them flat and then fold the stroller frame flat before hoisting them into the back seat of my SUV.

When I first started using the stroller I was bummed there wasn't any cupholders available for drinks! The joke was one me though as Jovvy makes great attachments to hold cups and other important things one may need close at hand while strolling! 

Joovy really hit it out of the park with the TooQool!    

- - - - - 

As you can imagine with three little boys, I've been through a ton of highchairs/booster seats. In the very beginning, we didn't even register for an actual highchair because I knew we would be low on space in our kitchen and I didn't want to add one more large piece of baby furniture only to consistently be shuffling it around our kitchen. Instead, I registered for (and used for our first baby), one of those feeding seats that attaches to any existing chair. This worked well for us until I realized that despite the towel barrier I had created on our kitchen chair, the plastic of the baby seat was ruining the finish on our chair. I then turned to Joovy and purchased their ultra sleek, very low profile Nook feeding highchair. 

I loved everything about that seat. Sure the fabric seat was a little difficult to get back on once it was removed for washing but did you hear me? It was removable for washing. In the washer and dryer. Amazing. It also folded flat for storage. But then my second learned how to remove the tray piece and throw it all over the kitchen when he was done with his meal. I literally had .7 seconds between his exclamation of " all done!" and the flinging of the tray and food remnants to quickly run to him and wipe him and the tray down. Not ideal. 

I then began the hunt for another one of those booster seats that attaches to an already existing chair but this time with a tray that couldn't be removed by an angsty toddler. And I hunted. And I hunted. And I tried out a couple of models, each with a tray or tray piece that could easily and quickly be removed by my two year old Houdini. 

But then Joovy sent us the incredible HiLo. Already a big fan of Joovy I couldn't wait to test it out. The biggest test, of course, being the tray removal and food flinging. A glutton for punishment, I picked the messiest first meal I could think of when I strapped my almost-two year old into it. As I served him his pasta with red sauce and a side of yogurt, I watched him devour it, paint a little bit with it and then exclaim, "all done!" And I waited. I watched as he pulled and picked and pushed and grabbed. I watched as he pushed his little toddler belly out in an attempt to pop that tray right from the seat. Nada. 

It was as if the heavens opened. 

The HiLo is another one of those products that grows with your children as they grow. As a family with three small boys, this aspect especially appeals to my husband who doesn't agree with my whole "but it's a new baby, it needs new things," mantra. From six months to six years, this highchair and booster seat easily accommodates your growing little diner. 

With a sleek, modern design this chair fits easily into any room of the house (although I'm not sure why you'd be using it in any room other than your kitchen). It also comes in seven different color variations which is kind of fun and exciting. With minimal crevices, it is a breeze to clean and can easily be wiped down with soap and water as well as disinfected if need be. Truth be told, there have been a few occasions when we've just taken it out back onto the deck and hosed it off, leaving it to dry in the sun. How awesome is that?

But the best part of the HiLo's durable design is that it easily rotates from an infant/baby highchair (6mo+) to a toddler chair/booster (2yo+). That's like having two chairs in one! 

The Joovy HiLo gets extra points in my book for versatility, durability and anti-tray-flinging and our two year old loves that he can join us right at the table and dine like "a big kid" but without the risk of him jumping down mid-meal and making a mess. Thanks Joovy for making mealtime easier, more attractive and just a bit less messy. 

I received these products for free in exchange for my honest review 
as I have expressed above. I would never, ever endorse a product 
that we didn't truly enjoy using, especially one that makes my life as a
mother and homemaker easier, safer and more enjoyable.  

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Mommy Wars: Caused By Ill-Fitting Bras?

After having three babies in four years, I think I can finally narrow down the root cause of the Mommy Wars: ill-fitting bras. And, if by the end of this short essay you don't believe so too, then at least let's agree that ill fitting bras are undoubtedly the cause of RTF or Resting Bitch Face. 
If you're reading this and you've never been pregnant nor birthed a baby, let me give you the quick and dirty on what happens to your breasts. When you're pregnant, your boobs get huge. We're talking so voluptuous that if prior to getting pregnant you were an A or B cup, you would want to show them off to everyone were you not growing a tiny human inside of you that simultaneously liked to make your body do gross things like burp and fart uncontrollably. When you're pregnant and you have these gorgeous pregnant boobs (but feel like crap) my heart goes out to you, truly it does. And to your husbands who wish so badly to motorboat you, just one time. Just really quickly. You won't even notice, they'll say. Fitting your pregnant boobs into a bra is laughable. As if burping and farting uncontrollably wasn't embarrassing enough, try waddling into the nearest department store for a professional bra fitting. The truth is, we've all done it. So, we stuff those lovely lady lumps into whatever we have lying around the house. 
A few short (who am I kidding, they feel like an eternity) days after giving birth, your milk will most likely come in, as it should. My milk came in with a vengeance after each of my babies, leaving me sore, swollen and looking like a mega-botched boob job gone one hundred kinds of wrong. I'm pretty sure that during this time, one of my nipples was pointing north, the other east. At the same time. Wearing any kind of bra during this stage of the game is futile. You're nursing your brand new bundle of love every seven minutes, or so it seems, so like many others, I chose to walk around topless during the first three weeks of my sons' lives. My apologies to the UPS and FedEx deliverymen who were all to often subject to many a nip-slip during those days. Speaking of nipples, oh, those babies will grow to be about the size of dinner plates. Just an FYI.
Once you've got the breastfeeding thing under control (trust me, you will eventually), it's time to put those puppies away. If you're a first-time mom, you'll spend gross amounts of money on nursing tanks, tops and bras or any other piece of lingerie with a plastic clip or hidden sleeve on it that Pinterest says you need. If this isn't your first time at the rodeo, you know how easy it is to just whip one of those puppies out of the top of any old tank top, or shove down the cup on any old bra and it'll get the job done just fine. 
But here's the kicker- with a newborn (and potentially other children in the house) you're not schlepping anybody to the store to try on new bras. I mean, that kind of Crazy isn't even suitable for Wal-Mart. Not to mention that you have absolutely no idea what size bra you should be wearing so you try to squeeze into any one of the four different sizes you have lying around your house from college through now. 
Double ouch.
Now you've rolled up, tucked in, patted down and stuffed your sore, swollen bosom into a bra. Chances are you're leaking everywhere and if you aren't, well then you definitely smell like spoiled milk from when you once did. Now imagine someone approaches you and asks if your brand new baby is sleeping through the night. Or they want to discuss sleep training methods. Hello, Mommy Wars. Why? Because chances are you're wearing an ill-fitting bra (if you're wearing one at all) and the sheer uncomfortable-ness of shoving those babies into a snug Over The Shoulder Boulder Holder is all to blame. 
Perhaps if we all had appropriate fitting bras, we could each take a deep, deep breath and we'd eradicate the Mommy Wars. Just like that. After all, we would feel more supported and undoubtedly more confident in ourselves as mothers, therefore feeling more mindful of our decisions as well as fellow mothers'. 
Now that we've established the root cause, let's do something about it. Let's all get at least one well-fitting bra that we cannot only fit ourselves into comfortably, but one that might showcase just a glimpse of ourselves before we had babies. Perhaps, maybe even for just a little bit, we might even feel, dare I say it... sexy.
For 100 years, Vanity Fair® lingerie has been the brand that women look to for undeniable support, lift and a little bit of luxury. Making style both comfortable and effortless, it offers beautiful lingerie in styles that are trend-right and feature sleep fabrics with clean lines for a smooth look under clothes- even if your outfit of the day is yesterday's yoga pants and a baseball tee. 
Vanity Fair® recently launched a wonderful campaign, "Women Who Do," that is a powerfully uplifting initiative dedicated to praising and celebrating every day triumphs of women everywhere while highlighting the brand's long-standing commitment to quality lingerie at an affordable price point. Ultimately, Vanity Fair® hopes to spark a movement that inspires women to support each other and live their lives according to what makes them happy. 
And all along here you thought I was truly kidding about well-fitting bras and the Mommy Wars.
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Friday, September 5, 2014

You Say "Vacation.." I Say... "Family Business Trip."

"Mom!... Hey, Mom! Mom, look!" 

"Mom. Mom? Moooooom? MOM!"

I waited. I waited and I prayed and I cursed a little. I turned to my husband, sighed and said, "Aren't there enough mothers here to answer that child? Come on!" 

We were on the first "vacation" we would take as a family all summer long. And by vacation, I really mean that it was the first four days of the summer that we would find ourselves alone, unfettered and uninterrupted at the family beach house. It was also the last week of August if that gives you any inclination as to how long and how busy and how full of "Hey! Mom! Look!" the rest of our summer had been.

It wasn't really a vacation. Well, not the kind that comes to mind when hearing the word, that is. 

Any getaway involving your children is, by no means, a vacation. It's merely a trip you take somewhere else where you're expected to conduct the same daily rituals just with less sleep and none of your usual distractions.

But despite that, it was so much fun and so, so necessary. 

I had moments during our time at the beach where I felt like I was seeing our boys for the first time. Discovering things about them that I hadn't noticed before and probably would have never noticed had it not been for our time away.

I was seeing them in a way I hadn't seen them in all summer long. Taller, older. Funnier. Their excitement was palpable and every little thing was SO COOL. MOM! 

And if you can believe it, I didn't raise my voice for days. Well, outside of a few necessary moments at the beach house that's also a Don't You Dare Touch Museum. If there's a breakable seashell or vase or candle holder or decorative plate or picture frame to be had on the Eastern Seaboard, you can safely bet that not only do my in-laws have it but they've also decorated with it somewhere right within reach of my 2-year old. 

We won't even mention the Swivel Chair of Future Stitches...

But back to what I was saying. It seems funny now to think about but it was as if I blinked and my oldest turned 4. As if I turned my back for a single moment and he grew two inches, tells the funniest stories, has inside jokes between him and his brother and is gearing up to start his second year of preschool in just a few short days. Did you know he was a funny kid? I mean, he was always a little goofy but now he's just downright funny! 

And my middle baby! My middle baby who never, ever stops moving. Whose neck is now visible at all times, something that screams to me that any little sign of baby is long gone on his bones. Speaking in full sentences, with a mind of his own and a mission that I may never understand. Ever. Always on a mission. 

And to see the two of them together. To watch them seek each other out as brothers and playmates. Sometimes you just need to go somewhere different to see your children differently. To see them more as individuals and less like tiny heathens. 

My husband and I even managed to sneak out on one of those elusive things we adults with offspring like to call "Date Nights." We only held each other's hand while crossing the street. We didn't have to worry about anyone running off somewhere dangerous and I didn't have to barter, beg and plead with my husband to finish his dinner. We got to eat everything on our own plates while it was still hot and we never once had to stop talking for the interruption of tiny loud voices. 

And most of all, we didn't have to share if we didn't want to. 

I saw my husband as just my husband that night. As the man I married nearly seven years ago- the man I fell in love with before careers, mortgages and babies. Funny how one can so easily lose sight of our foundation. 

I took pictures. Not great ones by any photographer's standard and not very many at all with my "real" camera. I captured video when I remembered- reminding myself that I should do so because it's only so long before my middle baby starts saying "crabs" instead of "cwabbies," and only so long before my oldest refuses to indulge his Mama while sitting for the infamous Favorite Parts of Vacation Interview. One day maybe I'll splice those pictures and those videos together and maybe even set them to music so we'll have a more concrete recollection of our time together. 

But until then, I'll remember the peels of laughter as we sat and strung chicken necks to a line and set them out in the bay to bait crabs. How I loved watching those tiny tanned legs run a mok up and down the beach, daring each time to get a little closer to where the waves crashed into the shoreline. I'll remember how I watched our boys grow by the minute it seemed from the sidelines of the shaded umbrella while bouncing the baby on my knee. I'll remember how each night at bedtime my husband and I tried to make it "a personal best," seeing who could get "their kid" to bed earlier than the other. 

Come one, you know you do it too. Summer, thanks for being so sweet to us. 

But the next "vacation" we take? I have a feeling we'll be leaving the kids behind for that one... 


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