Monday, December 24, 2012

Baba G's First Santa Visit

Give me another Bad Mom demerit, because I had no desire to take Baba G to see Santa. But we ended up going to Macy's yesterday and waiting in line for two hours to see the old guy anyway. In retrospect I'm glad we did, as my parents are visiting and it did make for a pretty fun memory.

Even though he hadn't taken much of a nap in the morning and the wait for Santa cut into his second nap, Baba G was extremely patient. This picture, however, makes it look like he's Over It.

This better be worth it.

For most of the two hours, he was busy checking out other people or having fun toddling around the clothes aisles (yes, he's walking!). He even caught a 15-minute snooze on his dad's shoulder after we were inside the darker "Santaland" complex.

Once we made it to the end of the line, we were quickly whisked into Santa's private chambers. We were only allowed to take pictures from an area off to the side (as Macy's obviously wants you to purchase their official shots), so here's what happened after we all stepped away and left BG alone with Santa.

Then he was like: "Who IS this dude?"

Next he must have realized that the sooner he gave us a semi-decent shot, the sooner he'd be off that guy's lap.

And so begins a tradition of yearly Santa pictures. I think once BG begins to associate Santa with presents, he'll look forward to seeing him. Because he sure did like all of the presents he's gotten so far — many of which I'll be writing about in coming posts.

In the meantime, we're heading to Arizona tomorrow to visit my husband's side of the family, and we're certainly all ready for a break from the cold Midwest.

Happy holiday to you and yours!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

All Things Reconsidered: The Worst Christmas Song Ever

This past weekend, Paul McCartney was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. And for his closing number, he sang what I consider to be the worst Christmas song ever: "Wonderful Christmastime."

If you've been reading my personal blog over the years, you might remember that I am a huge, huge, huge Beatles fan. Which means that I love Paul on his own as well, and have seen him in concert twice: once in Boston in 2002 (check out my decade-old article in my grad-school paper here) and again last summer at Wrigley Field. But I still cannot abide that damn song.

Here's where the irony comes in, though. For some unknown reason, my husband and I made up a little ditty that we sing to Baba G every night to kick off his bedtime routine, and it is set to the tune of Wonderful Christmastime.


Compare the lyrics.

Original 1979 song:
The moon is right
The spirit's up
We're here tonight
And that's enough

Simply having a wonderful Christmastime
Simply having a wonderful Christmastime 

Our song:
The water's warm
And the time is right
For a bath time

Simply having a wonderful bathtime
Simply having a wonderful bathtime

(And then the part where Paul goes "ding dong ding dong" we go "splish splash splish splash.")

So now, instead of only having this annoying tune stuck in my head during the holidays, I have to deal with it YEAR-ROUND. What have we done? And WHY have we done this? (I blame my husband — he claims to actually like the original song, and I still can't figure out if he's just messing with me.)

It seems to make Baba G happy, at least.

Do you guys have any weird traditions/routines like this?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The BabyBjorn Soft Bib

Back in September I asked for bib recommendations, even though I was pretty happy with a few of the brands we'd been given as gifts. Both on the blog and through other channels, many people raved to me about the BabyBjörn soft bibs, so I figured I'd give them a try.

I feel like the word "soft" is a bit of a misnomer here, because I consider terrycloth a fabric that's soft. These bibs are made of plastic... and yes, while that plastic may be toxin-free and slightly bendable, it's not exactly what I'd call soft.

The front of the bib is molded into a little catch-all pocket at the bottom, and the back of the bib can be adjusted for fit like so:

Baba G had already been eating in his high chair for a few months before we tried the BabyBjörn kind, and I think that's the reason they just weren't going to fly. They were too different from what he'd gotten used to, likely felt weird and heavy around his neck on top of being a bit distracting in the front, and therefore he became more interested in playing around with the bib than he was in eating.

I'm trying to eat these puffs, but this big thing keeps getting in the way...

... so let's play with it!

Look mom, it's a new teether!

This is what happened every time I put the BabyBjörn bib on BG, so I stopped using it.

The bottom line: From the nearly 250 positive reviews on Amazon on top of all of the personal recommendations I received, it is clear that many parents out there love these bibs. They certainly ARE easy to wipe down and clean. However, they didn't work for us, and I think it's because we didn't use them from the start. So my recommendation would be that if you want to not have messy food-filled-and-stained cloth bibs to throw in the wash every other day, you should probably try the BabyBjörn soft bibs as soon as your kid starts eating solids. If that's all they know, then they're not going to be as thrown by the unusual shape and feel of these bibs later on. At least that's all I can chalk Baba G's resistance up to!

A 2-pack goes for $18.50.

For a refresher on the bibs I've always liked and am now sticking with for good, see this post. And truly, thanks to those who recommended the BabyBjörn bibs — if I ever have another baby I will try them for the First Feeding and never look back!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pottery Barn Kids' Personalized Beach Tote

Right as we were finishing up packing for our vacation a few weeks ago, I remembered that some of our friends had sent Baba G a really cute beach tote just after he was born. I'd stowed it away in his closet since he arrived in January and summer fun was pretty much the last thing on my mind at that point.

But I pulled it out in the nick of time for our trip, and it really came in handy. As you can see, our friends had it personalized. It's from Pottery Barn Kids, and while this exact design appears to have been discontinued, they have a lot of other options remaining.

This bag, called a "Fairfax Striped Tote," costs about $50, zips closed at the top, and there's an inner zipped pocket as well. It was comfortable to carry and was just the right size for all of Baba G's "stuff" that we hauled around the resort — ranging from sunscreen to snacks to towels to diapers.

The bottom line: This isn't something I would've bought for Baba G on my own, but I thought it was a really cool gift. So much so that I plan to get a personalized beach tote like this (though they also sell them at lots of other places besides Pottery Barn Kids) for any of my fun-in-the-sun-loving friends who have kids in the future.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holy Hell I've Become the Calgon Lady.

Anybody remember this commercial?

To my great horror, I found myself thinking, "Calgon, take me away!" last week.

Next I immediately thought, "Holy crap, what has become of me? I've turned into a ridiculous chick with serious rage issues from a '70s commercial."

I hit my breaking point the day after my last post. I was only able to even write that post in the first place because we have a wonderful nanny who comes to help out with Baba G while I go upstairs and do my freelancing work. Last Monday was the first day she was back after our Vacation Gone Awry.

The situation I have is, on paper, exactly what I dreamed it would be when I quit working for The Man in mid-2007: I have a successful freelance writing business, can work from home, and finally have a kid — who I can see throughout the day while also getting stuff done thanks to our nanny.

What I didn't plan on is how LITTLE I would actually get done during business hours. Why? Because shit always happens.

Last Tuesday, a perfect storm descended upon our condo. After our nanny arrived, I went upstairs to start working and was hit by an extremely cold chill as soon as I got there. The thermostat confirmed it was only 55 degrees. The furnace had broken. Thankfully, I knew how to fix it, but this took up nearly an hour of my time.

Next, our alarm system — which had gone on the fritz the day before we left for the Dominican Republic — started going berzerk again. We had already had someone out the day after Thanksgiving to fix it... now I needed to call them back. As it turned out, they could get a technician to our place within a few hours. Once he got there, I had to pretty much stay with him as he did his work... which included him convincing me that we needed to add on two monitored fire alarms. (We already had fire alarms, but they weren't connected to any monitoring system.) This all took about 2 hours.

By that time I was nearly late for a client conference call. After that was over, my husband had come home and he, I and our nanny took Baba G to the pediatrician's office because he was still throwing up more than a week after our return to the States.

The pediatrician checked him out thoroughly but said there was pretty much nothing we could do except wait and see if he continued to throw up. I was told to touch base with them in two weeks if that was still the case.

We got home at 5, our nanny left, BG did in fact throw up again after his evening bottle... and then once he was finally asleep I got a text from our nanny saying that SHE was now sick. (I had bought her flu masks and all sorts of other anti-germ things to stop this from happening, but this bug is EVIL.)

That was when I busted out the wine and had my Calgon Moment. As my best friend Nerdy P said, "It's like CONTAGION up in your condo!"

The rest of the week went by in a blur as Baba G got better, our nanny returned on Friday (but then her husband got sick!), and the weather warmed up enough so that we could all finally get some fresh air.

Baba G hasn't thrown up since that Tuesday night, my brother and his wife had their beautiful baby daughter on Thursday morning, and my parents are almost out of the contagious timeframe so they'll be going to visit Grandchild #2 soon.

Please know that I am fully aware this wasn't THAT bad of a day or a week or a month. At one point when I was crying to my aunt about everything, she recalled how when she was pregnant with her second son she found out she had gestational diabetes, worked full-time, had a three-year-old AND was taking my grandpa to chemo treatments multiple times a week. Needless to say, I put my situation in perspective right quick.

I have also stopped feeling guilty about taking Baba G to the Dominican Republic. My pediatrician assured me that nasty bugs like what we caught are all over the place in the US, too.

But I'm going handle our next vacation very differently nonetheless. In the meantime I'm going to see if they actually still sell Calgon.

- e

Monday, November 26, 2012

Vacation FAIL

Have you ever had to use a barf bag?

It's not exactly a club one aspires to be a member of, I realize.

But a week ago on Delta Flight 2112, a Motion Sickness Bag and I became fast friends, making me the last member of our small family to be victimized by a nasty Dominican Republic bug.

We were supposed to return from our week-long vacation in Club Med in Punta Cana on Wednesday the 21st, but after my husband and Baba G fell ill Saturday and Sunday, respectively, we realized it was better to get back home as soon as possible — especially since the pediatrician's office would be closed on Thanksgiving.

And then I got sick on our Atlanta > Chicago leg, so we made the right choice. We stepped foot in our condo Monday evening, not a moment too soon.

My husband has been known to get sick when we travel, so when he came down with a ton of unpleasant symptoms late Saturday night (the 17th), I chalked it up to him not heeding my warnings about avoiding the resort's salad bar.

But then Sunday night Baba G wailed and wailed, and I knew something was off. He's usually a great through-the-night sleeper, and had been perfect for our first four nights in the pack 'n play the resort provided.

Sunday evening, however, he was so miserable that I brought him into bed with me and banished my husband to the other room (he was still extremely sick so needed to be away from us, anyway).

I snapped this picture of BG finally resting in a mass of pillows shortly before he got up Monday morning:

Sleep, at last.

Why is he only in his diaper, you ask? Maybe because the air conditioning in our room was broken and we were suffering in a very humid and stuffy 78 degrees.

After he woke up, it was clear he was not well. I will spare you the details, but let's just say that all of the things the Travel Clinic had forewarned us could go wrong, DID go wrong. On top of that, the extra-heavy-duty medicine they gave us to cure Baba G of all foreign germ invaders wouldn't stay down.

That's when we decided we had to pay the crazy-high airline change fees and cut our trip short. Thankfully, BG did not have as rough of a time coming home as I did.

I didn't even have to give anyone around us earplugs! He slept the whole way home.

Once we were back in Chicago Monday night, the worst of it hit me. My husband and I were so incredibly sick and weak that when BG woke up Tuesday morning covered in, um, a mess, I knew we needed help. So at 6:30 a.m. I called my parents, who I knew would not hesitant to make the five-hour drive from Michigan to come be with their ailing grandson (and, you know, us).

Over the next two days my husband and I got better, but Baba G did not. And then, at around 5:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, BOTH of my parents got violently ill within about ten minutes of each other, I kid you not.

I felt like a total ass because I had just assumed all of us had ingested something bad at the resort. Even though we only used bottled water for BG, I figured that since he puts his mouth on EVERYTHING, he had clearly licked up a deviant germ. But once my parents became sick then I knew we were dealing with some sort of contagious virus.

This whole situation was — and still is — awful, but what makes it so much worse is that my brother and his wife are having their first baby literally any second now (her due date was yesterday), and now my parents cannot go out to visit them in D.C. for at least two weeks to ensure they're no longer contagious. As Cher said best, "If I could turn back ti-iime...."

Baba G is not at 100% yet and since it's been over a week, we're hauling him back to the pediatrician's office tomorrow (we went in on Tuesday, too... stay tuned for a post on Taking Poo Samples for Parasite Sampling!).

Needless to say, he's not a fan of Thanksgiving (that's his 10-month birthday sticker on him below).

What the hell happened to all of us?

I regret a lot of things about our trip... about going to the Dominican Republic in the first place... etc., etc. I will probably never forgive myself. But we did at least have three fun days together as a family on our first vacation with BG, and then he and I had a nice mommy/son day alone before all hell broke loose.

Here's some proof:

I hope to be back with a much happier post soon! And I hope your Thanksgiving was better than ours was... it kind of HAD to be, right?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Snaps vs. Zippers

We're on our vacation right now (LOTS of posts about that after we return), and since it's really hot here I packed a bunch of Baba G's lighter-weight onesies for nighttime. As we've hit the cold temperatures back in Chicago and he's been in thicker, fleece-like onesies for a while already (the "super-comfy" zip-up kind by Carter's are my go-to at this point), I forgot how much I suck at snaps.

Yes, that's right, I am so uncoordinated that I seriously cannot ever get a onesie snapped up without having a mini nervous breakdown.

Here's what I'm talking about: look at the snaps for the Next brand onesie on the left (along the bottom) and then the zipper for the Carter's brand one on the right.

So. Many. Snaps! (There are two up by the neck as well._

The thing I do like about the snap-together onesie is that it's easier to deal with for a diaper change ... or at least the part where I only have to get his bottom out of the outfit is easier. With the zip-up there's no way around having to tug his left leg out of the leg/foot panel and then maneuvering it back in afterward. And I know that the Next onesie is really comfy for him (I actually really love that brand (it's British), but from what I can tell they only offer snap-up onesies). But I just cannot remember a time where I snapped it up correctly. Even this morning I found a gaping hole in the leg after 30 minutes after I changed Baba G. It's even worse when it's an early morning or late-night changing!

Which do you prefer: snaps or zippers? (I read about a brand that somehow incorporates magnets (fellow Breaking Bad fans that at this point I MUST stop and say: "Yeah, bitch! Magnets!") to close up onesies, but it seems like that would be uncomfortable for a stomach sleeper like Baba G.)

Any other types of onesie creations out there I need to know about?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Primo EuroBath

I was terrified to clip Baba G's fingernails... and only slightly less scared to give him a bath. I hadn't even started looking into baby tubs when a friend sent me the Primo Eurobath. She had two toddlers, so I figured she had done her homework.

And she had, because this tub has been great. It's got two "positions": one for babies who can't sit up yet and the other for those who have mastered the art of not flopping over every two seconds.

Here's what it looks like without anyone in it:

And here are model babies in the two positions:

It's easy to put a towel under your baby in the reclining position to give him a little more padding and help him refrain from sliding around too much. That's what we did when BG was really small.

But now he's a big boy (nearly 10 months old) and usually sits up during bath time, even though I actually still put him in with the "option to recline," because sometimes he likes to just chill with his ducky like so:

Winding down after a long day

He can still sit up just fine from that position:

Where's the party?

When I was pulling in the generic product shots for this post, I realized that some people are quite fanatical about this tub. It's gotten a lot of rave reviews on Amazon, and I have to say that even though I haven't really given much thought to what would or wouldn't make for a great baby tub, I have no complaints about this one and am glad my friend saved me the trouble of having to worry about it.

The bottom line: The Primo EuroBath costs about $39 and is something you're going to use every day for at least a few years. (Unless you don't give your kid a bath every day, in which case, rock on with your stankity baby! Kidding — I'll be the first to say they don't actually need that much cleaning! In fact, in the winter especially it can dry them out.) But you get my point: it's not an expensive product for how much you're going to use it. Having said that, my parents always washed my little brother in a dish tub and he turned out just fine.

Other things I like about the EuroBath besides the two-position design are: 1) the little grooves it has to hold washcloths, toys, a small bottle or soap, or what have you 2) the fact that it has a drain, even though I always just flip it over (it sits in our bigger tub) when we're done. But I like the OPTION of a drain, 3) how light it is, 4) that it doesn't have any scary chemicals in its materials, AND 5) it stands up easily on one end to dry out (some people add a tie onto it in order to hang it from the wall.

So yes, you could say I give this product a "yay." Baba G seems to like it, too.

Out of curiosity, does anyone out there have one of those "spa" tubs for their kid? The kind that warm up and make the water all bubbly and whatnot? I have a pedicure tub like that and always wondered if babies could possibly appreciate the luxury!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Baby Fingernail Clippers

There were few things that freaked me out more as a brand-new parent than the challenge of cutting an itty-bitty baby's nails. I was relieved when our pediatrician told us that we could get away with just filing them in the early days ... but those days didn't last very long. And even though we swaddled Baba G every night, by the time he was three months old he was wiggling at least one arm out in the wee hours and scratching his face.

Does this cheek gash make me look gangsta?

When the moment of truth finally came and I knew I had no choice but to cut BG's nails with real clippers, I first used the American Red Cross kind for babies (on the right in the picture on the left, and on the bottom in the picture on the right) that I received in a big "Safety and Grooming" kit. 

The experience was a miserable failure because that safety extension on the bottom of the clippers makes it IMPOSSIBLE to clip anything. I had another generic pair of baby clippers that came in a big gift set of grooming items we received from friends, and I realized that the safety extension could slide off, leaving you with simple mini-clippers (as seen on the left and top in the pictures above).

I tried these and they rocked. But I have totally failed you as a baby product blogger because these have no brand! I'm assuming they're the exact same as ANY brand of baby clippers without the safety part clipped on. I see no difference between them and normal adult nail clippers except for their overall size.

I have been lucky in that I have never nicked BGs skin or cuticles (enough) to cause bleeding. But these clippers are definitely sharp and I can see how it could easily happen.

I am also something of a glutton for punishment in that I always clip BG's nails when he's fully awake. This goes against this sage advice which suggests doing it while he's asleep or right after a bath when nails are softest. Or having someone help me hold his arms down.

While writing this post I realized that I have no idea why I never tried the baby nail scissors that we have a few pairs of (which came in those same grooming sets). I've never used nail scissors myself, so that's probably why. But my friend and fellow new mom Claire Z tried out these cute Piyo Piyo baby nail scissors ($6) and was happy with them:

Has anyone else been pleased — or frustrated — with a certain brand of baby nail scissors or clippers? Anyone have any time-tested tips for getting the job done quickly and painlessly?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Baba G's First Halloween

I've never been a fan of Halloween. I love seeing other people's costumes, but am just not motivated to put much effort into creating a unique one of my own. So I knew I was going to feel guilty when everyone started asking about what Baba G was going to be for his first Halloween.

"Um, we're just going to put him in a monkey outfit one of our friend's sons wore."

And that's what we did.

Fake monkey, real banana

What are you doing to me.

Yeah... I don't get what's going on

We had him in this costume for less than 10 minutes. We just wanted to get a few pictures to send to family members who expected us to do SOMETHING for his first Halloween. Thankfully, I didn't end up feeling guilty about our lack of Halloween activities or excitement. I mean, he can't even have candy yet. What's the point?

That same evening he also became a pirate. This was a lot easier because the "costume" was really just comfy PJs from Baby Gap (best part was a Captain Hook hook on the left wrist). Then we just tied a hat/patch thingy on him for a few minutes in order to snap some pictures. I originally attempted to tape the little parrot onto his shoulder, but that lasted for about .2 milliseconds. (His Great Aunt Sue sent the hat/patch and the bird, which was actually a teeny card.)

Did anyone really get into Halloween when their kid was just a baby? Am I a bad mom for not feelin' it? I think once he can trick or treat or is excited to pick out his own costume, that will be a different story. At that point I'm going to try and convince him to be THIS:

"Gnome on a mushroom" = Best kiddie costume.

If you love the above as much as I did, bookmark this site for costume ideas next year!

Hope you all had a Happy Halloween — whether you dressed up or not.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Skip*Hop Moby Bath Spout Cover

The Skip*Hop Moby Bath Spout Cover is one of those "Why didn't *I* think of that and become a millionaire?" products. So simple in its concept, but — to my knowledge — still relatively new to the baby-products scene. It's a cute little whale (or duck) that covers up the faucet and helps overactive kids avoid nasty bumps on their heads during bathtime.

In the early days (when BG was always chill) I didn't see why anyone would need one of these, but now that he is pretty hyper during his bath and moving positions constantly or attempting to climb out of the tub half the time, I get it.

And guess what? Just like the traffic sign and the Bon Jovi album (do I date myself?), babies and toddlers are slippery when wet. You might think you've got a good hold of them and then... kerplunk back down into the water they go. Extra padding around stuff like the faucet is a good thing in those situations.

Hello, Mr. Whale!

The bottom line: I suppose if your kid rammed his head into the tub spout with a ton of force, this soft-plastic whale isn't going to do much in the way of preventing a disaster. But in normal circumstances it should help stave off a shiner or a black eye or something worse.

A ton of different brands have jumped on the "spout cover" bandwagon, so there are a lot of options to choose from. But this Skip*Hop one seemed to be the most highly rated, and I pretty much couldn't escape it on any baby-products web site, so that's what we went with. It goes for about $10.50 on Amazon.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Boon Flair Pedestal Highchair

Yes, the Boon Flair highchair looks like it's straight out of The Jetsons. Yes, the only colors it comes in are kind of obnoxious. And yes, at $200, it is expensive. But there was not going to be any other highchair for Baba G—I loved this thing the second I laid eyes on it, despite the fact that it doesn't go with our condo's decor AT ALL (though it would fit perfectly in my dream condo... which only exists in my head).

But come on, you have to admit it is cool:

The orange button at the base adjusts the height, and there's a pedal in the back that works as a brake if you have to wheel it around. Otherwise it glides effortlessly with a gentle push, yet still manages to hold tight in one spot on our wood floor at all other times. I haven't used the orange button since we first set the height we wanted, and I've never needed to use the brake.

Chop, chop! Where's my grub?
What drew me to this chair, besides its overall look, is that I didn't want a highchair like they have in restaurants. Why? Because I didn't want to have to wipe down all of those posts, that's why! Yes, laziness and a hatred of cleaning drives many of my decisions.

I also didn't want anything to be able to fall out of the sides of the highchair. With the Boon Flair, whatever BG doesn't throw onto the floor is going to be captured in the seat or on the tray.

There's an orange pad on the seat that can be removed for extra room, and the tray comes with two transparent tray covers that easily snap on and off. When one's in the wash (yes, they're dishwasher safe but also take about 1 second to wipe down) you can use the other. I think I've only had to wipe down the actual try like 2 times in 4 months. Things are getting a bit messier now, however, since BG is trying more finger foods.

On top of wanting an easy-to-clean highchair, I also wanted one that had over-the shoulder harnesses. I knew the reality would be that I'd often have to walk back and forth from the sink or not be right there sitting across from BG every second he was in the chair, and I didn't think a lap belt would be enough. The shoulder harness does the trick -- he has never gotten out of it and it doesn't seem to bother him, either. You can put also enough slack in it so your kid can bend forward a bit to pick up stuff from the tray.

 Speaking of the tray, my only complaints would be that to take off the tray you have to move a lever underneath to the left and then pull it forward to release the tray. This was tricky at first when my wrist issues were worse. But now I don't even think about it.

About 5 1/2 months old and patiently waiting...

Also, the tray is too small for our Skip*Hop plate set. But at this point BG isn't actually using the plate part of that set, so it's OK. I'm actually not sure if ANY try for any highchair would be big enough for that plate.

Nine months old and still pretty patient.

The bottom line: I love the Boon Flair Pedestal highchair (with pneumatic lift). It moves easily on the wood floor when I need it to, stays put when I need it to, is very easy to clean, seems comfortable for Baba G, and looks cool. So if you're willing to splurge ($200), I say go for it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

In Search Of: The Best Waterproof/Pool-Friendly Diaper

In preparation for our trip next month, I need to figure out what Baba G can wear if we decide to visit the toddler pool:

I spent a few minutes Googling "waterproof diapers" and "swim diapers" and "diapers for pool" and came up with options ranging from Huggies Little Swimmers to Pampers Splashers to the i play Swim Diaper (same company behind BG's sun hat!).

I was most concerned with finding something that wouldn't disintegrate or get weighed down in the water. I didn't even THINK of the possibility of him going #2 in the pool, which was a topic of discussion and debate in the review section for the Swim Diaper. I guess this situation didn't cross my mind because at this age BG is VERY obvious when he's doing his business, and so I'd just whip him out of the pool should that be the case. But perhaps when kids get older they take care of #2 on the sneak tip?

Either way, I'm all ears for suggestions about what works best for a 10-month-old to wear in the pool (under swim trunks, of course).

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Unsolicited Advice: Preparing for Baby's First International Trip

Thanks again to everyone who offered travel advice in response to this post. We ended up buying Baba G his own seat on the plane, and we're also going to bring along his car seat in the hopes that he'd be more comfortable napping in that rather than with us holding him. I equated my husband or me holding him to him being more likely to get distracted by everything going on around us. Both of our flights just so happen to be during his nap times, so here's hopin'!

After researching our options, I decided to try out THIS crazy thing, rather than buy a small cart with wheels to attach the car seat onto:
Believe it or not, people SWEAR this works. And it was only $15...

Our criteria for this first trip out of the U.S. with him was that we wanted to go somewhere neither my husband nor I had been before, it had to be in the Caribbean because we wanted to minimize travel time while also ending up somewhere warm (and I've visited most islands there, so pickings were slim), and ideally it would be an all-inclusive resort with multiple dining options and a baby-friendly reputation.

I Googled "Baby-friendly Caribbean resorts" and found this New York Times article from two years ago. I'd already been to Jamaica, so that was out. We went to Atlantis in the Bahamas for our babymoon last year, so that was out. (This IS one of the few places I would actually return to when Baba G is older, however, because its water park is just so amazing and I know he'd love it... and I didn't get to go on any of that stuff because I was pregnant!) There wasn't a painless way to get to St. Lucia from Chicago, so that was out. We seriously considered Curacao, but that also seemed more difficult to get to, and the resort the article mentioned seemed more appropriate for kids rather than babies. So that left the two places in the Dominican Republic, a country I'd already been zeroing in on because it met all of our criteria.

We ended up booking a "5 Trident" suite at Club Med Punta Cana because we wanted to be away from the rest of the resort and have as much privacy and service as possible. The resort is only ten minutes from the airport, which minimized the travel time Baba G would have to be in his car seat during the transfer. (The main reason we decided to bring his car seat is because we will need to travel by taxi about forty minutes to and from the airport in Chicago, as well as those ten minutes once we're at our destination, and I'm just too paranoid to not have him in a car seat during those times.)

I was also impressed by the high "family-friendly" TripAdvsior ratings/positive reviews CMPC received, but what ended up sealing the deal for Club Med overall was that this location is one of the few Club Med spots that offers that Baby Club Med program. We actually don't intend to leave Baba G with sitters there during our stay at all, but we were desperate to find a reputable place that provided Pack 'n Plays, tubs, strollers, etc., so that we didn't have to haul ANY of that crap with us. This place supplies all of those things and more, plus they even have baby food (the jarred kind) and special areas in the restaurants for those who are feeding babies in high chairs and whatnot.

SOLD! (You're on your own for formula and diapers, though, which was fine with us.) They also have a really cool Baby Club Med play area, although I think that's technically for the people using the daycare option. We'll see.

Go nuts, BG!
We booked everything through Club Med so they took care of our flights, and since they were running a "7 nights for the price of 4" promotion, and since the time we're going is their low season, it was a great deal overall. If I had to do it over again I would probably explicitly ask the Club Med rep to contact the airline while I waited on hold to see if we could get a discount for Baba G's seat, as I heard many airlines do this for travelers under the age of 2. Instead I'm pretty sure we paid a full, ridiculously high price. I don't want to think about it! (They didn't provide a room vs. flight breakdown so I'm going to choose to remain ignorant.)

The next to-dos were: 1) getting Baba G into the kids' travel clinic for any necessary shots and destination-specific advice, and then 2) getting him a passport ASAP. The travel clinic visit went smoothly, the passport photo shoot... not so much.

We first went to Kinko's when it was nearing Baba G's bedtime. That was a mistake because he was getting cranky. We spent a full 50 minutes trying to get a shot where he was actually looking into the camera. Their camera had a multi-second delay, so this was nearly impossible. But once we finally got an acceptable shot... their printer didn't work, and there was no way to salvage the picture. They couldn't email it to us or anything.

The next day we went to Walgreens and a very friendly woman with big hair and exceedingly long nails was behind the photo counter, and she was a bit TOO friendly in Baba G's mind. She kind of got up in his face telling him how cute he was, and since he's in his "Not So Sure About Strangers" phase, he started bawling.

So then we had to distract him by walking around Walgreens for like 10 minutes. We finally got a picture after I asked the woman to help keep the white background secure while a different, less enthusastic Walgreens employee stood in front of BG to get the shot. My husband is holding BG standing up while the Too Friendly woman positioned the white cardboard thingy right behind Baba.

This is one of the outtakes of the shoot. The joke's on him because he'll have to live with this picture for the next 5 years!

Should this be an ad for Walgreens' photo service or what?

I'll definitely have a "Lessons Learned" debrief post after we're back from the trip at the end of November... wish us luck!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Prince Lionheart Premium Wipes Warmer

Something wintry this way comes
It's a bit nippy out today, so I figured it was a good time to write about the Prince Lionheart Premium Wipes Warmer. This is a product I wasn't originally going to register for—I thought it was a classic example of something our parents and grandparents would laugh at because it seemed so silly. "We used to change babies outside in the middle of a blizzard (after walking uphill barefoot) and use snow for wipes and those kids were fine! He doesn't need his bum to be warm!"

But I DID register for the warmer after one of my friends swore by it. She lives here in Chicago and said her son would wail his head off when she changed him and the wipes were cold, but then after she used the warmer he was happy as a clam.

Baba G was born at the end of January, and even though we had a fairly mild winter, our condo is chilly from mid-October through March no matter what. We can crank up the heat all we want, but the AIR still feels crisp in our bedroom because it lies outside of the main foundation of the building (long story). BG slept in his Pack 'n Play in our room for his first several months, so I set up the wipes warmer on our dresser and hoped it would help.

The problem was that unless I could use the wipes on him within like 2 seconds after taking them out of the container, they lost their warmth. The damp cloth hit the chilly air and all heat was just zapped from it. Even so, we used the warmer for about three months because the wipes were still less cold than they would've been otherwise. At the end of those three months we were supposed to replace the "pillow" that sits at the bottom of the container. This pillow needs to be kept moist in order for the product to work, and by the end of the three months we did in fact notice that it was starting to brown around the edges. The replacements come in 2-packs for about $12.75 on Amazon.

I'm not sure if other people who live in normal houses or warmer condos would have the "wipes immediately losing their heat" problem. I quickly skimmed through the reviews on Amazon and it seems like there are a few other people who felt that the container needed to be extremely close to their changing area in order for the wipes to remain warm long enough. Others were like my friend and swore up and down that their kid couldn't be changed without warm wipes and that this product did the trick.

I liked everything else about the warmer. It was easy enough to use and the soft light on it was fine. I wished it didn't have to be plugged in, because that limited our options of where it could sit. But I'm assuming they were trying to keep its size as compact as possible and a battery compartment would've made it too big.

If you're interested in registering for or buying a warmer, you are likely to have a nervous breakdown when you try to figure out the difference between the two Prince Lionheart models, because I almost did. So I'm gonna help you out! Here's what I found on the company's web site:

The 0231 (Ultimate) is based on our original Wipes Warmer with additional features including a pop-up lid, a flexible moisture barrier to help keep wipes moist and fresh and to hold the next wipe in place for pop-up style wipes. ($19.20 on Amazon)

Model 9002 (Premium, the one I have) has improved and updated styling, a more powerful heating element, and an improved moisture barrier for increased moisture retention. (About $24.20 on Amazon.)

All of our appliance style wipes warmers use the patented Ever-Fresh System® to ensure that whichever wipes you use on your baby, they are warm, moist, and fresh.

The bottom line: For us, the Prince Lionheart Premium Wipes Warmer didn't really work as well as we hoped it would, but that was in part due to the permanently cold state of our condo. Now that Baba G is sleeping through the night, I'm hoping we won't need to use it again this coming winter, as the temperature in our place is pretty bearable during the day, at least. But we shall see. I have it ready just in case.

If you do feel like you could make use of a wipes warmer, the reviews on Amazon indicate that it's worth spending an extra $5 and getting the premium version as it holds the heat in better. And remember you'll need a new moisture pillow every 3 months.

If others have used a wipes warmer, please share your experience! I'm curious if other people relied on theirs as much as my friend did.

He needs to wear this in our condo, it's THAT cold. (Kidding.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Personalized Baby Block

A really cool gift that some of our friends got us was this personalized baby block from Craft-E Family.

Each of its six sides is personalized with:
1) The letter of his first name
2) His birth date, time of birth, weight and height
3) "Proud Parents" and then my and my husband's names
4) The day of the week and the city he was born in
5) His full name
6) Who the gift was from

Truth be told, I'm usually not a fan of anything that is meant to sit on display. But I actually really do like this personalized block because it takes up hardly any space, is unique, isn't "cutesy" and therefore goes with pretty much any style of room, and is safe if it should happen to fall into Baba G's hands...

The bottom line: I think the Personalized Baby Block from Craft-E Family is a great baby gift, and—at only $17 (with free shipping!)—it's an excellent value as well. (They make other baby gifts, too.) And maybe I just have an extra-bad memory or wasn't wired to have these kinds of facts burned into my brain, but I had already forgotten what day BG was born on, so I like having this cute little reminder of all of his "major stats."

As a matter of fact, I recently had a conversation with my sister-in-law about that "Monday's child" poem and she was saying that she and her mom were debating what day she was born. So I guess as the decades pass it's definitely easy to lose track of this stuff, even for someone who normally has a good memory. If they had the personalized block they could've just whipped it out!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fisher-Price Cradle 'N Swing, My Little Snugabunny

High-tech swings (the Fisher-Price Snugabunny is but one of gazillions) fall squarely in the "nice to have" department. They're not essential by any means, but chances are that if you are lucky enough to have one, you're going to put it to work during your baby's first few months.

The "My Little Snugabunny" version is named as such because your kid will get cozy in a padded area that looks like a bunny:

There are restraints, of course, because this thing MOVES. When it's on the highest speeds, it's no joke.

It can go both side-to-side (right picture, below) and back and forth (left picture, below), and there's a twirly mobile that makes chirping sounds (and can be turned off, if you want), as well as several other sound/song options.

Baba G LOVED his swing in the sense that he would immediately chill out once he was in it. As you can see from the videos below, we had it stationed in my husband's music room/office. The oh-so-appropriate poster of Eddie Van Halen with a cigarette hanging off of his guitar is the dead giveaway. (No, the rest of our condo isn't similarly decorated.)

Here's Baba G seeming fairly calm but totally alert. This video was taken when he was about four months old and my husband was traveling for a few nights. I had an awful time trying to get BG down for a nap. He'd been crying for at least a half-hour straight... and then I remembered we had the swing. (It was an "out of sight, out of mind" situation.) Warning: if you're like me you're going to get dizzy watching these clips!

Within five minutes he was sound asleep:

I'm pretty sure they say you're not supposed to put your kid in the swing for a nap. Just like they say you shouldn't put your kid in anything but his crib for a nap. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and the swing was a surefire way to get him to doze off if he was tired but fighting it. We were always in the room with him and he was always strapped in, so in my book I don't see the difference between him being awake or asleep in it, as far as safety is concerned.

The bottom line: The Fisher-Price swings take up a lot of room, there's no denying that. So they might not be practical for those who don't have much living space... or for those who don't have a ton of storage space.

What's more, you will have to bid the swing adieu after your baby hits 25 pounds or starts wanting to sit up on his own and resists being in a reclined position (the latter happened first for us), so chances are this is a "five months or less" type of product. Having said all of that, I'm glad we had one because we made nightly use out of it and sometimes Baba G would just chill in it for quite a while and my husband would play acoustic guitar and sing to him.

It costs around $127 on Amazon.