I got to ride in an adult-sized stroller because sometimes life really is that awesome

When Contours Baby* contacted me and asked if I would perhaps be willing to come downtown to witness and/or experience FCB Chicago’s latest brainchild for parents allowing them to test strollers in a real way, I was intrigued because how do we actually know if a stroller is comfortable or not? (Babies are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to critiques of stroller ergonomics.) When I found out this would entail me hopping into – and being pushed in – an adult-sized exact replica of their flagship stroller I almost fell out of my chair in excitement.

Oh, who are we kidding? I absolutely, literally, fell out of my chair in excitement.

You see, after 19 months (whaaaat?!) of pushing another living being around in an ergonomically-designed wheeled contraption there was nothing – nothing – I wanted more than to experience this bliss myself. And wouldn’t you know? The name of the stroller model is literally Bliss. I’m talking fate, people. Kismet, if you will.

I know that's exactly what they described, but I will still never be able to handle it.

I know that’s exactly what they described, but I will still never be able to handle it.

The nice folks over at Contours had described the concept as a “full-scale, adult-sized, exact replica of the stroller,” and so I’m not sure why I was so shocked to see exactly that. Maybe I expected the general framework, but not all the details? But no. They spared no detail. The mesh undercarriage, the seat, the cute design on the inside of the sun shade, the mesh holders inside to hold toys (which I could only assume were to hold bottles of wine on the adult-sized one)? They were all there. Exactly to scale. Exactly as they appear on the baby-sized stroller.

The whole purpose of the day was for FCB to be able to film the stroller in action to get real reactions of people who are not used to riding around in adult-sized strollers (so their sample size was presumably pretty much any adult). They decided to film my piece down Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile, for those not as familiar with Chicago, but who might have heard that term).

We planted ourselves right in front of the Water Tower, which is pretty much the epicenter of the most touristy part of the Mag Mile.

I strapped myself in with the 5-point harness because safety first, everyone

IMG_20160502_161818

Please note the lovely step stool…that fit in the undercarriage holder. Amazing.

I addressed my legions of adoring fans…

When you're famous I've learned it's always important to make time for the little people. And maybe also not call them little people. And then also realize you are in no way famous.

When you’re famous I’ve learned it’s always important to make time for the little people. And maybe also not call them little people. And then also realize you are in no way famous.

And then we set off down Michigan Avenue…

IMG_20160502_162306

I almost felt guilty about having someone so tiny push me and this ginormous stroller…

…but then realized this was pretty much the best thing that had ever happened to me. Also, karma. Or something.

Yes, moms of the world, riding in a stroller really is as awesome as we have always wondered.

Yes, moms of the world, riding in a stroller really is as awesome as we have always wondered.

People (tourists and locals alike) could not stop taking pictures. If I’m going to become internet famous, this is absolutely how I’d prefer it to happen.

Eventually I brought Wee Connor up with me into the stroller. I did my best “baby napping in a stroller” impression while he did his best “parent hating the fact that their child is napping in a stroller instead of in their crib” impression.

I'm so glad I could start being the most embarrassing human on the planet so early.

Nailed it.

The verdict? The stroller was super comfortable, the ride, while beyond understandably slow, was steady and smooth, and I pretty much had the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life on Michigan Avenue. Also, I got to ride in a freaking adult-sized stroller, and that is every mom’s secret dream.

Thanks for the good times, Contours! I had a blast.

IMG_20160502_163213

Just your average Monday in Chicago, folks.

 

*P.S. Contours is having a $150 Spa Finder giveaway on their Facebook page right now through Friday, May 6th!

**FCB Chicago is an ad agency who partnered with Contours to enter into the Cannes Lions. An earlier version of this post stated the entry was solely by Contours.

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Chime: a babysitting service review

Disclaimer: while I have negotiated a coupon code (use code MOTHERHOOD at hellochime.com for $50 off your first sitting) for all you Motherhood What readers from Chime, I in no way have been compensated for this post. All opinions are my own, and I have been a loyal Chime user since August 2015.

new girl scared noFinding a rotation of good babysitters is a parenting chore that tends to rank right up there with “putting all the books up on the shelf for the 7th time today” and “showering.” Unless you’re fortunate enough to have willing-and-able family nearby, more than likely at some point you will find yourself paying someone else to watch your precious mini-human(s) while out of the house. This requires an immense amount of trust on multiple levels: letting someone into your sacred safe space of your home, and, more importantly, trusting they will care for your little ones in a way you will not only find acceptable but will find comforting enough to actually enjoy your time away.

When we moved to Chicago Wee Connor was about 6 months old. We hadn’t ever really used babysitters in Charlotte because he had been nursing so much, and then whenever we did go out (read as: go back home to sleep for multiple hours at a time…in a row…which is still the best thing ever) my husband’s parents were typically in town so we could cash in on their desperation to spoil their first grandchild. Suddenly in Chicago we found ourselves able to get away due to a more independent child but, more importantly, wanting to get away more. Having that mental break and kid-free time as adults made us able to tackle the not-as-fun kid times (think: teething, sicknesses, crankiness, etc.) a million times better. I also firmly happen to believe it’s a good thing to have my child know that sometimes I won’t be right there, but I will come back, and his world will keep turning. Adaptability isn’t high on a baby/toddler’s personality traits, but giving into his desire for true consistency 100% of the time won’t help him in the long run.

So what did I do when I needed a sitter, didn’t have family in town, and didn’t know where to turn?

I turned to Chime.

chime squareChime is a website/app that connects you to babysitters. You simply pick a time you need a sitter, and Chime will give you a list of 3 sitters available in that slot. The sitters are guaranteed to be available if they appear in that list (read as: no calling/texting/emailing 35 babysitters hoping they’re available). You can view their profile/experience, watch a video of them, and see other parents’ reviews of their experience, then book the sitter you’d like to hire. At the end of the night you pay them directly through the site. No needing to grab/break cash on the way back, no awkward exchanges at the end of the evening, and you can add in extra expenses like dinner or tips directly on the app. Once you have booked a sitter you can gain access to their schedule to book them again directly.

That convenience stuff is great, I know, but what’s actually great about this site? The sitters.

kimmy schmidt dancingYou guys, straight talk: the sitters are all incredible. Chime pre-screens, pre-interviews, pre-does-everything-you-want-done-before-hiring-a-sitter. Not once have I had a bad experience with a Chime sitter after almost 10 months of using the service fairly regularly. Every single sitter has been on time, willing to listen to my requests, ask the right questions, and has reached out to me before the sitting engagement as well. Each sitter I’ve had through Chime has been a sitter I could only dream to find on my own. Their strict interview process clearly works and if there has ever been a problem (usually my problem in terms of not using the site correctly, hashbrown mombrain*) their customer service has been impeccable. 

Chime is available in Chicago, Boston, DC, and New York. The rates are standard sitting rates for the cities available (Chicago is $14/hour, each additional child is $1/hour).

And, you know, because I like you all so much, I happened upon someone at Chime and got them to offer up $50 worth of babysitting credit to new users with the code MOTHERHOOD. You can think of this as getting paid to go out on the town. (Again, I am not receiving any kickbacks from Chime for writing this post.) Just go to hellochime.com and enter MOTHERHOOD when booking. 

So go out and enjoy some kid-free time and enjoy yourselves as adults! Not only do you deserve it, you probably need it more than you realize. Think of this as putting on your mental oxygen mask first before you can help others fully.

*Extra points if you catch that Kimmy Schmidt reference**

**PSA: In case you hadn’t heard, Season 2 is out on Netflix.

Registry Lookback: Hindsight Is 20/20

Sophie. La. Damn. Giraffe.

Sophie. La. Damn. Giraffe.

When you have your first baby, you would be shocked at this newfound ability you have on the internet. You suddenly become a master of finding articles everywhere with something along the lines of, “10 Baby Registry Must Haves!” or “20 Registry Items You Forgot You Needed!” or “If you don’t buy or register for these items your child will in no way survive and if they do somehow make it to adolescence their chances at an Ivy League education are out the window!” [paraphrased].

I read these articles diligently, buying and putting all the items I thought I had to have on there, thinking carefully about my lifestyle, my apartment, and my baby’s future college education. Some things I struck gold on. Others? Eh. But in this 8 month (excuse me, what?!) look-back I thought maybe I could help add to the noise of the registry “must haves” list and help sift through what was worth the splurge and what wasn’t, and what was it like to have this stuff on a day-to-day-to-month basis.


Stroller: UPPAbaby Vista

  • Model I purchased: UPPAbaby Vista
  • Hindsight opinion: Go for the UPPAbaby Cruz instead
This has since been redesigned, but very similar. via

This has since been redesigned, but very similar. via (now $859)

A stroller is probably one of the biggest ticket items on a registry, and everyone has a different opinion on what you need according to your lifestyle. And the reason is because you do need different things according to what you’re going to be doing. I live in a city and use my stroller literally every day. Literally every. single. day. My friends who live in suburbs? Not so much. They opted for the travel system that includes an infant carseat. I wrote a blog post back in the day about the stroller debate and I had it narrowed down to two options: The UPPAbaby Vista and the City Mini Elite, based on what I valued most in a stroller: large undercarriage storage (the single most important thing for a stroller in my opinion), good handling, ease of use, ability to put an infant carseat on top. The UPPAbaby won out, and it is by far the stroller I see the most in Chicago (I hardly ever saw one in Charlotte when I lived there).

It's like the Vista, but edited via

Cruz: It’s like the Vista, but edited via ($499)

However, if I had to do it over again, I would still get an UPPAbaby, but I would have opted for its slightly “smaller” cousin, the UPPAbaby Cruz. The Cruz handles just as well, has just as large a storage underneath, the seat can turn and face you or out, and the infant carseat can still go on top, but the Cruz has a few key differences:

  • Cheaper – please see below re: bassinet
  • No bassinet is included. This might be a bad thing for some people, but Connor despised the UPPAbaby bassinet with the fiery passion of a million suns, unless it was attached the stroller and moving, which lasted about 2 months. The money saved on the stroller could have easily been allocated to a bassinet that was comfortable or to more coffee. Either way, it could have been spent in a much better way. I have read a lot of people have had the same experience with the UPPAbaby bassinet as well.
  • Slightly narrower – the Vista is so wide. No, seriously, it is so wide. Even when I wasn’t taking public transportation all the time in Charlotte, I couldn’t get it through aisles in stores in the mall. It handles great, but it becomes truly unwieldy in some places.
  • Lighter – no matter what your lifestyle, you will find yourself schlepping the stroller in some way, be it into your car, into a closet, onto the bus, etc. With the “normal” seat in, the Vista weighs in at 26 pounds. This is also an unwieldy, large, bulky, odd-to-hold-onto 26 pounds. The Cruz is just a little bit lighter, which would also assuage my guilt when kind strangers insist on helping me up/down stairs (Midwestern kindness never fails!).
Connor taking up too much space on public transportation. (I swear I don't do this during rush hour!)

Connor taking up too much space on public transportation. (I swear I don’t do this during rush hour!)

When I got the Vista, UPPAbaby claimed I could expand on it and add more seats, etc. to it. Then just as Connor was born, they completely redesigned the stroller and every attachment to it and unapologetically refused to make the new attachments, rumble seats, etc. backwards compatible, which means that in the future with more children, I will not be able to easily find the parts to make my stroller a 2+ kid stroller. To say this is disappointing and a slap in the face by UPPAbaby is an understatement. But nevertheless my lesson has been learned: do not buy things thinking that a company will keep its word even a year into the future. Buy for now, not for 2-3 years from now.


Infant Carseat: UPPAbaby Mesa

This is the carseat strapped into the stroller.

This is the carseat strapped into the stroller.

  • Model I purchasedUPPAbaby Mesa
  • DebateGo with infant carseat or just with a convertible carseat that will take them through toddlerhood?
  • Hindsight conclusionIf you travel a lot or need to be in cabs, the infant carseat is a godsend. Otherwise, I would probably really consider the convertible carseat option.
  • Would I buy this model infant carseat again? In a second.

As a carseat, I have 0 complaints with the UPPAbaby Mesa. (I wrote a blog post about it a while back, and all of it is still true!) It’s gorgeous, safe, doesn’t take up too much room, fits easily into a sedan, is easy to use, and, as the pinnacle of amazingness, it’s easy to install. 

I bought the infant carseat to use with the stroller. At the time I was in the market, the Vista needed attachments to use (while the Cruz did not) with their own brand of carseat (one of the major improvements with the redesign is that issue has since been resolved). I used this system a lot, but looking back on it – did I need to? When I weigh the options I think I lean down onto the side of “I’d do this again”, but not by much.

hahahahahahahaha. ha. ha. ha. hahahaha. I am so mean.

hahahahahahahaha. ha. ha. ha. hahahaha. I am so mean.

Since the invention of the infant seat it’s been almost universally accepted that babies go in the infant seat, then to a convertible carseat when they outgrow the infant one. You see this often: moms hauling their itty bitty babies in the carseats out of the car so as not to disturb them sleeping. This model is also helpful because itty bitty babies need something to be contained in for months. What they don’t tell you is this: carseats are heavy. And truly some of the most awkward things in the world to haul around for any distance longer than 5 feet. And heavy. Did I mention heavy? Because they are so heavy. Without a baby inside of them they are heavy, and then you add this baby-thing that just keeps on growing and getting heavier by the minute and this model of taking the baby out with the carseat becomes truly unsustainable. When I realized I could just put the baby in an Ergo carrier (or some carrier like that) and walk around the grocery store, my eyes were opened. Many restaurants have also stopped allowing you to put the carseat on top of a toddler seat, which is part of the appeal of the infant seat as well.

On the other hand, though, the infant seat (and specifically the Mesa) has some definite advantages:

  • Traveling – if you are traveling the infant carseat is a godsend. The ease of installation into a rental car is unparalleled.
  • Cab rides – in large cities you technically aren’t required to have the infant in a carseat, but…if you feel safer, you can have the infant seat without the base, then strap the infant seat into the stroller. This is quite ideal, honestly. While I’m strolling around town, though, I put the normal seat on since it’s much more comfortable.
  • Size – this is Mesa-specific, but this carseat only takes up one spot in the back seat of any car. I’ve had it in the back of a Prius, our Acura TSX (that we sold for our next car), our Subaru Forester. I don’t know how, but the seat somehow just fits into any car with ease.

So where do I come down on this? It’s hard to tell. After about 2-3 months, the carrying the carseat around with a baby in it (sans stroller) became almost impossible, but traveling and cab rides with the infant seat is a million times better than just having a convertible. I guess I would do it over again, but if you don’t really travel all that often or ride in cabs with a baby, I think I would advise just going straight to the convertible carseat and taking the baby out with an Ergo/carrier or stroller, since the infant seat will become a permanent fixture far sooner in your car than you think it will.


Baby Food Spoons

  • IMG_2769Type purchasedEl cheapo spoons from Buy Buy Baby. I think they were these. Later, I purchased more from the grocery store that were about the same price, I think these. (I purchased more on the pro tip from my mom that if you give them a spoon to hold they magically eat more with less fuss, so I typically use two spoons at every meal. Trust me, it works.)
  • HindsightAbsolutely do not purchase expensive baby food spoons (such as these). If the baby is hungry, he will eat off any apparatus you put near his mouth. He cares not one lick what you spent on baby utensils.

This was on the advice of a fellow mom in Buy Buy Baby when I was first purchasing spoons for Wee Connor’s first solids: “Oh my goodness, no, don’t even bother with those expensive baby spoons. If they’re hungry they’ll eat. There’s no difference at all.” This woman knew what was going on. Save that extra money on baby spoons for more coffee. In case you haven’t noticed “save the money for coffee” is a common piece of advice I give a lot.


Rocking Chair/Glider

  • Type purchased: West Elm glider
  • Hindsight: Go with a rocker/glider that is comfortable and you love. I say this is absolutely worth a “splurge.”

IMG_3637In designer nurseries nowadays I see these chic minimalist rockers that look oh-so-Pinterest-worthy. All I see when I look at that stupid thing is, “numb ass and sore neck.” After 8 months, I am still more glad of the glider I purchased from West Elm than any other baby purchase I made. Get a rocker or glider that when you sit in it you go, “ohhh, that is sooo amazing,” because even at 8 months in, you’ll be reading in it, rocking in it, and generally still spending a lot of time in it. At the beginning, you’ll snooze in it.

I love my glider. I love the way it feels, I love the way it looks. I love everything about it.

Get a rocker or glider you love. I can personally attest it’s worth it.


Baby Food Maker

  • Type purchased: Beaba Babycook Pro
  • Hindsight evaluation: I use this almost every day and love it. However, if you’re really debating on cost, an immersion blender and steam basket will accomplish the exact same thing.

I make almost all of Connor’s food because I’m a crazy person. I registered for a Beaba Babycook Pro and use it all the time.

Here’s how it works: you put the food you want into the steamer basket. There are 3 lines on the blending container, and you fill it with water (up to 2 for fruits only, 3 for meats/veggies), you pour the water into the top like a coffee maker, put the steamer basket into the blending container, plop it all onto the machine, close it, and hit the button. When the machine beeps, you take the steamer basket out, reserve some water, then blend it all up in the blender basket. It’s a one-stop-shop and makes making baby food as easy as making coffee that takes up almost no counter space. I use it to make a few baby portions at a time.

The only complaint I have about the Beaba is its capacity is limited. At first this isn’t a problem – the baby doesn’t eat a ton and so you don’t need a ton of food. But then the baby starts doing this thing called “growing” and “needing food” and you need more and more food. Or you want to make more “complex” recipes (one of Connor’s favorites is poached salmon in spinach with crème fraîche…it sounds much fancier than it actually is). That’s when you probably need something more hefty.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s all personal preference. I think the Beaba is one of the reasons I’ve really stuck with making Connor’s food, and for things like mashed sweet potatoes/parsnips, simple meat/veggie mixes, fruit purées, it can’t be beat. For larger scale makings, I cannot recommend an immersion blender highly enough. I have this one, which came with a mini cup for food processing, and it has not failed me once.

Perhaps a nice compromise would be to get the Beaba with two cooking areas, so you could potentially make more at once, or make an entire dinner’s worth of meals, but I feel like that’s getting a little too nitty gritty.

And if you don’t like cooking or making food, then spend your time and energy elsewhere! I stopped making homemade applesauce because it’s not cheaper, it takes a lot of time and effort, and the store sells applesauce in large, nice jars, already puréed. Same with oatmeal! Everything in moderation, including moderation. Vaya con dios!


Highchair

  • Type purchased: Boon Flair Pneumatic Pedastal Chair
  • Hindsight Evaluation: I love this chair. I could not have been more right in selecting this chair.

Sometimes you just get it right, and this was one of those times. This highchair has been absolutely amazing, and for all the reasons I thought it would be amazing, and then some. Here’s a quick summary:

  1. It has wheels. Why are wheels important? Well, despite telling Connor that I had read many books on French babies and their impeccable table manners he apparently is still a baby and food seems to get everywhere. Wheels allow me to literally roll him to the kitchen for a quick mopping of face and hands.
  2. There are no corners to it. Please see above re: food everywhere. No corners means that I am never digging food particles out of strange crevices because there are no crevices. Easy wipedowns are clutch.
  3. It’s the most stain resistant item in my house. I don’t know how or why, but this white plastic it’s made out of seems impervious to any and all stains, including blueberries.
  4. It has a high back, which is nice for support when the baby is younger.
  5. The cover for the table part fits in the dishwasher. This. is. so. clutch.
  6. The seat is adjustable up or down, which actually has come in handy more often than I thought it would.

Again, I am adamantly in love with this highchair. I cannot recommend it enough.


So there you have it! Those are some of the items I see on a lot of baby registries and my honest opinions on where I went right and wrong.

Do you have any must-haves or must-haves-that-shouldn’t-haves?

 

My favorite baby cold weather gear

cold cold cold coldDespite the months going at warp speed it is magically still winter. I recognize that I have literally zero rights to complain compared to those people in, say, Chicago or New England so all I’ll say is: folks, I feel ya. I’m so sorry. Hang in there. Eventually all that snow will melt and you will remember that your cities are some of the most beautiful and fun places in the world and there is, in fact, a reason you live where you live.

Does that help? No? Well, can’t blame a gal for trying, n’est pas?

After having lived in Chicago one of my obsessions is cold weather gear. I have these really awesome earmuffs with headphones built into them so I can still talk on the phone or listen to podcasts while I’m out and about. I have more coats than really should be legal, each good for various weather and temperatures. It was only a matter of time before I could start investigating cold weather gear for babies and come up with a few of my favorites. So, without further ado, here are three of my most favorite winter gear for babies that don’t involve 5 extra layers of zippers and snaps.

1. Zutano Fleece Booties

zutano bootiesSo you’re thinking, “Oh, with this lack of sleep she has finally cracked. She has gone off the rails and is now suggesting $21 for a pair of baby socks. HA!”

But hear me out. Please.

These are not just baby socks. These are the most ingenious little baby feet warmers of all time. They snap up and around the ankle (with two different options for width) which is key for a few very important reasons:

  1. They stay on the baby’s feet – which, if you’ve ever clothed a baby you know is close to miracle of God
  2. They are really easy to get on the baby’s feet – which, if you’ve ever clothed a baby you know is also a miracle of God

These little puppies are also adorable, which helps as well. Finally, they are warm, which is actually the entire point, now that I think of it. I really cannot recommend these things highly enough. You only need one pair, and you will love them more than $21 worth. I promise.


2. JJ Cole Stroller Bundler

Bonus: it actually has a little head fleece container thing in case you're a negligent mother who forgot their child's adorable hat and/or it's not actually that cold out.

Bonus: it actually has a little head fleece container thing in case you’re a negligent mother who forgot their child’s adorable hat and/or it’s not actually that cold out.

The concept of these is so simple it’s genius. Essentially this thing is a sleeping bag with holes in the back to put the straps of the stroller through so you don’t have to put your child in 45 layers of clothing because the warmth of the bundler will make him warm.

I had a bundler that was an “infant” size apparently from France that Wee Connor grew out of around 3 months old. I would probably recommend going with the “toddler” size because it’s not so huge as to be unuseful and will last you a long time. For reference: Connor is around 26″ and the “toddler” size fits him perfectly with room to grow.

I bought the “Urban” version (as opposed to the “Original” or “Arctic”) because the outside is waterproof for inclement weather and because all the moms in Chicago seem to have bought that one so I figure if it’s warm enough for them it should be warm enough for North Carolina. I have put Wee Connor in there and he has never been cold, even when we’ve been out for a long time.

(Note: apparently you should never install these in a car seat like you would in a stroller seat because of safety issues. JJ Cole also makes an infant car seat blanket thingy that is meant for that.) 


3. A good (lined) hat that buttons underneath the chin

Please note: no riding up of the hat, baby warm and snuggly, and ears are covered. It's as close to a mom win as I can get.

Please note: no moving of the hat, baby warm and snuggly, and ears are covered. It’s as close to a mom win as I can get.

When it’s really cold out hats are a must. Undoubtedly you will receive a truly unprecedented number of little baby beanies for your little one.

However, put them away until you meet warmer days. What you actually need when the going gets cold is a hat that – in some way – can be fastened underneath the baby’s chin. Not only does this mean his ears are entirely covered but the hat can’t come up and off in car/stroller/baby-wearing rides.

When the stores aren’t busy switching out for summer gear despite everyone still being in total winter mode these can be found everywhere. I got mine from Nordstrom and it was a Mini Boden. LL Bean also makes some adorable hats that are warm and perfect. The one I bought is fleece-lined, adorable, and worth every penny of the $20 it cost. Also, it came with little matching mittens that I can’t seem to figure out how to make stay on my baby’s hands.


The list is short, but those are my most favorite cold weather items for the baby that don’t involve 15 extra layers that you immediately will need to remove due to a diaper change the moment everything is zipped up.

Do you have any others? What are your favorite winter weather items?

How to buy art with spitup in your hair

This post is sponsored by minted.com. However, I am a truly obsessive avid fan and all words and opinions are my own. 

I wish I could pretend I was a confidant art buyer before Wee Connor was born. I imagine myself going to gallery crawls and sipping delicious cocktails made by “artisan mixologists” while schmoozing with the local artists and finding that one perfect piece to complete my perfect growing gallery wall.

minted spiral artHowever, that image of myself simply was not – nor probably ever will be – in my reality of existence. The thing is, though, I love art. A lot. I seem to have always lacked that ability to confidently “like what I like” and understand a lot of what I was seeing while still being able to understand how things would look in certain frames in certain areas of my walls while trying to purchase art in person. Also, wherever these schmoozy artsy gallery crawls take place is apparently not the Internet, which means some sort of “shower” is usually a socially acceptable norm as a requirement of attendance. My dreams of having an beautifully curated house full of art I actually like and could judge on my own while not having to leave the house were dashed.

…until I discovered minted.com.

Have you been? Have you? Go now. I’ll wait.

Are you back? Only two hours later? I’m impressed.

minted heart customMinted.com essentially has been the answer to my prayers in many ways. First, I can sit and look at minted.com while Wee Connor takes a nap and I have decided that I’m okay sitting around with some spitup in my hair for the time being. Second, the stuff is so cool. You can find something for any style, and sort by whatever you like – color, theme, room, shape. Finally, it’s all actual artists from around the world whose work has been selected by minted.com, so you can actually see who these artists are, where they’re from, and other works of theirs. So what I’m saying is: minted.com brings the artsy schmoozy gallery to YOU. And you don’t even have to get out of your yoga pants or get the spitup out of your hair! Go ahead and pour yourself a glass of wine (or a cocktail if you fancy yourself a “mixologist”) and sit on down and peruse in a judgment-free art gawking session.

And, even better, they have gorgeous customized art, too, in case you’re looking for something to complete the nursery or walls when your kids get a little older, or put a bunch of your wedding or engagement pictures or pictures of your cat into a cute collage. A lot of the customized “nursery art” I would gladly have above my bed.

minted save the dateAnd because their art stuff isn’t cool enough, minted.com also has great stationery and card collections, including their recently-launched Save the Date collection. Their Save the Dates can have pictures, art, different shapes, and anything you could possibly ever want. These artists who contribute to making these stationeries are so talented and beyond my comprehension that they could make something so beautiful.

So if you’re at all like me and have had one of those moments where you walk into your closet and suddenly hate everything you own, only to have that happen to your decorations in your house? Try minted.com. I have never been disappointed in anything I have ever ordered and while I do try to appreciate the abstract art of spitup patterns, sometimes having something else to look at that can be classified as actual, you know, art, can be nice, too.

And that’s how you buy art with spitup in your hair.

minted greatest adventure minted tangerineminted know not may be comingminted mid century moments

The things that helped us survive the first 6 weeks of parenthood

Connor BearIf I look back on the past 6 weeks or so there are many things that I could say to summarize this time, including, but not limited to:

  • Sleep deprivation – but not as bad as I would have thought!
  • Pure amazement that someone has not barged through my door thanking me for looking after their baby and this whole time has just been one grand babysitting experiment
  • Baby brain (Example: I typed “debrivation” on that first bullet the first go. Also, I accidentally took my dog to the vet in my slippers. True story. This baby brain thing is no joke.)
  • Overwhelming joy
  • Wondering who it is that approved me becoming a parent because clearly I have no idea what I’m doing

And so on and so forth. Wash, rinse, repeat.

That said, though, there have been a few items that have made my life these past few weeks easier. And when I say “easier” I really mean, “I so heartily recommend all of these products that I don’t know how we would have survived these past 6 weeks without them.”

Now, let me explain something else. I think almost every single one of these items I have had the following phrase/sentiment thrown at me by people either without babies and/or older generations:

“It’s amazing how people had babies before [insert product about which they’re talking] was invented…” 

In my opinion this sentiment is not only passive aggressive but slightly insulting, mostly because it’s true of every innovation in the history of mankind. Yes, people used to have babies in the woods, but that doesn’t mean that medicine and trained professionals didn’t make the birthing experience better. Yes, mothers have been nursing their children for years before a breastfeeding pillow was invented, but that doesn’t mean that the breastfeeding pillow doesn’t make it easier. I have not met a mom with a child under the age of 10 who has expressed this sentiment because the fact of the matter is this: if it makes your life easier and more survivable and you like it, then you should stick with it. It doesn’t matter if people didn’t have whatever it is you really like thirty years ago. You have it now, it works for you, so go with it.

And so, without further ado, here are those things that have made taking care of this tiny little person easier.

My Brest Friend breastfeeding pillow

brest friend

Image via Amazon

I cannot possibly express to anyone how essential this product has been to me for nursing. My mother made fun of me mercilessly for this saying it looks like a tray that the waitresses in bars used to carry around their necks, but it is something that I have not backed down on recommending to every mom-to-be I know. I truly – to my core – believe that this pillow is why Wee Connor caught onto nursing with such ease. There is a reason why every lactation consultant I have heard of uses this product. The Boppy is the old standard, but truly: the My Brest Friend has it beat by a factor of approximately a billion. I use the Boppy for tummy time, so it has been very useful and a great product, but for nursing it does not get better than the My Brest Friend. Here’s why:

  1. It straps around you and keeps you and the baby in a good position, which means you’re not hunched, the baby is comfortable, and you don’t get horrible cricks in your back/neck/arms
  2. It’s flat. The Boppy’s curvature can kind of roll the baby so it makes it harder for them to get and stay in a good position
  3. It has a little head rest built in for the baby, which means that you don’t have to hold the baby’s head the entire time
  4.  You actually get use of your hands while breastfeeding. As I explained in an earlier blog post, this allows you to do a plethora of activities, but it’s still more than using the Boppy or a pillow or nothing at all.
  5. Again, seriously, use of your hands. Cannot. stress this. enough.

I am hardly so absolutely absolute about recommendations and advice, but the Brest Friend lives up to its name.

More changing pad covers

changing pad covers cropI have mentioned this before, I know, but seriously: there is no such thing as too many changing pad covers. There have been days where I have gone through 3 in one day, nay, 3 in the span of about 5 hours.

I personally don’t really have a preference on brand. I have some Aiden and Anais ones that have held up really well so far and are soft as well as a few PB kids ones that are heavenly they are so soft, and so far the stains on the PB Kids ones have come out like magic. They are all about the same price, but I guess if I had to give a nod to one over the other it would be the PB Kids ones, because my ring has snagged on the Aiden ones a few times.

The key is really this: buy a bunch. You will not regret having a bunch of changing pad covers.

I would also recommend getting a standard-sized changing pad so that you can supplement as necessary. If you are having trouble finding covers for your changing pad because it’s proprietary to the store where you bought it…that’s probably going to cause you unnecessary headaches in the future. This is the one I bought and it’s been great.

Phone/Tablet app: Baby Connect

baby connect timer screenshotThere have been a lot of disagreements about tracking or not tracking your baby. For us, the Baby Connect (also available on other platforms) app has been invaluable and has not caused us stress even a little bit. We have liked knowing exactly when Wee Connor last fed because it helps us figure out if he’s actually hungry or not, when he will most likely need to feed again, or if he’s just plain fussy. The app allows sharing with family members, so we have been able to sync on any of our multitude of devices instantly.

We went into parenthood resolute on one item: we are not going to get into the habit of allowing him to snack, meaning feeding very little amounts very very often, because not only would that drive us insane, we also want him to learn to feed fully and stay full for longer periods of time. (This is our mentality and has worked for our family. Other families do things differently. The reasons we have liked it, though, is it has allowed us to eat out at restaurants, go out and do errands, know when he’ll need to eat again, and has given us an immense amount of confidence and happiness in our parenting.)

This app can help you track everything. It has a great built-in timer for nursing/feeding allowing you to time which side you’re on, it can track diapers (which we did stop using after about 2 weeks or so once we got the hang of things), and really anything else you could think of.

In the beginning appointments the doctors might ask you how many diapers your baby has had, or how often they are feeding. This has helped us remember through the lack of sleep and I don’t have to make sure I’m remembering which side I need to go on next, because I can just look at my phone and know.

Eventually I feel that we won’t need the app anymore, of course, but for right now it’s been a true blessing for us.

Diapers with a wetness indicator strip

diaper indicator stripIt sounds silly, and I never would have thought that it was that useful, but the diapers we use are Pampers Swaddlers, and they have a little strip that when wet turns from yellow to blue.

This has let us diagnose a need of changing vs. feeding vs. anything else so much more easily that I can’t imagine not having that quick reference to go to. I love my indicator strips.

Caveat to the diapers with an indicator strip: any diaper that you like and works, you should stick with it

While cloth diapers won’t work for my family, if they work for yours: great! If you don’t need an indicator strip, you’re a genius and I applaud your mental abilities that so far exceed mine I can’t even comprehend your mental fortitude. If the diapers with indicator strips keep getting blown out and another brand doesn’t, then definitely go with what works.

The key is this: stick with what works. We lucked out with Pampers and won’t fix what ain’t broke, but others like other brands. Different strokes for different folks – and when you’re in the land of poop it’s all about what makes your life better.

A good no-spill water bottle that you can use with one hand

hydro flaskThe weirdest thing happens when you’re breastfeeding. You can be going along thinking things are just honky dory, then the nanosecond you put that baby up and start nursing you have suddenly been living in the Sahara for three weeks and haven’t had a drop of water the entire time. The thirst is unreal.

My suggestion is this: get a really good – insulated if you can – water bottle you can use with one hand. This way you can keep it next to you on your chair/couch/wherever you’re feeding and won’t have to worry about your glass of water being just out of reach on the table.

I use this Hydro Flask with the straw lid and it hasn’t failed me yet. It keeps cold things cold and hot things hot for an excessively long time. A water bottle you like is a simple item, but it’s one I didn’t realize would be vital.

A book/reference guide/philosophy/someone you trust and like enough to be able to block out all the other garbage thrown at you about parenting

bringing up bebeWhether you have a defined/”named” philosophy or not, everyone has their way of parenting and their opinions about it. What works for one family doesn’t work for another. That’s why people are different people and that’s why people are interesting. That said, it will not stop others from spewing their beliefs on you. This can be at its best well-intentioned and at its worst guilt-inducing/harmful. The key is to have your head on straight so you can see them as well-intentioned.

So far what has worked for my husband and I is this: find something (be it a book/philosophy or person) you really like that speaks to you that you both agree upon, and when you evaluate advice thrown at you from every direction, kindly discard the stuff you don’t agree with as well-intentioned, but not for you. If you have someone/something you can turn to as a frame of reference it makes it about a trillion times easier to have perspective on the other opinions thrown at you because you have a lens with which to view these other philosophies and see what works for you and what doesn’t in your own head.

new basicsWhat works for us? I personally really, really, really loved the book Bringing Up Bébé. Her realizations on babies and children as seen through an American living in France spoke to me in such a way that seemed simply common sense to me. These aren’t new-fangled ideas; they can almost be seen as old-fashioned in America that have fallen out of favor, but the practices work for our family perfectly. In Bringing Up Bébé she interviews a pediatrician in Tribeca, NYC, named Michel Cohen who has written a reference guide called The New Basics, which has been our favorite reference book about babies so far. His style is wry but very helpful, and has the same philosophy of “let babies be babies” that we have come to realize we have as well, while also making sure you have your own life as well. If you’d like to see what his opinions are, they can also be found on his website here.

Again: this is what works for our family. There are of course things I don’t agree with in these books, but we are working on what works for us, and that has been what has made parenthood not only survivable but enjoyable.

Allons-y! 

Do you have any essential items that you love for babies? Let me know in the comments!

The Stroller Debate: The Checklist(s)

think about a strollerI’ve recovered a little bit from my first stroller-shopping experience, and have come away with a little more wisdom and decision-making power.

Until I change my mind. Which could very well be in 5 minutes.

The first thing I realized about stroller/baby supply shopping is that you need to have a good understanding of your lifestyle and what your lifestyle is going to be when the baby arrives. Don’t try and shop for a house you might buy, a new apartment you might rent, or a car you are thinking about. That human puppy baby isn’t going to care that you were thinking about getting a different place to live, and cares about its comfort from the day it emerges. It was a big realization.

Related to this: you have your lifestyle and others (mom, friends, family, etc.) have theirs. When the good-natured, loving people in your life agree to go shopping with you and look at items from big to small they will, because they’re human, imagine the stuff in their house and in their life to some degree. It’s natural. You’ll do it too. It’s in your comfort zone and in your head. The problem is that you don’t have their house, nor their life. Remember that taste is not the same thing as lifestyle. So even if you have similar taste to someone, you might have a different lifestyle and thus, different needs. This is a GOOD THING. This is what makes people INTERESTING. But it also makes things frustrating when trying to pick out major lifestyle needs. So if, for instance, you live in an apartment and need things to be streamlined and multipurpose, even at the expense of something being a little less cute, that is your decision, and it is your apartment. Something that might accomplish two things but is less cute might fit better in your apartment, and you might not have the room of someone else’s 4-bedroom house. It’s almost impossible for people to grasp, but it’s something I’ve come to terms with being firm on.

So with that in mind, I’m going to give you the rundown of the decision-making lifestyle factors that the salespeople asked, I realized, and what other people seem to keep mentioning to me. Think of this as what I consider the “ultimate buying a stroller checklist that will probably need to be modified after I actually have a baby:

  1. How much are you going to stroll/walk around the city and/or parks? 
  2. Do you need to drive to get to your strolling destinations? 
  3. Do you do errands on foot (i.e., will be doing errands with a baby in tow on foot)? 
  4. How often are you going to need to drive the baby? (How often do you drive now?) 
  5. How many cars do you and your husband have? And how often do you need to transfer the car seat between them? 
  6. How big is your living space? How much storage do you have? 
  7. How often are you in smaller, crowded spaces (public transportation, smaller, city restaurants, etc.)?
  8. Is there any way you would want the stroller to have multiple uses? 
  9. What accessories do you know you’ll need and/or are important to you? 

It’s a LOT of decisions. But here’s my personal rundown.

  1. How much are you going to stroll/walk around the city and/or parks?
    A lot, hopefully. I love walking anyway, and getting a baby out and about a lot will be very fun for me. It’s literally one of the things I am most looking forward to. Right now I walk almost every morning with my husband and the dog to his work and then back again before I start my work.
  2. Do you need to drive to get to your strolling destinations?
    It depends. I live in a walkable area of a mostly driving city (Charlotte, NC). I have a great trail nearby and access to the downtown area, but sometimes I think I’ll need to branch out a little more and drive to some other trails, possibly.
  3. Do you do errands on foot (i.e., will be doing errands with a baby in tow on foot)?
    Mostly. I try, at least. I have a grocery store I can walk to, but prefer to drive once a week to the Publix 17 minutes away until the Publix goes up a mile away in 2015. But the drugstore, many restaurants, etc. I always strive to walk since I find it more enjoyable. There is a grocery store that is much more expensive and much worse in terms of quality, friendliness and choices (Harris Teeter) a mile away if I need to go there/walk as well.
  4. How often are you going to need to drive the baby? (How often do you drive now?)
    Right now I drive about 2-3 times a week, max. My husband walks to work and we try to truly limit our exposure to car time as much as possible. If we need to do errands like the mall, we’ll drive, but don’t plan on driving the baby much, since I don’t drive much on a day-to-day basis.
  5. How many cars do you and your husband have? And how often do you need to transfer the car seat between them?
    We have one car, a sedan, so switching the seat/seat base around won’t be an issue. (YAY!)
  6. How big is your living space? How much storage do you have?
    We live in an apartment that is huge by our (urban) standards that is 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, has washer/dryer (IN UNIT, which if you have never lived in a large, northern city probably don’t appreciate how awesome that is), and 2 walk-in closets. I love this apartment’s layout. So we have some storage, but do need items that are streamlined.
  7. How often are you in smaller, crowded spaces (public transportation, smaller, city restaurants, etc.)? 
    Acutally a fair amount. We try to live a pretty urban lifestyle, which can mean smaller spaces and more local restaurants. I do try and take the local light rail as much as possible, as well. In Charlotte the stroller thing isn’t a problem because there is usually plenty of room and the trains are quite wide and the access is easy. If I were back in Chicago it would be a totally different bag of tricks, with many stations not having elevators or escalators and the platforms being elevated and the trains and buses being quite crowded.
  8. Is there any way you would want the stroller to have multiple uses? 
    Definitely. It’s a big apartment, but I like streamlined, easy, multiple-use items.
  9. What accessories do you know you’ll need and/or are important to you?
    Cup holders and something to easily have my cell phone handy, ability to store stuff underneath if I’m doing errands at multiple stores, ease of use has to be high, and finally, they both have to be easy to push.

These are the things you’re going to learn why they’re important when you start shopping.

With these in mind, I narrowed my choice down to 2 options:

Baby Jogger City Mini GT UPPAbaby Vista

Price:

Price: $349.99

Price:

Price: $729.99

Big price difference? Right? I know. But it really isn’t as simple as all that. Here’s where things get tricky. I think that both of these are optimized for urban living in different ways. The City Mini is probably better in tight spaces, while the UPPAbaby has more features…and if you do ever drive, well, let me get to that. Both are equally easy to maneuver, can lie flat and be used with a newborn, and I have no doubt I would be more than happy with either option.

City Mini GT UPPAbaby Vista Point goes to…
Space City Mini takes up less space when it’s out and less space when it’s folded, BUT doesn’t stand when it’s folded. UPPA takes up decidedly more space in the trunk when it’s folded, but DOES stand up when it’s folded, which is a lifesaver when you’re in the apartment or need to fold it up in a restaurant, etc. Even. I think this one is a tie.
The actual fold Could not be easier. One handed, one and done. Just as easy to unfold. Two-handed and impossible on the first go and/or when explaining to someone else. People say you “just get used to it.” City Mini GT
What’s included? The stroller. Take it or leave it. A bassinet the baby can actually sleep in (!! see below), rain shield, bug shield UPPAbaby Vista (though things like cupholder, organization thing, etc. are still sold separately for both)
Storage Not bad. Definitely enough. The biggest I’ve seen of any stroller, and people rave about it UPPAbaby Vista
Other uses None The bassinet. The UPPA comes with a bassinet that can be used to sleep in overnight, which would eliminate the need for a separate bassinet while the baby is super young. This is a huge plus, as well as being able to wheel in the bassinet. UPPAbaby Vista
Car seat ease? You can buy an adapter and snap the carseat on, if you need, but my favorite carseat at the moment (the UPPAbaby Mesa) isn’t available You can buy adapters as well, but it seems to be a little easier on the UPPA. Frustratingly, the UPPAbaby carseat needs an adapter (puzzling!), too. Pretty even, but a slight nod to the UPPAbaby for ease of putting adapters in
Expandable later? No Yes – you can add another seat + a ride along step UPPAbaby Vista (this is the one “might” for later I want to think about, when considering the price)
Other nifty things? (Misc.) If you ever need to get on public transportation, this would be a phenomenal stroller The seat can be popped either front-facing or facing you, which is super nice and handy, and it’s easy to do to boot!

Like I said, the choice isn’t as clear as “bang for your buck.” A lot of lifestyle factors go into the stroller decision, which is why it was so overwhelming the first time. For me the strollers optimized for the “snap and go” just aren’t what I’m looking for, but I know that moms in more suburban worlds who drive a lot might like that more than I would.

I’ll keep you posted what I decide, but I know, deep down, I’ll be happy either way.

And if you have a favorite stroller, let me know in the comments below!! Love hearing from everyone!!