Thursday, December 16, 2010

Product Review: Fisher Price Learning Home

You know when you come up with an idea for an awesome invention and then you find out somebody has done it already? That's what happened to me in the case of the Fisher Price Learning Home--and I would have been rich, I tell you, because this baby retails at around a whopping $115!

Fisher Price Learning Home

My son loves this toy and, luckily, we inherited ours from a cousin, because I don't think we could have justified paying so much for it even in all its awesomeness. Its a toy door (that was my "great" idea!), with a light switch, ringing doorbell, mailbox, clock, window, and numerous other open and closing and spinning and sound-making/singing/teaching devices. Really, what baby could stay away?

I do have a few bones to pick with the toy, though, and they are safety related (so you toy makers at Fisher Price better listen up!) After some time, the stickers start to peel off, which could definitely be a choking hazard (I don't know why children's toy makers don't just print images directly onto the plastic). The window closes really forcefully and can slam little fingers. And, finally, my son has learned to push the whole darn thing over, which scares the hell out of me, but which there really is no remedy for (he is, apparently, the incredible hulk baby).  

That said, I really feel so lucky to have inherited the Fisher Price Learning Home and would consider it a must-purchase item for crawling to walking babies if it wasn't for the ridiculous price. Fisher Price has a Learning Farm with fewer bells and whistles for around $50 as an alternative, but if you could spare the dough or score the Learning Home as a gift (registry!), I'd say "go for it, mama!"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Warning, this Post Might Gross You Out (Or, How We Battle Our Roaches for Cheap)

Ok, so its not as bad as the title makes it seem. Its just that, like many apartment dwellers, my husband and I are engaged in a no-holds-barred war with (dun dun dun) cockroaches. Argh! How I hate them! And I also hate how expensive it is to have an exterminator come by the apartment on a regular basis to take care of them.

Since my landlord is most certainly not paying for tri-monthly exterminator visits, I had to come up with another battle plan. Luckily a friend of a friend is an exterminator and I was clued into a safe and easy roach killing product that many exterminators use: Maxforce Roach Bait Gel.

You can get a syringe of the stuff from DoYourOwnPestControl.com for around $13. That's a huge savings on the $300 fee the exterminator charges each time he comes--and he's using the same exact product! All you have to do is place a little bead of gel bait in nooks, crannies, cracks and crevices around your home every couple of months and the war on roaches will tilt in your favor. Its even kid, pet, and food safe.

DoYourOwnPestControl.com has a bunch of other inexpensive do it yourself pest control products if you are looking for a simple and effective way to make your home bug/rodent free. I reccomend you check it out... why pay someone hundreds of dollars when pest control can be so simple and cheap to do yourself?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I've missed you!

Hello again! I've really missed posting here and it feels so good to catch up with all of those on my reading list and get back in the swing of things. 

A lot has happened in the past month or so, from Andrew getting in all of his four front teeth (hooray!) to a family health situation (all is fine, thankfully!) We even took Andrew on his first plane trip to visit my father-in-law in Arkansas. He did great, even though his mama clenched the seat in fear the whole bumpy return flight home!

But now we're home safe and sound, our apartment-sized (2-foot-tall) Christmas tree is out and decorated, and I'm practically bursting with excitement over celebrating Andrew's first Christmas and then his first birthday in January. How to restrain myself from buying him a million gifts that will spill out our apartment windows? I've already got him these two adorable things on sale from Totsy: (seriously, join Totsy--even though it takes FOREVER for them to ship and even if you don't order but use it to just find out about cute stuff you might find cheaper on Amazon, ebay, etc.):


Tomy Pirate Ship Bath Toy  International Playthings iPlay Interactive & Musical Animal Activity Ark
The Tomy Pirate Ship bath toy was $9 on Totsy ($11.95 on Amazon) and the International Playthings iPlay Interactive & Musical Animal Activity Ark was $17.15 (a steal, because is is $30 on Amazon).  

Well, I'm off to read more of your blogs to see what you've all been up to this past month! Its great to be back in Queens and on Queens Mama!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mesh Baby Feeder Showdown

I had never heard of mesh feeders until my BFF insisted I register for one. I owe her a lot for the suggestion, because we are obsessed with it! We put everything in it from cookies to fresh or frozen fruit (frozen is great for a teething baby) and I don't have to worry about my son choking on huge pieces of food (although, you should never leave a child alone with the feeder according to the instructions.) I attach the mesh feeder to a pacifier clip so he can't drop it on the floor and it does wonders to occupy Andrew when we are out at a restaurant and I'd like to feed myself for a change!  

In addition to the one I did register for while with said friend, I got two other kinds of mesh feeders at my baby shower. I used each one until I got to the one that I really loved--the one that my above mentioned BFF actually bought for me, the Sassy Teething Feeder:

Sassy Teething Feeder, Colors May Vary
The Sassy feeder is awesome because it comes with its own cover, it is super easy to wash and replace the feeder's mesh bag (be sure to buy extras--my friend bought me like 20), and it has a freezable liquid bubble in the top section to keep cold foods cold. The feeder also has a super secure locking mechanism that requires you to squeeze two buttons on each side of the top (shown in yellow in the picture at right) and twist the top into place. Your baby isn't getting this thing open regardless of how much of a genius he is (or, by the time he can open it, he'll have a full set of teeth anyway.) Its around $6.

Designs 2-U Baby Safe FeederThe Designs 2-U Baby Safe Feeder was my least favorite of the mesh feeders I recieved. I tried this feeder out first and was liking it--it was easy to clean and open and came with mesh replacements--but the ease of opening is because it has no safety locking mechanism! This new mommy didn't even think about the possible dangers this feeder could pose until I was out at a restaurant with a friend who pointed out that my son had unscrewed the feeder top and was attempting to chomp on some frozen blueberries. Scary! That doesn't seem "Baby Safe" to me! Needless to say, this feeder went in the garbage. $10.50 for 2.

Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder 2 PackI tried the Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder out second because it is super cute and has a locking mechanism. The only problem with the locking mechanism was that I couldn't even open it without hurting myself! It looks like Munchkin realized this was a problem because the feeders pictured at right have a different lock than mine did. What isn't different is that you cannot remove the mesh bag on the Munchkin Feeder which makes cleaning them a nightmare. No go. Around $6 for a 2-pack.

So... save yourself the showdown in your home and get a Sassy! It will change your life (is that a bit dramatic?) :)


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wednesday Weight In & Semi-Wordless Wednesday!

I started the Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred on Sept 30 and man has it been kicking my ass, but I've only lost .2 lbs this week! I guess its better than losing nothing at all... and I guess I could be gaining muscle weight... but I want Jillian Michael's abs right now!

Ok, obviously I know this process is going to take time. And I know that last night's peanut butter from the jar bender isn't helping me out either. So, to keep up with the accountability, here's my stats for the week.

Current Weight: 144 (-.2 lbs from last week)
Mini Goal Weight: 135 - pre-pregnancy weight [9 lbs to go!]
Ultimate Goal Weight: 122 lbs - wedding weight [22 lbs to go!]

Total Weight Loss: .2 lbs

Now that we've got that business out of the way, how about a silly Wordless Wednesday video featuring my babbling baby boy? (Alliteration! My elementary school language arts teacher would be proud.)

Enjoy!

video

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: A Dog's Purpose

A Dog's Purpose
Forge Books; Hardcover;
July 2010; $10.49 on
Amazon or free at your
locat library! 
If you have ever loved a dog, you must read New York Times bestseller, A DOG'S PURPOSE by W. Bruce Cameron. Written from the point of view of a dog who continues to be reborn until he finds his true life's purpose, this novel is so amazingly touching and witty--I laughed and cried the whole novel through.

Really, how lucky are humans that such a pet exists, one who lives just to make us happy and hear "good dog" from our lips? I put down this book with a new appreciation for every past and present canine in my life--and I made a promise to treat those around today with more patience and understanding. (After all, like the dog in the book, they truly don't understand why we leave to go to that thing we call "work" and why the delicious smelling "garbage" is off limits!)

And, just in case you're wondering if a book written from the point of view of a dog is juvenile or annoying, I must answer with a vehement "NO!" There are so many beautiful passages in A DOG'S PURPOSE, from the peaceful way the dog accepts each death, to his yearning for one special owner who he remembers and misses even as he lives other lives. And the innocent way the canine protagonist talks about cats, that peculiar "wrestling game" male and female dogs play, and more will make you laugh out loud.

Read this gorgeous book--it is one of those rare ones you'll carry with you in your heart and talk to all of your friends about! There's a website for the book HERE if you'd like to learn more. (You'll see that there is a rave review from Temple Grandin!)

**Disclosure: I received this book from a colleague at publisher Forge Books. I worked at Forge years ago, but the opinions in this review are by no means swayed by that fact. You'll realize this once you read the book!**

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Weigh-in

I have been so terribly bad about eating healthy and getting back into shape after having Andrew, so I've decided to punish myself with "Wednesday Weigh-in" posts. Sorry if it seems that I'm punishing you all as well, my blogger friends!

I should have listened to my OB/GYN and only gained 30-35 lbs when I was pregnant with Andrew. 40 lbs actually came off like a breeze after birth and breastfeeding. But, now I'm stuck with the extra 10 I gained and I've only got my bad eating and exercising habits to blame. My husband and I have had way too many trips to fast food joints recently and my exercise schedule is...  well, its non-existent. I mean, I totally did buy Jillian Michaels - 30 Day Shred like 4 months ago, but never even put it in the dvd player!

So, this week has started with me tracking my calories on MyFitnessPal.com (try it out--it is free and there are message boards and friends ala Facebook) and ordering hand weights so that I can start the Shred tomorrow. Please send lots of luck, willpower, and continued 2-hr morning naps for Andrew my way!

Here are the starting stats so that I am accountable (and embarrassed):

Current Weight: 144.2
Mini Goal Weight: 135 - pre-pregnancy weight [9.2 lbs to go!]
Ultimate Goal Weight: 122 lbs - wedding weight [22.2 lbs to go!]

Oh how I loved my wedding weight! What a dream it would be to fit back into my size 6 Abercrombie and Fitch jeans which the snotty 16-year-old salesgirl didn't even think I'd fit into (I brought them to her at the checkout counter BEAMING.)

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Product Review: Friendly Toys Little Playzone with Sound and Lights

As promised, here's my review of the Friendly Toys Little Playzone with Sounds and Lights!

I ordered this bad boy from Amazon.com for $99.99 (with free shipping because I have Amazon Prime) and it was totally worth the money. Our apartment is taking a super long time to babyproof because my landlord's home is old and the renovations they did somewhat haphazard, so we need a safe place for Andrew to play while we continue cutting carpet strings, sealing up random holes in walls, installing window guards, etc. (Grrr.)

A pack 'n play is great and definitely serves it purpose for travel, but I wanted a bigger area for Andrew to be able to crawl around in at home and I wanted to be able to climb in with him so we could play together. The Playzone is all that and more for us. Without an extension pack (available for additional $) the Playzone creates 13 square feet of safe play space which is just about all our tiny apartment can handle. If you have the space, though, you can add square footage with the extensions or even purchase two or more full Playzones (it seems full sets are a better deal for the money.)

Pros: The plastic of the Playzone is sturdy, but not hard so that Andrew cries when he bangs his head on it. It has a built-in activity wall that he loves, with a colorful piano that plays 7 full songs, a mirror, a detachable phone, and more. It also has a locking gate which I don't use at the moment, but which will be handy to leave open when Andrew is older and the Playzone is more of a fort he can go in and out of than a playpen.

Cons: We have our Playzone on top of a foam mat for extra cushioning and the walls seem to slide around a bit when Andrew pulls up on them. The movement is not enough to make him fall, but I can imagine that he'll be able to move the playpen around a lot more when he is older. (The playzone didn't move as much when it was directly on the carpet, but we definitely needed the cushioning.)

Also, two of our walls doesn't connect as tightly as the others. I don't know if this is a design feature for easy disassembly, but it will definitely get interesting when Andrew figures out how to disassemble it himself! Granted, the product packaging warns to never leave a child unattended when in the Playzone...

The verdict: The pack n play is still the safest place to leave your baby when, say, making a much needed bathroom break, but the Playzone is a lifesaver for a mommy who needs to keep an active baby occupied when she needs to check her email and he just won't get his legs in the darn holes of the jumperoo! We have a lot of fun playing in it together, and I don't have to worry that he'll fall over and hit a corner of the wall (we have many odd angles) or knock into the coffee table. Also, I think being able to stand on a solid floor is doing wonders for his standing skills (he pulls up, walks around, and sometimes lets go to balance for a few seconds.)

To put it short: I'm a fan!

Friday, September 10, 2010

I am a bad, bad mommy blogger

Oh, my poor neglected blog friends! Has it really been almost a month since I posted last? Caring for my super mobile little guy, keeping up the house (er, tiny apartment), and doing my freelance gig has kept me busier than I thought it would! How do other stay/work-at-home moms and dads do it with such ease and grace? I take my proverbial hat off to you all!

I've definitely been popping over to your blogs from time to time to keep up, though, and I hope that you are all doing well. Andrew is getting bigger and stronger by the day and, as baby-proofing this disaster of an old apartment hasn't gone so well, I purchased a gussied-up playpen for him. Behold the Friendly Toys Little Playzone:

Friendly Toys Little Playzone with Sounds and LightsWe definitely like it and I'll post a full review later, but I just wanted to say that its great because I can get into the darn thing and play with him, unlike with a pack n' play (which is great in its own way, of course.)

Anyhow, I'm just so glad that fall is on its way because I think Andrew and I will be able to get out to play more now that it won't be so hot. I'm still liking my City Mini single stroller for the most part except my front wheel keeps getting stuck in the locked position making it impossible to turn! Arg--I'll be calling up Baby Jogger tomorrow to see if they can send me a replacement wheel. I'll keep you posted on that hullabaloo.

Ahhh.... its good to be back! :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Product Review: Baby Jogger City Mini

Baby Jogger City Mini Single Stroller, Orange/GreyI'm back to report on my City Mini! After having it for a couple of weeks, I think I've got a handle on the pros and cons of this nifty little stroller. And, when all is said and done, I am a fan, but it may not be as attractive to folks who live outside of a city.

First, and very importantly for my sanity (and aching back), the City Mini is super easy to fold one-handed and carry up our narrow stairwell. With just a pull of a strap on the seat, the stroller folds slimmer than my Snap 'n Go. And, at 16-ish lbs, its no trouble at all carrying Andrew in one arm and the stroller in the other. (Note: there is a set of safety straps under the stroller that you must unsnap from the stroller frame before folding and res-snap before strolling.

Also good: The stroller has the extra maneuverability of a three-wheeler, but it is still slim enough to fit into the tiny shops and bodegas in my Queens neighborhood. And, while it doesn't have the amazing all-terrain power of our larger Jeep Liberty stroller with its inflatable wheels, it is a breeze navigating the uneven curbs and sidewalks, even if I do need to pop a wheelie once in a while. I can actually steer the stroller one-handed, while talking on the phone or holding a drink, and opening a store door with my butt!

The sunshade is huge and amazing and keeps the sun out of Andrew's face at all times--though, when the sun is highest his toes and sometimes his hands get a little sun--and it has two open and close-able clear windows to check out what your little one is doing. Just be careful about leaving the peekaboo windows open in direct sunlight or sun will pour through onto your baby's head. Also, the seat fully reclines to accommodate a small or sleeping baby or serve as an emergency changing table.

Finally, I am just in love with the orange and gray color scheme of my City Mini. Andrew is traveling in style!

Now for the bad: The seat of the stroller has minimal back support, a little bit better than an umbrella stroller. This is a problem because Andrew ends up slouching in the chair (which looks uncomfortable, but he doesn't seem to mind) and throws off how I set up the height-adjustable shoulder strap of the 5 point harness. I hear tell that you can buy an additional support for around $8 from Baby Jogger, but I haven't tried to yet. Also, I had a bit of a hard time tightening and loosening the harness straps at first... but maybe I am just a spazz?

Also, the stroller storage basket could definitely have been made bigger (there's room for it), but as it stands I can't get even a medium-sized diaper bag into it. I have to hang my bag off the stroller handle, which you're not supposed to do, but which doesn't tip the stroller if it isn't too heavy. And if you want a parent console with a cupholder and a belly bar or child snack console it needs to be purchased separately. Boo!

And, finally, I wish the stroller handle telescoped out. I know that it is as short as it is so that the City Mini can accomplish its amazing fold-in-half feat, but the shorter handle means that even I at 5'4'' sometimes kick the axle when trying to look through the sunshade peekaboo window. My 5'10 husband hasn't pushed the stroller yet, but I have an inkling that he's going to be kicking the axle a lot (and yelling about it).

Wow... that seems like a lot more negatives than positives, but I do feel like the good points are so good for me that they outweighs the bad. I can live with a small storage basket, having to buy a belly bar, parent console, and back support because I really need a good quality stroller that is light, easy-to-fold, and maneuverable with an extended sunshade. If you don't live in a city, though, there are sure to be better stroller options for you.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Product Review: BreathableBaby Breathable Bumper

BreathableBaby Breathable Safer Bumper, Fits All Cribs, WhiteWe bought Andrew a BreathableBaby Breathable Bumper after we noticed he has started sleeping with his face pressed into the corner of his crib (eek!) Oh, how I wish that it worked for us, but I have to say it was a bust. Andrew is quite a rambunctious boy now (changing him is a full-body workout... for both of us!)  and the bumper just isn't padded enough to prevent him from slamming his head into the crib slats and crying. So we're back to getting up in the middle of the night and extracting him from the sides of the crib!

There are a number of positives to be found in the Breathable Bumper though. First, it is made of a squishy mesh that promotes airflow, lowering the risk of baby re-breathing his own air, and keeps baby's arms and legs inside the crib. It is relatively easy to install (only one tie in the back of the crib and some velcro), collapses to prevent climbing, and comes in a number of solid colors to match your nursery (white, cream, blue, green, pink, brown, mocha). Finally, it is not that bad of a price for a bumper at around $26 at most stores.

Like I said, I wish that this would have worked for us so that we could have some peace of mind, but if your baby is a mover and head-slammer like ours, you'll probably want to stick to a traditional soft bumper. I never anticipated the amount of worry that would come with Andrew being mobile! Its taking all I have to stop myself from putting him in a soft bubble. :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hey you, city girl, step away from the huge stroller!

Jeep Liberty Limited All Terrain 3 Wheel Stroller - GalaxyI've definitely had a case of my eyes being too big for my belly... or, in this case, my stroller being too big for my neighborhood!

I registered for and recieved the amazing Jeep Liberty All Terrain 3 Wheel Stroller. We just put it together and brought it home to Queens with us when Andrew turned 6-months-old a couple a weeks ago. It handles the sidewalks like a dream and is super cushy and roomy for the baby. BUT, there's a huge problem and that problem is that the stroller is HUGE!

For some reason, when I was registering I didn't take into account that I would have to carry all 33 pounds of stroller up the stairs to my apartment! I definitely can't carry it up while holding Andrew and I also can't open it in my apartment foyer because it is too long. Folding it is also really rough because I have to drag it up the front stoop, squeeze it into the foyer, take Andrew out and bring him upstairs, and then return down for the fold. Whew!

I also can't fit through the aisle or check out lines of many of the stores in my neighborhood. I've knocked over quite a few displays! 

Baby Jogger City Mini Single Stroller - Black/BlackSigh. I really am attached to our rugged Jeep, but we're going to be purchasing the City Mini for use in Queens and taking the Jeep upstate for suburban trips and walks through the parks up there. The City Mini has an awesome one-handed fold, weighs only 16 1/2 lbs, and has an extra-long sun canopy which is really hard to find yet necessary when you live in a city and walk everywhere.

I'll be sure to post pics, a review, and maybe even some video of our City Mini when we get it. Maybe I can save another mama from getting too big for her city britches? :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Product Review: Graco Contempo Highchair

Graco Contempo High Chair - Deco - Graco  - Babies"R"UsBecause we live in a teensy apartment, we were in serious need of a highchair with a slim profile when stored. I really love the highchairs that attach to your regular dining room chairs, but since we don't have a real dining room set (we eat at our coffee table like so many sad New Yorkers!), that was a no-go.

Instead, we got the Graco Contempo Highchair in Deco for around $100 at Babies R Us. With the tray removed, it folds down to an amazingly slim self-standing 4 inches or so. That just the perfect width to slide into a closet or--in cases of closet shortage like ours--simply stand against a wall without being obtrusive.

I'm also a fan of the highchair's super cushy, wipeably clean faux leather seat cover and the fact that the chair has a 6-position height adjustment and 3-position seat incline. It also comes with a removeable tray insert to make for easy cleaning (although, I tend to get that insert dirty in the morning, remove it and not clean it, then get the actual tray dirty, and end up having to clean them both anyway. Double work!)

The cons? I really wish that I could open and close it with just one hand! I really dislike having to put Andrew down to open the highchair up and it makes me want to leave the highchair open all day (which adds to the obstacle course in the apartment.) 

Also, the gap between the seat and the chair leg is just the perfect width for Andrew's arm to get stuck in. I've remedied this by stuffing blankets in the gaps, but these get dirty, giving me just another chore to do. Bah!

Fisher-Price Space Saver High Chair - Tan So... I do definitely like this chair and would recommend it to a friend, but if you do have a dining room set, I'd go for a space saver high chair such as Fischer Price's, which many of my friends have and love. The space saver chair is even small enough to take along with you as you travel. Lucky are those who have a dining chair to attach it to!