Category Archives: baby gear

For the Budding Gourmet

One thing that I love about my mommy friends is how supportive they’ve been of my endeavor to raise my child bilingual. They’ve gifted baby a number of French baby books, flashcards, and alphabet block sets, all to help me not only entertain but teach him. But today I want to put a little spotlight on one particular gift item because I think not only is it functional and fun but it’s so darn cute.

One of my oldest and dearest mommy friends gave this Williams-Sonoma baby dining set to us this summer:

I would say that my kid eats off of this adorable, completely dishwasher safe, melamine tray every day, if he really ate much. But luckily there are these animaux hiding out underneath his meals, because that’s pretty much the only way I get him to even push his food around the plate. I’m not sure I’m doing so well when he points to the chat and says gato, though.

But even better was when I opened a package from my mom this week to find this:

Now he has toute la collection and can be très chic the next time he’s dining high-chair bistro style.

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Three Fun and Fabulous Finds

Last weekend, I attempted to be an uber cool, multicultural mother and take baby to a Finnish puppet show that was being put on as part of D.C.’s Euro Kids Festival. Like a well-behaved parent, I pre-registered for the event and then tucked myself in early so I could get up on a Saturday at 6:30am to make sure everyone got showered, dressed, and fed (or in my case caffeinated) before hitting the metro by 9am. Despite my greatest efforts, it was a complete failure.

We arrived 15 minutes early, anticipating a crowd, which there was, only to be told that the show had already started. Apparently, the time had been incorrectly posted on the Web site. And despite there being empty seats, the puppeteer had asked that no one be admitted late, so we were turned away. Seems to me that it might have made more sense for the folks who arrived early to wait rather than the folks who were arriving later thanks to a misprint miss the whole show, but what do I know about these things. I assure you that there were a number of meltdowns as the children were informed that the Lapland puppet show was no longer in the cards.

Fortunately the show was taking place at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, which is just a few blocks from wonderful Eastern Market. It’s been ages since I’d been to the market, which most often gets passed over by tourists for the more well known sights. But in my book, it’s one of the most fun, “locals” thing to do in our nation’s capital. The quality of the crafts and wares are quite good–there’s always furniture I want to buy–the food hall is an utterly delicious throwback, and the neighbor itself is teeming with cute shops and nice brunch spots, especially when the weather is cooperative.

As I was checking out the various vendors, there were three from which any mom would have trouble resisting an impulse buy:

No strings attached puppets. I was a mom on a mission for puppets, so when I couldn’t get the Finnish kind, I opted for the finger variety. I remembered buying some of these a few years ago for a few of my nieces and nephews, but I had totally forgotten about them. They’re all handmade and some of the little detailing, especially on the sheep and the (or least what I think is a) llama, is so sweet. (From left to right, I bought a sheep, horse, zebra, pig, and llama.) About the only bargain I could get from the seller was if I bought 10 (at $2/a puppet), he’d give me one for free. I figured they’d make great wee one gifts sooner or later.

Classic wheels. Well, to be more accurate, it was actually labeled an SUV, which made me crack a half a smile. But these vehicles are big, blocky, bright, and well built. (Really, you wouldn’t believe how nicely they roll.) And the little people that pop in and out are too cute. The guy selling them tried to give me a line of bologna about how there’s a Montessori ethic behind the design; supposedly as kids learn to pull out the people, they’re unknowingly practicing to hold a pencil. Seems a bit of stretch, but, hey, whatever sells. The variety of vehicles was fairly wide, as well; in addition to SUVs, there were cars, helicopters, dump trucks, and even a super adorable whale that wee ones could drag behind them by a string. And the value was decent. I only bought one, so it was $7, but that still was a pretty good deal. I love Fat Brain Toys, but the most similar wooden car the company offered was retailing at $17.

New and oh-so-necessary nursery decor. I saw these modern yet crafty pillows and immediately wanted to design a nursery based on the Mirasa‘s color palette. The colors–squash, tangerine, sage, and turquoise–are wonderfully warm and sunny yet soft and make for cheery combinations when paired. Plus the design sensibility while contemporary still maintains a childhood charm. Love, love, love these products, all of which are handmade in India out of organic cotton. And the bonus: The onesies are just as adorable as the pillows. I just wished my wee one was still wee enough to wear them.

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On the Road (Again)

I’ve been more than 1,700 miles since Friday, so I haven’t had too much time to post. My apologies.

While I most often travel with my wee one in tow, this time, given my rather packed schedule, I decided not to bring him. Although I know I made the right decision–and was lucky enough to have a Mimi that would take care of him in my absence–I kind of missed him. I mean, I was totally relieved he was hanging at the River with the grandparents as I got up at 4:30am for my flight out of Syracuse or waited for my delayed flight from Birmingham or ran through the Atlanta airport to catch my next flight or arrived close to midnight in D.C. These are travel realities that quickly become travel nightmares with wee ones.

But while I was down in Alabama, I got a chance to catch up with a mommy friend who showed me my next mommy must-have: the CARES Child Aviation Restraint System.

Her daughter is two and they were headed up to New Hampshire for a week. Given that her sister-in-law had all the gear she’d need once she got there–car seat, stroller, port-a-crib, life jacket, toys, etc.–she really didn’t want to haul a car seat on the plane with her. Even the more streamlined convertibles are giant and a pain when you’re lugging a bunch of stuff. So, this contraption, is basically a 5-point harness system that works with the existing airplane seat and seat belt to keep your kid strapped in. The bonus is that it weighs like a pound and can be stuffed into your purse. (So much better than a 20-pound car seat that needs its own set of wheels to be maneuvered around the airport.) The sheer convenience, to me, makes this worth the $75 that the contraption costs. And when you consider that you’re already paying for an extra seat at this point, I think it sounds pretty darn reasonable.

But more than that, it works. My mommy friend, in the middle of an absolute travel nightmare (yes, she was in Atlanta), had this comment to share on Facebook:

“For all travel savvy moms out there, the Kids Fly Safe aircraft restraint by Cares is fantastic!! Completely eliminates lugging a big car seat through the airport and is a breeze to install!”

So, glad to know that at least one part of her journey was easy. But if you’re a mommy looking for more info, here’s a news segment on airline safety for infants and toddlers that features the seat safety harness. I’m not about ready to poo-poo the lap baby, as the segment advocates–has anyone checked out ticket prices lately?–but I thought this was a fantastic option for a tour de toddler.

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Breaking the Mom Market Wide Open

If Target was a type of fast food chain, I would be categorized as heavy user. Part of it for me is the convenience. (When I’m home, the store is a quick 10  minute stroller from house and also in the same building as my gym.) But part of the attraction is the fact that whoever it is who does Target’s buying completely knows me, where I am in my life, what I want versus what I necessarily need, and what I am willing to spend.

I can hardly think of a better example than today, when I stopped by the greeting card aisle to pick up something for my sister’s upcoming shower. Forget birthdays, gets wells, new babies, and condolences. Move over graduation, housewarming, and pet death. Turns out there is now a whole greeting card section section dedicated to desperate moms. That’s right, there is a whole segment of the buying population that is comprised of moms willing to spend nearly $4 for a card to send to another mom that basically says something like, “Sorry that your kids are, in one way or another, making your life fall apart.”

This particular incarnation spoke to me:

The front of the card

 

The inside of the card

Doesn’t that just say it all? I feel like I need to send this to every mommy friend I know.

I can’t help but be fascinated with the micro segmentation that’s going on here. It’s brilliant. It’s so much more than female, aged 25 to 34. This actually pinpoints an emotional stage in my life as a mommy and completely capitalizes on it. Again, brilliant.

Interesting enough, I had stumbled across another great example of this kind of niche mom marketing as I popped into the Old Navy before my last Target run. First, I noticed that they had traded their navy blue, mesh shopping bags in for full-on shopping carts with child seats in the front. (Thank you.) Second, I noticed that they had put a pint-sized table with matching chairs at the entrance to the dressing room and left a pile of coloring books and crayons on the table. Way to know your customer, Old Navy. Seriously, who is going to take the time to try stuff on when her kid, or kids, is on the brink of a meltdown?

All this rambling to say that, as a mom, I appreciate when stores actually show in one way or another that they understand what I like and value at this stage in my life. After all, it’s moms that really control the purse strings.

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My Love-Hate Relationship with Swim Diapers

It’s full-on summer these days and when the temps start climbing, there’s really nothing more adorable than a baby in a pool or at the beach. While I have always been the type happy to sit waterside for hours on end with nothing more entertaining than a beer, babies certainly do not have my tolerance for nothingness when the sun is shining. So, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get the most out of whatever pool or beach time I can get with a one year old.

I thought swim diapers might turn into a hot-weather essential, but after a handful of uses I’m becoming more skeptical. Here are the pros and cons, as I see it:

Pro: Swim diapers don’t suck up unbelievable amounts of water after every dip,  end up weighing a gazillion pounds, and drip it out all over you when you pick up your kid.

Con: Because they are not absorbent, despite their name, they are not intended to be used actually as diapers. I learned this after I thought I was being smart, got my kid into his swim gear, popped him in the car seat, and headed to the lake. When I pulled him out of the seat a short time later, not only was he literally dripping wet, but his car seat was soaked. I still feel like my car smells.

Pro: They aren’t ridiculously expensive. That’s always a plus in my book.

Con: Not a fan of the S-M-L sizing, particularly since it seems to run a bit small. I’d imagine that a one-year-old would be a medium, but they seem tight.

Pro: The pull-up style of the swim diapers helps them stay on better when soaking wet. When regular diapers get really wet, the adhesive straps can unstick due to the weight of the diaper.

Con: The pull-up diaper is a nightmare when we’re talking No. 2. My kid has the uncanny knack of always taking a dump about 5 minutes after the swim diaper goes on. (What is with that, seriously?) So, after I get him all dressed, I have to undress, and then redress him. The on and off of clothes is trying to begin with at this stage because baby is too big to lie there but still too small be very sure on his feet. Tear away sides or not, I am usually trying to shimmy a full diaper down my squirming baby’s legs. It’s a mess. Literally and figuratively.

 

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Stroller S.O.S.

Getting a flat tire stinks. But when you’re a mommy like me, getting a flat tire–or two, in my case–on your stroller really sucks.

In some ways, I shouldn’t be surprised. I am hard on my stroller, putting it through its paces week in and week out. It is baby and my primary mode of transportation; so, for more than a jog around the neighborhood a few times a week, it’s called into service for nearly every errand, from grocery shopping to the post office to the dog’s daily walk. I dare say that between the nanny and me, we probably put 20 miles a week on it, at least–and that’s excluding runs, which if I’m honest, I am not nearly consistent enough with to count in my weekly mileage.

And then there’s the terrain. It would seem that rolling over sidewalk wouldn’t be all that stressful on a stroller, but city strolling has little in common with a walk around a new neighborhood development. There’s a reason it’s called an urban jungle.

An average outing for me with the stroller involves negotiating stairs. I usually avoid bumping down our front stairs, if I possibly can, which are scary steep in heels and pretty much death defying with a stroller with a baby in it. So, I usually try to go out through the backyard, which has far fewer stairs but a number of other obstacles, including lifting the stroller over the toe-kick on our back gate and maneuvering it between the cars and over the gravel in our parking spots.

Offroading in the city

Then there’s the back alley, which is in itself an adventure because you never know what kind of rodent carcass or trash, broken glass, abandoned TV or mattress or other matter of debris you may encounter. Not only that, but the terrain is atrocious–half brick pavers, half pavement, it’s all pocked and pitted making for a seriously bumpy ride for baby.

Once out to the main street, it only gets marginally better. In my neighborhood, there’s all manner of sidewalk cracks, curbs, and increasingly construction.

When I lay it all out like that, it’s no wonder I had a tire blow out given all the bumping, thumping, and thudding along. But two in one week seemed a little much. The stroller gods certainly had it out for me.

But one of the problems with having a tire malfunction–other than it can put your stroller out of commission–is figuring out how to fix it. I so wish there was such a thing as AAA for strollers.

With the first tire problem, a slow leak in the front tire, I tried to pretty much ignore it for as long as I could. I would pump it up with the air compressor, but after about a day and a half, it would deflate. I toyed with using that spray Fix-a-Flat, but I was scared that I would ruin the tire and then be really screwed. Fortunately, the nanny passed a bike shop on one of her outings and 10 minutes later, the problem was fixed.

However, the second flat, occurring just a day or so after the first tire was

Tire trouble

fixed, was a bit more traumatic. I noticed a weird sound coming from the stroller on the way to the gym one morning, but I thought it was it was the strap on my bag dragging on the ground. However, as I came out of the elevator at the gym, I took a look down and noticed that one of the back tires was looking rather pancake like.

Fortunately, there’s a Target in the same building as the gym, so post workout, I popped in there to buy a cheap bike pump to get me home. (Yes, I totally was the person using the pump before I bought it, but I was desperate.) However, the flat was so bad that I had to stop and pump up the tire three times before I got home and the trip is all of 10 blocks or so. So, back went the stroller to the bike shop.

But when I had called around to a few bike shops to find out of if they could fix my tire troubles, the answer I got was maybe. Most shops were confident that they could fix any tire-related problems, but anything more than that and I likely would’ve been out of luck. So, it got me thinking about what I would do if I had a bigger problem, like a wobble in the front wheel or a broken foot brake or something.

Where do mommies go for heavier duty body work on their strollers? If a bike shop can’t (or won’t) do it, what would option B be? I suppose you’d have to try and sort it out with the manufacturer. Just saying it makes me feel like I have a headache coming on. I imagine spending a gazillion dollars to ship the stroller back to the manufacturer only for it to take weeks to resolve the problem. (Where can you even get a box big enough to do that? My stroller box is long gone.)

At any rate, all this stroller drama just served to highlight two things for me. First, I’m glad that I have more than one stroller. I was able to use my umbrella stroller while the jogger was out of commission. It made carrying my groceries home a little more difficult because it has a much smaller basket, but it worked in a pinch.

Second, I’m glad that I didn’t spend a whole lot of money on any of my strollers. I mean, tires are one thing. They can be more or less easily remedied. But I can imagine how irritated I would be if my $400 (or more) stroller had any sort of problem that needed more specialized attention. At least with a value-priced one, the worst case scenario is just buying a brand new one. Not exactly ideal, but, hey, if I had to do that, I figure I still come out ahead in terms of dollars spent on strollers than if I had bought the expensive one in the first place. And with how hard this family is on its strollers, I’m not confident that any stroller is really up to the challenge over the long haul.

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Bananas for Baby Boutiques

I’m obsessed with baby boutiques. I can’t bear to walk past one and not go in, even if you can tell by the window display that it’s a not-so-good one. In fact, I think my new dream job is owning and running a successful (that being a key word) baby boutique in some charming town or neighborhood–and I have zero retail experience.

But all the same, I like to look at the way different owners stock, merchandise, and decorate. I make mental notes and file them away in my head for the next time I’ll need a fun and creative idea or solution of my own. And do I need to mention how off-the-charts cute some of the outfits are? Beautiful fabrics, sweet stitching detail, unique and modern designs.

But the one thing I notice over and over again is that even in the most beautiful or unusual baby boutiques, you’d better hope you’re shopping for a little girl because your selection of cute stuff is going to be more limited for little boys. I guess in a way I can see why; sweet dresses in gorgeous patterns with ribbons, lace, or other dainty details are by their nature more magnetic than say a pair of overalls or a jumper. But all the same, it seems as though mommies should be able to choose from something more than cargo pants and jeans for their little bundles of boys.

So, when I go into baby shops, I play a little game with myself and go in search of the cutest or cleverest outfit I can find for a little boy. If I find more than one, I consider it the measure of an exceptional baby shop. So, here’s what I dug up during my last trip to South Carolina, where I got a chance to pop into some shops in both Charleston and Beaufort.

sugar snap pea/charleston, s.c.
When it comes to baby boutiques, it’s all about the window display. And the one at sugar snap pea worked it’s charm and instantly pulled me and my mother-in-law inside. And if that didn’t do it, I fell in love with the “Stroller Parking” sign next to two parking meters painted on the wall.

The way I would describe the shop would be to say that if you’re a mommy who loves the aden + anais brand, you know the company that makes all those very sheer, breathable muslim baby sleepers and swaddlers, you’d fall

Romper by Feather Baby

in love with this store. You could feel good about buying anything in the store because not only was it cute but nearly everything in there, from the bath towels to the wooden toys, had some sustainable twist.

Of course, none of this stuff comes cheap, as is the case in most baby boutiques. However, I decided if I was going to splurge and make a purchase, I probably would’ve chosen something from the selection of either Egg Baby or Feather Baby lines. I’m naturally drawn to bold prints, so I like the graphic nature of the clothing and I love that it is oh so soft as well.

T-shirt by Egg Baby

But the thing I think I like best is that while the clothes are what I would call cool and hip, they are age appropriate designs. That’s sort of a big thing for me because in my book, babies are supposed to look like babies, not Mini Mes.

The one drawback is that, unfortunately, the Egg Baby Web site does none of its clothing justice, as what I saw (and pawed) in the store was much more interesting than what they’re advertising online.

kids on king/charleston, s.c.
I would imagine that this is one of the go-to places in Charleston to get more formal clothes for wee ones who might be making a guest appearance at a wedding or fancy holiday party. I could hardly believe the selection of seersucker suits and shorts, linen rompers, retro baby bubble suits, and the like. The store also carried the requisite knee socks and saddle shoes. Of course these are all things my husband made me swear that I would never make our kid wear but that I am now eying given that my sister is getting married in August. (Lucky for me that this place ships!)

Once again, the shop’s Web site doesn’t do its inventory much justice, but I

Shortalls by Bailey Boys (side 1)

just want to make a note of one particularly clever outfit that I came across as I was fingering the racks. Given my love of stripes, dots, and checks, I was immediately drawn to a few racks of gingham shortalls, all from a variety of companies–Zuccini, Glorimont, Bailey Boys, etc. They came in a whole bunch of colors and had sweet embroidered designs on them–crabs, sailboats, trains, etc. I picked one up only to love it more when I realized it was reversible.

For someone who travels a lot with a baby and , therefore, agonizes over every thing that goes into the suitcase, a two-in-one outfit is pure genius. Not only is it space conscious, but it also makes that

Shortalls by Bailey Boys (side 2)

$50+ price tag seem more palatable knowing it’s really two outfits and not just one for the price.

My favorite was definitely the green gingham check with the trains that reversed to a red gingham check with a submarine by the Bailey Boys. I’m not sure you how trains and subs go together, but either side would be so adorable on a baby boy that I guess it doesn’t matter.

doodlebugs/ beaufort, s.c.
This was an unexpected stop during a coffee-and-bagel break in downtown Beaufort, but I’m glad I went in because the shop had some cute things, especially for girls. In fact, there wasn’t a lot I wouldn’t have bought if I had a little girl. But the selection for baby boys was narrow to say the least. At one point, I pulled out a cute t-shirt with cars on it and was looking for something to go with it, such as some shorts or a light sweater. My choices were rainbow or rainbow. I even asked the salesgirl if she thought the items were a little too un-boyish in her opinion. “I wouldn’t buy that for a boy, I don’t think. Especially the cardigan,” she say. Okay, then, I won’t.

But as I was walking out of the store, a small triangle of green gingham caught my eye and I walked over to it. There I found an adorable shortall–or romper or jon jon or jumper or whatever else anyone calls it–with a small alligator embroidered on the chest and two big green button along the beltline, almost sailor style. The tag said it was a Baxter and Beatrice product, but I’ve had a hard time locating it online. But for as much as I loved it, the largest size they had was 12 months and that just won’t do for baby; he’s just growing too fast.

So, while my boutique browsing led to no purchases, it was fun to look and see what’s out there. And it was good to find out that I have a few go-to sources if baby needs that seersucker suit and saddle shoes for the wedding after all.

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