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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Filed under baby boutiques, baby clothes, baby gear, shopping, toys

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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Filed under babies, baby gear, diapers, swimming

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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Filed under babies, baby boutiques, baby clothes, baby gear, infants, shopping

Things I Would Never Have Thought I’d Buy: Baby Shades

Last year when I went to Chamonix, I was 7+ months pregnant, couldn’t ski (tragic), and couldn’t après-ski (even more tragic). So, I spent my days in the mountains swimming at the community pool–I was the orca in lane 6–and doing lots of walking about town.

The great thing about Chamonix is although it’s a ski town, which automatically means it attracts young, beautiful, single, extreme sport seekers also willing to party down at night, it’s also really family friendly. You wouldn’t believe the number of strollers rolling around town. At that point, I was really into checking out the strollers. (The French love the pram-style strollers and also appear to be big fans of expensive brands like Peg Perego, Maclaren, and BébéConfort.)

But the other thing I noticed was that all the babies were wearing sunglasses. I’m talking itty, bitty babies not soon-to-be toddlers. Although the kids were adorable in their baby shades–the French do have absolutely beautiful children–I sort of thought sunglasses were sort of stupid. Sure, it was sunny out, but seriously?

After baby was born, my sister bought him a pair of blue, baby sunglasses. I think it was more of a joke, a nod to my mom and my comments about all the babies in Chamonix.

But fast forward a year and I was what was stupid, not the sunglasses.

As a mommy rather than just a pregnant lady this Chamonix trip around, the sun didn’t just seem bright; it seemed ferocious. It’s rays bore down, unblinking, on baby. You’d no sooner step outside than his little paws would be right up in front of his eyes, his face crumpled up on itself in attempt to keep out the sun’s intense gaze.

But once we popped his little shades on, he was pretty much good to go. Sure, he would fuss a little when I first put them on, but it would be for maybe five seconds and then he’d realize he could see and was chill.

I swear he felt cool when he had them on, too. His smiles were a little different than usual when wearing his shades and even though I couldn’t see his eyes behind the lenses, I felt like he was looking at the world a little differently. It was like he was a little more confident, a little more outgoing, a little more flirtatious. I swear he was giving other kids with shades on a knowing nod as they rolled past each other.

Think I’m crazy? Check this out:

Future's so bright, he's got to wear shades

I’m not sure exactly what brand these shades are since I didn’t buy them; I’m not even 100% sure what store they came from. But the design is great because rather than be like miniature grown-up shades, they’ve got a soft elastic strap that holds the rims and lenses on baby’s face. I think it seems more comfortable–nothing pressing behind the ears–and it also makes them harder to fall off or be pulled off.

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11 Lessons in 10 Days

Baby and I have been repatriated after a wonderful 10 days in Chamonix, France. The weather was mostly more than cooperative, confirmed by a friend who said that both baby and I got some color on our faces; the food delicious (I am pretty sure I ate my weight in charcuterie, fromage, escargot, and soupe à l’oignon); and the company even better.

But I’m not going to lie, my travels with infant weren’t without their stresses. Just to give you an idea, my trip started out with me sitting in my car in what most certainly was the furthest parking lot from the airport terminal in a torrential downpour, debating whether I should wait the rain out or just suck it up and get soaked. Of course it had been 50+ degrees and partly sunny when I left the house, so my Gortex was happily packed in the bottom of my suitcase. I decided to crawl into the backseat and nurse baby while I debated my options. After 15 minutes and no signs of letting up–actually I think the rain started to cascade harder–I decided to just make a run for it.

Run is actually a funny word to use because as any mommy traveling by herself with infant knows, you’re not going anywhere fast. Not when you have a kid strapped to your front, you’re dragging a suitcase with your diaper bag that you’re pretending is also a purse hooked on top, and, in the other hand, you’re trailing a folded up umbrella stroller behind you. Did I mention the small, soft-sided cooler that I had slung over my shoulder? (Sadly, this is efficient for this stage in life.) If I didn’t feel pathetic enough, I certainly did after a man in a wheelchair tried to help me into an elevator.  (True story.)

We lived to tell about it, that’s for sure, so that’s a good thing. And all the stress of the logistics of getting there and back were well worth the good times we had in France, so we’d no sooner book another mommy-and-me overseas adventure in a heartbeat. But all that’s not to say that I didn’t learn a few things. Here are my Top 11 travel tips for mommies traveling overseas with infants, particularly those traveling without an extra set of hands.

  1. Travel on off days. Seriously, if you are planning to have your baby on your lap, it’s worth the extra day of vacation that you will burn to travel on a slow travel day. I traveled out on Sunday and back on a Wednesday and had the luxury of an empty seat next to me on both flights. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say I don’t now I could have done it otherwise, particularly on the return flight, which was 9 hours in the middle of the day, without that luxury. At nine months old, he was crawling and squirming all over the place, so it was fantastic to be able  just strap him into the seat, throw the tray table down, and give him a few toys.
  2. Don’t try to travel like you’re still in college. This means forget the whirlwind tours; don’t try to do three cities in a week. Just pick a really good place that you can make home base and take day trips from there. It’s hard to think like that when there are so many new places to explore, but it will be a more enjoyable trip if you can actually relax and aren’t trying to cram baby into your sightseeing schedule.
  3. Opt for the apartment. If you’re going to be someplace for a week or more, consider renting an apartment over staying in a hotel. Just having access to laundry machines and a kitchen are worth it, even if it costs a bit more, which often isn’t the case. The random three diaper blowouts my kid had in a single day underscored this for me. Plus, many property managers will include things like portable cribs (with bedding), high chairs, and even strollers, if requested. (Score!)
  4. High chairs are an issue.We may be used to every Applebee’s, TGIFriday’s, and Ruby Tuesday’s having highchairs galore, it’s not that way in Europe. I was pleasantly surprised by how many restaurants in

    Perfectly portable

    Chamonix actually had high chairs, but the quality, safety, appropriateness, and availability of them were most often in question. For this reason, I packed my trusty Phil and Ted’s Me Too portable high chair. This thing is seriously awesome.  It hooks on to nearly every table or counter top with a pair of heavy-duty clamps, is really sturdy, and it packs flat. (Bonus!) Of course, the one time I really, really needed it, the table top was too thick so it wouldn’t hook on, which brings me to No. 5…

  5. Never underestimate the power of the scarf.I don’t care what

    Big scarfs are the best

    season you’re traveling in, bring a big, long scarf, if you are traveling with a baby. (Think the size of a pashmina.) Not only are they chic, but I used mine as a pillow, a nursing wrap, a blanket for baby when the wind suddenly kicked up, and even as a child restraint in a high chair where the risk of him slipping through the bottom was high thanks to a lack of safety straps or anything close to resembling them. (Let’s just say a shopping cart seemed more secure.)

  6. Don’t expect your baby to stick to his normal schedule. Jet lag is really hard on the wee ones. For example, we were dealing with a six hour time difference and my bundle of boy started out going to sleep around his normal time (local), but then slept until nearly noon the next day. For three days in a row. By the eighth day, he was waking up around 9:30am (local), which was two hours later than his “normal” wake up. Feel free to disagree, but trying to sightsee with a cranky baby doesn’t sound like much fun to me, so I say let them sleep and do what you can when they can.
  7. Dare to deviate on the nap schedule. This tip runs along the same lines as No. 6. I know this is hard for some super-regimented moms to even fathom, but I’ll just be blunt and say that if you’re that kind of mom and still want to travel (and have fun), you had better loosen up. I don’t know about you, but I find that part of the fun of traveling is eating. But trying to have dinner at 7pm or 8pm at a restaurant with a jet lagged baby who normally is in bed at 7pm (remember other cultures don’t necessarily serve an early-bird special) poses some meltdown challenges. So, to have a more enjoyable meal out, I would feed, bathe, and pajama baby as usual, but him down early–like at 6pm. I’d let him nap until 7:30pm or so, then pack him up and put him in the stroller and take him to the restaurant with us. Be sure to pack plenty of snacks or make good use of the bread basket and, above all, stay close to home base in case there’s a real meltdown that requires you to book on home.
  8. Have fun with food.This is sort of a takeoff on No. 7, but enjoying

    Bon appetit!

    new foods shouldn’t just be a traveling perk for you. So, don’t bring all the food or diapers or wipes that you could possibly need for a week or 10 days. It’s not worth the work of carrying all that stuff, especially when you are traveling alone. Just bring enough to get you through a few days until you can buy stuff on site. Not to mention when you buy locally, you can introduce your baby to some new flavors. Just check out what the French consider appropriate for those babies 6+ months: apples with kiwi and pineapple, couscous with veggies, and salmon with rice and green veggies. My kid also downed a few croissants and Petit Beurres, which are wonderful French delectables.

  9. Bring hand sanitizer. I won’t go into details, but I’ll say that you

    Nasties no more

    shouldn’t expect Baby Koala changing stations wherever you go. I went into one public restroom that advertised a baby changing station and came out within 30 seconds, telling my mom and aunt that I would rather have my kid sit in his own feces for another hour+ than change him in that bathroom.

  10. Yes, you will be able to use the bathroom on the plane. So, the en-route changing station question isn’t that big of a deal. There will be one bathroom near you on the plane that has a changing station, if not every bathroom on the plane. (It’s above and behind the toilet.) It’s small (my kid barely fit on it), but it’ll get the job done. The real issue when traveling with infant is what you are going to do when you need to go to the bathroom but baby doesn’t need a diaper change. On my outbound flight, I had one very nice woman across the aisle from me (three kids of her own) ask me if I wanted her to hold the baby so I could go the bathroom. I’m not going to lie. This sounded very tempting, after having tried one strategy earlier where I kept the changing station down with the baby on top and held him while I tried to bend and scoot underneath to do my business. (Not recommended.) But for as good as that sounded, honestly, I didn’t know how it would look if I just handed my baby over to a stranger. (She did seem nice and where was she going to go?) I declined and tried a different strategy. Yes, I actually sat him on the floor of the airplane restroom. He was fine–turns out the toilet paper is right at eye level and can be pulled out and ripped up very easily–but I was pretty much disgusted with the fact that my kid was on the floor of a nothing more than a slightly less stinky PortaJohn. (This is why you need to heed No. 9.) But these are the types of choices you will have to make, so just try not to let germs ruin your vacation.
  11. Let people help you. For people like me, who are used to not only doing things their way but doing them completely on their own, this is a tough one. But it’s important to realize that, when traveling with an infant, letting someone share your burden doesn’t mean you are a failure. So, let that really nice, generous person who offers to carry your diaper bag on or off the plane do it. Everyone knows you can do it, but why not save yourself a little bit of effort?

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

In my pre-mommy days, when temperatures plunged like they have in D.C. lately, I always wondered why moms would be so silly or stupid or selfish (or maybe a combination of all three) to bother taking their babies out in the stroller, making them endure the below-freezing temps. I mean, why wouldn’t they just stay home where it’s nice and warm and not bother trying to wedge the kid into a snowsuit?

Not only that, but weather shields–you know, those cheap plastic covers that slide over the whole stroller–were soooo tacky.

Now that I’m actually a mom, my perspective has done a 180. First, I don’t let weather stop me. If I’ve committed to doing something or being somewhere, we’re going–rain or shine, heatwave or snow flurries. (The obvious exceptions being a blizzard or tornado or something.) My reasoning is that for however inconvenient the weather is on the day I’m supposed to go somewhere, with my luck, it’ll be worse on the day that I try to reschedule.

Because we live in downtown D.C., going somewhere more often than not involves the stroller. Consequently, the tacky weather shield has been my best friend. It only took one morning of getting caught in a torrential downpour, where I had to wait in the Target lobby for 45 minutes for the rain to subside, to make me never forget it again.

In the winter, on 20-degree days like today, the challenge is to figure out how to keep baby warm when he’s prone to losing booties and blankets. So, I’ve been checking out other moms to see how they’ve tackled the challenge. Some go for the super puffy snowsuit, throw on a hat and maybe some boots and it’s all good to go. Others opt for what I like to call stroller sleeping bags, basically sacks that essentially fit around the stroller to insulate baby. But then, there are always the old school hold-outs, who live for this option:

That's one way to keep baby warm

I’m not sure exactly where I am in the spectrum. Baby started out the winter in a fleece one-piece snowsuit, but by the beginning of January it wouldn’t zip on him despite that it was sized for a 12-month-old. Then, I went for just dressing him only in fleece pants and sweatshirts and then throwing on his fleece jacket, a hat, and some booties and then covering him with a fleece blanket. But then the dog destroyed all the booties.

So, on frigid mornings like this one, about the best I can do is put as many clothes as I can on him, throw on an extra blanket, put down the weather shield, and walk really fast. Like this:

My bundled up bundle of boy

 

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Filed under babies, baby clothes, baby gear, daily life, infants, weather