The Best Easter Egg Hunts

 

Easter Collage

This year is totally different from last year – after a fake-out warm week, we’re back down to below freezing!!! The good thing about Easter Egg Hunts though, although they’re usually outside, is that they’re over in about 2 minutes (if you’re not organizing it yourself, of course). But, that same pro can turn into a con if the hunt is not handled correctly. Nobody wants to see older kids with brimming baskets and tiny toddlers in tears who weren’t even able to grab a single egg. And I cannot believe we hear stories every year of kids getting hurt or trampled when parents go crazy.

This year we got 2 egg hunts due to interstate travel visiting the grandparents that weekend. But since I have a 5 year old, we’ve got a few years experience. Let me share what we’ve found works best:

  1. Completely separate egg hunt areas by age group. Preschoolers hunt in one spot, bigger kids in another (and if you can break it down even further to 3 or 4 different areas by age group – even better!). The bonus here is that you can lay all the eggs in plain sight for the little ones without worrying the bigger kids will scoop them up first. And you can make the hunt a nice challenge for the older kids.
  2. Sometimes you just don’t have an easy way to create separate areas. For example, we went to a hunt in one small town that was using their large village green. However, they helped solve the problem by having the big kids go to the far end of the field, while the little ones stayed close, with the goal of meeting in the middle.
  3. An egg limit! If the eggs are filled, post a rule of no more than, say, 10 eggs per person to ensure all kids get some. Repeat, repeat, have the kids repeat, repeat again, and make signs. That should ensure at least 60% follow the rule…
  4. Even better than an egg limit? Empty eggs!! If you take away the greed factor – where it doesn’t really matter how many eggs you pick up – kids are generally better behaved and more likely to let a little one take that last egg. Have all the kids turn in their eggs at the end of the hunt by dumping them in a big box, and then hand out pre-packed, identical goodie bags to everyone!

Remember: your local Easter egg hunt is not The Hunger Games.

 

 

Ending Breastfeeding, Weaning Mommy

I read a lot about breastfeeding before having both my babies but I don’t remember seeing much about the weaning period beyond: “Stop when you’re ready to stop,” “Gradually decrease the number of nursing sessions,” or the less helpful, “Just breastfeed as long as possible.” Well, Bugaboo is over a year old and certainly showing no signs of stopping, but mama is ready. So what now?

We’ve been nursing before naps and at bedtime, often (unfortunately) in the middle of the night too. Skipping nursing sessions usually only works if my husband is home. If I’m holding him, Bug literally pulls the neck of my shirt to try to cram his head in, face first. In less desperate moments, he just sticks his (usually cold) hands down the neck of my shirt. I get the message loud and clear: nurse now or your shirts will never be acceptable to wear out in public again! (Yeah, he knows my kryptonite).

Sure, you say, I just need to buck up and let him cry a little. It won’t really last very long and he’ll get over it. But here’s the kicker – when I do give in and nurse my baby, my toddler actually, I always get the same reaction: his eyelids flutter, his eyes roll back a little, and he breathes out a tiny moan of total pleasure along with a deep sigh as though I’d been starving him for days and broke his fast with a 5 star dessert. He is so completely content and it’s the simplest thing I could possibly do – really I just sit there and enjoy a few minutes of uninterrupted reading time. I don’t usually feel the typical “mommy guilt,” but that does it. Why on earth would I take nursing away from him?

Because I want my boobs back, for one. Because I have a bunch of very cute non-nursing bras waiting for me. Because my son very slowly increases the pressure with his teeth so that by the end of many nursing sessions, I have four well-defined marks around my nipple. Because I’m scared he’ll still be nursing years from now (I have no problem with moms who nurse older kids, I just don’t want to do it myself). And because I want to sleep through the night for once!

It turns out none of those reasons are good enough to break the spell my son has on me, though. I still haven’t done much proactively to wean my son. I guess I’m really hoping my son will just decide on his own that he’s done with nursing and it’ll be a nice, peaceful transition. That happens sometimes, right?

Potty Training Tip – Beware the Fancy Diapers!

toddler upsidedown $

Beware the fancy diapers!

I thought we were doing my daughter a favor by getting her the really soft disposable diapers. Sure they were more expensive, but she was our firstborn, our baby! I gathered up all my diaper samples from the various baby expos I’d attended and did a complete, almost scientific, brand test. Some of the diapers leaked on us, some were so papery they crinkled every time she moved and I worried the rustling would be loud enough to disturb her sleep (yes, I was paranoid), and some just seemed really scratchy. Didn’t we love our daughter enough to spend a few extra dollars to prevent an itchy and uncomfortable feeling that we wouldn’t put up with ourselves? Well, when you put it that way…

I later discovered our fancy disposable diaper brand also had a loyalty rewards program with some pretty cool “free” stuff we could earn (with points from our purchases) and I’m a huge sucker for that kind of stuff. So that, plus the fact we had no complaints (no rashes, etc), kept us from switching brands as she got older. We did eventually get a big plastic Little Tikes grocery cart for “free” which I still find totally awesome (please do not reply with logic about how with all the extra money we could have saved by buying cheaper diapers we could have bought 10 grocery carts – I don’t want to hear it. It was free I tell you, free!!).

cart 076

It was free I tell you, free!! (doll not included)

Then came potty training. Or it should have. We passed her second birthday and her third and still my daughter had no problems being wet or poopy. Like no problems whatsoever. She would have stayed in one diaper for the rest of eternity if left to herself. As I scoured potty training guides and parent manuals, many said the first step was for your child to show readiness, meaning discomfort being wet or soiled, or at least notifying you in some way before or after. Of course this is all usually supposed to happen a lot sooner too. We got nothing. I might have tried the “run naked and free until you feel pee dribbling down your leg” method but we have carpet throughout our house so I stuck that in the last resort file. I also read that rushing potty training can seriously backfire (constipation, taking longer to train overall, etc.) so I just kept telling myself, it’d be fine, no one goes to prom in diapers.

minnie potty chair

Our 3rd potty – the self “flusher” that says “hip hip horray” made this one the winner

We decided to move our daughter into Pull-Ups even before she was “ready” to potty train because 1. she was too big for the changing table, 2. we wanted to associate the changing table with babies, like her brother, not big girls like her and 3. we wanted her to get in the habit of pulling her diaper on and off by herself. But we stuck with our expensive brand out of habit. I tried giving O lots of liquids and asking her to try to use the potty every 10 or 15 minutes but she would go in her diaper directly before or after sitting on her potty. I tried demonstrating for her. I even tried a different potty that mounted onto the big toilet. Still no success. I think she knew exactly what I was asking for, but her body wasn’t cooperating; it just hadn’t clicked yet.

CVS brand pull up diapers

CVS brand pull up diapers. AKA not fancy.

Then we went to a CVS I’d never been to before due to a mix-up with a prescription at the pharmacy. I have a secret love for drugstores like Walgreens or Rite Aid; stores where there’s a little bit of everything and you never know what you’ll find, and where there’s always a holiday section filled with cheesy adorable themed knickknacks you don’t need (I always end up buying 1 or 2). While living in Boston, I discovered that very CVS is different, so I’d always wander the aisles whenever I was in a new store or just had time to kill (this is all related, I swear). While wandering this time for new and interesting products I didn’t know I needed, I noticed a super sale on the CVS brand pull-ups and I swear a light bulb clicked on above my head. What if the super plush, super absorbent, fancy diapers were part of the problem? What if she needs a flimsy, cheap diaper to feel that she’s wet and that wet is not good? What if she needs an uncomfortable diaper to motivate her to switch into comfy cotton undies? I still had fears about leakage but the sale was enough to prompt me to give it a try. Wait… what are my design options? Adorable alien monsters and/or pink butterflies? Ok, Sold.

It was like magic. Once we started wearing the cheapy diapers, O started telling us when she wet her diaper. So we started regularly asking her if she had to go, or to just sit and give it a try, and finally she successfully used the potty. I went the bribe route by offering m&ms for every attempt which worked sometimes but O was still going in her diaper frequently. The turning point was when she had 2 total leak-through accidents within 2 days (something that would never have happened in her expensive pull-ups) and suddenly the switch in her brain flipped. She’s been using the potty like a pro ever since. She has actually requested to wear her undies at night too and has stayed dry (5 nights and counting!!).

So there’s my cautionary tale. Should have saved this post for Halloween, haha. Beware!!

Infant Car Seats VS All-in-One Convertible Car Seats

I think most first time parents, or at least all the ones I see waiting in our pediatrician’s office, go for a basic infant car seat like we did. You know the ones I’m talking about; it’s got the handle on the top and the base that stays in the car. We got a Graco SnugRide 32 for our first baby. Well, infant car seats are great for a number of reasons:

Graco Snugride 35

Graco Snugride 35

  1. Portable – If baby is asleep when you park the car, you can pop the whole car seat out to carry baby undisturbed into the house. You can also easily stick most infant car seats on a travel-system stroller without disturbing them if they’re sleeping or just in a good mood (we found that getting in and out of the car seat was generally the most upsetting to our babies).
  2. Fast – It is a lifesaver to be able to adjust baby’s straps and buckle them in nice and cozy before leaving the house (especially if you had a 2 door car in the beginning like we did – what were we thinking?!). Once you get to the car, most infant car seats come with a base that allows you to secure it by setting the car seat on top and aligning it with a click. It takes about 5 seconds and you’re good to go.
  3. Winter Bonus – If you’re trying to avoid dressing your baby in bulky winter wear while strapped into the car seat, there are lots of covers for infant car seats that let you ensure baby’s warmth and optimum safety.

With time and experience, we figured out what worked best for us and what didn’t. Here’s what we did not like about our infant car seat:

  1. Heavy – There are lots of different ergonomic handle designs and arm pads you can attach, but all infant car seats are bulky, heavy, and hard to carry – it’s why they’re so safe. Remember, even the lightest car seat won’t be light once your baby is inside – and babies put on weight so fast! I dreaded carrying it just from our house to the car.
  2. Short Lifespan – Even though our daughter was a tiny thing, she couldn’t use her infant car seat for more than a year (and even if she could have fit, she really began to hate being so reclined – she wanted to see the world, look out the windows, etc.). I have noticed some new infant-style car seats with fancy multi-position bases that allow you to use them rear facing up until age 2 (or the seat’s height and weight limits) like the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 Infant Car Seat. It’s pretty amazing but still requires you to get a new seat after 2 years instead of 1.
  3. Expensive (comparably) – Our Graco Snugride 32 retailed for approximately $150. After one year we had to buy a second toddler car seat which retailed about $300 (we bought it for less on Amazon though). Luckily, our toddler car seat (more about it below) is a convertible seat and can also be used as a booster later (up to 120 lbs), so we won’t have to buy her anything else in this department.
  4. Little Resale Value – Most experts advise against buying used car seats so you may not have many takers if you try to resell (or they’ll want a steep discount… like they’ll give you $20). It is wise advice though because car seats that have been in a car accident may have hidden damage and no longer offer adequate protection. Car seats also have expiration dates because over time the plastic can weaken and safety standards can change. When you’re dealing with something that could mean the difference between life and death for your child, it just isn’t worth it. I recommend taking your infant car seat into a Babies R Us during one of their Great Trade-In Events. From the company’s website: “The Great Trade-in Event places an emphasis on specific baby products, such as cribs and car seats that, due to safety concerns, may not be the best candidates to be handed down or resold.” At least you get 25% off something new that way!
Diono Radian RXT

Diono Radian RXT

So, as you probably guessed, we did not buy an infant car seat for our second baby. We were actually so pleased with O’s toddler car seat, the Diono Radian RXT (formerly Sunshine Kids), that, seeing the acceptable weight range started at 5 pounds, we just started him out in the same model his sister loves. We’re done buying car seats for his whole car-seat-needing life!

To be honest, there have been many times I’ve wished I didn’t have to unstrap Number 2 to take him out of the car, knowing he’d wake up the minute I did. But there’s no guarantee he would have stayed blissfully asleep in his car seat like his sister used to either. So, no regrets. We upgraded to a 4 door family car a while ago (thank god), so buckling baby into his seat no longer involves folding myself into origami (the infant car seat was so annoying to carry, we sometimes left it in the car). And, as with my first, I prefer baby wearing (Baby K’Tan shout-out!) to using a stroller while they’re tiny anyway.

If you do decide to start your newborn in an all-in-one convertible car seat like we did, there are more and more appearing on the market now (like the Graco Smart Seat All-in-One Convertible Car Seat) so you’ll have a lot of choices. But, before you start shopping, I have to mention a few extra things about the Diono Radian RXT car seat that we really loved:

  1. The Diono Radian RXT can be rear-facing up to 45 lbs which makes it the highest rear-facing seat available in the US. That’s nothing to sneeze at. (heh, who says that anymore?) According to this article on CNN from Parenting.com, a study “found that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing. Another study found riding rear-facing to be five times safer than forward-facing.” And just so we’re all clear, I hope everyone knows that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that all children be rear-facing until age 2 (or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their car seat). In her Diono, our daughter O was happy rear-facing until almost 3 years old – seriously, leg squish was not a problem.
  2. The Diono Radian RXT has a very slim profile that the brand says allows you to fit 3 across the backseat of most standard size cars. Now, we don’t have 3 kids, so I didn’t think this would be important until we tried putting O’s old Graco Snugride in the back next to her Diono (before our second was born while we were still in research mode). There was NO WAY anyone would have been able to squish into that third seat. We tried every configuration. Amazingly when our second Diono arrived, we put Olyla by the window, Number 2 in the center, and our third seat was usable for an adult.
The backseat of our car

The backseat of our car

If you’ve fallen in love with a particular All-in-One car seat, definitely share the name of it in the comments. As I said above, there are lots more brands creating their own versions since the AAP changed their safety recommendations.

*I was not compensated in any way by Graco or Diono for this review.

Surprise Subscription Boxes for Mommy and Baby

If you haven’t heard about the latest craze (and/or you remember the CD and video of the month clubs of yore), monthly subscription services are back! Online sites are now offering everything from beauty boxes and shoes to gourmet tasting packages and t-shirts– all shipped right to your door every month full of fun surprises. But, of course, it’s the cool mommy and baby stuff we’re interested in for this blog and there are lots of those to choose from in that category too! Here are your options:

Citrus Lane – I believe this was the first monthly box club to launch in the mother/baby category and they’ve grown quickly for good reason. Featuring 1 or 2 full size products per box, sample size products, coupons/gift cards and cute monthly themes like Bed and Bathtime Fun or Fun in the Sun, Citrus Lane is perfect for moms with newborns or children up to 3 years old. In past boxes I received things like: an iPlay Sun Protection Hat (with SPF 50+), an Itzy Ritzy Snack Happened reusable snack bag, Ella’s Kitchen food pouches, Green Sprouts Stacking Duck Set for the bath, a full size Seventh Generation Natural Hand Wash, and a Juice Beauty Antioxidant Serum Deluxe Sample. They also have a special stand alone Pampered Pregnancy box and a Deluxe Baby Shower box which are both perfect to give as gifts. You get one box a month and Citrus Lane offers a few different subscription options:

  • pay as you go – $25/month
  • $75 for 3 month membership
  • $125 for 6 month membership (1 month free!)
  • $250 for 12 month membership (2 months free!)
  • $65 for the Pampered Pregnancy box (one box only)
  • $35 for the Deluxe Shower box (one box only)

Bluum – UPDATE: Bluum has changed their pricing, it is now $24.95/month and features more full size items in larger boxes. They also now have boxes for children up to 36 months. Bluum still focuses on items for both mommy and baby.

This is the least expensive option, so it’s great if you’re feeling unsure about the whole subscription club thing, commitment, money in general, etc. It is also the smallest box, about 6×4 inches, but you’re still getting a lot for your money. Bluum boxes feature tons of sample size products for mommy and babies 0-12 months – and if you try something and love it, it’s easy to find information on purchasing the full size versions. In past boxes I received things like: Adagio Pai Mu Tan Tea, Weleda Almond Soothing Facial Lotion, So Easy Portion Storage Bags and PINXAV Diaper Rash Ointment. Plus Bluum places a high priority on organic and natural products – bonus! You have 3 subscription options with Bluum which are:

  • pay as you go – $11/month
  • $33 for 3 month membership
  • $60 for 6 month membership

PetiteBox – UPDATE: PetiteBox is temporarily suspending subscriptions. Not known when they’ll resume business.

This company just launched, their first boxes went out in June. Unlike the other companies mentioned, PetiteBox will begin catering to you while you’re still pregnant and then, based on your due date, will change over to baby-related products when your little one is born up to 12 months old. The subscription ends automatically at baby’s first birthday. The PetiteBox representative I spoke with at the Big City Moms Baby Shower said that PetiteBox is striving to be a more luxurious, higher end alternative (which is evident just from the gorgeous ribbon trimmed boxes they’ve got – definitely saving those to reuse somehow).

  • pay as you go – $25/month

TeetheMe– UPDATE: TeetheMe stopped service in October 2012.

Similar to Citrus Lane, TeetheMe is for moms with newborns to kids up to 3 years old. However, TeetheMe is also a full-out community too – they want members to write rate and write reviews for the items they received, share pictures and milestones of their little ones, and find a one stop destination for blogs and trends on the site. The Little Teethers Community for Moms just launched with Facebook and Twitter integration and it looks promising. But going back to the boxes, every month TeetheMe sends you 4 to 5 products. In my past box I received: a Green Sprouts Plate Set, Earth Mama Angel Baby Calm & Clean Hand to Toe Wash and Bottom Balm samples, and NurturMe dehydrated baby food pouches. Their subscription options include free boxes for longer commitments:

  • pay as you go – $24/month
  • $72 for 3 month membership
  • $120 for 6 month membership (1 month free!)
  • $240 for 1 year membership (2 months free!)

Stork Stack – Stork Stack sends out 5 products a month customized for you and baby and can start as early as your 3rd Trimester of pregnancy and last up until your child’s 3rd birthday. As with the other companies, they promise mom-tested (and loved) products tailored to you (click here for an example of one of their past boxes/Stacks). They also offer a never changing Shower Stack to use as a baby shower gift – you can also see a picture of that box using the link above. But what makes Stork Stack special is that they give back to philanthropic organizations to “deliver Stacks of love to families in need.” Stock Stack is currently partnering with Operation Showers of Appreciation (baby showers of support for separated military families) and BabyBuggy.org. Just by being a member you’re helping out those in need, but depending on the membership option you choose, you can also give a little more directly too:

  • pay as you go – $28/month
  • $84 for 3 months + one donated to a family in need
  • $168 for 6 months + 2 donated to families in need
  • $336 for annual membership + 3 donated to families in need
  • $40 Shower Stack (one box only)

Honorable mention to these other monthly subscription sites:

  • Spark Box – age appropriate toy rental for ages 0-4
  • Wittlebee – age specific clothing for sizes newborn to 5T
  • Kiwi Crate – crafty boxes for ages 3-7
  • BabbaCo – themed boxes containing projects, activities & books for ages 3-6
  • Little Passports – global exploration kits for ages 5-10
  • Green Kid Crafts – 3 or more planet-friendly crafts monthly for ages 3-8
  • MommeBox – seasonal products & services for moms
  • The Little Book Club – 3 or more age appropriate books monthly for ages 0-6
  • The Happy Trunk – themed crafty boxes in 2 tiers: ages 3-7 and ages 7-11
  • Parents TLC – baby, kiddo, mommy & me and even pet boxes all on one site
  • ZooBean – book subscription boxes
  • M is for Monster – weekly themes with 2 to 3 projects for each theme

And one last thing to add (hint to future entrepreneurs): Where are the Daddy boxes?!!

Big City Moms’ Biggest Baby Shower – Review and Gift Bag Show & Tell

I attended the 2012 Biggest Baby Shower Ever in New York City hosted by Big City Moms a few days ago and the swag I brought home was unbelievable (see pictures below). In fact, the things I’d picked up just from walking around the vendor booths were already digging into my arms after 2 hours (not the best decision making there but I couldn’t help myself!) so I was feeling pretty nervous as I waited in line to get my official gift bag (not visible from the line). But in a twist of fate, they rolled out a Peg Perego stroller with the gift bag balanced on top of it!!! (which I believe was my shower gift for visiting 40 vendors – they handed out Bingo style cards when you entered – and attending a seminar). And, as you can see this was a literal lifesaver (since I was on my own to get all this stuff home – my personal handbag isn’t even on the stroller in this picture), not to mention AMAZING!

I was a little uncertain about a few things before going to this event:

  1. The ticket price was pretty hefty: $100 for the Super Pass ($125 if bought after 4/1) – was it going to be worth it? As a comparison, the lowest price tickets were $60 for basic entry with no gift bag, which is still substantial.
  2. I had just gone to the MommyBites Summit the previous week. Were all the vendors (and goodies) going to be pretty much the same?

But it turns out I shouldn’t have worried: the ticket price paid for itself instantly since all attendees were given a Mombo Taggies pillow (retail $49.99) and all Super Pass holders were guaranteed a new Britax baby carrier (retail $139.99). Plus the Peg Perego stroller? Um, retail $399.99!!! So yeah, I think I can say, without even opening the gift bags, this event was worth the ticket price.

Second, I visited almost every booth and definitely less than a quarter of the vendors were repeats. Even most of the food vendors were different! And, as you’ll see for yourself below, there surprisingly weren’t even many repeat gifts between the two event’s gift bags (except for Mama Mio Skincare products, which I was totally fine with having more of!!).

So, I have to break this down into the actual event gift bag (which was bigger than a Moses basket for a baby – In fact, if I could find a way to safely convert it into a Moses basket, I almost would) and the gift bag I created just by walking around the event and/or buying products at special Biggest Baby Shower prices. Let’s start with the contents of the official Biggest Baby Shower Ever gift bag pictured below (this was all inside the black tote with pink writing if you’re looking at the picture at the top of this post).

I’m going to try to make this list as organized as possible since it was near impossible to get everything facing forward without blocking the view of something else. Here’s what was inside:

  • The Huge Gifts – Comfort & Harmony Deluxe Mombo nursing pillow & Infant Positioner, Britax organic baby carrier, Peg Perego Pliko Four stroller in denim (I know some other moms got diaper pails instead and maybe there were other shower gifts rotating as well).
  • Bottles – 6 full-size baby bottles from MAM (anti-colic), Evenflo (Bebek), Tommee Tippee, Similac (Simply Smart), Lansinoh (Momma) and a Playtex drop-ins premium gift set. As well as an insulated straw cup from Munchkin ( 12m+) and a Enfamil newborn formula sample set with D-Vi-Sol.
  • Clothing & Accessories -Moby knot hat, Baby K’Tan hat, Gerber bib, 7 A.M. Enfant 0-6m baby booties, Maclaren Travel Kit for baby (lavender scented), Sun Safety Bands courtesy of KSpin Designs, Eco Store Baby Nappy Balm, Boogie Wipes sample.
  • Home & Bath – Safety 1st Essentials Childproofing Kit, Squiggles – A Drawing Book courtesy of J&R jr., Episencial Sweet Dreams bubble bath, Dapple baby bottle and dish liquid, Clean Well antibacterial hand & face wipes, Think King Jumbo Swirly Hook (for strollers), M.A.Z.E cord blood laboratories water bottle, Q-tips (full-size), OXO Tot bottle cleaning kit, Oopsy Daisy playing cards, Little Pim foreign language DVD, Pantone Colors children’s book.
  • Just For Mom – Boob Tube and Tummy Rub samples from Mama Mio Skincare, Simplisse sample pack (nursing pads, nipple cream, breast milk storage bags), Bio-Oil, Palmer’s Tummy Butter, Destination Maternity Edamame Spa coupons, Premama vitamin drink mix sample, Fit Pregnancy magazine.
  • Food – Belvita breakfast bar, Kind Plus bar, Pretzel Crisps, Peeled Snacks, Sensible Portions Apple Straws, Godiva Gems, Little Ducks Organics Tiny Fruit, and baby food pouches from Organic Mash-ups, Ella’s Kitchen and Happy Baby.

And that’s not all, folks! (haha). Here’s the great stuff I was given (pictured above) by just stopping at all the vendors’ booths and entering their their giveaways or joining their mailing lists:

  • Free Samples – pacifier wipes and laundry detergent from Dapple, Eco Store laundry liquid, healing balm and hand soap from The Honest Co., Colief infant drops for colic, Camilia homeopathic teething aid, BabyGanics lip & face balm, Innobaby small baby food storage container, The Bump stroller ID tag (brilliant!), Tommee Tippee spill-proof First Sips Cup (4m+), retractable measuring tapes from both Project Nursery and from Ergo Baby, a baby food pouches from Happy Tot and Plum Organics.
  • Gift Bag from the ToyInfo.org booth featuring: a small parts tester, Crayola My First Washable Markers, Cloud B Mimicking Monkey, Ugly Doll small stuffed toy, BKids Go With Me soft cell phone toy (3m+).
  • Bought at a Discounted Event Price – Lucky Legs from Mama Mio Skincare (they gave me a larger sample of O-Mega Body Buff with purchase), WeanGreen glass baby food containers in green, BuggyLove organic stroller cleaning kit.
  • Plus LOTS of Coupons

There were food vendors sampling juice cocktails, baby burgers, cake pops for your baby shower, frozen yogurt and baby food if you wanted to try some out yourself. There were stroller and diaper pail demos, lots of photography studios, gorgeous sample nursery set-ups and tons of great speakers (Jessica Alba, Tia Mowry, Dr. Bob Sears,  Melissa Joan Hart and many more). Everyone was really excited to be there and the good mood was contagious. I had so much fun and I LOVED all the goodies I got (and I think 99% of them I’ll actually use too!). The Big City Moms Biggest Baby Shower Ever is an absolute must for any brand new or expecting parents.

Narrated Playtime – Whoa, I Totally Do That!

or, A Review of Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

I just finished reading Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. I almost didn’t bother, but when I read reviews that it is more autobiography than parenting manual (which I generally try to stay away from), I changed my mind and I’m glad I did. The book logs her efforts to first define the Parisian/French parenting style (which turns out to be more work that it sounds) and then to understand why it is so different from the current NYC/American style. You can tell from the reviews which people actually read the book and which just assumed it was just another American parent bashing tirade.

I appreciated that Druckerman clearly states her upper-middle-class and central Paris/elite Manhattan biases in the beginning and reminds us of them throughout the book so you know that not everything she describes necessarily applies to all of France or all of the US. But don’t let this dissuade you from reading; wherever you are, I can almost guarantee you’ve seen or done many of the parenting acts she describes in this book and will be able to relate.

The book was clearly well researched with tons of footnotes documenting the studies, articles and people she pulled from (I hate when people just write, “experts believe…” and leave it at that). And Druckerman was careful to interview and compare experiences between persons both native to each country with those who immigrated to the US or France, and between experts and regular moms  – all things I also appreciated and expected coming from a former journalist. But the book also felt very honest (she shares quite a few embarrassing parenting experiences) and was pretty amusing in many parts too. This book is an opinion piece, it is not straight investigative journalism, but even so, it seemed balanced and reasonable (not at all pushy). So whether you agree with Druckerman by the end of the book or not, you won’t regret reading it and it may give you some things to think about too.

But here is the excerpt in question that totally caught me by surprise:

American-style parenting and its accoutrements – the baby flash cards and competitive preschools – are by now cliches. There’s been both a backlash and a backlash to the backlash. So I’m stunned by what I see at a playground in New York City. It’s a special toddler area with a low-rise slide and some bouncy animals, separated from the rest of the park by a high metal gate. The playground is designed for toddlers to safely climb around and fall. A few nannies are sitting French-style on benches around the perimeter, chatting and watching their charges play.

Then a white, upper-middle-class mother walks in with her toddler. She follows him around the miniature equipment, while keeping up a nonstop monologue. “Do you want to go on the froggy, Caleb? Do you want to go on the swing?”

Caleb ignores these questions. He evidently plans to just bumble around. But his mother tracks him, continuing to narrate his every move. “You’re stepping, Caleb!” she says at one point.

I assume that Caleb just landed a particularly zealous mother. But then the next upper-middle-class woman walks through the gate, pushing a blond toddler in a black T-shirt. She immediately begins narrating all of her child’s actions too. When the boy wanders over to the gate to stare out at the lawn, the mother evidently decides this isn’t stimulating enough. She rushes over and holds him upside down.

“You’re upside down!” she shouts. Moments later, she lifts up her shirt to offer the boy a nip of milk. “We came to the park! We came to the park!” she chirps while he’s drinking.

This scene keeps repeating itself with other moms and their kids. After about an hour I can predict with total accuracy whether a mother is going to do this “narrated play” simply by the price of her handbag. What’s most surprising to me is that these mothers aren’t ashamed of how batty they sound. They’re not whispering their commentaries, they’re broadcasting them.

When I describe this scene to Michel Cohen, the French pediatrician in New York, he knows immediately what I’m talking about. He says these mothers are speaking loudly to flaunt what good parents they are. The practice of narrated play is so common that Cohen included a section in his parenting book called Stimulation, which essentially tells mothers to cut it out. “Periods of playing and laughing should alternate naturally with periods of peace and quiet,” Cohen writes. “You don’t have to talk, sing or entertain constantly.”

Whatever your view on whether this intensive supervision is good for kids, it seems to make child care less pleasant for mothers [footnote to a 2009 study]. Just watching it is exhausting. And it continues off the playground. …”

(I wanted to copy more but I’ll stop there)

Now, I know I’m definitely not narrating just to flaunt what a good parent I am because I do it when we were completely alone at the park and, as Druckerman mentions later, off the playground as well. But reading this and suddenly realizing that she was describing me, had me searching for the real reason why – at least my reason why.

So I think part of it came from reading that hearing language (reading and speaking to your child) is good for them and will help build their vocabularies. And since I suspect my 2 year old is dyslexic (her father is so there’s a 50% chance right away) and since she seems to have trouble saying the small sounds in words – I guess it was très américain of me to think the more the better, right?

And the other part was probably because we were alone. I’m a talkative person so I was  probably just chatting to fill the silence and to keep my daughter company. I’ve realized that this could be heading her down a path where she’d become one of those people that has to be stimulated constantly (like some of my college classmates who couldn’t write a term paper unless they had both headphones on and the TV going). Being able to handle quiet time is a skill that needs practice too.

So I went to the park today with my newly 2 year old and I consciously didn’t narrate. And guess what? My toddler was chattering away half the time and quiet half the time but still content the whole time. I also didn’t go up onto the actual playground tower with her this time (she usually asks for my hand to go up the stairs, etc.) but I didn’t sit on the sidelines since my little daredevil monkey loves the big kid area which is pretty high off the ground. I stood near every opening she approached just in case, but I was happy to be of no use there – we didn’t even have a near close call. And she handled every staircase, obstacle and maneuver with ease.

Things were going great! Then, my daughter then decided she wanted to try climb this terrifying (to me) curvy ladder instead of taking the stairs. Think a repeated S shape with a straight bar down the middle of it. Then bend that entire form from the top of the playground to the bottom and add an undulation to it. Fantastic.

Even though she could barely get her foot from one rung to the next, I let her try it (while holding a hand both in front and back of her lest a foot or hand slip, with visions of bloody lips and broken arms trying to force their way into the forefront of my thoughts – as is the normal state of my brain) and didn’t encourage her constantly along the way (which is much easier when you would really rather they back down, haha).

When she reached for my hand to help, I calmly said “You can do it.” And she immediately, without any kind of fuss, tried it herself – if she’d asked a second time, I would have helped or gotten her down, but she didn’t. She climbed that stupid thing 3 times all by herself. She even got stuck at one point and I watched her figure it out. Despite mommy almost having a heart attack, it was pretty cool. If I had been coaching, cheering and helping the whole time, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to use her brain a bit and it actually might have distracted her.

I found myself pointing things out or mimicking back the words my daughter said (“That’s right, a car”) as we left the park. I was narrating our walk, I guess. But I know the intention of this part of the book is not to say that you should stop talking to your kids, of course not! The point is just to make sure there is balance. And I’m glad this book gave me the opportunity to think it through.

The Truth About Strollers – Smart Questions to Think About

Let’s get right down to it. Here are some useful things the sales people probably won’t ask you to think about when you’re looking to buy your first stroller:

  1. Will you be taking the subway/train regularly with your stroller?  If so, look for a stroller with 3 wheels instead of 4 since they’ll be less wide and take up less room. Also look for a stroller that you can easily fold 1 handed and that’s light/compact enough for you to carry with 1 hand – especially if you’re in NYC, there are NO elevators in most subway stops (found that out the hard way). My favorite and the stroller we ended up with? The popular for a very good reason Baby Jogger City Mini (pictured).
  2. Some strollers have flat, bassinet-like infant attachments, like the Bugaboo Cameleon (pictured), or the strollers can be modified to be used with an infant car seat, like most Graco travel systems. But my husband and I preferred to trade off strapping our baby to us in a wrap or carrier, so we never had any use for a cradle-type stroller design. Our daughter was always happy as long as she was snuggled up close and in the action and since she was a small baby, we carried her for at least 6 months, probably more (pregnant brain memory lapse). But depending on the size/weight of your baby and their temperament, any back problems you might have, personal preferences, etc., this might not be the same for you. If you think you want to try wrapping though, see if you can hold off on the stroller at least until baby is old enough to sit up on their own. (BTW – More on wraps & carriers coming soon in a new post!).
  3. Also, before you spend $1000 on an admittedly awesome stroller (like the Stokke Xplory pictured), consider how long you’ll use it compared to the price. For example: my daughter is just about to turn 2 and we’ve used our stroller about 10-20 times at most. We go on walks just about every day and have rigorously practiced hand-holding so ever since she’s learned to use her legs, walking is usually her preferred method of travel. We still bring out the stroller though if we’re going to be in a really crowded area or if we plan on walking around the city all day long – so definitely still useful to have a stroller, but I would have had serious buyers remorse if I’d gotten some of the other models I looked at.
    However, I often see people pushing their 4 year olds around in strollers and although I don’t see that happening for us, we’re not there yet, so who knows!? If that’s the case though, and the weight limit on the stroller is high enough (and the straps adjust in case your child is very short or tall), it can definitely be worth the money (especially if you’re planning on using the stroller for multiple children) – I think it really just depends on the child and the parents. Just something to think about.
  4. I mentioned before that we preferred to wear our daughter with wraps and carriers but the one exception was when it was cold and rainy or snowing. Of course you prefer to not go out in bad weather, but sometimes it’s necessary and baby can’t be home alone so they have to come to. I still haven’t found an acceptable baby ski mask (joke), so although you can bundle baby up pretty well from neck to toes and stick a nice warm hat on, there are days when I’ve have my face wrapped up in a scarf so I certainly wouldn’t want baby’s face exposed either, even for a few minutes. In these cases, a rain cover over the top of your stroller acts nicely as both an umbrella and wind blocker. It’s also a better way to bundle up our little toddler – even though she’d prefer to walk, mommy’d prefer she stay warm. So if you live where there’s snow or a cold wind chill, make sure the stroller you decide to get has a removable rain cover or that generic covers (like the Jolly Jumper Weathershield pictured) will fit your stroller.
  5. Two words: cup holder. Make sure your stroller at least has the option for you to get an attachment later. I found it essential (and if it’s large enough or will adjust to fit baby’s bottle/sippy cup, even better!).

 

Do you have any other slightly uncommon stroller suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

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