Our little family

Our little family
Our little family

Monday, December 30, 2013

My favorite things of 2013

As 2013 is coming to an end in a few short days (where did this year go?!?) I wanted to share my favorite baby/mommy products from this year. These are just a few items that I can honestly say were worth every penny spend and items we use daily. I didn't go into detail on each category of baby items, I plan to do a separate post on that and things I feel new parents can skip buying, so check back later for that post. I'm sure many of these have been on the market longer than this year but they are new to my family this year so I'm sharing my pros and cons of them with you. 

Favorite baby products:

Playtex Drop-in bottles: These are by far my favorite bottles. We struggled with breastfeeding from the gate and by the time J was a month old he was formula fed so bottles we very important to us (different post, come back later for that one). Playtex drop ins are awesome! I didn't have to worry about cleaning bottles everyday, yes, the nipples had to be cleaned but when you are sleep deprived one less step is nice! On top of that I know the liners are clean and I don't have to worry if I cleaned the bottle enough for the next feeding. The drop ins also have the added benefit of reducing colic and gas since the liners collapse as they drink from them. less air, less gas for baby. Love them and highly recommend them, Playtex also has a breast pump I bought and used that goes with the drop in bottle system. It really helped at least get J some breast milk some way. 

Bob stroller: I'm just going to go ahead and link the whole site (click the highlighted words) so you can see how amazing this line of strollers is. Honestly any one of their strollers would be great. We purchased the revolution SE. the front wheel swivels and can be locked as well, so it makes trips in the mall and stores easier to move around versus a stationary front wheel. Several friends of mine have the double ones and love them just as much as the single. I have never heard a complaint from this brand. We purchased the Britax B-safe infant carseat and amazon sells an attachment for the bob stroller. This stroller has a weight capacity of 70lbs. so we don't have to worry about J outgrowing it before he walks everywhere. The only con to this stroller is the size (and it's a little pricey). It is defiantly bigger than most strollers but I haven't had a problem storing it and groceries in my suv (xterra). They average about $370 but you can find them cheaper on amazon (everything is cheaper on amazon!) 

Ergo baby carrier: I really have enjoyed this carrier and it has gotten plenty of use out of it already. My favorite thing about it is the waist strap. Most baby bjorn brand carriers do not have the waist strap and you are carrying all the baby's weight on your shoulders. Let me tell you after a while that hurts! This carrier seems to distribute the weight more evenly throughout your back to help maintain comfort for both you and baby. I also like that this carrier sits the baby and doesn't dangle the baby by their crotch. I can't imagine that to be comfortable so that was a huge plus with the ergo brand. This carrier also allows front and back carry and holds a young toddler just fine. There is also a way to carry on the hip (haven't tried that way yet). I purchased the newborn insert but never used it and returned it, J fit just fine in it from the start without it (8lbs when born). My only con on this product is the baby can not face out. J has had a few issues with that where he wants to look around and see but is limited due to facing me while in the carrier. Other than that, its worth its price tag of $130-$150. 

Oball Toys: Go ahead and purchase stock in this company when you find out you are pregnant cause this company knows how to make baby toys! Every oball toy we have purchased has been played with a dozen times more than any other toy we have. The design allows even the smallest hands to grasp the toy. We started with the basic oball ball rattle and once we realized how much J liked it we started getting more of their toys. We have many of their products and highly recommend this brand of toys. Even more exciting is almost every toy in the oball line is under $10! most around $5. Can't beat that.  No cons on this line of toys, haven't run into a problem yet. 

Car Walkerwalker toy: These are 2 different toys for 2 different stages. The first car walker toy we purchased at a second hand shop. I personally think it helped our son learn the basics of standing earlier. Its a shorter walker toy so he was able to push up on his legs and stand earlier than some of them where bouncing is easier. It is pretty stationary, it won't move on carpet with him in it trying to walk. It moves slightly on hard floors. I wouldn't pay full price for it but I think we paid around $30 for it second hand and got our money out of it. The front also pops off to make a tray which is nice. We have given J puffs while he sits in it and a couple toys on the tray and that is an added plus having that feature. The second toy is one we just recently got as a christmas gift for J. He loves it! He is very proud of himself walking across the living room with it. This particular walker has speed settings for the back wheels which helps for early walkers until they get their footing. The front "play" area comes off to lay on the floor if wanted. As for the car walker, the only con is the toys on it are quite limited, only the steering wheel and that's basically it. So we attach toys to the side rails. the "mirrors" on the side are a little out of reach so playing with them is not easy. The second walker toy really we have no complaints on. Love the speed setting for the wheels and the toys are quite interactive. 

For the mommy:

      Baby Food Pee Poo App: I loved this app when J was born. It helps track feedings, diaper changes, sleep schedules, pretty much all you need to monitor how baby is doing those first few weeks when you get no sleep and can't remember the last time you ate, let alone your baby. The nice part is its free to download and the in app purchase is only 99 cents if you want all the features the app provides. Simple to use and track. 
      Zulily app: This app is great for finding deals on baby items. If you haven't heard of them or don't know how they work here is the low down... Each day they post specials on items from clothing, shoes, to baby products and stuff for mom. They have started to branch out and feature mens items and home goods as well. I really like looking each day to see any good deals on items I may be looking for and hey, it's always nice to get kids clothing at a discount. The app lets you log in and stay logged in so you can purchase items easily and without having to constantly input information. Nice time saver! 
      Amazon App: Obviously I will praise the amazon app as a highly suggested app to have or visit. You can purchase just about anything on their site and its normally cheaper than in store. If you sign up for amazon prime (typically $80 a year) you get free 2 day shipping on pretty much everything you buy. They also have an amazon mom program (I am not a member) which allows you to purchase diapers at discount, personally I think that couponing saves more on diapers but that is just my opinion. 

Baby monitor: This is the baby monitor we purchased. It's a basic video monitor. It works off its own network which is nice so we didn't have to worry about not having wifi when we moved and not being able to use it. Volume is great, we normally only have it on the lowest volume setting and hear it without a problem. It has a zoom function although we never use it (doesn't seem necessary the way we have it installed on the crib).  The only con is that there is no function to swivel the camera if the baby is out of the camera angle. It took some adjusting and tweaks for us to find a way to place the monitor to see the entire crib. I know higher price models have that function but for the price it wasn't that big a deal for us. The cord is VERY long so you don't have to worry about placing the crib right next to an outlet to reach the monitor. Battery life is good on the handheld piece, we plug it in at night and carry it around the house during naps and never had a problem with the battery running out of charge. 

CamelBak Groove : Let me start by saying I hate drinking water, wait, I am not a drinker by any means...soda, water, it doesn't matter, I just don't drink a lot in a day. So when I got pregnant and was told how much water I needed to drink I seriously thought how am I going to do this! Being as important as it is and as weird as I am about the taste of water I knew I needed some kind of water bottle that filtered the water wherever I was. I have heard pretty rough things about the brita water bottles so looked into the camel bak ones. Love them! the groove has a filter but doesn't make it hard to drink from. Other filtered water bottles on the market you have to practically squeeze the water out of, tightly. The last thing I wanted was to fight to get the water out. The groove is easy to drink from and now comes in a few different color choices. Filters last about 3 months and cost around $10 for 2 refill filters, the bottle itself retails for about $20. No cons on this one, check it out! 

Last but not least: Clothing! 
      Old Navy tami tank tops, here, are the best ones I have found. They are longer than normal tank tops but stretchy like cami's. (hence the combo name) I bought a size up from my normal size while pregnant so they would cover my belly throughout pregnancy and those few post recovery weeks where you don't get out much. They are also very comfortable. Gap has really great long sleeve and short sleeve basic tee's which I pretty much live in during winter. They are long enough and don't wear out with washes. Old navy has some like them but I have noticed they don't wash as good. Gap will last a few seasons where Old Navy tends to only last me one season at best. Here is Gap's long sleeve favorite T. The Gap outlets also carry them and they wear just as good. Honestly Gap has a great women's line (and kids line) so you can't really go wrong with any of their clothing. 

Well I hope that you have enjoyed checking out some products with me. Check back in to see where I will post about the needs/ don't needs for new parents. I also recently started subscribing to a few monthly subscription boxes and will share some reviews down the road on those. 

So, what are your favorite baby/mommy products from this past year? Feel free to share with us! 

until next time, 
Amanda S. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tips for moving across the country

We made it! I thought it best to start our new blog off by sharing our adventure in moving from cross country and the tips we learned. I have moved several times as a military brat myself but this was my first move as a wife and with a child, and 2 dogs I might add! We had two VERY packed cars! Let me just jump right into the tips we picked up along our way. I hope that we are able to help anyone who is making that journey, or any move for that matter, to make it a little less stressful.

Tips for moving cross country

1. Lists, Lists, Lists

      I can not stress the importance of lists! Honestly this should be the first thing you do when you find out you are moving. Make lists for everything! What is going with you/ what movers are NOT taking, High value items that movers ARE taking, how many days/nights of clothing each person will need, etc. I can't tell you how helpful it was to have everything written out so when it came time to get the ball rolling and pack I knew just what we needed and didn't. Our son was only 8 months when we left so we needed a lot for him. From clothes, food, toys to extra clothes...we needed a lot. It was so nice having everything written out before hand and made packing a little less stressful, and easier to remember it all. I also had a list of what our 2 dogs needed so I didn't forget them in the craziness.  

2. Get an accordion binder, or some kind of binder

     I used an accordion binder simply because it is easy to open and see everything you need and you don't have to flip through to get to what you need. I used it for movers paperwork, hotel confirmations, gas receipts, just about everything we needed to get from point A to point B. You can find them at Target or Walmart for about $5. This is the one I purchased. Worth every penny! I also purchased a small binder for all of our medical records, marriage license, birth cert. and dog paperwork...do NOT let movers take these types of documents! 

3. Plan ahead!! 

    Book hotels well in advance, like as soon as you know the dates you will travel. Especially if you have pets like we do you need to have hotel accommodations planned out as many hotels have restrictions on pets. There is a site called bringfido.com that we used to book our hotels. I called to book them since we had so many nights of travel I wanted to make sure everything was booked correctly. Their call center is very helpful and very friendly. They are highly recommended. Depending on what time of year you travel you may also need to plan weather accordingly for your travel. Our last day of travel we winded up having to hunt down snow chains due to a snow storm the night before. Be sure to monitor weather patterns a few weeks out so you are prepared for any issues that may come up. 

4. Give yourself plenty of time

     This goes along with number 3, in that you need to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to travel. In winter months you may get snowed in at your hotel an extra night. Don't schedule travel right up to when you need to be in your new location. Give yourself a few days buffer, if possible. 

5. Dog tips

    Since we have 2 large dogs and a small child I knew I needed to be way prepared in advance. I took medium size ziploc bags and measured out our dogs food for each day so that all we had to do was dump it into a bowl when we got to the hotel. I stored all of that in a large rubber made bin along with their bowls, extra leashes, extra food and so on. We also had baggies of treats and small snacks for them for rest stops in the truck. Another tip is to buy a small plastic dish or use a tupperware container for rest stop water breaks for the dog/animal. Make sure to walk them at each rest stop you take, remember they are just as cramped as you if not more and they need to stretch as well.

Dog supplies and food 

6. Communication for multiple vehicles

    My husband and I both drove so we purchased a set of walkie talkies for the trip. We didn't want to constantly be calling on our cell phones and to be honestly that isn't very safe when you are on the road to constantly do that. We found an average set at Bass Pro Shop for around $90, here. I know you can find them cheaper on amazon but we waited too long to purchase them, had to bite that bullet and pay more in store. They worked great, aside from a little interference here and there from big trucks. Obviously the more expensive the set, the better they tend to work. 

7. Small child traveling

     Honestly, this could be a separate blog in itself but I will try to keep to the main points. We got up and left right after he ate each morning, which goes along with right before his morning nap so the first few hours he would normally sleep. we bought a iPad car connection kit (kit that holds the iPad on the headrest) and when he was fussy we would put on a disney movie or whatever kid show we had saved to the iPad. We had a couple to switch between. I also attached a couple stroller toys to the armrests of his seat so he could reach them to play with. Just life I mentioned with the dogs, each rest stop we got him out (unless he was asleep) and walked around with him while the other had the dogs, to get him stretched from being in his carseat.
     As far as food for our little guy, I organized it much like I did the dog food. I purchased the organic squeeze pouches (enough to last until we arrived and a few days extra) and separated them into one large Ziploc for breakfast and one large Ziploc for dinner and labeled them with a sharpie (at the time he was only eating 2 meals a day with his bottles). I also each morning before leaving hotels made sure him bottles had water already measured in them so all we had to do was mix the formula and shake it up. Remember, the more you get ready ahead of time, the less you have to do when you are in a hurry. I used a medium size utility tote from 31 to keep all of his food, formula and bottles together and that went right behind my seat in the car. We also used a tote for diapers and wipes to make car side changes easier, no digging through diaper bags to find what you need. Plus that left the diaper bag fully stocked for when we went into rest areas or restaurants.

 Little man's tote of food/snacks 
8. Moving Company tips

        If you are using a moving company like we did there are a few things you should do in advance to prepare for them. Most of this the movers should tell you, but just in case they don't.
       - Take photos of ALL your high value items they will be moving. We had things like our washer/dryer, treadmill, large TVs...things like that. Also take a photo of the serial number of that item. In case a claim needs to be filed you have proof of what it looked like right before they took it. Can't  argue with proof an item was indeed not damaged before they moved it.
      - keep any and all items that are irreplaceable with you! if you can move it and you know it can't be replaced then by all means, take it with you. Jewelry, an item from a family member...anything you wouldn't want lost forever.
      - We purchased address labels and put our name, phone numbers and the city we were moving to on them and stuck them to EVERY box the movers packed. That way in case a box was misplaced or ended up at someone else's house, they knew where it belonged.
     - The most important thing, DO NOT sign any paperwork until you have read everything and accounted for everything. When you arrive and your movers bring your stuff, don't let them bully you into signing saying you have everything unless you know for sure you do. We had a few boxes missing at the end of the day and along with the movers had to search the house to make sure they were there, turns out one of them was under blankets in the moving truck...so had we signed and not paid attention we would have missed it and not had that box. )which winded up being shelves to one of our bookcases)

Well for now that is all the tips I can think of for moving. Please feel free to add comments with other tips you have picked up along your travels. The more tips the better! We hope you enjoyed visiting our blog and hope you come back to visit and read more blogs we have to share.

Until next time

Amanda S.