Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: Step2 Play Up Adjustable Sand & Water Table

Tot #1 and Tot #2 love spending time outside at Grandma and Grandpa's house.  One of the great things about Grandma's house (vs our apartment) is that you can stash some great, big messy toys, like say... a sand and water table ... and it doesn't really bother anyone.  Here's what was important to our decision:

You need just enough sand to build things and just enough water (with enough built in features) to keep floating things interesting.  But not so much that it get too heavy to move.

The older I get, the more I learn to like the beach.  But as a mom the one thing I hate is a large amount of sand in a diaper.  A classic sandbox was out, so we looked for something that could bring the sand up to toddler level, preferably with some room for adjustment as they grow.

After my experiences trying to carry and dump our first baby bathtub (which did not have a drain), we realized how critical this was for a sand and water table.  Preferably on both the sand and the water sides since the water will never stay on its own side.

My mother always raised us to be a little leery of sandboxes by explaining to us at an early age what neighborhood cats did in uncovered sandboxes.  Needless to say, we never played in an uncovered sandbox.  Ever.  As a mom I totally get it.  Because wouldn't you love to hear your toddler say "Mommy!  I found a tootsie roll in the sandbox!".

What we chose:
After looking at a lot of sand and water tables we decided to go with the Step2 Play Up Adjustable Sand & Water Table. For $59.97 (plus free shipping on Amazon) it met all our criteria in a budget friendly way without being too big or too small. We also bought some "sandbox" sand (look for the specific label) at our local home & garden store. Assembly of the table was a extremely easy (especially if you skip the extra unnecessary screws they offer).  

It is good to note, that the umbrella provides some shade, but it won't shade the whole table so plan the placement/orientation of the table accordingly (the table is light enough to move if you want to change the angle of the shade).

All in all, this has been a great buy and we're having a hard time tearing the kids away from it!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

SALE - Diapers.com Nursery Items - including Stokke!

Diapers.com is running a 30% off sale on nursery items including some great brands like Stokke furniture (which almost NEVER goes on sale). Its 30% off anything included in the sale (not just one item) so its worth checking out if you're planning on outfitting a nursery anytime soon.

You'll need the promo code FASHION48 to get 30% off.  Here is the link to the online email.  Sale ends tonight!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

News from Gear Mommy

Apologies to everyone for the lack of post recently - we're expecting Tot #3 in October and I've been busy checking out all the new baby gear on the market.  I didn't let myself buy much for Tot #2 (since he was born 16 months after Tot #1), so there is plenty of new gear to review!

Found something great?  Email me at gearmommy@gmail.com and tell me what you love!

Coming soon - My Faux Registry
Knowing what I know now and looking at all the new products on the market what I would register for if I had it to do all over again from scratch.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tylenol/Motrin/Zyrtec/Benedryl Recall - online reimbursement form

If anyone has infant/children's tylenol, motrin, zyrtec or benedryl recalled products they now have an online form you can fill out for either a coupon for a replacement product or refund check https://www.mcneilproductrecall.com/page.jhtml?id=/include/replacement_coupon.inc (if you have more than 6 products you'll need to fill it out twice).

Also, for people whose kids have crazy allergies, the Benedryl Perfect Measure pre-measured spoons are NOT part of the recall and are still ok.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Quick Favs - Baby Gates

For the perfect baby gate I looked for three things:  very secure, toddler-proof and installation that didn't require a drill or mark-up my woodwork.

North States Auto-Close Metal Gate - Pressure MountThe North States Auto-Close Metal Gate (Pressure Mount) is my absolute favorite.

The gate has very solid metal construction.  The gate closes automatically and makes an audible "clink" when it closes so you know it has closed securely.  The gate itself is light enough that there is no risk of pinched fingers in the gate door.  The opening mechanism is easily done by an adult with one hand (so the other hand can be carrying a squirming baby, laundry basket, etc.).   The gate is opened by using your thumb to slide a button on the top of the gate while simultaneously lifting the gate up slightly.

This opening mechanism also adds to it's "toddler proof" qualities.  The opening mechanism requires the height and manual dexterity of an adult so even a brilliant tot can't physically do it.  It's 30" high so an average to tall adult can step over it (or a short adult who ran hurdles in high school), but a toddler can't.  The installation system is very secure and almost impossible for a toddler (or probably even an adult running at a good pace) to knock over.  So secure in fact that it is even approved for top-of-stairs use which makes it a great choice for families in houses with stairs (by the JPMA for what that's worth).

It is easy to install.  Line up the plastic cups on the wall and peel off the adhesive backing.  A few turns of each of the four "wheels" on the corners will expand the gate to fit most standard size doors.  If you want to remove the gate you can just use a little elbow grease and untwist the "wheels" and the gate quickly loosened enough to move out of the doorway. The plastic cups with adhesive can be removed from a wooden doorway with a little elbow grease (and at worst some goo gone).   (To note: if you're installing this on a wall instead of a doorway, they recommend attaching the cups with a set of enclosed screws so you will probably need to break out the drill).

The basic gate kit is adjustable to fit doorways from 29.5" - 38" wide and you can add multiple extra 1 bar (adds 3"), 2 bar (adds 5.75"), 5 bar (adds 14") or 11 bar (adds 31.25") extensions to build a gate that securely fits a doorway up to 125" (almost 10.5 feet!).

I also love that the basic gate kit is $69.99 on Amazon.com and ships for free.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Best Baby Shower Gifts

So a few people lately have asked me what is the best baby shower gift?  My first answer is check their registry (Babies R Us, Target, BuyBuyBaby, Amazon, Magic Beans, Giggle,  etc.).   If you know a few other people going to the same shower, its nice to all go in on a large gift together (or better yet a large gift card to the store she's registered at).

If they don't have a registry or you don't like what they've registered for - which is totally fine - my favorite baby shower gift is a giant box of diapers.

Go to Target, Walmart, or Costco and pick up the largest box of size 1 diapers that fits in your budget.  If your budget covers two boxes, get size 1 and size 1-2.  Any experienced mom will tell you that you can always make a size 1 diaper fit and this is the size that you will go through the most of.  I'm a fan of Pampers since they make extra soft, very absorbent newborn diapers.  But Pampers vs. Huggies is sort of like asking a mom which is better red or blue.

Everyone loves to give cute little clothes (in tiny, tiny sizes because they always seem cuter) or adorable stuffed animals.  Unfortunately all a newborn really wears for the first few months are basic onesies and a lot of those adorable little clothes will never get worn.  Most of the stuffed animals - no matter how cute - will gather dust and drive the future parents crazy for years to come.  Go for the practical bet.

Plus, a giant box of diapers when it is all wrapped up looks like a very large, very fancy gift.  And you know that at 3am some morning they'll thank you for them.

If you're invited to a shower across town, or across the country, and you can't make it in person you can send a giant box of diapers from Diapers.com directly to the new mom-to-be.  If you spend more than $49 they ship for free (if you're a Delta Skymiles member you can also get miles for ordering them by clicking through the Diapers.com link on Skymiles Shopping).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Brands Worth Loving - Baby Jogger

There are a lot of brands whose products I like, but every once in a while I come across a brand that is really amazing from start to finish.  A lot of companies put out cool looking products, but not all of them can withstand heavy daily use.  You can tell the really amazing brands - those that truely have amazing products - by the quality of their customer service.  Baby Jogger is one of those brands.

I have two Baby Jogger strollers - the new City Select and a 2 year old City Mini (my parents also have a second City Mini that lives at their house) - and love them both.  Smart design, excellent durabillity, good drive, etc. I can honestly say in two years we've only had two issues with our City Mini.  About a year ago we noticed that the plastic "windows" in the canopy had cracked where they folded when the canopy was collapsed.  We decided that it was not worth complaining to Baby Jogger about since it seemed mostly cosmetic, iit didn't impact the function of the stroller (in a deluge we would hopefully have the rain cover on) and we knew that in the next version of the City Mini (which my mom has) they had addressed the material for the windows to make it more flexible.  Two weeks ago we had a more serious issue.  In the course of two days two of the fabric loops that the straps attach to broke off.  Luckily both times it happened at home while I was buckling in one of the tots and I could easily move it to the next setting and adjust to make it fit. 

I snapped a picture of both issues with my blackberry and sent it off to customer service.  Within a couple days they looked into it and wrote back apologizing for the delay and for the fact that they couldn't replace it under the warrenty (which is lifetime for the frame, but 1 year for the fabric).  They did offer to give me almost 50% off on a new replacement seat and canopy - so for $65 including shipping I basically got a brand new stroller.  I even got to pick a new color - my old one was red, dirty and covered in playground dust, my new one is sleek, black and free of grime and crumbs (at least temporarily).  Now it wasn't free, but $65 is a lot less than I thought I was going to pay and more than fair for what is basically a brand new stroller.

(On a side note: on the same phone call to order the replacement fabric they also happily took my feedback on suggested changes for the City Select rain covers and storage bag to share at their weekly meeting with their product development team.  Kudos to a company that asks for feedback and tries to feed it back into the design process to improve their products.)

A similar story comes from a close friend of mine with a 3 year old Baby Jogger City Elite.  They also live in New York City and she has a very active daughter so her stroller has gotten three years of very hard, year round use.  She also keeps a substantial diaper bag permanently draped over the handlebar.  A couple months ago her stroller frame cracked right below the handlebar.  I don't mean a little hairline crack, this was a full shear through you-can-see-air-all-the-way-through it kind of crack.  Given how close it was to where her diaperbag attaches to the stroller it's not entirely suprising that the frame gave up the ghost (amazingly she was able to drive the stroller for another couple weeks with no problem).  She spent a few minutes on the phone with custmer service and they sent her a full new frame that arrived within days.  No charge, no questions, no hassle, no "please box up and send us your old frame so we know you won't resell it" business.

Its great to come across a company like this and we just felt they deserved some praise for having not only an amazing product line, but also an amazing customer service department to support it.

Review: Skip*Hop Zoo Lunchies

The new Skip*Hop Zoo Lunchies are a cute set of soft insulated lunchboxes.  The size is just right for a juicebox/milkbox, sandwich and a piece of fruit.  This is about the right size for a toddler or young child's lunch. 

The size and shape is almost identical to the Skip*Hop 3 Bottle Bag including the interior pocket for silverware/icepacks, but the Zoo Lunchies lack the two exterior pockets.  It does feature a very handy flip-open lid (unlike the 3 Bottle Bag which only has a top zip).

Tot #1 and Tot #2 both have Lunchies to match their backpacks.  It's tough to say if they have more fun dragging them around the apartment and filling them with toys or opening them up at lunch (or dinner or occasionally breakfast) and seeing what I packed for them.  The whole "lunchbox" idea has infused some new fun into our lunchtime routine.  Somehow a sandwich is much tastier when it's shaped like a heart and stuffed in your lunchbox.  Ditto with a sippy of chocolate milk.

Thankfully - unlike the Zoo Mitts - the Lunchies are available in designs to match all six of the Zoo Pack backpacks.  In a pinch you could easily fit the Lunchie into to the backpack with enough extra room for a favorite lovie, a sack of Matchbox cars or maybe a pair of Crocs, but not - say - a bicycle helmet.  Good to note, the exterior material is identical to the Zoo Packs and easily wipes clean (as does the interior which is identical to the 3 Bottle Bag).

For $13 this is a fun addition to our spring/summer eating routine.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Review: Skip*Hop Zoo Mitts

We bought a few of these Skip*Hop Zoo Mitts (penguins, of course, and ducks) a couple months ago and gave them a good long trial before we reviewed them.  There are some things we immediately loved and some things that we immediately didn't.

We love the designs.  If you have the SkipHop backpacks or lunch boxes you'll be happy to see most, but not all of your favorite designs recreated for bathtime (if you have the kitten, bee or owl be prepared to substitute the ducky mitt).

The texture is a good compromise between soft and scrubby.  They seem to get softer with additional washing.  Other than some fading on the cotton print trim, the colors have stayed very vibrant (even when dried on high heat). 

I don't love the hooks or the price ($10 for one mitt and one hook).  Also the suction cup hooks don't stay up on anything.  Maybe they would stay put on very large glossy tile (4" square or larger) - which we don't have - but having tested them, they don't stay put on: glossy painted cabinets, enamel cabinets, stainless steel or glass.  They constantly fall down.  Even with nothing hanging on them.  So often that we stopped putting them back up and eventually just threw them away.  I would be happy to see them take the suction cup hook out of the set and drop the price a little (under $8).  $8 would still be steep for a washcloth, but it's cute and themed and if it gets Tot #1 to jump in the bathtub then I'll run with it.

All in all, these are expensive for what they are, but the actual character washcloth is nice, appealing to toddlers and well made.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pimp My Ride - Phil & Ted's Sport

When we were cruising around a while ago in our Phil & Ted's Sport, I was thinking about how we ended up with the  mix of storage/sun/trouble-shooting solutions that we have.  Most of them aren't made by Phil & Ted (sorry guys).  Here is a quick rundown of how we pimped out the Phil & Ted's Sport (not out of vanity, but out of necessity):

We started with the Phil & Ted's "Hang Bag" console and quickly returned it.  The three pockets - in order - are: bottle, larger unstructured zippered pocket, bottle.  Both of the bottle pockets are open on the bottom which is great for bottles or sippy cups, but no help if you want to drop - say - your house keys or your phone in there (if you do, they will bean the child in seat #2).  We found the center zippered pocket to be too large, too deep, too dark and generally too easy to lose things in.

Out of necessity we strapped on our Baby Jogger City Mini Console and found that it fit perfectly.  It has three structured pockets - in order - are: mesh cup/bottle holder, square flip top "cooler" pocket, and another cube shaped compartment.  The mesh cup holder mesh on the sides and solid on the bottom so it is great for an iced coffee or your keys or loose change (or all of the above).  The two square pockets are solid, structured cube shapes and are great for Blackberry/phone, mittens, bows, toy trucks, etc.  I use one of them for a pump bottle of hand sanitizer, a travel pack of tissue and a lip gloss.

Supplemental Storage
There are no seat back pockets so where to put your wallet?  Due to the placement of the second seat (and tipping issues) you can't attach a diaper bag to the Phil & Ted's Sport.  I've seen a few creative parents figure out how to attach one to the side of the stroller frame, but it is very difficult to attach/detach.  Phil & Ted's came out with the Mini Diddy (tot-sized mesenger bag that attaches to the back of either seat), but it doesn't hang flush to the back of the seats so doesn't work well for practical day to day walking around.  It basically bangs you in the shins the whole time.

The Phil & Ted's Pannier Bags give a little bit less than a grocery bag's worth of storage.  It is unstructured so it tends to look floppy when it isn't full of nice, lightweight square things (like maybe kleenex boxes), but with one on each side it can add a lot of storage.  All that extra storage comes at a small price.  If you put one on each side it becomes very difficult to reach into the main basket from the side anymore.  The straps for the bag clips are also a bit long and can drag on the ground.  We choose not to do them because the storage was too unstructured and they gave the stroller a much wider profile and a sloppier look.

Instead we chose to go with a pair (sometimes a trio) of Skip*Hop Saddle Bags.  One on each side and one on the bar taht runs along the top of the 2nd seat.  The small size of the Skip*Hop Saddle Bag means it doesn't hold a ton , but it gives you a great place for your wallet, wipes and a few diapers (it can even hold a Potette + diaper).

Rain Cover
So we bought the Phil & Ted's double rain cover.  Its bulky (350 cubic inches tightly rolled), but it fits pretty well.  Just make sure to put the second seat upright (non-reclined).

Sun Shades
If you've met me driving my P&T in the summer you've probably heard me gripe about the TERRIBLE sunshade on the P&T Sport.  Really - they're a joke.  If the sun was shining down on you from directly above, it would provide shade for Tot #1's head (but not her shoulders, arms, body or legs).  Since the second seat is tucked behind and underneath the first seat, Tot #2's legs are always shaded (but not necessarily his head, shoulders, arms, etc).  You get my picture.  The "sunshade" looks kind of like a sunshade, but it does not actually provide any shade from the sun.

I love the Protect a Bub Compact Sunshade and the Protect a Bub Tandem Sunshade (shown) which provide great sun coverage (UPF 50+) and store very compactly (included 8"x8" drawstring bag).  They attach to the stroller with a set of fabric ties and can easily be pulled back/tucked up to take kids in or out of the stroller without having to fully remove the sunshade.  They are also cross-compatible with a lot of other strollers so it is something you can hand down to friends, siblings, etc. after you're done with strollers.

For the babe we started out with the Phil&Ted's Cocoon, but quickly returned it.   It was very, very snug fit in the 2-child infant mode and was difficult to get in/out of the reclined main seat.  If you live in a cold climate and need bundlers, the toddler size JJ Cole Urban BundleMe is a good option with a little compromising.  For the main seat, skip the elastic band and pull the top pocket over the top of the seat (you may need to undo the two clips at the top of the seat under the canopy).  The child shoulder straps should hold the rest in place.  For the second seat, pull the elastic band all the way around the seat frame and pull the top pocket over the top of the fabric portion of the seat (below the bar).  If you are using this in infant mode (second seat mounted on top, main seat fully reclined),  you can use the second bundler in the full reclined main seat.  Just make sure to tuck the top portion of the bundler away from the baby's face.

Potty Seat
If you have a toddler you probably will need a potty seat.   And it just so happens that my favorite potty The Pottette Plus seat fits pretty well in the Skip*Hop Saddle Bag which can be strapped on the side of the stroller frame. 

Mommy Hook Stoller HangerFor a light grocery shopping trip, bulky/heavy items are best stuffed in the basket under the stroller (if you have room), but you can hang a couple bags of lighter items off a pair of MommyHooks on either side of the handlebar.   The MommyHook is one of my favorite inventions.  Between all of our strollers, I think I own about six of these.  Two have already been worn to death and had to be replaced.  Make sure to balance your load equally between hooks, checking that the bag don't swing near child #2's head, and make sure you install the clip opening facing out for easy access.