Baby Gear

Pack Your Bags

So, we arrived in Seoul a couple days ago.  (For all my blog followers:  We’ll be living in Seoul for the next couple years due to Derrick’s job.)  The flight was brutal (6-hour delay–when you’re traveling with two toddlers, that feels like a lifetime!).  We’ve been living in hotels for the past two weeks (thankfully, we’re moving into our apartment tomorrow!) and these eBags packing cubes are fantastic.  

Up until this past trip, my usual method of packing has been rolling up all of our clothes and putting them into clear trash bags.  The reason I’ve done it this way is because I have a theory–the more TSA/luggage handlers can see (at arm’s length), the less likely they are to touch/manhandle your things (goodness knows where their disgusting gloves have been!).  And, being the germaphobe that I am, I refuse to use the dressers in hotels–we keep everything in our suitcases (with the exception of our toiletries).  The problem with this is that every time we grab something out of the suitcases, things get unrolled and jumbled up.  If you’re on a 2-day trip, that’s not a big deal.  But any longer than that (and if you’re a family of four), the disorganization becomes ridiculous. 

Well, color-coded packing cubes to the rescue.  With the four of us, each person was assigned a color.  And with the see-through mesh, it makes it easy to see the contents of each cube.  These things were a godsend–they helped keep us well-organized and, hopefully, will help you, too! 

Mommy Time Savers

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Happy and Healthy New Year!  As a new mommy of two, I’ve learned quite a lot this past year and my favorite thing to ask myself has been, “How will this save me time (and energy)?”  So, in the spirit of new year’s resolutions, here are my top mommy time savers:

(1)  Electric Pressure Cooker–This thing is amazing and I don’t know what I would ever do without it.  I use it primarily for meats, stews, and soups.  A dish that would ordinarily take at least a couple hours to make with my standing at the stove (what mother has time for that?) now takes an hour with my not even being in the kitchen.  I just toss everything into the pot, push a button, and go about my day.

(2)  Rice Cooker–I adore my rice cooker and use it just about every day.  Many people don’t realize that you can do quite a lot with a good rice cooker.  Not only do I use it to make rice, I also use it to steam vegetables (as a matter of fact, since I use it primarily to cook our veggies, I often call it “the steamer”).  And, like the electric pressure cooker, you set the timer and you’re free as a bird.

(3)  Grocery Delivery Service–Depending on where you live, delivery fees can range from reasonable to pricey.  It all comes down to how much your time is worth.  Being parents of a 2-year-old and 6-month-old, Derrick and I rely heavily on this service.  Sure, we’ll occasionally do the shop ourselves (if we forget to add on a few items to our weekly delivery) but we have the same reaction after every trip:  “Geez, that took a whole hour?” (if one of us goes to the store) or “We are NOT going to forget to put this on the list next week!” (if the entire family goes–and, yes, it takes longer for us to get the kids ready to go out than the time we spend at the grocery store)

(4)  Product Subscriptions–If you use any skincare products, I highly recommend this.  Many online stores offer a subscription service where they’ll send your products to you at regular intervals.  This not only saves you time but helps you to avoid the annoying situation of being in the shower and realizing all of a sudden that you’re out of your favorite facial scrub.

(5)  USPS Package Pickup–Because we do most of our non-grocery-related shopping online, we also make quite a few returns via mail.  If you’re like us, here’s a tip:  you’re eligible for free USPS pickup service if you’re mailing at least one Priority Mail package.  Just schedule your pickup online at www.usps.com.

(6)  Multiple Stations–Our home has two levels and when we brought our baby girl home, we decided that we needed at least one diaper changing station on each level to save us the hassle of running up and down the stairs with every diaper change (and if you’re parents of two or multiples under the age of 2, you understand the value of this).  So, we converted one of our loveseats into a changing station complete with a diaper pad, a month’s supply of diapers/wipes/baby powder, and a diaper pail.  To protect the loveseat, we draped it with flat bed sheet (but you can also use a sofa slip cover).  The key takeaway here is to have at least a couple “stations” for something you do often during the course of the day easily accessible to you (because minutes add up to hours and hours add up to days!).

(7)  One Size Ahead–If you have small children, you know that shopping ahead can save you the aggravation of impulse buying and/or having your child(ren) go without something for a certain period of time (and when you have kids, two days without gloves in the winter can seem like an eternity!).  This is why I always try to buy at least one size ahead for my children.  And it’s a great system.

(8)  Cook in Bulk and Freeze–This is quite common and self-explanatory.

(9)  No Holiday Cards–Before we had kids, I was the stationery queen.  Cards for everyone and for every occasion.  No more.  Other than handwritten thank-you and sympathy notes, we now use e-mail and social media to send birthday/congratulatory/holiday greetings via e-cards.

Hope you’ve found these tips to be useful–please feel free to share this post to anyone and everyone who would find it helpful!

Thank Goodness for Little Girls

  
So I’ve gone a bit nuts in preparation for the arrival of Baby #2–namely, shopping for clothes.  Shopping for boys is not nearly as fun as shopping for girls.  Cases in point and Exhibits A, B, and C:   

   
And I’m just getting started.  In addition to clothes, I’ve also invested in a tandem stroller and a couple new diaper bags among other things that are either little girl-specific or two-under-two-specific:

(1). Ju-Ju-Be Be Prepared Diaper Bag–This bag comes in several colors/prints and has received rave reviews from mothers of multiples.  The features of this bag are fantastic:  anti-bacterial material, Thinsulate insulation, handles and cross-body strap, pockets galore, etc.  Plus, it’s machine washable.  Need I say more?

(2). Ju-Ju-Be Hobobe Diaper Bag–This is a diaper bag disguised as a purse.  Perfect for the time being and running errands since Baby #2 isn’t arriving until July.  This style has most of the important features that the Be Prepared style has but is in a compact size.  

Neither of the diaper bags above are what I would consider stylish (organization is the goal here).  But the pros definitely outweigh the cons and with having two kids under the age of two, mama is going to need all the help she can get!

Traveling with Baby Must-Haves (International)

Our trip to Tokyo was fantastic.  With that said, we did learn a lot in terms of what to pack for future international trips.  Domestic travel with a baby is easier (traveling with a baby is never EASY) because you can almost always stop by a local Target at your destination to pick up any items you didn’t pack and/or forgot to pack.  Unless you are traveling to see family and/or friends (which usually makes it easier to access baby items as things will probably be ready for you upon your arrival), international travel (especially if your destination is one where you don’t speak the language) can be tough on finding the right baby supplies for your little one.  Here are my must-haves for international travel:

(1)  Cell Phone Case with an Attached Clip–A cell phone case with an attached clip may not seem very useful when you’re at home but when traveling with a baby, anything that can facilitate being hands-free is a winner.  Since I usually don’t wear outfits with pockets, my case allowed me to attach the phone onto the stroller (and that’s how I carried my phone during the entire trip).  Having the clip also made my phone very accessible for taking photos and pulling up any necessary apps (like currency converter, Google Maps, etc.).

(2)  Travel Stroller–Unless I am mistaken, the only travel stroller on the market that is able to be compacted into a carry-on small enough to fit into plane overhead compartments is the Babyzen YOYO Travel Stroller.  This was a LIFESAVER.  Light enough to be carried with one hand and yet sturdy enough to hold a child of up to 50 pounds.  Many people would argue that it’s easier to check a stroller with your other large pieces of luggage rather than lug it around as a carry-on.  I would agree with that if you have a non-stop flight, are traveling extremely light, and are unafraid of your luggage getting lost during transit.  Since I prefer to have one layover per flight (easier to grab a bite to eat, use the restrooms, stretch your legs, etc.) and have had my luggage lost a couple times during previous trips, I was unwilling to risk any mishaps by checking our stroller.  Plus, it felt great to be able to put Max in it right way after holding him during our entire flight (each way).

(3)  Organized Diaper Bag–I’ve tried several diaper bags and, by far, the Skip Hop “Chelsea” Diaper Bag is the best for traveling.  With the usual baby stuff compartments, this bag also has two zippered compartments (one small and one large–perfect for things like your wallet, house keys, passport, flight itinerary, etc.).  An added bonus: handles AND a crossbody strap.  Need I say more?

(4)  Baby Toiletries–In general, diapers and baby powder/cream are easily accessible in most places (especially if you’re traveling to another developed country) via full service drugstores (ones that have pharmacies).  So, packing just enough of these items (plus a few extras) for the flight should be enough until you reach your destination.  However, for things like baby shampoo, baby soap and/or body wash, it’s best to pack more than you’ll need for the entire trip.  This will minimize your baby having any allergic reactions to other cleansing products.  Plus, using (and smelling) familiar products will likely be a comfort to him/her in an unfamiliar environment.

(5)  Double Amount of Formula and/or Baby Food–If you’re breastfeeding, you can cross this off your list.  I initially wanted to pack just enough baby food for our flight but after doing some research on Japanese brand formulas and packaged baby food, I discovered that a couple brands had recalls due to radiation contamination.  That was enough for us to pack enough formula and baby food for the entire trip.  Packing your own ensures that your little one will avoid any food allergies.  For travel, I’m a big fan of packaged food brands like Plum Organics and Ella’s Kitchen (as they’re disposable, easy to feed, and don’t spoil as easily as homemade food).

(6)  Pacifiers–Max does not use pacifiers on a regular basis because I’m afraid they’ll make his teeth come in crooked.  However, pacifiers work wonders on a plane!  They serve two purposes:  help to calm your baby and lessen the pain in his/her ears during flight.  Enough said.

(7)  Washable Toys–Bring several toys that are easy to pack and easily wiped and/or rinsed clean.  This one’s self-explanatory.

(8)  Baby Wipes–You can never have enough baby wipes.  Ever.

(9)  Anti-bacterial Surface Wipes–These wipes come in handy for wiping down public changing tables, toilet seats, airplane seats/headrests/tray tables, etc.  You get the idea.

(10)  Extra Change of Clothes–Self-explanatory

(11)  Inflatable Baby TubThis was also a lifesaver during our trip.  In addition, be sure to pack a plastic cup to use as a rinsing cup.

(12)  Tissues–What would you do without them?

And last, but certainly not least, a kid-friendly hotel.  What does that mean?  That means that your hotel must, at bare minimum, be able to provide a safe and clean crib.

Lip Service

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Since I’ve run out of my trusty La Mer lip balm, I’ve decided to give Mustela’s Hydra-Stick a try.  This, my friends, is great for both mama and baby.  Lightweight, creamy, and, best of all, works to keeps lips and cheeks soft (plus, it’s hypoallergenic).  Surprisingly, it’s a bit more creamy than the La Mer balm.  Max was getting little flakes of dry skin on his cheeks and the Hydra-Stick took care of it straight away.  Verdict:  perfect for dry winter skin and/or chapped lips and/or cheeks.

Zipadee-Zip

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Bracing ourselves for sleepless nights, D and I ordered three Zipadee-Zips before my delivery date.   Although the item isn’t recommended for newborns, I thought I would try it out on Max, anyway, and to my pleasant surprise, it actually helped to extend the length of his sleep.  According to the founder and inventor of Zipadee-Zip, Stephanie Parker, babies have the Moro or “startle” reflex and this item helps to soothe and/or lessen that effect.  Zipadee-Zips are roomy and comfortable pajama/sleeping bag alternatives for babies and I look forward to Max growing up with them.  Verdict: Baby registry-worthy.

Baby Lounger/Chair: 4Moms Plush Mamaroo

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The 4Moms Plush Mamaroo is a fantastic infant/baby chair and lounger.  The electric chair has four side-to-side rocking settings as well as musical features.  It is pricey ($249.99).  However, you can get the infant insert and this chair should last a while in terms of growing with your child.  We have this chair in the living room during the day and Max sleeps very soundly on it.  The fabric cushions as well as the mobile balls are also machine washable and dryable :).