Thursday, August 19, 2010

Homemade Travel Bib Solution

We are about to take our first family vacation as a family of five! Considering our children are 3 years old, 22 months old, and 7 months old, this is going to be an interesting trip to say the least! I am not imagining some super-relaxing trip for me where I can put my feet up and drink margaritas the whole time... but if we can just get away from our day-to-day lives and let the kids experience something new and fun, then that sounds good to me (even if it it means some added stress for Mom and Dad).

Now I am a total planner. I sat down and wrote down categorized lists of all the items we need to pack, because let's face it... traveling with little ones means you need to bring a LOT of "stuff" with you. Parents today are used to a lot of modern conveniences when it comes to child care, but when you travel, there is not really room to bring ALL those conveniences with you. You have to really think hard and figure out what baby items are a "must have" and which ones are really nice to have but probably don't need to come along. This is much easier said than done. I considered renting a U-Haul just so we can go out of town for 5 days.

One of the products I was struggling with earlier today was bibs. Three children times three meals per day times 5 days comes to a grand total of 45 bibs! That is a lot of bibs. And while we do actually own that many (yes, I know that seems ridiculous, but we do), the thought of packing 45 bibs seemed ridiculous. And when bibs get smeared with nasty food at meals (imagine a pasta sauce, smooshed peas, drool, etc), they really need to be washed within a day or two to prevent them from getting really smelly and nasty. This was not going to be an option since the hotel room will not be equipped with a laundry room. I could hand wash them, but seriously... who wants to hand wash three bibs, three times a day during their vacation? I needed another solution. I looked into disposable bibs, but they were so expensive -- and it is just money thrown away since you have to toss them after each use!

I remember paging through a catalog once and seeing these bib clip products. They were sold by One Step Ahead, and they cost $11.95 for ONE. It is basically two clips on either end of a piece of plastic tubing. The tubing hangs around the child's neck and you can clip on a napkin, paper towel, washcloth, or even a cloth diaper. You can essentially turn ANY of those items into a bib. This is great for travel and for restaurant use. You can just throw it in your diaper bag! But $11.95? That seemed high to me. Because of the price and the fact that I could not find any stores (only online) that sell these, I decided I would make my own.

So, here is what I came up with, along with the directions for making the product. Not including shopping time, it took me less than 10 minutes to make 4 bib clips (one for each child, plus a back-up just in case!).

Materials Needed:
1) Hot glue gun with hot glue sticks (free for me, as I already own these items)
2) Pack of 2 suspender/mitten clips ($2.79)
3) Roll of 7/8" ribbon in pattern or color of choice (varies, the roll I got for the boys was $3.50 but you can get a roll for $1.50 if you find the right sales... I just had no time!)
4) 9x12" Sheet of 2mm thick foam ($0.70 each) -- I will explain this.
5) Scissors (already have)
6) Lighter (already have one)

Step 1: Measuring Ribbon

You have a couple options here. You can either put the ribbon around your child's neck to measure (recommended), or you can even measure yours against a bib. I need these items tomorrow and my kids are already in bed. So I did the trick with the bib. I laid my ribbon on a bib I know fits my kids well. I went about 1" beyond the edge of the neckline so that I could fold that part up and glue. Decide on how long you want your ribbon and cut, remembering to leave about 1" extra on each side so you can fold and glue.

Step 2: Fray-Proof Your Ribbon

Ribbon frays when it is cut. The more it is handled, the more it will fray. In order to prevent this, heat treat the edges. Run the edge of the ribbon through the flame of a lighter a couple times, quickly. Do not just hold it in the flame or the ribbon will catch fire or burn. Your goal is to run it through the flame enough to melt the edge.

Step 3: Gluing on the Clips

Turn the suspender clip upside down so you are looking at the bottom jaw (the bottom jaw is the shorter side). Feed the ribbon through the metal loop on the suspender clip so that about 1" of the ribbon has gone through. Then fold the ribbon back and crease it so you know exactly where you want it to fold. Now take your glue gun and put some glue on the ribbon where you want to glue the 1" piece down. Carefully apply pressure to glue it down. Beware of glue squirting out the edges... you don't want to burn your fingers! Do this to both sides.

Sidenote: Why The Foam?

You are probably wondering what the foam is all about, so here is my thought process... A paper towel is absorbent, but I have some pretty messy kids. I am also pretty anal about keeping my kids' clothes in good condition so they do not lose their resale value. I hate stains. So, I wanted to make sure that there was some sort of barrier between the paper towel and my kids clothing. But I did not want it to be something that would require machine washing. So, for now, I came up with the foam pieces. Why not just the foam? Well, I don't think the foam would be good for liquid spills... the liquid would run right off and into their laps. The paper towel would be good for catching the liquid, though. I will layer the paper towels with the foam backing (see pictures). The paper towel does the absorbing and the foam just acts as an extra barrier. And the best part? To clean the foam, you just wipe it down! You can probably even use just a baby wipe!

Step 4: Cutting the Foam

This is totally your call. You don't have to cut the foam if you don't want to. I just trimmed the edge of the foam for my oldest two so that the foam does not stick out past the paper towel. And for my infant, I cut the length AND width to make it more baby-friendly. It would not fit him well otherwise.

And there you go! I can stick these materials in our diaper bag and no matter where we go, I will have bibs for all 3 kids without having to store dirty bibs in my bag! This project cost me $17 total. I made 4 sets, and I also have plenty of ribbon leftover! That's the other part I wanted to mention... because you have extra ribbon, you can always adjust the sizing of it later on if you want! Just cut off the other ribbon and reuse your same suspender clips!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's a conspiracy, I tell you!

Some people think I am crazy when I say that, but I really do mean it. Ok, well sort of. Maybe conspiracy is a little dramatic... maybe "scam" is more like it! I seriously think that the manufacturers of baby products are out to take our money. And in exchange for our money, they are giving us completely useless crap that we do not need for our babies.

Ok, so back up a few steps here. You find out you are pregnant for the first time and amid all the excitement over the pregnancy, choosing baby names, dreaming about what the sex of the baby will be... you quickly realize that having a baby means you need stuff. Lots and lots of "stuff" that you don't already have! I mean, babies require an entire house full of products, right? There are items you are going to need for just about every room in your house! So, you do what every expecting parent does... You head out to the baby store or your local superstore to register for all that amazing baby stuff you are going to need.

And wouldn't you know it, you walk in and tell the customer service reps that you are expecting and need to register, and what is their response? They congratulate you, of course, while handing you a long list of "essentials" that you should throw onto your registry. You stare at the long list, as your eyes bug out from the overwhelming number of products... and you start walking through the aisles, zapping that gun at every item they list. I mean, they are the baby experts, right? They know what you do and don't need!

Ha. Such a crock. The whole idea of registries in general seems kind of backwards to me. I remember trying to register for things for our wedding. It seemed pretty difficult to do since we had not even started our life together! We did not know where we would be living in the long term, or how many bathrooms we'd have, or how many of those bathrooms would actually need shower curtains, or what color scheme would look best in the house that we would be buying three years from that moment. So, it seems backwards to me. If anything, it makes more sense to register for gifts a few years after your wedding when you have realized what items you are missing now that you are all settled. But, I don't think that would go over too well.

So, baby registries are funny to me, because at the time that you register, you have NO CLUE what you are doing or even what you can really expect. Sure, you might have some friends who have kids, but that does not mean you have any idea of what is headed your way and what products you will need in order to survive it. Maybe you are lucky enough to have a lot of friends with kids so you can ask them what you should throw on your registry. But, many new moms, even those who DO have friends with kids, get excited at the sight of all that cute baby stuff and get sucked into all the hype. How do I know this? Because I made that mistake, too.

Just because a product is made for a baby does not mean your baby needs to have it. Listed here are some of the baby products that I found to be a complete crock and total waste of money, for various reasons. For those of you that are moms, you might disagree, and that's OK, too. These are just my thoughts on it:

1) CRIB BEDDING SETS: Yes, you read that correctly. How completely USELESS are crib bedding sets? Usually the set will come with the ruffle, a sheet (sometimes 2), a comforter, and the bumper. Some even come with a little decorative pillow. They look so cute all set up at the baby store and in catalogs, and the baby's crib needs all that decor, of course. It's all totally practical. Oh, wait. No... it's not. Let's review... First of all, the comforter/blanket. That seems like an essential piece of the set. However, any doctor will tell you that the use of such a heavy/puffy/large blanket puts your child at risk for suffocation/SIDS. You can't use it. Well, what about the crib bumper. Definitely an important part of the set! No. You're technically not supposed to be using that either, for the same reason. It poses a risk for suffocation and SIDS as well. It's now recommended that you use a breathable mesh bumper, which is not included with these sets. So now, your bumper AND comforter are useless to you. Moving on to the decorative pillow... No. Again with the suffocation/SIDs. You should not keep stuffed animals or pillows in the crib. Ok, so that leaves us with... sheets and the dust ruffle. So at this point, I have to wonder, what is the point of buying that whole set? Why not just buy yourself a couple sheet sets and call it a day? You can save a TON of money this way and still decorate your nursery in any way you want!

2) BOTTLE WARMERS: They seem like such a great idea! But in reality, I found that it was a total waste. It's purpose is to just use a hot plate to quickly heat a little water that in turn creates steam. The hot steam against the bottle warms the contents of the bottle. Now, if you nurse, this is obviously not a product for you. And most bottle-fed babies are on formula. But, if your child is on formula, why would you need to heat the bottle? Most formula-feeding moms just use heated tap water from the sink when making a bottle. So, you wait for the water to get warm, add the formula powder, and shake. Where does the bottle warmer come into play? Maybe if you use nursery water, but even in that case, couldn't you just put the water in the microwave for a few seconds or even use room temperature water? I really don't see the need. We have this amazing invention call the microwave. It's pretty great. No bottle warmer needed.

3) BOTTLE/PACIFIER/TOY STERILIZER: This product is a joke. Seriously. It is this big plastic chamber in which you place bottle parts or pacifiers or toys that you want to sterilize. Like the bottle warmer, it has a metal plate that heats up. Then when the water is added to the hot plate, it creates steam that is supposed to kill germs and sterilize. Great idea. Here is a free way to do the same thing. Take a big pot, fill it with water, bring the water to a boil, place said items into boiling water, wait 5 mins, then remove. Sterilization complete. So why spend $40 on a plastic chamber that does what boiling water can do?

4) WIPES WARMER: I know people that have these. And that's fine. But in my opinion, this is such a waste of money. Sure the wipes feel cool when you wipe the baby clean, but we are talking about subjecting their little bums to the cool, damp wipe for, what? 10 seconds tops? Is it really that important to keep the wipes warm? At what point does the child no longer need warmed wipes? Because I can honestly say that I have never seen a mother use warmed wipes on a toddler before. It might be nice for while you are at home, but most people are not going to take their wipes warmer with them every time they leave the house, right? So, the baby will have to deal with the cool (notice, I am not saying cold) wipes at some point or another! And it is not like the wipes were stored in the freezer or something. This product just seems like a massive waste of money. I think this is definitely one of those products that was designed to take advantage of new parents.

5) WOMB SOUNDS TEDDY BEAR: Have you heard of this product? I have. I had one. It sounded like a great idea. The bear actual made sounds similar to those that the baby would hear when in the womb. We never, ever used it. It was the biggest waste of $20. If anyone out there is considering registering for one of those, please don't. It would be in your best interest for your friends & family to give you $20 worth of diapers rather than this totally useless decorative item.

6) DIAPER STACKER: What is a diaper stacker? Well, for those of you not familiar, a diaper stacker is this fabric "tent" that has a hook at the top. You are supposed to fill it with diapers and then hang it on the wall... or something? I am not sure where you would hang it, actually. Most people have a changing table or some sort of changing station that includes room for diapers. So, there really is no point to this piece of nursery decor. I think the designers were just looking for another decorative item they could make money on, honestly. These things are totally stupid, in my opinion. Maybe I am wrong, though. Is there anyone out there who absolutely LOVED their diaper stacker and could not live without it? If so, I'd like to hear from you.

7) DREFT: Dreft Laundry Detergent is "special" laundry detergent that is supposedly extra gentle for babies. It does not have dyes and as far as I know it is free of scent and such. It's essentially gently, dye-free detergent. Babies can definitely have sensitive skin, so this sounds like a good idea. The only problem is that Dreft is WAY over-priced. On top of that, all the major laundry detergent brands make a dye-free, gentle version for adults with sensitive skin, too! And theirs is much cheaper. A lot of the baby stores try to sucker you into spending a ton of money on this stuff, and it is just a huge waste of money.

8) DIAPER GENIES/DIAPER PAILS: These products all usually have special bags that work with the system, and those bags are not cheap. Our diaper pail is a little flip-top garbage can with a Target shopping bag. The can cost me $15, and the bags are free. Poopy diapers smell... bad. So in my opinion, they do not belong in the house, period. Those get put immediately into the garage garbage can. And I empty the bag of wet diapers every 1-2 days, depending on how many diapers I even changed up there. Most of our diaper-changing happens downstairs, so there is no need for a special pail. I just don't really see the need for some expensive diaper contraption when you can just get rid of poopy diapers right away and then dispose of your wet ones on a regular basis. It's really not that complicated.

9) THE BUMBO SEAT: This is a borderline item. I do know a few people that swear by theirs, but my experience with it was not very good. My kids hated this seat. I used it to take their pictures when they were too little to sit on their own. The Bumbo actually caused my nephew's legs to turn purple since it cut off his circulation! So, you do have to watch the baby closely to make sure that does not happen it. My kids were always bored while in it. They always wanted to be doing something, and they did not enjoy just sitting there. Even with the play tray attached, it was useless. They'd knock the toys off the tray within seconds and then sit there bored (and then fuss). The time in which you can use this product is SO SHORT that spending $40 on the seat at $10 on the tray is a total waste. They can use this seat from maybe 3 months (depending on head, neck and upper back control) to around 6 months when they can sit on their own. So you are spending $50 plus tax on an item that you might get occasional use of for maybe 2 months, if you're lucky. That just seems silly to me. I ended up selling ours after both my daughter and my first son didn't really get much use out of it.

So, those are my most-hated baby products on the market. It bugs me that parents are made to think that these items are necessary when they are such a waste of money. I remember when Lucy was about 9-10 months old and starting to need new clothes and toys and such (since everything she received from the shower was being outgrown). I needed money to get some new items and I totally remember looking through a lot of her stuff thinking, "Why the heck did I ask for this stuff?!"

My biggest suggestion to expecting moms... ASK YOUR MOM FRIENDS FOR ADVICE. Even if you do not completely agree with my take on these items, that's OK! See what other moms had to say about them. Definitely read the reviews of these products online! Many moms will take the time to leave a review and let you know what they think of the product. Whatever you do, do not make my mistake and just blindly register for whatever the baby superstores tell you that you're going to need. And definitely consider the opinions of more than one person. You'll certainly find that one mom will love a product that another mom hates (such as the Bumbo seat). If you only consider one mom's opinion, that is just as bad as only listening to the store. You might end up with a house full of products that worked for her but might not work for you!

I definitely think this whole bedding set scam needs to stop, though. :) That is my #1 Most-Hated Baby Product on the market!

The Big C

I think the greatest evil in motherhood is... The Big C.


Yes, comparing your child/ren to others who are close in age. It is a horrible thing to do, and most of us moms know that. But, sometimes it is so hard to avoid. It's like walking past the cookie bakery at the mall when you are on a diet. You tell yourself not to look or not to breathe in that AMAZING smell, but you just can't help yourself. Even if you don't actually buy yourself a cookie, you do dream about what it would taste like for a few seconds... Most of the time you restrict yourself to just the thought of it, but once in a blue moon you decide to give in and just buy yourself a cookie. (Ok, now I want a chocolate chip cookie.) Trying to NOT compare your child to another child is kind of like that.

Back on topic here. My point is, it's REALLY hard not to compare children, but it is something even your pediatrician will warn you not to do... especially between your own children! That, to me, is an easier battle. I don't really compare my kids. Sure, I look at their height/weight charts to see what their growth patterns were like at similar ages, but that is more just curiosity and intrigue. I am not doing that to see which child is better or healthier or something. I see my kids as completely different individuals and their age gaps make it too hard to compare. They are at different points in their lives right now, and I honestly cannot remember exactly what my daughter was doing at 22 months to even be able to compare her to my toddler son. Oops. I guess that's what that baby book idea was all about, huh? But because they are MY children, I love them just the way they are, and I don't think any one of my kids as being better than another.

I think The Big C I have the hardest time with is in relation to peers of a similar age. I know that every child develops differently. I know that one child might develop motor skills quicker than another child, but the quick-mover might not speak as quickly as the less-mobile child. But that does not make it any less difficult to prevent yourself from comparing your child to his or her peers.

I blame our society... since someone has to be to blame, of course! In our society, it is all about being quicker, smarter, stronger, thinner, richer, happier, better-looking, etc. And since we are wired to think this way in regards to our ourselves, it is difficult to not apply that same line of thinking to our opinions of our children. I mean, as their parents we want the best for them! What parent dreams of their child being just average? Or worse, less than average? None that I know of!

A little background here... when I first became a stay-at-home mom, I had no idea how to "be" at stay-at-home parent. I read parenting magazines that talked about the ins and outs and rules surrounding playdates, but I had never even been to a playdate to even understand what they were talking about! It was as if I had been a mom for over a year, but I had zero "mom" experience. What was all this they were talking about in these magazines? I had no close mom friends at the time, so I had no clue what I was doing or how to get started.

Well, then I joined a moms group on a website called in addition to a moms group on (Cafemom is more for online discussions and such whereas my group was for actually connecting with moms in my area.) And once I started to meet other moms, The Big C came into play in a very big way.

It was as if the floodgates had been opened and I was smacked in the face with this whole new world I had never before known. There were all these discussions going on about various parenting issues that I had never even thought twice about. And while interacting with these people and seeing my child around their children, The Big C started to rear it's ugly head. I started to compare my kids to everyone else's kids. I didn't mean to do it. But, since it was a new thing to me, I was taking everything in... which happened to include their kids' skills and abilities compared to my child's.

I felt questions swimming in my head constantly... "How many words is her son saying? Does her daughter know all her colors? Has her baby started to crawl yet? Why isn't my son rolling over when her son, who is younger by 2 months, has been rolling for a while? Her daughter is speaking in sentences, but my daughter can only do short phrases. She's already started her son on sippy cups? I haven't even thought about them yet! My toddler can't walk as well as hers yet..." And what started off as just questions quickly became fears... and depending on the mood I happened to be in, those fears sent me into a panic! I felt myself constantly worrying that my kids were behind their peers. I realize this is a ridiculous thought process considering that if you were to choose two peers at random, they can be in completely different places with different skill sets... because all kids are different! But still, I want the best for my kids, so I was feeling this drive to know how they were performing in comparison to other people's kids.

And let me just say, I was not alone. While I did not always voice my questions or concerns or thoughts, other moms did. I am so thankful they did, too! The more I would hear other moms talk about it, the more I relaxed myself and realized that these panic moments are a completely normal part of parenthood.

I still fight the urge to give in to The Big C on a regular basis. It's hard not to! I have a 3-year-old daughter whose speech skills are not quite up to par with other, average 3-year-olds. The doctors tell me that she is still functioning within the normal range (based on their 30-second evaluation), but I know that she is not where she should be. I am working on getting her in for speech and language testing to see if she needs any intervention at this point. But, it is definitely an issue that I am very conscious of and sensitive about. It can be difficult hearing other kids her age (or younger!) talking in long, clear sentences when I know that she struggles with those skills. But, instead of getting completely hung up on it, I have decided that I am going to play up her strengths and focus on the things she is good at! Sure, other kids might be better speakers than she, but she might have some skill sets that other parents are jealous of and wishing their children had. Who knows! (As they say, the grass is always greener, right?) And besides, it is NOT a competition.

I love my children, for all their strengths and weaknesses. I don't expect them to be perfect, but I do want them to be happy and loved... and sometimes I just need to step away from it all, reflect, and remind myself of this.

So, as much as you want to give in to The Big C, it is probably in your child's best interest to walk away and redirect your focus. I mean, the cookie might taste good in the moment, but after you're done, you're left with nothing but guilt, regret, or even disappointment.