90 posts categorized "urbanGear"

Lunchbox Dilemmas

August 16, 2013

As soon as Spring Break hit a few months ago, I knew I would need to replace my girls' lunchboxes that had been doing overtime for two years. I found myself completely sucked into a thread on the *Portland Mamas FB group that had been discussing lunchboxes for the last two days, which caused the topic to resurface in my head. This is big stuff, folks. I like newfangled technology as much as the next modern mama, but sometimes I just wonder if the metal Rainbow Brite lunchbox of my childhood was really just fine.

My oldest had been carrying a Blue Q bag that originally contained a birthday gift. She was more into the bag than the gift so it became an accessory as part of her daily ensemble. I have to admit that in a world of the Thermos, insulated sides, waxed canvas, removable liners, and 100% machine washable, I was suspicious! As the months dragged on, that super cute polypropylene bag did its job, and did it well. It suffered endless half-empty, half-closed containers of applesauce, sticky fruit leather, and tuna fish smeared all over the inside. At first, this stressed me out, but after a quick rinse and a wipe with a soapy sponge, the smell would go away and the bag would be ready to go for another day.

Continue reading "Lunchbox Dilemmas" »

Sock stories: Thinking underthings to keep us cozy

November 18, 2010

Polaroid_20101118_smartwool_crop
On Tuesday, I picked up two boxes filled with treasures beyond imagining from Portland Green Parenting's Rebecca Andersson: over a dozen pairs of Smartwool socks. It's been since Christmas last year that we've done any significant sock purchases for the kids, and we were majorly overdue; each morning, I'd frantically paw through the laundry basket full of clean socks searching for a not-too-holey match for each of my boys. (Why I haven't gotten to the all-important sock organization project is a story for another day.)

I brought the socks home and passed them out like oranges in the Ingalls' sisters stockings. Everett ran around, giddy, in his Outdoor Light Minis. "They're so cozy!" he shouted. Good thing, as I had six pairs. Truman said they were so wonderful "he couldn't feel the floor" and Monroe, in his Wintersport Stripes, joined the other two for a good game of slide-in-the-kitchen. It's a good thing we had them, as the rainstorm yesterday had us soaked through; one thing that wasn't freezing, however, was our collective toes.

As I thrilled over how cozy we all were, a debate ensued on Facebook: are Smartwool socks worth the price? Even with the 30% group buy discount, I spent over $200 for socks (though over half of that was my own socks; adult versions are at least twice the price of the kid sizes). Are they the best option for keeping little children's toes cozy? Another great (and locally-designed) option is Keen Sox; Truman got some for Christmas last year and they're possibly even more cozy than the Smartwool equivalents (although there are a lot fewer styles).

The biggest complaint among the commenting parents was the unfortunate holes that eventually develop; some reported holes in two years; Monroe has managed to get holey in a short nine months, though he's about the tippy-top of the hardwearing spectrum. We decided, in the end, that the price, comfort, warmth and prettiness of both Smartwool and Keen was worth the much-higher-than-Hanes price (ranging from $7 to $10 per pair for most kid versions).

Do you and your kids wear Smartwool, Keen, or another brand you love? Do you think it's worth the money?

Shoes, shoes, shoes: how to control the clutter?

January 10, 2010

Crocs_knockoffs
It's hard enough for just one person to control the clutter of the shoe, but add to that a kid or two and a partner, then there could be heaps of shoes, sandals, flip-flops, and slippers strewn everywhere.  Time after time, we *think* we've found the perfect solution to tame the shoes, but it always ends up in one big indiscernable heap, even after good, consistent purging and maintaining the stock to just the bare minimum number of shoes.  As a no-shoe household, we always end up with this heap in our entryway, and people constantly trip over the heap o' shoes.  We'd like to know: do you have the same issue?  How have you managed to control the clutter of the shoes?  Help us in our quest to organize in this new year!

Gifted toys from... uncles

December 29, 2009

Noisy_toys_um
Yesterday, a Twitter friend was kvetching about the Christmas gift given by her brother to her young boys: a Leapster video game "made and marketed by Satan's helpers." I could relate, as my brothers-in-law (both sides of the family) have made themselves famous in the house for their extremely loud, blinking-lights, electronic gifts, often given with the best of intentions: they're marketed as "educational" toys, after all. There was the Barney monstrosity with the alphabet buttons and the voice I couldn't even recognize, except that it was enough to drive me out of my head. There was the toy I like to think of as "baby's first TV," a little scrolling translucent screen with 80s-style plastic doodads that prompted different "soundtracks," targeted at one-year-olds (really, toy companies?).  There was the Transformers helmet found at the bins that changed everyone's voice into an Autobot's voice, loudly (not educational, but surely delightful for boys).

This year, it's the Nerf guns, everyone's favorite toy, right? I watch my two-year-old walk upstairs with a gun on his shoulder, looking for all the world like Matt Damon's character in a movie with lots and lots of shooting. Except littler, and barefoot.

I've slowly banished most of the loud toys from the house, but sometimes you just have to let a kid play with the dearly beloved terror. And there is no shortage of over-priced, enormous, loud toys, the manufacture of which must have the carbon footprint of a cross-country drive in an SUV, the marketing of which is surely delight at "spending time together" as you watch your child "learn" by pushing buttons and listening to the resulting cacaphony. Toy companies make a lot of money from aunts, uncles, and a goodly portion of parents who have bought the marketing pitch hook, line and C batteries. I think the best approach is education: not of our kids, but of other adults out there who are paying for the stuff in the first place. So tell me: how can we spread the word that the best education is a puzzle, a book, a crayon, a pebble, a ball, a stick (even if it's in the shape of a gun) and some quiet(ish) face time with your son, daughter, niece, nephew, granddaughter, godson? The sound of the toy companies' marketing is deafening.

temperate parents, dealing with cold weather, whoa!

December 10, 2009

Bundled_in_frosty_cold
Tuesday was the first day I'd had to take the kids out on the bike in this cold, cold weather and I did a great job of bundling. Hats, scarves, double layers of pants and socks, mittens... I was so proud of myself! I sat Monroe and Truman on the back of my mamabikeorama and headed off to preschool. Luckily the road was open, because a few blocks away from school my load suddenly got much lighter and my bike wobbled. Monroe, trying to hold on with his fat slippery mittens, had fallen off.

So that was the first bloody face of the cold snap. His lip and chin were scraped, but he'd recovered enough to be put back on the bike (in the bike seat between my handlebars for good until the weather changes, I decided) after about 10 minutes. Our second bloody face came Wednesday, when Truman decided to check to see what his dad meant, exactly, by "that spot that looks wet is actually icy." He came home to me with the worst bloody nose I've seen in years.

It must be easier for parents of more regularly frozen climes; are they born with an innate knowledge of how to adjust to the cold? I feel so inept. I'm glad I've learned these lessons (no slippery mittens on the back of the Xtracycle, hold a kid's hand the first time he discovers an ice hazard) without permanent injury. I've been scouring thrift stores for snow boots and kids' ski pants and wishing I was more prepared. How have you been dealing with the cold weather? Are you finding any of your regular rhythms awkwardly (or delightfully) changed? Is there any gear you love and can't do without? Have you been surprised with any bloody lessons?

One thing I love is how thrilled the boys are every day when they go outside to ice crystals and frost in the shadows, it's magic to them and I confess to longing for last year's snowy quiet.

meditations on a family biking life

October 25, 2009

I pulled up to the alley behind Olivia's house around 8:15 last Wednesday night, my mamabikeorama loaded down with 15 pounds of pears and quinces (I couldn't help stopping at the People's Co-op farmer's market) and an armful or two of clothes for the spontaneous clothing swap she'd planned. I had to laugh as I clumsily maneuvered my bike among the half-dozen mama bikes + Xtracycle and a trailer or two. Only a few of the dozen or so mamas who'd come had driven; and this despite the fact we were all loaded down with the bounty of new clothing and whatever else we were carting around the city. At the end of the night, around 10 p.m., we all pulled out of the narrow spot on the side of the house, laughing as we counted the BoBike seats. Someone said: 'it's like a clown car!' It was a moment of unusual tired joy.

Monroe_truman_bike_sunset
We've all come to this for different reasons and at different speeds. But we're all equally in love with biking (even most of the mamas who drove have family bike setups at home) and committed to spreading the family biking love. We have different levels of comfort with putting our kids on the road; differing budgets for new biking gear; different commutes, different neighborhoods, different alternatives to biking. I think of us as co-inspirators; we're all the inspiration for one another. And we all see the future of transportation as far, far different than it is today. Will we reach the goal of 25% of Portlanders commuting by bike by 2030? It's hard to say, but it won't happen unless mamas like us -- like you -- hop on their bikes and quietly inspire other mamas, papas and kids to shift to the two-wheel (or three) lifestyle, too.

Today, I'm leading another meditation about riding bikes with families (no, there's no yoga or spirituality: all you have to do is listen and breathe) to help kick off the Family Biking Solutions Workshop, part of Oregon Manifest's Family Bicycle Transportation Day. While the workshop itself isn't really kid-friendly due to the limitations of the facility (a "museum environment," someone said), we hope what comes out of it, really will expand the boundaries.

I've made a poster to go with my meditation [pdf link]. Consider it one more co-inspiration. I look forward to expanding my concept of what makes a more family-friendly transportation future --  more options, more unique bikes that work in tiny budgets, more infrastructure, more community, more joy.

Help! I Hate My Ergo

July 08, 2009

147365774_4a4d518a63 We've had plenty of discussions on slings and baby carriers on urbanMamas, but could it be that it isn't for everyone?  And what do you do when you've tried plenty of variations and they still don't seem to work? Jane emails us with this question:

I hate my Ergo, is that okay for me to say?! It rubs on the back of my arms and feels awful. Like a bra strap that keeps falling down only worse. I wish I loved it like everyone else does. If I have my son on my back we get along just fine, i my six month old daughter is on the front I am going crazy. I have a Moby, a Chicpapoose, a Baby Bijorn, and a Kangaroo Korner. Plenty to choose from you would think. But with the heat and her getting heavier I turn to the Ergo. I don't think of myself as petite and wouldn't describe my shoulders as anything less than normal width. Could I be doing something wrong or do I need to try out yet another sling/carrier?

Handmade toys, children's clothes, even barrettes, could disappear

December 10, 2008

Truman_wooden_toys
Oh, don't let it happen. Yesterday Chris Musser forwarded me an email about the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) (an act which generally does lovely things, such as ban the manufacture of toys with lead and phthalates and ban their importation into the U.S.). In it she detailed the requirements of this act, effective February 10, 2009; all toymakers must pay a testing fee of $4,000 per type of toy they make, as well as permanently labeling them with a batch number and date (requiring them to create new molds in many cases). What's more, this act covers children's clothing and accessories, meaning that every single small company that makes children's toys, t-shirts, skirts, barrettes, everything, could be forced to cease operation. This effects so many of you: those of you who make children's items, including cloth diapers; those of you who run Waldorf and Montessori preschools; those of you who own children's toy stores; those of you who like to buy handcrafted goods for your children.

The Handmade Toy Alliance has all the details and a petition to sign. Liz at Cool Mom Picks has lots of info about other ways you can get involved. Tell Earl Blumenauer your story: why do you value handcrafted toys?

To market, then home: how do you transport?

September 29, 2008

Groceries_stroller The other day, we meandered over to the supermarket.  Being the proud recipient of a recent raise, I decided to indulge a bit and took advantage of the bulk wine discount at the store: 20% off of 12 bottles.  My mother followed in suit.  It didn't occur to us that we were on foot.  The only way we could get our new bottled treasures home was to shove them in the cargo area and every crevice of the bike-trailer-turned-to-stroller, where my youngest was so soundly slumbering.  How upset was she to be pressed up against the trailer wall, sharing the seat with a box of wine.

Seriously, there's got to be a better way!  Don't you think?  An urbanMama emails:

We recently moved within walking distance of a Trader Joe's and Safeway. Wanting to drive less, we have been walking to do our grocery shopping. However, with my 3-year-old in tow, and a small hill to climb, I find that what I can carry home is somewhat limited. We often make trips every other day, and as a part-time working mama, don't always have the time to do this.

Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, each week I would walk to the grocery store with my mom and her "granny cart".  The shopping carts at  grocery stores even had hooks at the end of them so you could hang your folded up granny cart. They were all the rage. I want a granny cart!

So the question is, how do you lug your groceries home?  Wagon (not very easy, nor ergonomic, to lug up hill), stroller, biceps?  Where can I find a high quality granny cart in Portland?

Buying Shoes: How much would you spend on kids shoes?

July 31, 2008

My son is fixated on getting a new pair of shoes. Though not any pair, specifically running shoes. He's been asking for them for months and as we embark on the start of a new school year, it is appropriate that he gets a new pair seeing how he has outgrown his sturdy hiking shoes and seeing how this may be the beginning of a new school year ritual.  While there was a good discussion on tips on buying shoes and those with wide feet, I'm really curious as to how much you would spend on a pair of shoes for a 5 year old? Also, any suggestions for shoes for someone with flat feet (which means that his ankles will have a tendency to rub against the inside of his shoe)?

Movin' on up: to a "big kid" bed

March 12, 2008

For those mamas who have already been through this, Courtney would love your insight:

What about “big kid beds”?  Assuming your kid slept/sleeps in a crib - How old was s/he when they moved up to the big kid bed? What was the motivation to move them, esp. without another kid that needs the crib? Can they just stay in the crib for as long as they fit? Do they need to move when they are toilet trained and need to go potty at night? When they asked (whined) enough?  Did you go with toddler bed with crib mattress?  Twin?  Full?  Bunk?  Best place to purchase any of the options?

How do you clean a lunchbox?

March 09, 2008

Tomorrow is an all-day field trip for our second grader.  Wanting to be organized and prompt in the morning, we prepared all the school stuff tonight.  When I opened up her lunch box, it stank like spoiled milk or something else rotten.  I looked inside and it was empty, except for this icky stench.  Her lunchbox has lots of seams and ridges, now collecting peanut butter smears and cracker crumbs and stinky milk remains.

How the heck do you clean out the lunch box?  Soap and sponge won't do the trick in all the nooks and crannies.  Any other tricks up yo' mama sleeve?

What's Your Baby Carrier of Choice?

February 12, 2008

I don't think I would have survived the early years had it not been for my New Native Baby sling, Kelty Backpack, and Ergo.  My boys were never fond of strollers and if I were to survive an outing or a trip to the grocery store, I would have to saddle them up.  Vaish is interested in hearing about your favorite child carrier, especially those that can travel for the long haul.  She emails:

I would love some opinions on the carriers and slings that people like and find comfortable for long walks. I have a 7 month old. I currently use Infantino's EuroRider, which baby doesn't find very comfortable.

What front-loader do you use?

December 29, 2007

Do you have experience washing your cloth diapers at home?  Jillian is taking recommendations for a new front-loader:

We have a front load washer (Maytag Neptune) that's been having mold problems.  We want to buy a new washing machine, preferably front load.  Does anyone out there use cloth diapers and have a front load washer they'd recommend?

Toys: What to (and not to) buy from mamas who've been there

December 10, 2007

Everett_with_computerEverett's developmental pediatrician has recommended, among other things, that we organize his toys better; and part of that has been purging lots of the precious whats-its and doo-dads garnered from the Bins, or from a random assortment of relatives and friends. We've been talking a lot about the concept of "quality" here at chez cafemama. And all last week while I had my nose to the corporate grindstone, launching a new personal finance blog called WalletPop, I was thinking about what things I wish I hadn't bought -- instead putting the money into college savings, or a therapy fund.

Today I couldn't help but fall in love with this post about toys you shouldn't -- and should -- buy your kids for Christmas. It's written by the mother of one of the lead bloggers at WalletPop (a financially-savvy 19-year-old). And to her list I'd add:

  • Don't buy: Anything remote-controlled
  • Do buy: Die-cast trains
  • Don't buy: So-called "educational" toys, which nearly always have batteries and only teach your kids how to push buttons.
  • Do buy: Books in quantity
  • Don't buy: Toys linked to Disney movie / Cartoon Network show / video game; why further that vicious cycle of feeding your children to the marketing machine?
  • Do buy: An easel, quality crayons and colored pencils, a big roll of paper.
  • Don't buy: Excessive stuffed toys, especially those with voice boxes; they'll take over your playroom.
  • Do buy: Dress-up clothes (or make them!)

What's on your list?

Least Non-Toxic Mattress Option

November 28, 2007

We've previously talked about organic baby mattresses, but Anne was particularly interested in finding a mattress for a big girl bed.  According to one of our favorite resources (we love Sarah and OEC), you can find mattresses not treated with flame retardants at:

Is an IKEA really an option?  Any others for Anne?  She writes:

We are trying to figure out what the least toxic, non-futon type mattress is out there to buy for a new big girl bed. Has anyone done any research on this, bought anything, happy with anything that they could recommend?

Where to get backyard play equipment?

October 17, 2007

Fonda is seeking any thoughts or experiences you have with backyard play equipment:

I would like to buy a fairly basic but good quality play structure that will last a long time and won't overwhelm our backyard (swings, slide, some climbing features like monkey bars perhaps).  Does anyone have any suggestions on models and where to get them?  I've heard of The Kid's Backyard Store in the SW, are there any others? How much should I expect to spend on such a thing?

Seeking the perfect active waterproof boot

October 07, 2007

Oh, the rain.  It has just begun.  It will get wetter and colder as days go by.  Martha has a question that many of us probably also think about:

With the arrival of wintery weather I'm searching for some boots for my three year old.  Last year we used the typical pull on rainboot, but found it to be rather slippery for such an active gal.  Does anyone know of any waterproof boots, with better traction, that are more like a hiking boot, yet not so technical that a three year old can put them on herself?  Oh yeah - it would be great if they didn't cost the same as her daycare does each month.

Any recommendations?  Also, where do you find said boots?

Diaper pail for cloth diapers: Just how stinky IS it?

September 28, 2007

Do you cloth diaper? Camellia is about to launch into the World of Cloth and needs your advice.

Our first baby is due in a month and I'm trying to figure out the whole cloth diapering thing. We decided to go with a diaper service for the first few months anyway, and then to reevaluate whether to stick with the service, switch to all-in-ones and wash them ourselves, use g-diapers, or some sort of combination. I'm interested in hearing about what has worked best for other parents, but first and foremost, I'm wondering what to do for a diaper pail for the first few months, with the diaper service.

Tidee Didee advised us to begin with 70 diapers a week for a newborn, they provide the diaper bags, we provide the pail, and they pick up dirties once a week. They have a 54-quart white plastic pail we can buy from them for $17 or we can provide our own. Has anyone used this system? a 54-quart pail sounds huge--can you really just throw all your diapers in there for a whole week, or doesn't that get super stinky? Is there a different pail we should get instead?

Durable clothes for little guys?

September 17, 2007

Now that Everett's starting kindergarten and needs lots of serviceable and (my preference) non-commercial playwear, I've been thinking about buying a few really nice things every pay period -- nothing fashion-forward, just t-shirts and polos and chinos and sweatpants that will last, and last, and last. After all: I have three boys and I'd like to avoid having to purchase these again and again.

Truman_climbing_wall I've had good luck with Hanna Andersson sweat pants and chinos, but I don't like many of their pants styles and their shirts haven't done well in my house (lots of unravelling hems and the like). I love American Apparel for myself but have found that the stretchy fabric that's so comfortable also tends to wear quickly. I'm tired of putting pants in my pile of those-needing-knee patches! Does anyone have any favorite kids' clothing makers, or stories of flimsy stuff I should avoid? Retailers with good sales preferred...

Does "PVC Free" mean PVC Free?

September 12, 2007

PVC is (polyvinyl chloride) plastic, commonly referred to as vinyl.  "When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems."  PVC is often used in conjuction with metals, including lead.  You can't really tell if there is PVC in lunch boxes, but there is guidance on how to test vinyl lunch boxes for lead (DIY kits and the like).

Maura passes on her experience in her search for the PVC free lunch box:

I thought this might be interesting to the urbanmama community.  I saw the piece about school lunches and the mention of the PVC-free butterfly lunch box.  I had been looking around for a PVC-free lunch box and tracked down the one mentioned made by Crocodile Creek at Grasshopper on Alberta. When wiping out the lunch box before we used it for our first day of school, I decided to take a look at the tag inside and to my surprise PVC was noted twice in the fabric content!!!  This after the cute tag on the front says  "100% FREE PVC!" I called Grasshoppers who called Crocodile Creek and they were told that the lunch boxes really are PVC free, but the wrong tags were put into some of the lunchboxes???  Grasshopper pulled all the lunchboxes and are sending them back to the manufacturer.  Grasshopper was awesome and gave us cash back and seemed genuinely concerned.  It's hard to know if these lunch boxes are what buyers thought.  I'm sure some of those parents would like to know.

Has anyone encountered purportedly PVC-Free lunchboxes whose labels read differently?  Crocodile Creek states "We have given special attention to make certain that the lunchboxes currently offered by Crocodile Creek do conform to the current U.S. & European Consumer Product Safety Standards as well as FDA recommendations. Our lunchboxes are lead safe, 100% Phthalate and PVC free."

Best school shoes for a wide-footed boy?

August 17, 2007

Keen_shoes I'm in denial that my five-year-old is starting kindergarten in three weeks -- eeek! Yesterday I was thinking about how wonderful it is that Everett can walk to school and suddenly thought: uh-oh. Shoes. In April, we bought him two pairs of lovely shoes at Clogs-N-More Kids on Hawthorne (following the uMamas shoe buy guide of course) and his sandals are perfect -- he can put them on himself, they're sporty and cute, he can run fast in them. But the other pair we purchased, I've realized, aren't.

I let him pick them out, and they're certainly cute. But they're extremely hard for him to get on his feet, and I'd like to encourage the do-it-yourself-ing as much as possible. Can anyone recommend a good looking, all-purpose shoe for wide feet that a child can get on all by himself?

Where to get School Supplies

August 15, 2007

Many of us are gearing up for the start of school in a few weeks.  A question came in from Jess about where families can get affordable school supplies:

I just registered my five year-old for kindergarten.  Wow!  Who knew the list of school supplies...for KINDERGARTEN would be so extensive?  It seems the school wants multiple packs of everything from sharpies to kleenex to dry erase markers to glue stix to additional money for a canvas bag students will be decorating (sans a backpack).
Now, I teach in a public school and am very PRO public school, but my wonder-hubby recently quit his job to attend nursing school full-time.  To say we do not have two pennies to rub together after mortgage is paid and food is purchased is not much of an understatement.  We want to provide the teacher with all of the (multiple packs) of items on the list.
Does anyone know the cheapest place for said school supplies?

The Quintessential Family Car for Four

August 11, 2007

As opposed to Shari's recent quest for a 7-passenger Alternative to the Standard Mama Van, Erin seeks a suggestions as she transitions from a truck to a family car for four:

I have to give up my beloved truck for a family car that fits 2 children.  I don't want to drive a minivan, even though so many people say they love them after they get past the stigma.  I want something that sits pretty high off the ground for visibility, has enough cargo room to get my double jogger to Baby Boot Camp, and is as small and efficient as possible.  It looks like the Honda Element might be my best bet, but I'm wondering whether the set-back rear seats makes it hard to load kids in and out of carseats.  Does anyone have positive or negative experience with the Element as a family car?  Any other recommendations?   

Mattel recall rocks my world

August 02, 2007

Truman_dora_castle_200 By now, you've probably heard all about Mattel's recall of over a million toys that contain lead paint. When I first heard the Mattel recall news early this morning in between half-waking nursing sessions, I got a dull ache in my stomach. When I got up and looked at the list of affected toys in the paper today, well, I wanted to throw up. J0343 Go Diego Go Antarctic Rescue ... J0345 Go Diego Go Mountain Rescue ... J6762 Queen Mami ... J6765 Prince Diego ... it's as if someone took an inventory of my children's favorite toys. (In addition to Dora and Diego toys, Elmo, Ernie, Zoe and the rest of the Sesame Street gang are also well-represented in the list.) That's a lot of lead.

Everett_diego_toys_200 For months now, my husband and I have been musing about whether we should institute a family ban on products made in China; we just can't be sure that any of these things are safe. The recent discoveries have us sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. After all, Mattel is a big company with a brand name in need of protection -- what about those toys sold on the seasonal aisle at WalGreen's?  I hardly think anyone's busy checking the lead content in the Barbie Princess inflatable balls and knockoff Play-Doh. What if... urggh.

While I go around the house collecting these precious objects, I think: is it time to collect everything and switch entirely to wooden and handmade toys? I'm certainly about ready to throw up my hands in distress. My heart aches when I think of the fallout should I discover that the die-cast Thomas trains from Target have lead paint, too (my worst nightmare). If only I'd never developed the love affair my sons have with these dangerous things.

We've called our doctor's office and elected to get a lead test (with our pediatrician, Dr. Vestergaard, we can just go to the lab at Broadway Medical Clinic anytime and get the test), although she said the risk isn't huge. I doubt my kids will be greatly affected (physically) but I've lost all trust for the toymakers, and that feeling in the pit of my stomach keeps getting achier.

Do you S.I.G.G.?

July 18, 2007

What's with the hot new water bottles? At $20 a pop for a new liquid vessel, is it worth every penny?Sigg It is highly possible that the aluminum bottles (like SIGG bottles) are safer than those containing polycarbonates (like Nalgene bottles)". Studies show that a chemical in plastic may be dangerous even in the small amounts that seep from plastic bottles and food packaging.

So, have do you have SIGG bottles for yourself and family? Have you found an aluminum bottle lined with non-leeching product that is the SIGG alternative (i.e., more affordable)?

Brace yourself: IKEA set to open July 25

July 17, 2007

It's the moment we've all been waiting for! Or not?  The IKEA Grand Opening is fast approaching.  To prepare, the Port of Portland has even issued a traffic advisory and has prepared an IKEA traffic flow plan.  IKEA has been billed as the big-box that even Portlanders love.  Today's Oregonian tells us to brace ourselves for the traffic nightmare that this grand opening will bring.

According to all accounts, the store format will be the same as all the other 30 IKEAs in the US.  Another fun thing to look forward to will be the big bright and primary playroom where the kids can play while the adults wander through the maze of staged room after staged room.  We'll all be hungry after all that bouncing and playing (the kids) or shopping and hauling DIY furniture (the mamas & the papas), that we'll soon end up in the IKEA cafeteria, where we'll have 50 cent Swedish meatballs and other Swedish delicacies in true IKEA frugal fashion.  Kids will have bright red tables and yellow chairs, they will love their kiddie food trays and utensils.  It will be fun, won't it?

So, are you making your list and checking it twice?  Will you be heading out there on July 25th or soon thereafter?Ikea

Opening July 25!  Please bring your family for a morning of fun and festivities July 25.  Entertainment begins at 6:00 am, doors will open at 9:00 am.  July 26-29 Store & Restaurant open at 10:00 am.

6:00 am?  Will that be you waiting at the door?  That's mighty, mighty early....  but in case you'd like an earlier start:

Air out your camping gear!  Customers can begin lining up at IKEA Portland at 9:00 AM on Monday morning, July 23, 2007 - in advance of our July 25 opening.  We are going to be doing something special for everyone on opening morning so you do not have to be the first, second, or third customer* in line to share the fun.

* There will be no specific prize given to just the first, second, or third customer in line.

Batteries Required

July 15, 2007

When you become parents, you learn quick to avoid battery operated toys.  But in a wireless world, it can be hard to avoid.  While Erin's question is specific to swings, we're curious how you've dealt with the battery issue in general. Are rechargeables really a good option?

Has anyone figured out how to power all those battery-sucking swings and other toys more efficiently?  Can they be converted to plugs?  Has anyone tried the adapter shells that use rechargeable AA batteries?  Other solutions to keep all those batteries out of the landfill (not to mention the cost)?

My first day on the Low Car Diet: Everyone loves the trail-a-bike

July 10, 2007

This morning, I was in a tizzy to get Philly to summer camp on time and in a tizzy to get to the Low Car Diet kick-off on time.  We set up the bikes in traditional train formation: my bike, connected to the trail-a-bike/tag-along, connected to the trailer.  In a rush, I heaved my way five miles from our N PDX home to NW Portland, to Philly's summer camp.

The problem of the morning: My girls fight over who rides the tag-along.  Now that the girls, ages 3.5 Trail_a_bikeand 6.5, are both happiest pedaling on tag-alongs; no one wants to sit in the trailer.  Sad, lonely trailer!  This morning, our biggest girl, 6.5 year old Philly, "let" her little sister have the privilege of pedaling, so I had the privilege of hauling around 45 pounds of Philly in the trailer the five miles from home to summer camp.  Ugh, ugh, ugh.  Sure the trailer can handle loads up to 100 pounds, but can ya handle pulling those 100 pounds??

Continue reading "My first day on the Low Car Diet: Everyone loves the trail-a-bike" »

urbanMamas & the Low-Car Diet 2007

July 09, 2007

Inspired by Sarah's showing in last year's Low Car Diet, a couple of urbanMamas volunteered themselves for the Low Car Diet 2007, the second annual.  We figured, with our fair share of TriMet adventures, biking with the trailer and/or the tag-along/trail-a-bike (configuring ourselves into one long train has become the standard method of transport) ... so, why not?  Why not just give up the car entirely for a month?  How hard could it be?  We're already relatively "low-car" as it is.

In the weeks preceeding today's Low Car Diet start date, I have been having cold feet, thinking: "What have we gotten ourselves into?"  It's one thing for a single person to give up the car; that's a sacrifice in and of itself.  But, for a family of four to give up the family car, how would this work?  We have been cherishing our days of ease, hopping into the car to traverse Portland's quadrants to meet friends for dinner or for a playdate.

Now starts the real challenge.  Can we pedal or ride transit from our N. Pdx home to our friend's birthday celebration in Sellwood this evening?  Can we manage to show up on time for swim every single day?  With temperatures hitting the mid-90s this week and with some TriMet buses not air conditioned, will will melt into our bike seats and just weep hot tears?

Read more about this year's Low Car Dieters, cheer us on, and read more about our trials and tribulations as we start this 30-day saga.

Alternatives to the Standard Mama Van

July 07, 2007

There aren't many good options for a set of wheels that can fit a family.  Shari asks:

It's time for us to buy a new (to us) vehicle, and my dream car would be hip looking (without sliding van doors, for example) and enviro-friendly, and would seat seven (with halfway decent leg room). But I think my dream car may not exist. Do any other hip mamas out there have a good recommendation?

Recommendations for backpack carriers?

July 05, 2007

With so many outdoor adventures that await us and our little ones, a backpack carrier can really help make sure that our little ones can share in the joys of the Gorge or other favorite jaunts.  Rebecca is looking for the the pros and cons of the popular models out there - the Kelty, the REI tagalong, any other favorite ones?
We're on the market for a frame backpack carrier for hiking with our 15 month old.  We've gone to REI and done some internet research & we're feeling overwhelmed by the choices so I thought I'd turn to the real experts (urbanMamas of course).  We're looking for good support, light weight, comfortable for baby for for leisurely hiking - nothing longer than a couple hours.  Any recommendations out there?  Also - based on our try out stint at REI - how do you deal with the hair pulling??

Bike for uMamas & uPapas

June 14, 2007

When it comes to the family bike ride, there are bike trailers, there are bike tag-alongs, but - of course - there are also the adult bikes that pull them!  Can you give Meliah some tips on what sorts of bikes would be good for an urbanMama and urbanPapa?  Any advice on where to get them?
One of the things I love about living in Portland is the vast array of transportation options. I am fortunate enough to live in a great downtown location where we don't have to drive to much at all. With the summer setting in and our oldest one getting to that age where bike riding is a feasible thing for him on his own, we've been talking about purchasing bikes for the family.   Here's the thing: I am a total novice when it comes to this field! I sold my bike when I was 14 and haven't been on one since (not even the stationaries at the gym). I obviously have no interest in putting myself or my family at risk of any kind so I'm wondering if there are some urbanMamas out there who can help me out.
  • WHAT KIND OF BIKE/S AM I LOOKING FOR?  We are buying mostly for pleasure riding (along the waterfront/sauvies island/mt. hood trails, etc). I know NOTHING about bicycles and don't want to get ripped off or end up buying something inappropriate for what we need. Just something functional, basic and reliable.
  • BUYING.  When it comes to actually purchasing a bike, where can we go to get what we need for a bargain price? The pocketbook will dictate a lot of what we can and cannot do on this matter.

Baby Monitor Recommendation

June 06, 2007

Sarah's looking to buy a good quality monitor.  Do you have you any suggestions?

Parentunit_2 We're getting ready to have our second child, and since we're not quite ready to give up the monitor in our first child's bedroom, we're planning to buy one for the baby too. The main criteria for us is that the monitor have a long range without getting too much static. We've had pretty good success with our current monitor, which surprisingly is made by Fisher Price, but I know technology with these things and models can change.  Does anyone have a monitor with great range that they can recommend?

Baby Registry for the urbanMama

June 04, 2007

Armed with her list of baby must-haves and baby nice-to-haves, where's a mama to register for her goods?  Some place local, hopefully?  Camellia says:

I was hoping to gather information about *where* to register--recommendations of sites that are affordable, have good quality products, and where you can register for everything you need. I've been searching around, but all of the stuff that has been recommended to me is scattered across different stores.

Suggestions for Gearing up on Baby Gear

May 19, 2007

Erin has probably posed her question to the right group of mamas.  Any suggestions for non-Big Box-baby stores?  We're certain you have some:

I've recently moved to Portland, am due August 7 and am starting to hit my "nesting" phase big time (even though we don't have a house yet!).  I'm looking for recommendations for great stores in PDX for nursery items-strollers, gliderm chairs, changing tables, bedding, wipes, blah blah blah.  I'm trying to avoid the big stores like Babies R Us, Crate and Barrel and whatnot.  God knows what would happen if my baby had a catalogue nursery (insert eye roll here).  ha ha!  Any suggestions are much appreciated!

Seeking Cute Kid Backpacks

Emily is looking for suggestions on cute packs for kids.  She writes:

Kind of a random question, but does anyone have ideas of where to find a cute, simple, not-too-expensive backpack of appropriate size for a preschooler to carry? I don't want one with cartoon characters on it, like I'd find at Target, Fred Meyer, etc. I know there are cute animal ones out there, just don't know where to find them! Thanks.

Gimmee some non-toxic toys!

April 29, 2007

Where would you suggest for Kathleen?

I’m new to Portland and am looking for a place to acquire some phthalate free toys for my chewing obsessed 51/2 month old. Can you advise on a children’s store(s) that carries non-toxic toys?

Two Wheeler Advice

April 25, 2007

Melissa is pondering the many options for kid-sized bike.  Perhaps you can help her out?

The baby daddy & I are thinking about getting our daughter her first bicycle for her 4th birthday which is coming up fast. At first we thought, "Great! that decision is made." Well...now we're realizing there are more options than we were prepared for. Do any of you have experience/advice/stories to share regarding pedals, no pedals, brands, size, etc.?

Baby needs a new pair of Shades

April 03, 2007

Shades_2 It's that time of year again in Portland.  Time to break out the sun hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses, too!  UrbanPapa, Jeff, wonders if anyone's found a local source for BabyBanz, sunglasses for kids that has a head strap to keep them on.  Or has anyone found any similar products that have the UV screening and a head strap?  I'd be curious too since my little blue-eyed boys probably feel the bright much more than their brown-eyed mama does...

Good Side-By-Side Stroller?

March 14, 2007

Angela is seeking your advice on strollers.  She writes:

I'm looking for recommendations for a great side-by-side double stroller with front wheels that swivel. I've been researching for weeks on the Internet and would love some hip-mama input. Also, where can you go to try some of them out? Babies 'R Us has a very limited selection--where else do you go? And I'm not opposed to spending some money, as baby #3 is coming soon--we'll be strollin' for quite a while!

Beyond the Bike Trailer: Tag-alongs

March 13, 2007

We've posted previously on Family Bike Ride: The Gear.  In a comment to our recent post on Bike Trailers, Erin asks:

Does anyone have any suggestions about what to do when your kids are just too heavy for the trailer but the oldest isn't old enough to bike along with you on his own? I really want to continue biking and I have a great double trailer, but I just can't realistically zoom around town with the 70+ lbs. of kid and add groceries, library books, etc. Any experience with a tag-along and a trailer?

Bike Trailers

March 12, 2007

originally p

We're thinking of getting a double bike trailer for our 6 month old and 3-1/2 year old. Any suggestions on brands? When do you think our baby will be old enough to ride in the trailer?

updated by urbanmamas on March 12, 2007

Now that springtime is coming, there is a flurry of renewed interest in bike trailers and towing the little ones around town.  So:Bike_seat 

  1. Did you decide on a bike seat or a bike trailer?
  2. What brand or make did you decide on?
  3. What are good local sources on where to buy your bike seat or bike trailer?Burley

We found a great nuts-n-bolts Bicycle Child Trailer Buyer's Guide, but we'd love to hear your experiences.

Customer Service with a Happy Ending

March 09, 2007

Back in December, I read on Blogging Baby about a diaper bag from a company called Passchal.  They called it their "dad's baby bag."  It is no secret that I love bags.  I had been shopping for the right diaper bag since a long time before my little guy was born, and still hadn't decided on one yet.  I sent the link for the Passchal diaper bag to my brother, stating both how cool the bag was, and how cool that it's made from recycled inner tubes.  The smell of inner tube rubber may be off-putting to some but to me, it evokes memories of Summer time in Texas, visiting Schlitterbahn or floating down the Comal River.

So I guess I wasn't too surprised (ok slightly) when I opened my Christmas gift from my brother, and there was the bag.  Mama's very own "dad's diaper bag."  I swiftly packed up the essentials into my new bag (Mama's got a brand new bag!).  Diapers, wipes, cream, change of clothes, pens, lip gloss, you know - the essentials!  I stuck the bag next to the door and even was able to pack a small sized football in for a trip to the park.  As we were leaving, I went to pick my lovely new bag up, and the strap ripped free of the bag and flew in my general direction, causing me to lose hold of the strap, and the bag, and luckily not anything else as I was holding my baby.  At first I was shocked, but I just clipped it back on and went on my way.

Then, it happened again.  And again.  And several more times after that.  It just didn't feel right.  I've made several bags in the past and I have to admit, the clips did seem a little light weight for the size and function of the bag.  I wanted to love the bag, but it did not want to love me back.  So after much hoping that the problem would resolve itself (why don't they ever just resolve themselves, problems?) I faced up and realized that I didn't love the bag this way.

So I bucked up and e-mailed the folks at Passchal.  I told them that I do love so many things about the bag but then I itemized the things that I thought were weak points about the bag.  I felt a little guilty griping and moaning but I felt like it could at least benefit the future owners of this bag somehow, so I did it anyway.  I tried to make it clear that I did like the bag but I thought it could be better.  Minutes later, I got a response from Passchal's co-founder.  He asked me to stop using the bag for now and asked my address so he could send me a new, improved bag.  I was so impressed with this response that I sent my address right away and included my phone number in case they wanted to ship with Fedex or something.  Not a second after I hit send, my phone rang.  It was Ken, co-founder of Passchal, calling me to thank me for my feedback and also let me know he was going to send a replacement strap, but still not to use the bag around the baby.  Wow - that is some customer service!  He actually thanked me for being so nice as he said he wouldn't have been as kind with that kind of feedback.  He also mentioned that they didn't have the capital to put together focus groups when they rolled out the product, so feedback like this was essential for his business.

So guess what?  Mama's gettin ANOTHER brand new bag!  And daddy might get the leftovers as a messenger bag - if he's lucky ;)  I feel a little bad receiving the free bag, but I'm certainly happy with the way they handled the situation.  Anyone else had huge success with customer service?  I think small business does a better job of it, so I'd love to hear about some local businesses who really stand behind their product like this.

What do you carry?

January 30, 2007

The month of January has been a busy one for us, busier than usual. I’ve come back to full time work after having baby number two, and we still haven’t achieved “steady state” yet. The fun weather didn’t help smooth things much, but it was oddly nice that it coincided with the illnesses.

As I attempt to master the commute with baby, I can’t help but think of all the things that I carry. Not in the exact same sense that Asha wrote about, a while ago, but the things I load into my car each Monday morning. I have 7 or 8 bags that I pack into my car on Monday morning and Thursday afternoon. During the week I try to pare down just to save trips to and from the car, but there are very few dispensables on my list:

  • Diaper bag*
  • Laptop/work bag
  • Breast pump
  • Lunch*
  • Workout clothes
  • Baby’s (cloth) diaper’s*
  • Baby’s bottles*

Starred (*) items are those that have to come and go each day. My husband sort of cracks up when he sees me laden with all the bits as I trundle perilously down our front steps out to the car. I imagine I resemble a pack camel, hauling 6 black bags (and one red plaid one).

I have been playing with using the same baby bottle bag to bring back the day’s expressed milk, or my lunch bag (it’s insulated too). Once a week I may treat myself to a lunch out, but that’s valuable time that could be spent with baby or exercising. The next big trick is to figure out how to take the bus once a week, weather permitting. I can drive a short distance to the bus stop and then load us up (with our 4 bags, and babe on my front) and then baby’s place is about 50 feet from the outer point of the bus ride. I’m thinking I’ll probably have to load up the 4 bags in my hiking pack just to simplify.

Have any of you mastered the art of juggling all of this stuff? Any tips for me to consider during my morning and afternoon commute? See, all I can listen to are the voices in my head because baby doesn’t like NPR :-)

Dipe vs. the Machine

January 24, 2007

It's a situation of Diaper versus The Machine!  Any suggestions for Amy?

OK urbanMamas, please help a mama out! Somehow, a disposable diaper landed in a load of baby's wash. (No idea if said diaper was originally clean or dirty - don't really want to know - but it sure is bright white now!) All the absorbant gel particles have merged with baby's clothes! I have rinsed a couple oftimes, and still the gooey, crumbly gel remains - in fact it seems to simply be spreading it around the machine. We are about to have major laundry gridlock if I can't get this resolved. Should I run it through the dryer and see if it separates out? Or what?

Infant Sun Hat in a Pinch!

January 07, 2007

With weather as dreary as it was today, it's hard to think of sunny days. Lucky for Ally, she has some sun in her near future!

I was wondering if any mamas out there can recommend a place in the Portland metro where we could find a sun hat for our infant son (he is 9mos old) We are leaving for a trip in a couple days and realized we don't have a hat for him! Help!

Infant car seats; Graco good, Evenflo bad

January 05, 2007

I'm usually not one to raise a fuss over one of those stories you see on the news, you know the ones? The sort where the 6 p.m. news anchors ask with heightened eyebrows, "could your child's life be AT RISK?" and then cut to commercial. But this one has even me up in arms.

Update: Consumer Reports has made the unusual move of taking back its study, saying that "new information received Tuesday night and Wednesday morning from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ... raises a question about whether the tests accurately simulated that speed [of 38 mph]." While this is interesting, I find it odd to quibble over what may be one or two miles an hour of difference when we're talking the safety of our children! [end update]

Consumer Reports did a study of 12 infant car seat models. Instead of testing them in crashes at 30 mph, the speed that the U.S. government requires car seats to withstand, the magazine tested the seats (filled with baby-sized crash-test dummies, shivers) at 35 and 38 mph, the speeds at which most cars are crash-tested. The results were frightening; many car seats detached from their bases, and some were catapulted out of the base. Many seats would have "caused grave injuries."

Infant_car_seats_safe
Graco's SnugRide with EPS seat, $79.99 at Target, and the Baby Trend Flex-Loc, also $79.99, passed the test. The Evenflo Discovery, $49.99 at Target, did so poorly that Consumer Reports urged the CPCC to recall the seat. I've raved about this at length at my 'day job,' and you can see Consumer Reports for more detail.

Your Favorite Gear Shop

November 22, 2006

Where's a mama to go in search of all the biggest and baddest gear in all of Portland?  Most of us are avid craiglisters (I was thrilled when the baby 'n' kid gear section was born), but what if you're looking for a specific baby buggy?  Paris asks:

Where can you find strollers like Maclaren or Peg Perego in Portland?

lucy warehouse sale

November 08, 2006

Every six months or so, lucy hosts the famed Lucy Warehouse Sale
featuring items direct from the stores! The sale is held at the warehouse location: 3135 nw industrial street, portland, or 97210.

11am 6pm, thursday, november 9. 11am 5pm*, friday, november 10. *or while supplies last

tops: $5- $10
pants: $20
jackets: $20
accessories: $5- $20

all sales final, cash or check only

In the past, I have found the lucy warehouse sale really overwhelming, but... if you DO get in with decent selection in your size, the deals are great!