Mommy Review Monday: Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack

For the girls’ birthday last year MaMa got the littles backpacks since they’d been trying to steal the bigs’ bags and backpacks for a few months.  After all, what toddler doesn’t like bags???

These Fairfax Pre-K backpacks have been FANTASTIC.  They are the perfect size for the littles and they LOVE to carry them around.  Without further ado, here’s my review (because I know you always want my opinion):

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Front

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack with Names

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Straps and padding

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Padding

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Pockets

Pottery Barn Fairfax Pre-K Toddler Backpack Pockets

What I like about them:

  • They have their names on them (see above).  Some people don’t like to have kids’ names on their backpacks and things for safety reasons and, as much as it may seem like I don’t care about my kids, I’m not worried about this for my toddlers.  They’re not going to go with a stranger just because someone knows their name…. The older kids might, but not toddlers who cower behind us even when we see a family member we’ve not seen in a few weeks.  Plus, we find thta people appreciate their labeled backpacks even more when your littles are twins since, despite ours being opposites in almost every way possible, they still get mixed up.
  • Ours are color coded- Kate is pink and Clara is purple (just like the most of their color coded stuff from our Phibian shoes to stuffed animals and doll clothes).
  • The stripes are nice vs. another pattern because there’s no battle over whether Clara has a unicorn and Kate has a rainbow…or whatever their flavor of the moment is.  Plus, stripes are classic.  I feel like this is a huge benefit over the super-cute but not so classic choices in the Mackenzie lineup, also from Pottery Barn.
  • They’ve held up great- despite being thrown down, stepped on, over-loaded, spilled on, and dragged around quite frequently.  And they still look good- even if they could use a good scrubbing.  Judge me if you like but I’m lucky if my kids are all clean, let alone their backpacks spotless.  The straps are very important because cheaper bags will wear out faster, especially with a lot of wear, on and off, that toddlers will inevitably do.
  • They’re the perfect size for toddlers- our girls just turned two when they got theirs and I’m guessing we won’t need to upgrade for a long time.  Ours are constantly holding a half-pack of wipes, 3-4 pull-ups or diapers, a change of clothes, a toy, a squeezy, and a granola bar with a sippy cup in the side pocket.  These have virtually eliminated the need for us to carry a diaper bag with two times everything.

Fairfax Dimensions

  • They’re water-resistant (and juice and milk).  This is also super-important since spills abound in our household (and in my car).
  • They have adjustable straps, which is great as they grow.
  • They have a front pocket for small things (our girls like to put flash cards, dinos, and/or little ponies in them).  These have a place for crayons, which would require us to keep up with them and you must know that doesn’t happen around here by now.
  • They have well-padded shoulder straps and back padding- cheaper toddler backpacks often skimp on this feature.  See above picture.  This only matters if you plan on your little one carrying these for more than a few minutes.  Ours have carried theirs for up to an hour at a time and I attribute that to them being comfortable.  The more they carry, the less you have to.
  • You can get other items that match- lunchboxes and water bottle for those of you who are matchy-matchy like I tend to be.  Our littles weren’t in need of a lunch box but when we’re ready to move up to the next size, we may get matching lunch-boxes but probably not water bottles since those seem to disappear from their special pockets. I sure don’t want a fancy, personalized water bottle to be left somewhere other than the handy pocket they’re perfectly sized for.
  • They have reflective piping on them.  You can sort of tell from the first photo above.  As a safety-nerd, I love this for those moments when one or two of my munchkins escapes into the dark….not that we ever have to deal with that…..
  • They’re very reasonably priced- especially right now as they gear up for back-to-school.  $19 for the backpack and $9.50 for the personalization.  While that may seem like a lot to some for a toddler’s backpack, consider how much they’ll carry them if you use them instead of a diaper bag like we do with ours.  Unless something changes, we figure they’ll use these until they go to Kindergarten, which is at least another two years.  That comes out to be less than a penny a day….

Fairfax Backpack checkout

What I would improve (but not deal-breakers):

  • They could use a slightly larger side pocket.  It’s rather tight getting a sippy cup in there, mostly in terms of it being “tall enough”.  In other words- it always looks like at any moment the sippy cup or water bottle may squeeze out.  You can see this from the picture above.  (Side note- the Mackenzie version looks like it might be slightly bigger.  If your little one has that version- see below- please comment and share)  In looking at the description, I don’t think the Fairfax is designed to hold a water bottle or sippy cup.  However, it works- just not as well as one would hope.
  • I wish it was machine washable.  I’m willing to guess that it might hold up to the washer but we’ve not parted with ours long enough to try (although you can clearly see they could use it).  If you’ve tried washing yours, please, please share your experience.  Again, this is wishful thinking as most backpacks are probably not going to claim to be washable- although I washed my good ol’ Jansport growing up multiple times before finally getting rid of it.  See my review of the Jansport backpacks, which my bigs will be carrying again this school year and I will soon be throwing in the wash.
  • I wish they’d put exterior connectors/metal loops onto the outside (like the small Fairfax backpacks have) or the actual straps that the Mackenzie version has.  We could use these to potentially on an extra baby doll or maybe a small blanket, although they’re actually designed to connect to their lunch box.  You could also use these with a carabiner to attach to your backpack or luggage fairly easily.

Overall, I just can’t say enough good things about these backpacks.  They really are a perfect gift for a toddler or pre-k student- one they’ll love AND their parents’ will love too since it won’t be another toy that takes up real estate.  So, thanks Mama!

Or if you’re getting ready to send your little one(s) to pre-k or you’re just flat tired of carrying all of their stuff for them, this is a great option, as are all of the Pottery Barn backpacks.  Plus, at the time of this post, they’re all on sale thanks to back-to-school season (even though its still July)…

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

Oh, and FYI- no one paid me or asked me to write this or gave me anything to try… although Pottery Barn, if you’re reading this, I’d be happy to take a few samples for my litter of littles.  Bahaha!

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Photo Friday: Independence Day 2018

We celebrated Independence Day this year with a shrimp boil at Aunt Haley’s House with the Graves family, minus Will and Anna, who were at Joe Daddy’s house for the holiday.

Aunt Haley had a sprinkler going, fully loaded bubble guns, and poppers (since we’re in a burn ban, plus two year olds and real fireworks aren’t always the greatest combo).

The girls sported their red, white, and blue outfits. Frugality tip: wait until a few days before the holiday and resale stores usually run great sales. We got these shirts for $1 each. New stores often do the same thing. My friend, Paige, scored adorable ones for $3.99 from either Gymboree or the Children’s Place (I can’t remember). Plus, unlike some of the other holidays, these are easier to wear throughout the year.

I love buying clothes from the resale store. It’s almost always in great shape and it makes me feel very “green.” You know, like I’m saving the world, one preowned outfit at a time?!? The downside to buying clothes at a resale shop is if you want your multiples or even singles to match, it’s not always easy. Every once in a while I’ll find two of something in the right sizes and I snatch them up. Even though I’m a “matchy-matchy mom,” I’m ok with them just coordinating to save a few bucks. Oh, the sacrifices I make to save money…

Or, if you really want to save money, just put your kid in clothes they already have. That works pretty well too and is obviously a lot easier!

Enough of the frugality tips…..

As you’ll see below, we had a fantastic, fun time on the 4th. So fun, in fact, we didn’t even stay awake long enough that evening to see any fireworks. Yet, even without the fireworks, it was still a wonderful day. I hope everyone had a great holiday as well!

Mommy Review Monday: Care.com for Finding Childcare

I have excellent babysitters/nannies that help us out.  And, with four kids and both of us traveling for work, boy, do we need it?!?  When I tell people that we have great sitters they typically ask me how I found them.  It’s hard to find good help from word-of-mouth.  If you hear about someone who’s great, guess what?  They’re already busy helping someone else.   Or they’re busy with school or extracurricular activities.

Moms and Dads, the struggle is real….

So here’s how we found our awesome helpers:  We have used Care.com twice now to find regular babysitters/nannies for our litter.  And we’ve been pleased with the result both times- in fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve had our first babysitter that we found there for over two years now.  Time flies when you have good help I guess!

We recently found another babysitter- only because our regulars are getting busier as they “grow up” (they’re nursing students and school and “real jobs” keep them from helping out as much).  The process was good again.

I’ll admit that I was very leery of using Care.com.  It seemed so unthinkable to find a babysitter online.  I mean, they’re your kids!!!  But, like I said above, the struggle was real.  Really real.  We need the help with our work schedules to maintain sanity in our household.

Here’s what I liked about it:

  • You can post a position with exactly what you’re looking for in a sitter from hours to age to experience, etc.  Do you want them to have reliable transportation?  Great.  Add that to your requirements.
  • You can view their profile- not just their photo but also their experience and information.  I sorted through these carefully.  I don’t care what people look like but it is important to have that so that when you meet them, if you want to meet them in a public place, you’ll know who to be looking for.  You can avoid awkwardly walking up to someone in Starbucks and asking if they are so and so there to interview for a babysitting job.
  • You can ask for certain certifications such as CPR and first aid.  This is important to me if I’m going to leave my kids alone with them.  Our sitters are all nursing students, so we feel very comfortable.
  • There is the ability to read and post reviews about the providers.  This is very helpful in seeing what other families’ experiences were.
  • There’s the ability to message on the system with them without giving them your phone number or address, etc.  (See below for the flip side of this too)
  • If you’re interested in Au Pairs as an option, you can look at different companies and some of the Au Pairs that they offer.  We seriously explored this as an option but since we currently don’t want to pay for that level of care when the girls are still in pre-school, which would be an additional cost.  Oh, and our extra bedroom is currently serving as my office too, so that would be something we’d have to work out.  Maybe someday.
  • There’s a good search feature.  That is an obvious must.  As you are reviewing them you can add them to your favorites so you can easily find them later. See below image for these search filters available.

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  • The app is pretty good as well.  If you’re like me, the time in between errands, work, etc. is not at your computer so being able to quickly look at this on your mobile device is very helpful.  You also have the option to get notifications.  I personally hate phone notifications.  My semi-ADHD personallity gets overwhelmed by them so I’ve got them turned off.  It’s nice to have the options should I ever get in a position where I really, really needed help quickly though.

Additional options that I haven’t used but could also be helpful:

  • If you’re looking for child care centers, you can look at them online- although, there aren’t that many reviews online for that so you’d be better off reviewing them on another search engine than this site.  I also would say that there’s a good chance they don’t have all centers on here since it’s likely the center has to pay them to be hosted.
  • Family childcare (what I always called in-home daycare) is an option you may want to explore.  You can view their information, reviews, and whether they’re certified, etc.
  • If you’re in need of someone with experience with special needs, that is something that you can easily search for.
  • They have a search function for senior/elderly care, which is great if you have a family member you may need assistance with.
  • You can pay your babysitters through them.  We don’t do this but if we were having someone full time this might be something we’d look into, so it could be a good feature if that’s what you’re considering.
  • You can schedule them online.  Again, we don’t do that.  I find that texting our sitters works just fine and I feel like it’s more personal.  It’s always nice to have the option I guess though.
  • Do you need housekeeping or other help around the house?  You can post a job or search for candidates on here.
  • Do you need help with your fur babies?  You can get a dog sitter or walker or even someone to feed your pet lizard on here.  Our cat fends for herself while we’re gone most of the time but we’ll be looking into this if we ever go on an extended vacation.
  • Not sure if you feel confident in their record?  You can do background checks on here as a extra precaution.
  • You could put yourself out there as a caregiver/provider as well.  I’ve not tried it but sometimes I feel like, hey, what’s a few more when you have four???  Just kidding but some extra money might be good.

What I would change:

  • I’d love for it to cost less.  This year the subscription was $168.00 without tax.  I’ll admit that I feel as if I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it just finding our gem of a babysitter and knowing that I can find additional help pretty easily, but still…. that’s a lot.  The only good thing about it is that it automatically renews for me yearly so I don’t really have to think about it too much until I’m up for renewal and it shows up on my statement.  I think there are shorter subscriptions but it’s nice to be able to find help all year long and the yearly subscription is the best rate available.
  • I had a hard time getting our sitter’s contact information outside of the site, which doesn’t allow you to share phone numbers.  You can call them through the site but not text.  Please, please correct me if this is “user error” on my part.  I think this is a safety thing but it did make it harder than I’d like.  I had to get her email to have her send me her phone number so I could text her.  (You know us (barely) millennials and younger- we like to text each other rather than actually talk to someone on the phone)

There you go- Care.com- from a busy working mom.  It’s been good to us.  I’d love to hear your tips on finding good sitters/nannies.  What has worked best for you???

ALSO:  For the record- I am NOT getting paid or any discount from Care.com, although if anyone from there is reading this and wants to give me a discount, I’d take it!!!  

Tips for First Haircuts for Two Year Old Twins

Yesterday Clara and Kate got their first hair cut. As you can see below, their hair is quite different. Clara’s is brown, longer, has a hint of curl, and is a bit thinner. Kate’s is blondish, shorter, straight as a board, and a little thicker.

We needed to clean up Kate’s mullet (for a good laugh listen to The Ballet of Eddie Mullet) and Clara’s stringy-ness. So off to the mall we went since I trust the team at Regis with their hair. I honestly didn’t plan this more than a day out because I knew I’d find an excuse to not do it. Just call me the queen of procrastination.

Garen was out of town so I was going at it alone. Every once in a while I get the urge to do things with them like this by myself just to prove to myself that I’m capable. Sad? Maybe…

But I did get a few tips to share out of the experience for first haircuts with twins at two years old. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Go somewhere they know you. This may sound trivial but the whole team at Regis knows me and my family, so they welcomed them in, which made the girls feel special. It did cost more than I typically would want to spend on a kids haircut but it’s better than having a freaked out kiddo.
  • See if they’ll give you a free chair for one of the girls to sit in and watch close by while the other gets her hair done.
  • Let them observe someone else getting their hair cut first so they can know what to expect.
  • Get them excited about it before you go.
  • Take toys like a drawing pad and little stuffed animals. We let the girls take their backpacks that have a couple of diapers and wipes each, small Sesame Street characters, and a chalkboard set from Aunt Haley, plus a snack catcher of Cheerios. Of that, I’d reconsider the Cheerios, which ended up going everywhere at some point. I’d probably do pretzels or veggie sticks.
  • Let them hold a comb or spray water bottle. This worked well to keep them occupied during the actual haircuts.
  • When the hairdresser needs them to look down to get the back of their hair, tell them to look at their belly button.
  • Make sure they’re high enough to see the mirror. They like to watch themselves.
  • Decide ahead of time if you want to keep a lock of their hair or not. If so, bring something to keep them in separately and label them ahead of time to make it easy.
  • I’ve seen a lot of friends who hold their kids if they’re too scared. This could be an option to consider the first time, although it does make it more difficult for the hairdresser.

My girls did great. It was actually way easier than I anticipated. Here’s a few photos from the experience. So serious always!Clara enjoyed lounging around until her turn!Kate enjoyed snacking too. This is the best we could do to get them both to look at the camera. Imagine that. You can see that now Kate has a bob instead of a mullet and Clara has bangs.

If you’re planning your kids’ or kiddos’ first haircuts, the above tips will likely help.

What other tips do you have? I can always use them for the next round!

Twin Tips: What to Ask/Say to a Mother Expecting Twins

I’ve read lots of blogs and articles on what NOT to ask and/or say to a mom expecting twins but I’m pretty sure that people just ask or say whatever they can to keep conversation going. 

There’s a good chance that all people ever know to talk to them about is:

  • their cousin’s friend’s sister’s twins (or some similar situation)
  • whether twins run in the family 
  • my favorite inappropriate question- were you using fertility drugs?- or something similarly intrusive 
  • and my favorite offensive question, asked mostly by men trying to make a joke- are you sure there’s only two in there?

Obviously, this not an all-inclusive list of things twin mommies-to-be are asked but you get the idea. 

So here’s some ideas for the next time you talk to your future twin mommy:

  1. How are you feeling? (Do NOT say it in a sympathetic tone or make a face that makes them think they look miserable)
  2. How is (insert other child/children’s name(s) here)?
  3. Is (insert other child/children’s name(s) here) excited to be a big brother/sister?
  4. Do you have the nursery ready? (Unless you know that may be a sensitive topic)
  5. What is your favorite thing you’ve bought for the babies so far?
  6. Can I get you something to drink?
  7. Can I get you a seat? Or offer a seat. 
  8. Tell her she looks nice. (Only if you can tell she feels like she looks nice. If unsure, just stay away from that.)
  9. Ask anything non-baby related, such as: work (unless it’s to ask if she’s going back to work after the baby), family, friends, the latest tv show or movie. 

    I’m just throwing some extra ideas out there for folks who know someone who is expecting two (or even more). 

    I know that before I got pregnant with two I probably asked my friends with twins a million questions that they’d been asked over and over again. Sorry for that, ladies!

    People are curious. It’s natural. And if you’re the one being asked, the feeling is a cross between annoying and hilarious because it’s so predictable. But now, my friends, you are prepared to ask the questions that everyone forgets to ask. Go forth and be supportive to the twin mommy-to-be in your life. 

    What other topics of discussion do you have?

    Find out more about how I survived my twin pregnancy: 8 Things that Helped Me Survive a Twin Pregnancy. 

    Mommy Review Monday- I mean Tuesday: Sam’s Club Diapers

    So first of all- sorry for not posting for a LONG time.  Busy times around our house these days!

    Every Monday seems to come and go without me posting.  But today, as we opened ANOTHER box of diapers, I thought- I wonder how much I’ve spent on diapers???

    And, you know what???

    I have NO IDEA!  That’s right.  You know why???

    1.  I don’t have time to keep up with.
    2. Why keep up with it when you have no other choice other than “letting them go” (and not in the Frozen kinda way) wherever they want until I feel ready to potty train?!?

    So, with that said, the last round of diapers we bought were the Sam’s Club brand- Members Mark I think.  Here’s my review of them and it will be pretty short because it’s 11:57 and if I want this to still be Mommy Review Monday rather than Tuesday, I better get after it….

    Advantages:

    • Price- about $3 cheaper a case than Pampers, which is what we used before….
    • Quality- not very many blow-outs or leaks besides when we’ve had major loads, which, at that point, it wouldn’t matter the brand…
    • Convenience- Sam’s club will ship to your house for free but we typically buy when we go to the store.  In bulk- like 3-4 cases at a time….

    Disadvantages:

    • Cuteness- not as cute as others.  I really do NOT care about this.  To me, a diaper, is a diaper, is a diaper.  To each their own though…
    • Coupons- not really one that applies to me.  I don’t coupon but, if you did, I don’t think you will ever find coupons for these.

    Main point:  If you have to buy as many diapers as I do- think twins- then these just might be a good way to save a little money and still maintain good quality.

    Well, shoot!  I got distracted and now it’s 12:11 AM.  Officially Mommy Review Tuesday now.  Don’t judge.  Better late than never.

    Twin Tips: Surviving Sickness with Twins plus Two

    My heart breaks when my babies are hurting. It’s got to be the worst feeling ever to see them in pain. Last Sunday, Kate had a virus and then Clara got it a few days later, despite our attempts to sanitize and separate. You can see we were both worn out (even though I kind of look upset.)

    Having sick babies is hard work. Thought I’d share a few tips that help us get through it:

    • Separate sick kids from healthy kids as much as you can. I realize this is sometimes easier said than done and it seems to not have worked this time for us but it has in the past. 
    • Sanitize. Sanitize your hands. Sanitize everything you or your sick one has touched. We use a lot of Lysol and Clorox wipes because they’re convenient. 
    • This round of sickness was the vomitting kind. Always a favorite. Obviously babies can’t tell you when they’re going to puke so mine just cry, cough, and then puke on whatever they’ve got in front of them. In my case, it seems to happen when they’re asleep on my chest. It gets on everything this way. What I found to be best is to strip them to their diaper, wrap them in a cuddly blanket rather than PJs and then put either a burp rag, soft towel or something on you to catch anything. Mind you, I learned this after multiple wardrobe changes. 
    • I like to hold and cuddle my sick babies. I think it makes me feel better knowing they’re feeling my love. Everyone is different and this isn’t always possible for me with four kiddos to tend to but it is nice when it can. 
    • Make sure they’re getting enough fluids. You should be able to tell by how much they’re drinking and if they’re still having wet diapers. If in doubt, talk to your pediatrician. You do not want a dehydrated baby. 
    • When you have a sick one, make things as easy as possible around the house for you. This may mean letting your older kids watch a movie, getting take-out, or eating on paper plates. 
    • Always keep Infant Tylenol and/or Advil on hand in case they have fever. The last thing you want to do is have to go to the pharmacy. Also, make sure you know how much your baby weighs so you can quickly measure the correct dosage. 
    • Take care of yourself too. Especially if you’re still nursing. I’m terrible about eating and drinking enough when I’m busy tending to sick babies. The better health you’re in, the less likely you’ll catch it too. It’s terrible when mommy or daddy get sick!
    • If you feel uncomfortable about your kids’ sickness, don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician. Always trust your “mommy (or daddy) gut.”

    There you go- tips from a mom of four, including twin babies. What other tips do you have for surviving sicknesses?