I (heart) Consumer Reports

I have a wild love affair with Consumer Reports. In case you’ve been living under a rock you’re whole life, they’re the agency that takes zero dollars from companies and tests everything out on the planet to give a completely unbiased review of the crap we all buy.

In my world of safety and cheapness, it’s been a necessity. Even long before kids, my mentality has always been: if someone else took the time to do all the research and give me quantifiable results, why wouldn’t I use that to judge what I should buy? Hell, I bought my Rav4 primarily because it was the #1 and #2 spot on their list of top-rated small SUVs.

I also used it when I needed to look at cribs, car seats, strollers, washing machines, you name it.

It is my bible.

Now that it’s 2014 and my daughter is becoming too heavy for her Chicco Keyfit 30 (not because she’s 30 pounds but because her weight combined with the weight of the carseat is too much for my puny arms), I renewed my monthly subscription ($6 a month, cancel anytime! Worth it for the price of safety!) to look at the latest in carseats.

My strategy: give her Dean’s current carseat in my car, get Dean the best toddler all-in-one carseat/booster combo. These are carseats that eventually convert to an old skool booster seat when he gets older.

In my husband’s car, which already has an all-in-one booster seat for Dean, I’ll get the Consumer Reports Best Buy carseat for Dahlia (aka, not neccessarily the highest scoring but the best score per price).

Apparently nothing has changed since last year’s review, the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 is still their #1 choice. I’m not a fan of the buckling mechanism but safety trumps my stupidity.

For my husband’s car, it’s either the Cosco Scenera (up to 40lbs) or the Evenflo Sure Ride (over 40lbs limit).

Since I have the Consumer Reports account, I like to peruse other products to see what they think.

For vacuums, it pleases me that the Hoover WindTunnel T-Series Rewind Bagless at $130 gets better ratings and is recommended over the Dyson Animal, which is effing $600. (Great advertising for Dyson makes it seem like a top of the line product, but they never get good ratings.)

Interestingly, the best top-loading washing machine (Whirlpool, $580) only gets a score of 56 whereas the best front-loading washing machine (LG, $1450) has a score of 83. I’m not a fan of front-loading machines but dang, those numbers can convince me otherwise.

For cookware, Swiss Diamond’s set has the best ratings but is $600. In second place, and a Best Buy, is Calphalon for only $200.

For small SUVs, my Rav4 (well, the current model of it) dropped in ratings whereas the Suburu Forester takes the top spot.

I get to enjoy being smug by noting that my Samsung Galaxy S5 rated higher than the iPhone 6, even though the latter is a newer phone.

The best scoring toilet paper is 25 cents per unit from Walmart called White Cloud, with Charmin in 2nd place (at 41 cents per unit).

The best scoring paint (satin) is Behr Premium Plus Ultra Satin Enamel (Home Depot), which beat out Benjamin Moore’s Aura, at double the price.

I could go on and on, this stuff is so crazy interesting to me.

A final one, for any parents who are exhausted and need caffeine: the best coffeemaker that uses a pod is the DeLonghi Nescafé Dolce Gusto Genio.

Guilt…

It’s one thing when I feel mom guilt over not attending school functions because of work.

It’s another when I completely missed my son’s IEP meeting, which is a herculean effort by the school to get teachers and therapists all together in a single room to discuss my son’s status.

I missed it for no good reason (I simply didn’t put the appointment on the calendar).

Epic, epic parenting fail.

Sigh.

Fish puree recipe: Salmon Surprise (yeah, surprise it’s not gross like regular fish)

I ain't eatin' that dude.

I ain’t eatin’ that dude.

I hate fish.

Loathe fish.

Fish is the nastiest ‘ish on the planet.

Exceptions given to a McDonald’s Filet O Fish (which I haven’t eaten in…years) and tuna fish sandwiches made from a can and heavily doused in mayo, salt, and pepper.

My dad pre-retirement worked for the Canadian Coast Guard and brought home fish by the garbage bag-full. It’s all my mom would then cook for months on end.

Even without that, I don’t see how people can go near the stuff. Anytime someone has said “no really, try it, it’s not fishy I promise!”, they were liars. Liars with crappy taste buds. This also includes weird shrimp items that hang off of martini glasses to dip in what I can only guess is either marinara sauce or blood.

So you get the point: fish sucks balls. But it’s healthy and important for kids. It’s hard for me to cook, because I can’t determine if it taste good or is even cooked. That would be like having a vegan cook your thanksgiving turkey: not something you want to risk.

I have an Annabel Karmel baby cookbook and it’s got an awesome Salmon Surprise Puree recipe. It’s incredibly easy to make for non-fish people like myself and both my kids actually ate it (yes, Dean actually ate it when he was a wee baby, before he formed opinions). Best of all it doesn’t overly smell or taste like fish. I still won’t eat it, but I won’t gag when I have to touch my tongue to the spoon to see if it’s too hot or not.

You can use the link above, here’s the recipe below with my changes now that I’ve made it a few times.

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced (I just use a bag of frozen, steam in the bag carrots from Target)
  • 125g salmon fillet, skinned (I bought a huge bulk bag of individually-wrapped salmon from Costco, I use 2 per recipe)
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 40g grated Cheddar cheese (I just dump in a crap ton when I’m done by the handfuls, maybe 1 cup or so)
  • 15g unsalted butter (eyeball this…like 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  1. Put the carrots into a saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and cook over a medium heat for about 20 minutes until tender. Alternatively, place the vegetables in a steamer and cook for 20 minutes. Or my way: pop in the microwave per the bag’s instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, place the salmon in a suitable dish, pour over the orange juice and scatter over the cheese. Cover, leaving an air vent and microwave on high for about 2 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork . Alternatively, cover with foil and cook in a 180°C/ 350°F/Gas 4 pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes. Skip the cheese for this part! Trust me!!!
  3. Flake the fish with a fork, carefully removing any bones. Drain the carrots, mix with the butter and milk and puree in a blender together with the flaked fish and its sauce. For older babies, mash the carrots together with the butter and the milk and then mix the flaked fish with the mashed carrots. Add the cheese when you’re done pureeing…cheese is a bitch to clean off a food processor later!

Raising a “typical” child: a comparison

I get asked a lot about what it’s like to raise a “normal” or “typical” child after having had a child with developmental delays. In a nutshell: vastly different. I try to keep the differences in perspective about personality types since it seems that Baby #2 is always opposite than Baby #1, regardless of medical conditions.

For example, my daughter was much more fussy the first 6 months of her life. She’s much more good-natured and happy, but she was fussy. She wouldn’t take a pacifier, so she wanted a boob in her mouth ALL. THE. TIME. My son on the other hand took a pacifier, so it was pretty easy to just hang out and play with him. Plus he didn’t need a boob to fall back asleep. All I needed to do was toss a dozen pacifiers in his crib at night and he’d figure out how to self-soothe.

Other areas though…so very different.

Mobility

Dean didn’t roll over until  he was 13 months, crawled at 14 months, walked at 18 months. Dahlia started crawling around 9 months and now, at 11 months, can pull herself up to stand and cruise a little when holding on. The other day I saw her squat down to grab something and got back up, easily. Blew my mind.

Because he wasn’t mobile, Dean was fine just being an observer. He still is to this day. At this age I could easily give him a book and he would stare at it for half an hour without needing any interaction from me. It made it impossible to teach him to crawl…if I put him on his belly and put something out of his reach, he’d say “f*ck that” and just start poking at the carpet. Dahlia on the other hand is very Speedy Gonzales, she whips from one toy to another so having multiple toys far away was a huge motivator for her.

It did make things easier with Dean, because I didn’t need to baby-proof. By the time he was mobile, he understood the concept of “no” and I put the fear of God into him about going into the kitchen or bathroom on his own. With Dahlia, she’ll crawl straight into the kitty litter box and she’s pulled herself up to stand at the toilet (which isn’t ultra-clean in the front, since Dean pees standing up and it dribbles at the end). My living room has a massive baby fence dubbed DahliaLand in order to keep her contained when necessary.

Eating

I hadn’t noticed when Dean was 11 months that there was a problem with his eating. It became evident at 1 year, when he was presented with a smash cake and he cried hysterically while I hovered near, eagerly awaiting his frosting-covered face for photos. I didn’t get his fear of textures, low tone in his mouth that made chewing hard, his inability to have proper “tongue lateralization” (aka, move your tongue properly to get food smushed up).

Now when I see Dahlia eating, I realize what it should have looked like. Dean would throw up if we gave textures too chunky,  he ate purees until he was almost 2. On the other hand, Dahlia is a champ when it comes to trying thicker textures or chewing on my pizza crust (something I never would have done with Baby #1 anyway but meh…). Other than a massive aversion to broccoli, she’ll eat anything. I honestly never cared for the act of eating as a big production but after Dean and all his issues, I’m excited to have a child that maybe I can take out for Mommy and Me lunches, places that serve things other than chicken nuggets. Or at least, that I can order off the kids menu and she won’t freak out because the Mac ‘n Cheese doesn’t look like the boxed Kraft crap.

I’m much more adventurous with the stuff I make for her too, with Dean things stayed relatively bland. With her she gets herbs, onions, cheese, stuff like that in her purees. Other than a willingness to eat samosa filling (which is crazy spicy), Dean just never cared for things that were too flavorful. Or maybe a lot of that is on me, I followed baby puree books to a T and never branched out. Now i make sure to dump a ton of pepper at the very least into anything I make.

This week Dahlia has also taken an interest to feeding herself with a spoon. She’s 11 months. Dean only started using a spoon to feed himself yogurt (has to be the blue Dora the Explorer kind only) this past summer, when he was 4 years old. Partially because spoons are used for wet substances which he hates, but also because his hand motor control is pretty crummy. The kid can barely draw a visible line with a crayon, his hands are so weak.

Playing

Dean, by nature, prefers to watch and see how things work and what’s going on. So while that meant he could easily sit for hours while I read him books or while he started at one single block, it also meant that he didn’t interact much with his toys. He took things and threw them.  That’s it.

Dahlia on the other hand wants to figure things out, which she does pretty well on her own since she’s ignored while I tend to Dean and his meltdown du jour. I have a baby basketball playset that took Dean forever to figure out how to put the ball in the hoop. I remember Dean did it by accident after the age of 1 and I got SO excited, but it was a fluke. He didn’t grasp the idea of putting a toy in something else to make something happen until he had started therapy, after 15-18 months old. Dahlia figured all his toys by the time she was 9 months old.

When we first got a full assessment for Dean in January 2012, I remember the very first activity was to put some pegs in a pegboard. He was 15 months old. I knew exactly what he would do, which he proceeded to do for the rest of the assessment: he took it, threw it, then yelled. I was shocked to discover that at 15 months, a baby should be able to figure that out. I’m definitely going to test Dahlia on that one when she’s that age.

Books

I do have to mention that reading to Dean has always been easy. Partially from his temperament of being an observer. Dahlia just wants to chew on books. I keep thinking that Dean is book smart whereas she’s street smart. I’ve always been adamant about nighttime story time but it’s quite hard since Dahlia doesn’t care for books. I used to just nurse her while I read to Dean, now we bring his books into her room, I close the door, and let her roam around while I read to him. Sometimes I can get her to sit on my lap for a little bit but i’m hoping that at least hearing the words and the cadence of reading will be better than nothing.

Other Observations

There’s so many things that I wouldn’t even have noticed as a milestone if I didn’t have a million checklists for Dean. For example, pointing is a milestone. That’s just something that’s innate to us humans I guess. So even if you live in a mudhut in Africa, a baby can still point to an elephant running from poachers. Dean didn’t point until he learned to walk (18 months), then for another year he only pointed with his middle finger. He couldn’t get his adorable little brain to function with his hands, no matter how hard he tried, to ball his hands and raise only his index finger. We kept repeating “use your Number One finger!”. I think he mastered it shortly before the age of 3.

Dahlia, age 11.25 months, mastered it this week. I actually got her to sit on my lap for story time and she was genuine efforts to point out things on each page. I was floored. It was subtle, definitely not something I would noticed if she were a First Child.

I also feel like Dean was more fragile than she was. I’ve mentioned in the past how we had a SIDS scare when he was around 3 months old. Back then I bought the Snuza Halo movement monitor because he seemed so dainty. Obviously I’m so glad that my paranoia was worth it. Dahlia on the other hand, while being equally small in size, just seemed…stronger. Since she rolled over and sat up on her own quicker, I had to take the Snuza off her sooner. I had no fears when I co-napped (aka co-sleeping during the day) with her when she was little. When she falls, she might cry for a second, but overall she’s just a happy kid who can fall and get right back up. Dean has always been the type to give up after failing once, which is why we hover so much…many a day at the playground has been cut short because he slipped (which is easy for him with low tone) and couldn’t recover from his subsequent meltdown.

 

I could probably prattle on and on about this topic but this is just a general list of things that spring to mind when people ask me. Overall I’m much more protective of Dean. I view Dahlia like a bodyguard-in-training for him. I don’t know if he’ll have any more limitations as an adult (hopefully none) but if so, I need her to step up and lay the smackdown if anyone tries to mess with him.

Clothes, post-children

I have a huge post I keep meaning to write about clothes, body after baby, blah blah.

But I’m tired and lazy. so I’ll just say how badly I’m coveting this trench from Bebe. Would help if I didn’t live in Orange County, where we’re in a perpetual heat wave. Right now it’s 87 degrees outside…and it’s November.

Gorgeousness.

Gorgeousness.

Perfection.

Perfection.