Review: Bottles, sippy cups, and other beverage containers

Since the title of this blog is “BottleTales” (because “AdventuresInRaisingAChildWhenIHaveNoIdeaWTFImDoing.com seemed too long), and now that I’ve got the experience of two kids under my belt, I figure a good ol’ simple review of the bottles and cups I’ve used in the past 4 years are in order.

I did a post years ago on bottles, but here’s my updated thoughts to include sippy cups.

Playtex Drop In Bottles

Hands-down, the best. Definitely not the cheapest option, but if you’re a pumping working mom, you ain’t got time to wash a sh*t ton of bottle parts. The bottles now are much more fancy-pants than when I started with Dean, but the gist is the same: a nipple, a ring, an empty tube that you stuff what looks like a condom into. When you’re done, you just toss the liner and wash the nipple. Target sells their own brand of bottle liners, around $8 for 100. Worth every penny. These are also great when flying all day when you’re not in a position to wash bottles. I used to carry a ziplock full of liners and another ziplock with a few nipples. When you get to your destination you also won’t need a bottle brush to clean your bottles.

Avent Classic Bottles

When I had Dean, I wasn’t a fan of these bottles. But then I scored a bunch of them at some giveaway and they have improved on them considerably, mostly by the introduction of a ring that helps reduce leaks. While I’m not a fan of washing additional parts (as noted in my above laziness with the Playtex bottles), these have been a handy staple for my diaper bag. I haven’t needed a sealing disk to stop them from leaking, which is factor #1 when carrying bottles in a diaper bag.

Contigo Strike

Absolutely fantastic for preschoolers, this was recommended to me by Dean’s teacher. She said it was her favorite, hands-down, because of it’s lack of leaking. The downsides: a ton of parts to wash, a bit big (lunch boxes aren’t exactly spacious), and it’s difficult for Dean to close with his weak hand muscles. This thing is a tank though and perfect if you need something that won’t leak.

Thermos FOOGO Straw Bottles

This is my 2nd-favorite bottle for preschool lunches. It takes a bit to figure out how to close it without causing the straw to tilt (causing leaks), I do sometimes open up Dean’s lunchbox to find liquid everywhere on occasion. It’s great for diaper bags though (i.e. when you’re there to make sure it’s being closed properly). It’s also really easy for Dean to open/close with his hand strength. I think it’s Dahlia’s favorite cup  now too.

Born Free Straw Cup

Love, love, love this cup. It’s my go-to for my diaper bag when we go out for the day. It’s too big for preschool lunch boxes but because it can hold so much liquid (and it’s not very heavy), it’s perfect for the side pocket of my bag. It rarely, if ever, leaks.

Gerber Graduates Cup

When we slowly transitioned Dean away from the traditional sippy cup (it was really impacting his tongue movement and speech), we used this as an alternative. It doesn’t leak since it has a valve but it wasn’t a perfect solution for his lunch boxes…sometimes the valve wasn’t in tight enough, fall out, then leak everywhere. I do think it’s a great cup to have around the house or for your diaper bag, but not for preschool lunches.

Munchkin Flip Top Whatever It’s Called Straw Cup

I f*cking hate this cup. It’s easy to clean, but the straw is impossible to suck anything out of. I get that all these cups have valves and things to avoid leaking but you might as well give a stick to your child and tell them to suck milk out of it. I ended up having to shove a thin knife in it to try and open it but it’s still a total pain in my ass. I only paid two bucks for it, but it was two bucks I could have spent on lip balm instead.

 

On another note, cleaning straws is a total bitch. It doesn’t take much for milk to solidify into nasty chunks. My husband was using pipe cleaners to try and get the gunk out, but I figured out another solution: keep a container of soapy water next to the sink and dump the straws/valves in there when done. That way they don’t have a chance to get nasty and washing them just involves pouring some detergent through the straw and rinsing with hot water. Alternatively we’ll just store the cups in the fridge at the end of the day until it’s time to wash them.

Daily grind, eating, and too lazy to post

Part of the reason that I blog (especially in my former non-child blog about rants and complaints, which I’m an expert at) is because my job is pretty dry, so I just need a spot where I can babble like an incoherent teenager. In my head I have so many blog posts to write, but then when I get a chance to write them I’m so exhausted, my brain thinks “ahhh f*ck it…who cares”.

Dahlia turned 1 and I’m honestly in shock and awe over a typical child’s development. Like pointing. She points at everything and says “this?” because she wants to know the name. At this age I can easily compare to Dean, because this is around the time we started to look into getting him tested. The fact she’s trying to communicate with us is huge. But the pointing thing is what kills me. You may not know this, but there’s a lot that goes into getting your brain to send a message to your index finger to point. Dean was quite delayed in doing this and to this day, he still struggles to use his index finger. Clearly it’s innate to point to things (I suppose in every culture we need to be able to point to threats when we can’t vocalize them), but Dean can’t fully communicate with the appropriate finger and when I correct him (“Use your number one finger!”), it takes him a bit of work to get the right finger to stick up. For the longest time we had to manually fix it ourselves to teach him, causing him to cry because he couldn’t do it himself.

Eating is another area that blows me away. I can see in Dahlia’s eating pattern what a typical kid should be doing. I can sometimes convince Dean to eat meatloaf muffins (just high fat beef, stove top, and extra sage in a muffin tin) so I broke off some pieces and gave some to Dahlia. While it took Dean an hour to listen to me nag “Dean, take a bite” combined with his incredibly long chewing process (using a fork to grab the already-broken-up pieces), Dahlia grabbed an entire meatloaf and inhaled it on her own. The exterior was quite tough because i had cooked it too long and it caramelized but she ate it up no problem. I was floored. I can’t even tell you the words to see my 1 year old eat faster and better than my 4 year old.

I’m doing all I can to instill good food habits in her. She’s also keen on feeding herself, something Dean never did. He was on purees for so long but he never cared to have his own spoon. Dahlia practically fed herself spaghetti all on her own the other day. It’s incredibly messy which kills me, because I know that I can’t constantly wipe her off (wiping a kid’s face frequently is another thing that can lead to oral sensitivities) but it’s worth it to have my kitchen and my kid be filthy if I don’t have to keep repeating for years on end “Kid, take a bite”.

I never understood before how people could end up with gooey, dirty baby toys. Now I get it…when your baby actually eats, it’s hard to get every food bit out of their hands. Dean rarely ever picks food up with his hands and the things he does are dry, so his toys are pristine. Dahlia’s toys are already pretty gross, combined with my lack of time to wipe them down weekly like I used to do with Dean’s toys.

But at the end of the day, I’m happy to at least have one kid who will eat. It’s a little sad though, because I see the anxiety Dean has with food. He switched programs in school to a “less restricted environment” (meaning more typical kid and less special ed), so the teachers aren’t on him to eat during the brief half hour they have for lunch. He’s already lost a pound and a half in a month. So we’re even more stressed about getting calories in him when possible, even if that means he continues to get special meals at home that he’ll eat. One weekend he got his usual Peanut Butter Captain Crunch (he won’t go near the regular one, or any other peanut butter cereal) while we begged him to eat a few small pre-made pancakes. For my husband, Dahlia, and myself I just made eggs.

It took all my energy to not start crying in the kitchen that morning, because it was so easy when I was just cooking on meal. Not that Dahlia didn’t take a bit of  coercing, but she did eventually eat it all up. I can’t explain the feeling. It was like “wait…wait…is this what it’s like? Is this what it’s supposed to be like?”.

I understand that all kids have some level of pickiness and Dahlia will eventually get stubborn, but with her I’m confident in saying that I could let her to go to bed hungry if she’s being too picky. We’ve learned the hard way that Dean will indeed starve himself for days on end.

Now that I don’t have to worry about making baby purees anymore, I’m genuinely excited to start cooking again. I had given up, with my husband and I just scrounging for whatever was in the house so that we could dedicate all of our mealtime to getting Dean to eat. I’m excited to get Dahlia to eat real food, like real actual food and not the same stupid 5 things over and over.

I’ve also decided it’s time to step up my game in trying to expose Dean to more foods again. I’m researching more about strategies for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder and Selective Eating Disorder. At least this way if he doesn’t eat something, I’m not stuck eating it…Dahlia is my new garbage can. And I’m not even kidding…I’ve spent so much money on food that eventually ended up in the trash.

For example, one meal that I can take a good hour to beg Dean to eat are Don Jose frozen chicken taquitos with flour tortillas. Yes, not super healthy, I know. At this point, it’s the equivalent of a kale and quinoa shake in terms of the nutrition in his diet. Time to start food chaining…by trying either Don Jose chicken taquitos with a corn tortilla, a different brand of chicken taquitos in a floor tortilla, or Don Jose steak taquitos in a flour tortilla. I’ve opted for the latter and I’m going to try it tonight, we’ll see how that goes.

I just printed a recipe for Peanut Butter and Jelly Popcorn. Dean already likes popcorn (it’s dry and crunchy), so this might be an easy way to get extra calories in him.

And that’s life at the moment. Thank God for Pinterest, these days I’m all over it so I can start planning my life again. I’m a planner and the past few years have been really stressful not being able to plan anything other than Dean’s therapy schedules. If you’re bored, here are my Pinterest boards with everything from food to decorating to…well that’s pretty much it.

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!