Sippy Cups No More. Bring Forth The Little Bites Silicone Tumblers.

At the time of this writing our little guy is almost 2 and until recently we’ve been giving him his drinks in various sippy cups. Stainless steel pop top bottle for water and a squat sippy cup for his morning shakes. At one point a couple weeks ago I realized we hadn’t even tried him with a traditional cup and so decided to give it a shot. Not a drop spilled. My primary concern was that I could hear is teeth against the side of the test cup.

That afternoon I used my lunch to walk down to a local children’s store and see what they had in the way of cups. After chatting with them I settled on the Kinderville Little Bites Cups which came in a four-pack colored, somewhat squat, soft silicone cups with a fairly heavy base to prevent them from tipping. He loved them and has hardly spilled a drop since starting to use them. I’m now thinking of getting another set to keep at Grandma’s as well. The price seemed a bit high, but I see that they’re currently discounted on Amazon to about 50% of what I paid at the local shop.

I’ve since gone back and picked up a matched set of Kinderville Little Bites Stackable Bowls and we’ve moved entirely from his old, hard plastic plates and bowls to these new ones which do a much better job of preventing spills. Again, these are soft, silicone and have a pretty heavy base which allows them to stick in place on his highchair table and not move around as he attempts to scoop up his food. As with the cups, Amazon seems to be discounting them pretty significantly, at least compared to the price here locally in Canada.

My only issue with the plate set is that the red plate/bowl doesn’t match the red of the cup. The cup is a traditional red while the plate is more of a burnt red shade. The other colours, yellow, green and blue are properly matched between the cup and bowl sets. Not a big deal, but wanted to call that out as I found it odd that they weren’t matched.

Finally, both the cups and the bowls are microwave and dish washer safe. It was suggested to me that I only place them on the top rack however.

Toddler Birthday Grab Bag Irritation

So we have a toddler birthday coming up in a few days and while we’re in pretty good shape at this point I’m trying to steel myself against the irritation that’s starting to creep up on me.

Why?

No good reason probably, but I’ve always thought that the huge theme birthdays or massive bouncy castle rentals are overkill for very young kids. I’d rather put the money towards an education fund or daycare or something than toward trying to out do the last birthday. So far so good. No toddler birthday themes for us this time around. No bouncy castles or ball pits scheduled to arrive hours before. In fact I think we’re doing pretty well.

– Renting a local ‘neighbourhood house’ to host the event. The cost is extremely reasonable and the place is fully equipped with a kitchen for food prep, downstairs full of toys and a gated, fenced yard with climbers, sand box and various other toys.
– Providing food ourselves. From drinks to fruit, to finger foods to cupcakes etc it looks like we’ll be able to do this on our own, though we haven’t settled on the cake.
– Toys and entertainment – see above as the location we’ve rented is stocked with a massive number of toys for boys and girls of various ages.
– Schedule. Keeping it brief. Two hours with an expectation that folks will trickle in and out over time. No expectations.
– Grab bags. Gah! This is where I get irritated.

When I was a kid you could go into a convenience store and they would sell ‘grab bags’ or ‘loot bags’ or whatever you choose to call them. Now I couldn’t even find the bags for sale at the local toy stores. I went into a drug store across the road and they’re charging $4 for the bags alone… EACH! As for the contents, dinosaur or smurf action figures apparently cost $9.99 each!?!? A single Thomas train costs $18.99?!?! A small book of stickers costs $5.99!??! Across 16-20 kids I’m now expecting it to be $100-$150 for grab bags full of crap. Tiny Play-Doh containers, cheap sheets of stickers, tiny containers of bubble soap, rubber bouncy balls etc. Few items that will be used, most will end up polluting landfills.

It would be awesome if someone would revisit the ‘grab bag’ idea and provide recyclable, compostable, safe, useful, enjoyable items at a reasonable price. Even if that last requirement couldn’t be met I’d much rather spend MORE for something that wouldn’t go to waste and not have to hunt and search myself. Colour me lazy. Meh. Irritated by toddler birthday grab bags.

Vacationing With a Toddler – Maui, Hawaii Version. Maui Activities.

See also

Part 1. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Choosing a Location.

Part 2. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Shopping and Restaurants.

Places We Chose to Visit

Beaches and Snorkeling

We tried a number of beaches during our stay from Big Beach to the south to the hotel beaches at Ka’anapali and they were broadly excellent. General comments:
– If you’re taking your cameras make sure you have a sand-proof, water proof bag or container to hold it. When the winds pick up sand gets in EVERYTHING. Additionally, while we didn’t experience it we heard tell of rogue waves rushing up on the beach and surprising people and their belongings. Better safe than sorry.
– Ask around about the trade winds. Maui beaches with low wind are wonderful. Maui beaches when the winds arrive are hard to bear.
– We didn’t bring any children’s toys at the recommendation of friends. We’d recommend you do the same. Save the luggage space as the condo you rent will almost certainly have all the toys you need from prior families.
– Snorkeling gear. We rented our snorkeling gear from Boss Frogs for ~$30.00/week for each of us. Totally worth it so you have gear with you where ever you find yourself. Boss Frogs is located all over the place and you can rent from one location and return to which ever is most convenient at the time (we rented in Ka-anapali and returned in Kihei). My only issue with them is the attempts to upsell on tourist packages when all you want to do is rent a snorkel, mask and fins.

You can search for Maui rentals at VacationHomeRentals.com
Vacation Home Rentals

 

Ka’anapali
Ka’anapali beaches were nice in that they were accessible to people not staying at the various hotels, were very clean and offered easy, pleasant swimming. The one issue we had while visiting was that we arrived at roughly the same time as the trade winds, and with the absence of any kind of wind break we were sand-whipped to the point that we had to leave the beach.

Kamaole Beach I, II and III

Big Beach
We drove south to Big Beach early in our vacation and on one of the hottest days of our stay. I suggest that you arrive early in order to secure a parking spot, and that you bring sandals as you won’t want to walk across the sand or the asphalt later in the day. The heat is remarkable.

The beach itself is long and ‘deep’ with a great deal of space between tide and vegetation. Shortly after we arrived the lifeguards got on the horn and made sure that everyone was aware that a) the waves were up that day and were easily strong enough to knock an adult down, b) there was a strong undertow and c) unless you were very comfortable in such waters you should probably stay out… Their warnings were quickly justified as a group of teens jogged into the surf and were quickly taught a lesson before eventually struggling beyond the break to calmer waters.

Finally, we observed our first ‘rogue wave’ while at Big Beach and several families who were many, many feet from the high water mark found themselves scrambling to grab their belongings when the tide quickly surrounded them and then quickly backed off again.

In short, this is a great beach for time on the sand, but probably not the ideal place for a toddler who enjoys playing in the water.

See also

Part 1. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Choosing a Location.

Part 2. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Shopping and Restaurants.

You can search for Maui rentals at VacationHomeRentals.com
Vacation Home Rentals

 

Vacationing With a Toddler – Maui, Hawaii Version. Shopping & Restaurants.

See also

Part 1. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Choosing a Location.

Part 3. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Maui Activities.

Shopping While in Kihei and Beyond

We did very little actually ‘shopping’ while on this vacation. Shopping in Kihei for us consisted of meals and food shopping to prepare back at Kamaole Sands. That said, here are a few items worth sharing for folks planning on visiting Kihei.

First, food (actually, pretty much everything) is more expensive in Hawaii. We did our food shopping in one of two places during our stay. Foodland, located on South Kihei wasn’t walking distance, but it was an easy drive from our condo. If you shop at Foodland be sure to ‘register’ for discounts. Like Safeway and many other grocers Foodland has a members program that provides discounts off the posted price. Registration is easy as you just give them a phone number which becomes your account ID. On subsequent visits just give them that number and you’ll be provided with the discount. It’ll save you a bunch over the course of a week or two. If you prefer Safeway, its found just a few blocks from Foodland and we found the prices to be a bit better, but not enough to say that one should be chosen over another.

We cooked most of our meals in the condo, which was much easier than restaurants with the little guy. That said, we did visit a number of spots during our stay. Some of them I’ll outline here.

You can search for Maui rentals at VacationHomeRentals.com
Vacation Home Rentals

 

Star Noodle, Lahaina. I can safely say that Star Noodle was the best restaurant we visited while in Maui. I expect the menu changes frequently, but we found the following items particularly tasty. Star Noodle’s take on Pork Buns (almost like a pork wrap with the pork being single large pieces of what I believe was pork belly). Brussels sprouts (halved brussels sprouts seared in what we guessed was bacon fat -yum- and tossed with smokey bacon pieces). Ahi Tuna special (market price) that was easily large enough to feed two people. There were numerous tables with children while we were there, but we went solo that evening so I can’t really comment in detail on how child-friendly the location and service would be. Much of the food would be challenging for a young child.

Paia Fish Market, Paia We stumbled across this place while walking through tiny Paia and enjoyed some excellent fish tacos, quesadilla and salads all at (for Maui) a pretty reasonable price. They had a couple high chairs, but I don’t think there were more than 2 so get there at a low time if you want to ensure appropriate seating. The spot’s noisy and located on a street corner with its large doors open which turned out to be a blessing for us as our little guy will happily watch traffic while we talk.

Sansei Sushi, Kihei Sansei came recommended by some friends and was well-reviewed on Yelp. I would recommend it as an option for dinner as the sushi is pretty good, though no where near the best I’ve had. I’m a sushi purist, so when I see things like panko-breaded ahi tuna rolls I tend to take issue. Note that this was ordered and the first couple pieces were good, but I can’t imagine eating a full roll, same with the broiled scallop nigiri that was recommended by the server. Don’t order this unless you like broiled processed cheese more than you like scallop.

Their sunemono was different from what I’m used to as it didn’t include rice noodles, but had an ample portion of sliced cucumber. Different from the norm, but a pleasant change. I chose octopus, which was fresh, but small-portioned. The unagi roll was delicious and Sansei’s agedashi tofu was nicely prepared with a very light, crispy batter.

Maui Tacos, Kihei
You’ll soon notice that Maui Tacos is EVERYWHERE including walking distance from Kamaole Sands. We tried them on a couple of occasions when we just wanted something quick and easily portable to the beach for example. The food was fine, but nothing to strongly recommend. On one occasion the fish tacos we ordered were way too salty. Would I recommend it? No. Would I warn against it? No. Maui Tacos is convenient and available where and when you need it.

Fred’s Mexican Cafe, Kihei
Casual ‘Mexican’ fare from this restaurant, which is an easy walk from Kamaole Sands. Show up in your bathing suit, eat and cross the street back to the beach. The portions are absolutely enormous, making this an easy way to fill up through the day. Drinks too are sizeable and well-priced and the servers are friendly and fun. Again, not haute cuisine by any stretch, but worth a visit for the large portions and fun atmosphere. There’s also a bar area upstairs that I think serves as a rallying point on the weekends.

Three’s Bar and Grill, Kihei
We stumbled on this place on our own. Three’s Bar is just off South Kihei Road and we weren’t sure what to expect. When we arrived half of the inside space was occupied by a children’s birthday party which had me skeptical at best. Fortunately there was a clear distinction between the different eating areas and we were able to enjoy our lunch with little disruption. The food was excellent and I’d recommend this spot for lunch to anyone visiting the area. The garlic fries in particular are worth a try :)

Mother’s Day Buffet, Sheraton, Ka’anapali
Holy crap was this ever a waste of money. Ka’anapali itself is worth a visit and will take about 45-50 minutes driving from Kihei. The area is where you’ll find the higher-end, name brand hotels (Westin, Sheraton, Four Seasons etc) vs. the condo resorts and independents that comprise Kihei, along with the shopping one comes to expect with these brands and price points. For Mother’s day we made the drive and had reservations at the Sheraton. Now, I don’t expect much from these kinds of buffets, but this one was very disappointing. The price for 3 adults came to roughly $55 per head for a brunch that was notable for nothing in particular. Avoid, your money is better spent elsewhere (unless of course money isn’t a consideration for you and you’re already near, or staying at the Sheraton in which case the only concern will be quality).

See also

Part 1. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Choosing a Location.

Part 3. Vacationing With a Toddler, Maui Version. Maui Activities.

You can search for Maui rentals at VacationHomeRentals.com
Vacation Home Rentals

 

Toddlers and Balance Bikes. Here We Go.

Various balance bikes we considered.
Red Strider ST-2 Balance Bike
Various Strider Balance Bikes
Wooden Balance Bikes

Earlier this year Grandma bought our little one a shiny red balance bike, specifically a Strider ST-2. Note that they’ve since released the Strider ST-3 (don’t ask me how they differ) which appears to be very similar.

Strider balance bikes come in pieces but are very easy to assemble, so don’t let that put you off.

Anyway, this past weekend was the first time taking the bike out to the park and allowing our little guy to give it a shot (he’d tried his new balance bike a couple times in the living room wiht limited success). I was a bit concerned that since he’s not yet 2 years old the bike might be a bit much, but after seeing kids in the neighbourhood who are if not younger, are at least smaller manage them pretty well I figured, why not. Interestingly I’ve seen these referenced as for 5 years and older which strikes me as a bit too conservative.

Initially there were some issues with actually balancing the balance bike. It took a few attempts to successfully catch himself when he leaned to far to one side or the other, but once he got the hang of that it was off to the (slow) races.

I will note that we started with the seat almost as low as is possible (almost touching the back wheel). As such he was walking while straddling the seat rather than sitting and pushing himself so he glides on the Strider. I figure that’s ok as he can first learn how to steer and generally work the bike and then we can raise the seat so he can focus on gliding rather than walking. Time will tell if this works.

There are numerous balance bike brands out there and we opted for the Strider in part for the bright colors as well as the solid metal construction. The various wooden balance bikes certainly have an edge in the style department, but come at a much dearer cost for the solid ones and in some cases looked a bit too fragile.

Finally, helmets. We picked up helmet from day 1 and have established that he won’t be riding the bike unless the helmet is on. The one we chose is the Bell Tater Kids Bike Helmet, specifically the blue dragon version. It’s pretty funny, but he loves the helmet almost more than the bike itself. In fact, he’s taken to asking to wear the helmet when he’s hanging around the house. Last night almost as soon as we started our Skype call with his grandparents he ran to his room, grabbed his new helmet and insisted he be allowed to wear it until the call was over. For those interested we opted against the round ‘bucket-style’ helmets which, while they look cooler lack the ‘overhang’ front and back that I’ve convinced myself will provide more face and head protection should he fall directly forward or back. Does this make sense? Who knows.

Various balance bikes we considered.
Red Strider ST-2 Balance Bike
Various Strider Balance Bikes
Wooden Balance Bikes

Making And Sharing HD Movies To Preserve Your Memories

I just had a look at our “Baby Movies” folder on our backup drive and wow… I had no idea how many photos and videos we’ve been collecting :)

At the 20 month mark we’ve amassed over 30GB of video, of course poorly labelled and categorized (my fault… I’ll get to it eventually). Now I fully anticipated that we’d have video, but 30GB!

We have friends who use their cellphones to take videos of their kids, but of course that leaves them with uncompressed video that’s difficult to post or share. At the recommendation of a friend we’d picked up a Flip Mino video recorder and while I initially had my doubts its proved to be a great purchase for a few different reasons.

Pros:

  • Price. You can pick one of these things up for well under $100. See the cons section for what you’re trading off for this price.
  • Quality. The model we have gives us 720p video, which for the price seems very reasonable.
  • Sharing. Flip provides software that makes downloading and sharing your videos very simple. We’ve created sharing groups and download rules and I think we’d be shot if we stopped sending videos out at this point.

Cons:

  • Support. Flip was acquired by Cisco a while back, but Cisco shuttered this business in 2011. That said the web-based hosting of videos and ability to share videos and so forth continue to be supported.
  • Image Stabilization. This camera doesn’t have it, so if your hand is shaking, so will the video.

I’ll post more thoughts on the Flip in a bit, but wanted to get something up rather than wait until I had the content 100% baked.

Our Experience with Sophie the Giraffe

I’m sure you’re all familiar with Sophie the Giraffe. She’s everywhere. Why a giraffe? I have no idea and no one’s been able to answer the question for me. Over the course of year 1 we received no fewer than 3 Sophie’s and guess what? Our little guy showed little to know interest. We tried desperately as given the popularity we were sure that at some point he must grab hold and come to love it, but no.

Two of the Sophies were regifted to folks we knew were giraffe lovers, and the other sits at the bottom of one of our toy boxes waiting for an opportunity to help with teething.

Anyway, I guess my takeaway is that if you’re looking for a gift for a new baby a Sophie the Giraffe will be looked upon well, though will almost certainly be one of many that the little on receives. Second, it may or may not get used, but hey, that’s true for any toy gift. Babies are individuals, and they all won’t like Giraffes named Sophie!

For those interested you can get your own Sophie the Giraffe here.

Update on our Experience with the Babysmart Cooshee Changer

Quite a while ago I posted about Babysmart’s Cooshee changing table. We bought this item after quite a bit of research and at the time were quite happy with it. It served its purpose as a changing table very well, and given frequent trips to visit relatives the fact that it was easily portable was a huge plus. Additionally the raised edges and relatively narrow width made it a perfect co-sleeper while on those trips… a great multi-functional baby tool.

After over a year with the BabySmart Cooshee Changer I can say that nothing has changed. We still use it to change our little guy though it no longer accompanies us on trips (we’ve turned to the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib which is awesome in its own right). The surface remains clean and wipeable. Initially I was a bit concerned that the foam might start to come apart, especially as our little guy became more curious, but there isn’t so much as a scratch on it.

But, remember to buy the lime green version since some of the others are rumoured to stain over time.

After almost 15 months with the BabySmart Cooshee Changer I can confidently say that it’s been one of the best purchases since the arrival of our baby.

Update on Baby Shoe Purchasing

On the subject of buying toddler shoes, and whether new is smarter than buying used I heard back from one person. Her perspective was that you shouldn’t buy used because the shoe will have been worn in to the shape of the previous owner. I guess this makes sense at some level, but on the other hand I wouldn’t have thought that a baby or toddler would be walking enough, or with enough pressure to wear a shoe down that much. Especially in our scenario where our little guy isn’t walking yet and so would do very little wear on his boots and shoes.

Any thoughts from others?

Baby shoes. Acceptable practice and recommended brands

Not surprisingly our little guy is growing at a furious pace and we’re doing a poor job of keeping up. His pants are now capris, and his shoes only go on easily early in the day. Shame on us.

This morning we stopped at a local shop and tried on a few pair which immediately confirmed that it is time for new shoes for our soon to be toddler.on selecting a pair of Stride Rite sandals in size 4.5 we were given a bit of shocking news. $52 for toddler sandals. Seriously?!?

Now on checking eBay and Amazon in the US I’ve come to the welcome realization that our local store was trying to screw us royally. That said before I pull the trigger I have two questions. When buying shoes for a baby our toddler:

1. Are there any risks in buying used shoes assuming that they will be thoroughly laundered before our little guy is allowed to wear them?

2. What brands are most reliable? We tried on See Kai Run but they didn’t work with his chubby feet, as well as Stride Rite which seemed to fit really well. Any others I should consider?

One thing’s for sure. When it comes to baby footwear I won’t be buying local.