July 23, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
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Wordless Wednesday: NERF Super Soaker Water Blasters!

NERF Super Soaker Water Blasters

We’ve been having a “blast” this summer with these NERF Super Soaker Water Blasters! Thanks, Hasbro, for sending them over for us to test out. The clear winner among all of the neighbourhood kids is the cross-bow version (called the NERF Rebelle Dolphina); it’s the easiest one for little kids to manage when filled to the brim with water. The NERF Super Soaker Barrage also gets rave reviews, but even for the strongest six year olds, it’s just too heavy when the water reservoir is completely full; but it does hold a lot of water, so we just do it half-way and that’s easier to manage. I’ve seen them for sale all around town – like Real Canadian Superstore, Target and Walmart. Happy watering!

July 23, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
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NuuNest app (guest review)

“Saskmom” is a mother of two from, you guessed it, Saskatchewan.  When she wrote this review, her oldest child was 28 months and her youngest was just five weeks old.  She is on maternity leave and quickly learning what life with two kids is like.  This lucky lady has a helpful husband at home and a newborn who sleeps well (nice).

Saskmom was provided with the NuuNest app for free in exchange for her honest review.

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Everything was new with my first child.  I found the first few weeks with a newborn really tiring and a huge adjustment. I am an A-type personality, so was diligent the first couple of weeks tracking each feeding and diaper change on the sheet with which the hospital sent me home.

However, life got busy and soon I forget to track it or didn’t have the paper handy. I found myself forgetting half the time when I last breastfed and what side I ended on, especially for the night feedings when I was half asleep and I would just typically look at which boob was larger and decide it must be the one!

When I heard about the NuuNest app, I was excited to try it; I always had my iPhone with me which I knew would make tracking a breeze. With a toddler in addition to a newborn, I needed to be even more organized this time and I was hoping this app was the solution for that.

I also discovered that the app was created by two nurses from Saskatchewan which made it appeal to me even more.

Since I started using NuuNest, I have noticed it advertised at my doctor’s office and the hospital. I should warn you that I am not an app savvy mom, and therefore don’t have a lot to compare it to. I use my phone for basic needs (email, phone, calendar, Facebook);  I don’t have any music on it nor do I use many apps so keep that in mind as you read on.

THE GOOD

NuuNest is very user-friendly. It was quick and easy to set up an account; all you need is an email and password.

The app is thorough and divided into the following helpful sections: feeding (breastfeeding and/or bottle-feeding), diaper changes, tracking the baby’s weight, expressing milk, daily vitamin D intake tracking and reference materials.

NuuNest

Image belongs to www.collegemobile.com.

The breastfeeding section allows you to track the start time and the side that you ended on and also allows you to add comments with each feeding. I really appreciate being able to track the feedings and have become very dependent on it.  I feel lost when I don’t have my phone handy to recall which side I last fed on and when it was!  I didn’t discover the comment section until a week into my review period (it was actually going to be one of my gaffes until I found it!).   The comment section could be useful to add notes in such as “fed on both sides,” or “didn’t drink much at this feeding.”  The bottle-feeding section allows you to identify whether it was breastmilk or formula and how many ounces were consumed.

NuuNest’s diaper change sections tracks both wet and dirty diapers and the time you changed the diaper. It also has a section that explains, with pictures, what to expect to see in diaper changes in the early days and the number of wet and dirty diapers you should have. I faithfully tracked the diaper changes for the first week or so until my newborn was regularly peeing and pooping.

There is an endless supply of information for mom on post-natal health and recovery including such things as emotions, nutrition, exercise, C-section recovery and so on.  Since this is my second child, none of the information was new to me; but, if you are a first time mom I think the information would be useful to review and refer back to.

I really like the summary section. It lists the number of feedings, diaper changes and milk expressions in the last 24 hours, and the time of those feedings, and also charts every feed on a bar graph so you can see trends from day-to-day and week-to-week.  The NuuNest app allows you to export the data to excel as well if you wish to analyze it further or save it.

The support provided by the developers is exceptional!  About three weeks in, all of my data seemed to disappear. I panicked because I was about to feed and couldn’t recall the side on which side I last fed.  More important, I was a bit sad that I had lost all of the data I had tracked — especially the feeding trends. I noticed that the developers tweeted so I sent a tweet to them letting them know I was having issues. Honestly, when I sent the tweet I didn’t really expect to hear back from them. Was I wrong! I heard back from them within minutes and had an email exchange going on shortly thereafter.  They resolved my issue very quickly and my data was back.  They also advised me that all of the data is stored on their network so if something was to happen they could easily retrieve and restore any historical data.  The personal touch made me an even more loyal fan of this product.  Since I don’t have much experience with other apps, I don’t know if this is above and beyond customer service… but I feel it is.

THE GAFFE

I have really had to scratch my head to come up with something negative about the product. I tried to start using it before my baby was born (so I could become familiar with it and hit the ground running), but unless you have the details (e.g. name, birth date, etc.), NuuNest doesn’t seem to let you past the first screen.  However, they did have tutorials that you could view without officially signing in.

There have been a few times when I go into the breastfeeding section to log my feed and it appears my data has been wiped. When this has happens, I usually exit out of the app, give it a couple of minutes, go back in and the data is there.  I am not sure why this occurs; it has been pretty random.

THE GEARS

4.5/5

July 17, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
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Pedalheads bike camp

I don’t really remember anyone teaching me how to ride my bike. I have only vague recollections of being on training wheels, but a very clear memory of the day they came off. I woke my Dad up at the crack of dawn and told him I wanted him to remove them. I think I was five or six years old.

After taking them off, he did what every other parent in the late-’70s and early-’80s would have done: left his kid outside to play on the street while he went back to bed.

It was a triumphant morning. Despite skidding down a (paved) ditch – sans bike helmet because this was simply not done back then – and scraping the entire left side of my body, I managed to figure out how to balance on my two-wheeler and ride off into the sunrise.

Fast-forward 30-something years and do you think my six year old wanted to get rid of his training wheels? Nope. Not even a little.

“They make me feel safe, Mommy.”

“I’m still learning.”

“I don’t want to feel fast because fast is scary.”

And this is the tip of the iceberg. There were tears, shrieks and full-blown tantrums. As I relayed these stories to a girlfriend one day, she mentioned that she hired a private bike instructor from Pedalheads to teach her six-year-old son to ride his bike without training wheels; he was off of them in an hour, she said. But we live in the boonies and Pedalheads said there was no way they were going to be able to send someone all the way out to us. Fortunately, though, we could go to them.

Pedalheads let The K Man try out its half-day bike camp for Level One riders, and I decided to make the most of our hour-long trek into the city where the camp took place, so I registered Miss Q for the three-year-old class that week, too. And I’m so glad I did.

Pedalheads bike campTHE GOOD

On day one, The K Man was on training wheels for all of 20 minutes. After a few trips up and down a strip of pavement at Blantyre Park in Toronto to test out his braking and steering skills, the instructor (Jessica) took off the training wheels. From then on, we’ve been training wheel-free, even though he still couldn’t ride it on his own. Miss Q arrived having been on a tricycle a few times but having NO CLUE how to pedal; by the end of her hour-long program, she could easily pedal about 10 feet if the instructor (Sydney) gave her a little push to get started.

The K Man’s class had only four kids, while Miss Q’s had but two. Amazing student-to-teacher ratios.

Kids can move up a level mid-week if they need to. That’s great flexibility when you’re paying a couple hundred dollars for your kid to progress, and we all know they progress at different rates.

The three-year-old program at Pedalheads was only $99 for an hour a day for five days, or about $20 an hour. To have someone else bend down for an hour, five days in a row, to get my kid pedalling. Over and over and over? Worth every penny. I’d pay them all over again in a heartbeat.

The half-day camp, which is 2.5 hours a day for five consecutive days, is $179. Just a little more than $14 an hour. Terrific value for money. Especially if, like me, you’re an older mom who isn’t in the top shape of her life and who might very well pass out if she had to run up and down grassy hills for two hours.

There were a lot of balance and steering drills, which I think made a huge difference in terms of skills and confidence. Even in Miss Q’s group they had to steer through pylons or stop in the middle of a bull’s-eye.

At the end of the week, Miss Q was pedalling effortlessly up and downhill, steering like a champ and doing it all with a smile. The K Man could keep himself upright for a good 25 feet or so thanks to the momentum of the park’s massive hill, but he still couldn’t bike ride independently. However, with daily practice at home, he’s now biking at least 200 feet on his own with a tiny push from a grownup. We’re so, so close now. Without Pedalheads, I can say with total certainty that we’d still be using training wheels. In fact, I was so impressed with both of their progress and the quality of the programming that I’ll be taking them back next year.

THE GAFFE

OK, I’ll admit it: Pedalheads feels like a bit of a cop-out. I mean, isn’t teaching your kid how to ride a bike, like, a parenting rite of passage? This thought nagged at me until day two when I left while both kids were in camp and I went to grab a Starbucks and have a pedi. Then I got over it.

There may be annoying kids in your child’s class. Miss Q had an awesome little girl to hang out with, but The K Man had two disruptive boys who weren’t very nice. In fact, one of the boys wasn’t even nice to his own mother! Thankfully, I have a kid who would rather go hang out by himself and look at ants than be bothered trying to fit in. The instructor never seemed to notice or was too busy to care, so the behaviour didn’t get any better as the week went on.

The only time I ever felt like the kids weren’t getting as much time and attention as they should have was during ramp drills, where The K Man’s class would merge with another four-kid group and the instructors would work together to get kids up and over a ramp. While the drill itself was great, it really didn’t require the help of two instructors and it ultimately meant that each kid got a turn every eight times – or about every 10 minutes. After two to three rounds of this, half an hour was gone and your kid would get about three minutes’ worth of instruction during that time.

THE GEARS

4.5/5

THE SLIDESHOW

  • Pedalheads drills

    One of the many drills the kids practised every day; learning to steer and brake within the confines of pylons proved a fun challenge.

  • Goin' down a hill, part one

    Going down hills is pretty much the Pedalheads signature move. And it makes sense. Because there are kids - like mine - who are cautious and don't love to pedal enough to pick up the kind of speed you need to figure out how to balance on two wheels. The hill obviously builds in that kind of momentum and it was exactly what my little man needed to make it click.

  • Goin' down a hill, part two

    Still holding on...

  • Goin' down a hill, part three

    And, letting go! The instructor let go of him for the first time and he smiled through it. And then swerved and almost wiped out, but he got up and did a fist pump and went back to watching ants until his turn rolled around again.

  • Fun on two legs, too

    I loved that biking was broken up with other games and activities; it kept them more engaged and gave them a chance to do something else, like blow bubbles or read a book.

  • Think of it THIS way...

    There were many moments that I, as someone who doesn't have the most patience in the world, would have found frustrating, but the Pedalheads instructors turned them into teaching moments. I don't know what kind of analogy Jessica was using during this demonstration, but I saw a lot of nodding from The K Man's direction. He got her. 

  • Not just chalk fun!

    Even when the littlest ones were doing something fun like drawing on the pathway with sidewalk chalk, they were doing it for a reason. In this case, they were making (and decorating) a bull's-eye that would later be used to help them learn how to steer around in a circle and brake on command.

  • Around the bull's-eye

    Yeah, see all that uncomfortable bending that Sydney's doing as she turns Miss Q around in a circle? Worth $20 any day of the week. Or, in this case, EVERY day of the week.

  • Tattoo Day

    On the day I happened to be taking photos, it was Tattoo Day. Other activities throughout the week even included making streamers for Miss Q's handlebars! Clearly, she had a great time.

July 11, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
1 Comment

#NikonMOMents, part II: Canada Day (sponsored post)

I was never more patriotic than when I left Canada to work and travel abroad for three years in my mid-20s. Being away from home soil, connected to strangers in another country by flags and shirts of red and white, is a powerful experience. I’ve celebrated Canada Day with ex-pats both in Covent Garden (a section of central London, UK) outside the famous Maple Leaf pub and at the Canadian consulate in Seoul, South Korea. And I was reminded each time how lucky I am to be Canadian.

I don’t remember much about Canada Day as a kid other than fireworks. Admittedly, I’m a bit more over-the-top than my parents; I always buy everyone in the family matching shirts to show off our Canadian pride, and we normally head to a local park or arrange neighbourhood fireworks. This year, we did both, though we did cut the park short because it was so hot that all the kids wanted to do was go home and jump in the swimming pool!

It’s my pleasure to share with you some of the #NikonMOMents I captured using my Nikon D3300 DSLR (and if you missed Part I in this series, you can check that out here):

 

  • Walking to the park

    This is the first year we've celebrated Canada Day in Ajax. Rotary Park was set up with oodles of bouncy castles and food vendors, but sadly there were a lot of commercial vendors there, too, which felt kind of yucky. I really don't want to hear an Arbonne or real estate pitch while I'm trying to show my patriotism and teach my kids why we're wearing our red and white.

  • This guy...

    I could look at this face all day long.

  • What's on yer butt?

    I fell in love with this Joe Fresh skirt for Miss Q. With cotton shorts built into it, she could play without fear of showing her skivvies. 

  • Details

    I love photos of details and that's one of my favourite things about the Nikon D3300 digital DSLR camera; you can get such clear close-up photos of the most nitty-gritty details, like the white thread in this red grosgrain ribbon.

  • Grillin' Like A Villain, part one

    We thought the menu on this food truck looked spectacular. We ordered a couple of pulled pork sandwiches and a couple of the back bacon grilled cheese sandwiches. The pulled pork was pretty good, but...

  • Grillin' Like a Villain, part two

    The fancy grilled cheese description was a total food fail. It consisted of two slices of processed cheese and a slice of deli ham with a tiny drizzle of what was probably Aunt Jemima instead of pure Canadian maple syrup (which, for $7 it should have been REAL cheese, back bacon as advertised and REAL maple syrup). Never again.

  • The family that wears their Canada shirts together...

    Although most park attendees wear wearing something red or white (or both), this was the only family I saw all afternoon wearing the exact same thing. And it was AWESOME!

  • Dancing girls

    We arrived partway through this routine, so I have no information about this dance troupe. But they were a lot of fun to watch, even if I started sweating extra thinking about how warm they must have been in those costumes.

  • Henna tattoos!

    This was such a neat touch. Miss Q wanted her face painted but it was a line that looked at least two hours long. (There are few things for which I'll stand in line for two hours; face painting is definitely not one of them.) So we spotted this little henna hut and there were only a few people in line. Miss Q chose a flower, and managed to keep her little arm elevated as we walked around for the next 30 minutes while it dried. And it turned out beautifully, lasting for the next four days.

  • The costumes!

    We caught a bit of these girls' routine, and we couldn't get over their spectacular dresses. Miss Q asked if she could have one, but settled instead for a photo beside them.

  • Price gouging

    I was really disappointed to see vendors, like this ice cream truck, inflate their prices to take advantage of the situation. But it was especially unimpressive to see it done so blatantly, like taping new (temporary) prices on the side of a truck. Ew.

  • Stilts. They scream summer.

    You know...

  • I Scream, You Scream!

    Miss Q (and her cousin in the back) enjoyed soft-serve ice cream. Even if it was ridiculously expensive.

  • The Practically Hip

    These guys were the real deal. They totally sounded like The Tragically Hip!

  • Caprese salad

    After the park, we had Big B's brother, my sister-in-law and my nieces back to our place for dinner and a swim. We had yummy caprese salad, followed by steak and chicken fajitas. #YUMazing.

  • Fireworks

    So this was the real test with my new Nikon. Fireworks. Although the Nikon Moms had a full day of training, we only touched on fireworks briefly. It took about 10 minutes of trail and error (make that error, after error, after painful error) to get the settings just right for fireworks. Part of the trick is to switch off the automatic focus and focus it manually.

    PHOTO INFO:

    • ISO 4000
    • 18mm
    • 1.7 EV
    • f/3.5
  • More fireworks

    PHOTO INFO:

    • ISO 640
    • 18mm
    • 1.7 EV
    • f/3.5
  • And more...

    PHOTO INFO:

    • ISO 3200
    • 18mm
    • 1.7 EV
    • f/3.5
  • Love this one!

    This is my favourite fireworks shot of the night.

     

    PHOTO INFO:

    • ISO 1800
    • 18mm
    • 1.7 EV
    • f/3.5
  • Last one, I swear

    I played a bit more with the settings and managed to get this ultra-black backdrop with one of our last fireworks explosions.

    PHOTO INFO:

    • ISO 100
    • 18mm
    • 1.7 EV
    • f/4

     

    DISCLAIMER: I’m part of the #NikonMOMents program with MomCentral Canada; I was compensated for this post and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are always my own.

July 9, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
0 comments

Wordless Wednesday: A Pegasus Swimming update

blah blah

Last year, I wrote a review of Pegasus Swimming, which – at the time – had masterfully taken my cautious little boy and turned him into a very competent, confident swimmer. Miss Q was 2.5 years old when we decided to put in a swimming pool last summer and I asked Lucas, the owner of Pegasus, if he thought she could also benefit from lessons. Within six weeks, she could keep her head above water and travel about a metre. But then winter fell and we went back to group swimming lessons through the city, and she didn’t progress. After a scary moment when we re-opened our pool this year and discovered that she could no longer do that metre-long swim, it was (thankfully) time to head back to Pegasus. Within 20 minutes, her instructor had her jumping off the side of the pool and swimming back to the ledge to safety. Two lessons later, she was swimming a few metres. And one lesson after that, she was instinctively putting her face into the water and could swim the entire width of the pool – often on just one breath. At home, she can now swim the length of our pool and is progressing at a shocking rate. The credit goes entirely to the amazing staff at Pegasus Swimming in Courtice. Thank you!