Product Review: Dex Grab ‘N Go Bottle Warmer

DEX Grab N' Go Warmer DEX Grab N' Go Bottle Warmer parts view

How It Works:
The DEX Products Grab N Go Bottle Warmer BWC-01 comes in 2 parts: the insulating bag and the warmer itself. The warmer warms by way of a chemical reaction, therefore it does not need any electricity. To use the warmer you simply curl the warmer into a circle shape and slide it into the insulating bag, then slip the bottle into the center of that. You then double click the starter disc (a small metal disc in the warmer) and wait for the warmer to warm the bottle. That’s it.

After you have used the DEX Grab N Go Bottle Warmer you will need to remove the warmer from the insulating bag and boil it in water for 10-15 minutes before it can be used again. I ultimately bought 2 Dex Grab ‘N Go’s so that I could warm at least 2 meals before needing to find a stove.

My Dex Grab ‘N Go’s are now about 5 years old (purchased Aug 2005 & Jan 2006) and were used frequently for both my eldest and second child (so about 4yrs of using them several times a week). Unfortunately, when I pulled them from storage 6 mths ago to use for my third child, I discovered they no longer worked correctly. I’ve tried a few times, but no matter how long I boil them or how carefully I handle them now, they activate and begin to crystallize even while still cooling on the counter, rendering them useless. But again this was only after 4 years of frequent use and about 12mths in storage.

As I recall, it took around 5-15 minutes to warm a bottle depending on whether I was starting with a room temperature or chilled bottle and depending on how much liquid was in the bottle. For example, a room temperature 4oz bottle of breastmilk would take 5 minutes or less to heat while a 9oz bottle of chilled formula would take 15. (Yes, I am working from memory here, but I used it quite often and despite some reviewers statements that it takes longer, I can confidently say that I would not have put up with something that took longer than 15 minutes as I was always a feed-on-demand mother which meant baby was often crying during the warming process.) Whether it heats the liquid “sufficiently” is subject to the opinion of both mothers and babies. I can tell you that it IS possible to grossly overheat smaller portions (chilled or not) while a 9oz chilled bottle can only be brought to room temperature.

Pro’s:

*To use this bottle warmer you do not need any source of electricity (no battery, no car lighter, no wall outlet). This means that whether you’re in the middle of the zoo, the mall, or a swap meet, you don’t have to hike it back to the car, plug in your warmer and wait 15-30 minutes like so many of the other travel bottle warmers require. (Which can be a huge relief when you’re right smack in the middle of Christmas shopping, with a cart full of unpaid for items, and baby suddenly decides he’s hungry 45 minutes earlier than usual.) It also means you can take this thing camping and hiking (okay so with kids it’s probably more of a nature walk but the point is the same) and be completely at liberty to do as you please without worry about being near the car or a campfire.

*The warmer insert gets hot. And I mean HOT! Which is exactly what you want for a faster warming time. Just be careful handling it once you’ve clicked the starter disc. Make sure to keep it in the insulating bag until it’s cooled down enough to handle safely.

*It wraps the bottle in 360 degrees of heat. Again, this is exactly what you want for a faster and more even warming time. Not all bottle warmers do this.

*No additional water is required. Many travel warmers still require you to have extra water from some source in order to warm the bottle. Then you have to dump that water somewhere once you’ve used it. The Dex Grab ‘N Go eliminates those added hassles.

*Fits most bottles: bent, straight, fat, or skinny. In fact, I haven’t found a bottle yet that doesn’t fit. Admittedly it heats the skinnier bottles more quickly than the fat ones my kiddos ultimately preferred, but that seems to be universal with all bottle warmers as it is simply a matter of scientific fact that fatter things just take longer to warm. Also, the taller bottles do stick out the top of the warmer a bit more and may need a little shaking to even out the warmth.

*Because of its design it doesn’t click off like electric warmers and continues to be warm for some time after it’s reached maximum heat. This makes it good for keeping a bottle warm once it’s been warmed up. (You know babies like to change their minds occasionally, or you might go to get them out of the car seat for a feeding and realize they’ve decided to have their first BM in 2 days and WOW you’ve got to do some cleaning before you can even think of feeding him. In which case keeping the bottle warm a little longer than originally expected can be very helpful.)

*Unlike the plug-in The First Years: Quick Serve Bottle Warmer I have at home (not recommended btw), the warmer itself doesn’t decide how hot my bottle gets – I do. Many electric warmers shut off automatically making it impossible to warm the bottle beyond the preset limits. Whereas this warmer allows me to leave the bottle in the hot warmer for as long or as little as I please. This allows you to adjust the temperature to suit baby’s tastes.

Cons:

*You can only use it once before it needs to be boiled again. (Again, I solved this dilemma by buying 2 & found that was all I needed.)

*The taller bottles do stick out the top of the warmer a bit more and may need a little shaking to even out the warmth.

*Very large portions (i.e. 9oz) don’t get as warm as smaller portions (i.e. 4oz).

*They don’t last forever. As I mentioned before, my Dex Grab ‘N Go’s appear to have stopped working sometime during their 12mths in storage after 4 years of frequent use. Still, at $10 a piece for 4 years of use, that works out to about $2.50/yr per warmer. Not bad at all in my opinion. And let me tell you, there were at least a handful of times that I thought to myself, “This one time alone is worth the $10. I can’t imagine not having this!”

Tips:

*It can help speed up the warming process a bit (especially with large portions) to give a little shake/swirl to the bottle every couple minutes. (Think of it like stirring food cooked in a microwave.)

*When removing the warmer from boiling, handle with care so as not to accidentally set off the starter disc. They are most sensitive at this point. (Though this was a very infrequent problem for me. It maybe happened once in every 20 boilings.)

*After boiling, lay the warmer on a heat safe, flat surface to allow the liquid to distribute evenly in the warmer as it cools. This helps ensure even heating and makes inserting the bottle easier. I like to lay mine on a clean cookie sheet, although a solid trivet, large hot pad, or tile counter top would work as well.

Regarding other reviews:

With 2 young children my diaper bag was always stuffed to the gills, yet I frequently carried my unused warmer in it and, in 4 years of use, only once had it be accidentally set off in the bag.

Conclusion:
Not only do I recommend it, I’m going out tomorrow to buy a new one! 

To purchase one for yourself, just follow this link: DEX Grab N Go Bottle Warmer

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Then, Then & Now: Taking Care of Baby

In just the few years that passed between when I had my baby shower for my first son and when I gave birth to my third son, baby technology changed quite a bit. My favorite change, by far, was the invention of the plug-able swing. No more changing batteries at 2 am (because they never wore out in the middle of the day) while the baby screamed impatiently nearby. What a gift! So lately I’ve been thinking:  “I wonder how much has changed since my mother was changing my diapers.  Or my grandmother was changing hers?”  So I asked them.  Here’s what they said:

The Late 1950s

FEEDING

My grandmother had trouble breastfeeding and had no access to resources such as the lactation consultants and support groups my hospital made me aware of before leaving the hospital. As a result, she gave up attempting to breastfeed and fed her daughter with formula. She used glass bottles which she says were not as nice as today’s bottles because they were not shaped as nicely and were breakable. She warmed the bottles on the stove in a pan of water, the same as many moms do today.  To clean her bottles, she used a bottle steamer which she describes as “sort of like the old fashioned steam-pot grandma used.” It was medium in size, but heavy, so she left it plugged in on the kitchen counter. She felt it was easy to use and did a good job.

SLEEPING

When I asked if she swaddled her baby, she stated that she could not recall specifically swaddling her, but did wrap her in blankets. Having never heard of SIDS, my grandmother placed her baby to sleep on her stomach in a crib often shared with soft toys.

DIAPERING

The diapers my grandmother used were made of cloth and fastened by pins. She washed them in a washing machine along with the rest of the baby’s laundry. She remembers that she used Dreft detergent, a detergent that is still marketed to new moms today as being “specially formulated to be gentle for your baby’s skin and tough on stains.”

PACIFIERS

Pacifiers became readily available soon after my grandmother became a mom. However, she didn’t care for the way they looked in her baby’s mouth and didn’t feel her baby needed them, so although she did purchase a few, she didn’t permit their use for long.

TRAVEL

My grandmother does not recall seeing any mothers wearing a baby carrier nor seeing them in stores. Her baby played in her playpen while my grandmother cleaned house and was either held or pushed in her stroller when out and about. She said the car seat they used back then was similar to what we use for infants now, except that hers was simpler because, “You just strapped them in the car with one strap, then strapped in the child. It worked fine and was lighter, too.”

THEN vs. NOW

When asked to name five things new moms have today that she wishes were around when she was raising her baby, she answered:  “Baby DVDs. Better bottles. Disposable Diapers. Pre-made food. Educational Toys.”

When asked if there is anything she thinks was better when she was raising her baby than it is now, she replied, “Moms could stay home with baby.”

ADVICE

And her advice for today’s new moms? “Just give them all your love.”

The Early 1980s

FEEDING

My mother says I was easy to breastfeed, but my sister was difficult and she did not have any help with breastfeeding.  Although I was breastfed until I was ready for cow’s milk, my mother did use formula for my sister. She did not use a breast pump, nor was she aware of their existence at the time. My mother used mostly glass bottles but did have some plastic bottles as well. She cleaned them with boiling hot water and a bottle brush. My mother warmed her bottles the same way her mother did:  in a pan of hot water on the stove.

THE HOSPITAL

I was born at a VA hospital and my mother says the policy at the time was for babies to stay in the nursery after birth. I was brought to my mother for feedings. However, when she had my sister just 2 years later in a traditional hospital, my sister was allowed to remain in my mother’s room the whole time.

SLEEPING

Both my sister and I were placed in a portable bassinet for sleeping at home. My mother did use a blanket to wrap me, but says they didn’t call it swaddling and there was no special technique involved. According to my mother, cribs haven’t changed much since i was a baby, but does recall placing me face down to sleep in the crib. My sister, on the other hand, was turned frequently to get fluorescent light to her skin for jaundice treatment. She says having things in the crib wasn’t a big deal, but they did take care that things weren’t loose around my head.

DIAPERING

In the beginning, my mother used cloth diapers for me. She washed them by hand – scrubbing out the poop and then bleaching them. The diapers were attached by pins.  However, I developed some allergy problems and she began using disposable diapers for me instead. She’s quick to point out, however, that the disposable diapers available at that time were vastly different from the disposable diapers available today. Most notably the diapers at that time did not tape shut well (velcro was unheard of) and they frequently leaked.

PACIFIERS

One of my mother’s favorite stories to tell is how she stopped me from using a pacifier.   According to my mother, I absolutely cherished my pacifier, but for some unknown reason, had a habit of chucking them away at odd moments. For example, I liked to throw them out the car window.  Eventually, my mother grew tired of buying pacifiers. So one day, as we were riding in the car with the windows down and she noticed that I was down to my last pacifier, she warned me not to throw it out the window because she was NOT going to buy me anymore.  Disbelieving, ornery child that I was, I immediately tossed my pacifier out the window. When my mother firmly repeated that she was not going to buy any more pacifiers, nor was she going to turn the car around to go get and wash the one I had just chucked, I must have suddenly realized she was serious, because although my mother cannot clearly recall my age at the time (she believes it was 2 or 3) she says she will never forget the monumental fit I threw as a result.

TRAVEL

My mother does not remember using a baby carrier and does not remember them being popular at the time. She says they did use an infant car seat for me but that the seats available at that time were not as user friendly.

THEN vs. NOW

When asked to name five things new moms have today that she wishes were around when she was raising her baby, my mother answered:  1) A quieter swing – hers made a lot of noise when you manually wound it, 2)disposable bottles/individual formula, 3) diaper wipes, 4) improved potty chairs for training, and 5) a portable DVD player.

When asked if there is anything she thinks was better when she was raising her baby than it is now, my mother replied, “It seemed as if I didn’t worry as much as moms seem to today. I just did what felt right.”

ADVICE

My mother’s advice for today’s new moms: “Relax, love your baby, everything will come out okay if you just do the best you can.  Invest your time in them and make them feel special, needed, wanted, and loved.”

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Things I Wish I’d known Before I Got Married

I recently attended a bridal shower where we were asked to write a quote or bit of scripture on a slip of paper and pin it to a cork-board frame for the bride-to-be.  I tried to think of something that I wish someone would have told me before I got married, but as I stood there with the pen in my hand my then 3 month old started crying and, as frequently happens when he cries, my brain froze up and before I knew it the party was over and I’d never written anything on that little slip of paper.

To make up for my inability to come up with anything on my own, I decided to ask a bunch of other married women to answer the question: “What are some things you wish someone had told you before you got married?”  Then I compiled their answers and sent it off to my friend in an email. While I was at it, I figured, why not share these bits of wisdom with the rest of you as well. So here is what those women had to say:

“I wish I knew how important it is to stand together no matter what. Things come apart when we come apart.”

“You ARE allowed to go to bed angry. Sleeping on it allows you a chance to cool off and come at it in the morning with a clearer head.”

“No matter how angry he may make you, sometimes the best thing to do is to bite your tongue and walk away to cool off.”

“Don’t let your sex life suffer. Do it even IF you’re not in the mood. Because you soon will be. It makes you feel closer, more connected and relaxed! Be willing to initiate and don’t reject him! Believe me– a man who is satisfied at home is like putty in your hands! Oh and learn to cook.”

“The honeymoon isn’t perfect. I expected mine to be and I was so disappointed when everything went wrong. Our plane was delayed, it rained for three days, and one of the restaurants we were really looking forward to going to ended the season early. Plus I got sick the first night! Looking back on it now, it was still some of the greatest days of my life, just being together and the imperfection of it all, but I had always imagined my honeymoon to be the most magical part of my life, and when it wasn’t, I was almost crabby because things were going wrong. So my advice would be to realize that just because it’s your honeymoon, doesn’t mean that everything will go right.”

“Practice the bouquet toss! It’s harder than it looks! Mine went in completely the wrong direction and it was so embarrassing!”

“Taste test all of the food you’ll be eating on your wedding day!!! I was allergic to something in the icing of my wedding cake and wound up getting sick that night! (I found out because I ate leftover cake a week later and got sick again!) I know chances are slim that this would happen to you, but it really puts a damper on your wedding day, so it couldn’t hurt.”

“I would have payed someone a thousand dollars to tell me not to wear bobby pins in my hair (owwwwwww!), to wear waterproof mascara (I cried like a baby), and to bring a change of shoes for the party! (My husband is a foot taller than me so I had massive heals on that hurt like crazy!)”

“Hold hands often.”

“Hire a baby sitter and go on childless trips and dates.”

“Do nice things for each other on regular days for no reason.”

“Put little love notes in your husband’s lunch or pockets for him to find while he is at work.”

“The biggest one- Pick your battles! Most things couples fight over are NOT worth it! Compromise and recognize when something just isn’t worth risking the happiness of your marriage on.”

“Communicate, communicate, communicate. Guys don’t get ‘hints’. Say what you want in plain language. ALWAYS.”

“If you don’t already live together, there is going to be a transition period. People do weird things, things they don’t realize are weird. You and he both and going to discover little habits, just go with it.”

“Relax and enjoy every minute of your wedding day, it will go past so quickly and you don’t want to spend it stressed out and worrying about the small stuff.”

“Don’t take your man for granted, be sure to thank him for doing things for you and expect the same from him.”

“Don’t neglect your “me time”. Have something that you do on your own , even if it’s just curling up in your favorite chair for an hour or so once a week reading a book and drinking tea.”

“Courtesy of my wonderful grandmother who was very happily married for 60 years: ‘There be a little secret when ye drink from the marriage cup, whenever you’re wrong admit it, when ever you’re right SHUT UP.'”

“Learn to give and take equally. Marriage should never be one sided.”

“Give each other space, you are not conjoined twins.”

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to talk things through when situations arise.”

“Appreciate each other daily. I like to think of one or two things that I love about him every day or that I am thankful for due to him.”

“We always TRY to remember to not take each other for granted, we talk (a lot), and we laugh all the time.”

“Make your relationship fun – don’t be afraid to be spontaneous.”

“When you get really mad, walk away for a bit to think about it. And don’t try to be right all the time – its okay to accept you were wrong.”

“Listen.”

“Have a date night, weekly or bi-weekly. Try new things and have fun with it.”

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Well If A Man Can Do It, It Can’t Be That Difficult

IMPORTANT:  Please note that this article is intended for mature audiences and may not be suitable for all age groups!

male bashing: a type of conversation in which the male species as a whole is gleefully insulted (typically by women) through blanket and wholly sexist remarks

So rarely have I heard anyone speak up in defense of men, that I sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person who thinks, “Now wait a minute! Maybe there are a few guys who would fit your description, but I can think of far more who do not deserve such a comment!”   Unfortunately I have overheard quite a range of male bashing comments, from a blatant, “All men suck!” to a more subtle “Men need to focus on one thing at a time. They can’t multitask.”  Excuse me, but my husband multitasks as well or better than I do!  So do many other men that I know.  Do I know some men who aren’t good at multitasking? Of course, but then I also know women who couldn’t multitask if their life depended on it.  When I hear people, typically women, engaging in male bashing, I usually try to gently point out that not all men fit the negative descriptions being expressed.  However, I do have to admit to occasionally keeping my mouth shut when I should have spoken out.  In fact, if I’m being honest, I’m certain there have been times when my own good judgment has lapsed and I even joined in the bashing myself.  That doesn’t justify the activity.

The title of this article was inspired by a comment a friend of mine recently made.  I was quite shocked by it and it stuck with me, prompting me to write this article.  I’m often unpleasantly surprised by the person who’s joining in the male-bashing. There isn’t one niche or class of people who participate in this loathsome activity.  All kinds of people happily join in sharing their own negative opinions of men as a whole.  Just watch an episode of The View and you’ll see what I mean. In fact, male-bashing has become so culturally acceptable, it’s even become a marketing strategy.  AskMen.com wrote an entire article ranking what they deemed to be the “Top 10: Worst Male-Bashing Ads”. The insults delivered by these commercials include an assumption that men can’t cook, they are terrible parents, and are just plain morons. Surveys have revealed that the negative portrayal of men in the media is having a negative effect on our children’s perception of them as a gender.

If you still think male bashing is harmless and all in good fun, let’s take a closer look at some of these comments:

“Any woman that thinks the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach is aiming just a little too high.”

Translation:  Men think with their genitals. Or men only love women who please them sexually.  What kind of message is that sending to young women?  How funny would that comment be if you flip it?  “Any man that thinks the way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach is aiming just a little too high.”

“God made Adam before Eve because you always make a rough draft before the final copy.”

Translation:  Women are better than men and there is something inherently wrong with all men.  Not to mention that it implies God made a mistake.

“Once you recognize the fact that all men are inherently pigs, your life becomes much simpler.”

Translation: Well, this one doesn’t really need a translation, does it?  It’s pretty straight forward.  My question is this:  Do all men deserve to be treated like pigs? If you think the answer is yes, then I have to ask if you also think all women deserve to be treated like bitches?

“Eighty percent of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe.”

Translation:  Never trust your husband.  What kind of life is that for either spouse?  A life lived in fear and misery.  Let’s turn it around: “Eighty percent of married women cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe.” Nope. I don’t think it’s any funnier that way. Everyone is still miserable.

Q: Why did God put men on earth ?
A: Because a vibrator can’t mow the lawn.”

Translation:  Masturbating with your vibrator is as good or better than making love with a man, and the only reason to have him around is to do chores. Do you think this is funny?: “Why did God put women on earth? Because an inflatable doll can’t cook.” Would it be funny if it were applied to you, specifically?

Q: How can you tell the difference between men’s real gifts and their guilt gifts ?
A: Guilt gifts are nicer.”

Translation:  If the man who loves you puts the thought and effort into getting you a truly wonderful gift, you should reward him with suspicion of his motivation. Would you feel appreciated, trusted, or loved, if you left your husband a little love note and he responded by questioning your motives?

Q: Women dream of world peace, a safe environment, and eliminating hunger. What do men dream of ?
A: Being stuck in an elevator with the Doublemint twins.”

Translation:  All men are shallow, self-centered and suffer from satyriasis.  Would this joke be as culturally acceptable if it read something like this:

Q: Men dream of …….. (fill in selfless ambition here)….. What do women dream of?
A: Being locked in Tiffany’s with an unlimited line of credit.

Simply google “male bashing” and you’ll easily find dozens more “jokes” like these. However, I hope that after reading this article, maybe you’ll think twice before laughing. Better yet, maybe the next time you hear male bashing going on, you’ll speak up.

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What would you pay?

The doctor said it may only help her live another four months at best.

She looked at the stacks of bills, bank statements, and budget printouts covering the surface of the kitchen table. They were broke. They’d spent every last cent of their savings and then some just paying for the tests to get a diagnosis and for the treatment which the doctor had assured them stood a very good chance of sending her cancer into remission.  But it hadn’t.  And now he wanted them to spend another $93,000 on a treatment that may only keep her alive for another four months. Over twenty-three thousand dollars a month.  If they were lucky. If not…. What if it doesn’t work?

Her mind traveled to everything they would be sacrificing for the possibility of just a few more months with their youngest daughter.  They couldn’t remodel the house as they’d planned to, so it wouldn’t sell for as much when the time came. Which meant they wouldn’t have that money to put toward Jacob’s college tuition or Emma’s nursing school, assuming she still wanted to be a nurse ten years from now. Emma was only eight but she’d spent so much time visiting her little sister in the hospital, the nurses there had practically adopted her and she’d decided she wanted to be just like them when she grew up.

She swallowed. Katie didn’t talk about what she wanted to be when she grew up. Somehow she knew. She understood that she wasn’t going to get that chance. At four years old Katie  had fought cancer with the determination of a navy seal, but the cancer was winning. She didn’t have long. Maybe four more months if they could find a way to pay for this new treatment. Maybe less.

Is it worth it? What if they sacrificed Jacob and Emma’s futures and the treatment didn’t help?  What if it did?

She looked again at the papers in front of her. What should they do?

**************************************************************************************

If you find this story shocking, read this one:
$93,000 cancer drug: How much is a life worth?

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Scream Without Making A Sound

Things have been unusually stressful around here this past week and I was truly having a difficult time handling it well.  Then last night I arrived at the gym early to get my pass for Zumba as usual.  I dropped my boys off at Child Watch and headed upstairs to wait in line, but found that I just could not sit still.  I was too upset about the day’s happenings.  So I left my things to hold my place and jumped on the treadmill that was about 3 feet away.  At first I just figured I’d walk.  Then as I was walking and thinking about the day I thought, “I want to run!”  So I sped up the machine to a brisk run, but that wasn’t good enough.  I wanted to sprint!  I wanted to run as hard as I could for as long as I could.  So I did.  It didn’t last very long at all.  Maybe an 8 speed for about 1 minute then back down to 4.7 or so.  But as soon as I caught my breath I wanted to do it again.  So I did.  This time I only lasted about 30 seconds.  But that wasn’t the point.  I’d forgotten how amazingly good it felt to run when you’re angry!

Maybe it’s just me.  I know other people who punch punching bags.  For me, though, few things compare to just hauling butt as fast and as long as I can until I can’t do it anymore.  Now, yesterday I knew I still had to get through Zumba class so I held back from doing more sprints, but it was still such a gratifying feeling.  There’s something so freeing about running like that.  No goals.  No worries about form or endurance.  Just running.  Running hard.  Running with all you’ve got.  It’s sorta like screaming, but without making a sound.

The next time you’re angry you might give it a try.  And when you’re done, finish it off by blasting a great dance song in the car on your way home and practicing your seated dance moves.*  😀

(Disclaimer:  Seat dance at your own risk. Keep both hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road or you may find you’ve created more stress than you had before!)

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A Moment’s Peace

It’s 1 o’clock in the morning and I should be sleeping.  But I’m not.  I’m sitting at the computer listening to the clock tick and the soft breathing of my baby’s sleep. It’s quiet.  As a mother of 3 boys it’s so rare to experience near silence. I’m loathe to surrender to the sleep I truly need, because I can’t imagine not cherishing these few precious moments. Moments when I can think clearly. Moments without interruption. Even the gentle hum of the computer’s fan – a sound I rarely notice amidst the din of daily life – is like a gentle melody to me now.  So soft and quiet.  The lights are low and everyone sleeps but me.  I close my eyes and simply relish the quiet, the restfulness of the moment.  I consider taking a bath but the loud rush of water filling the tub would disturb the peace that floats like a thick fog in each room of the house.  I think to read a book, but reluctantly dismiss the idea as irresponsible.  It is late and the children will arise at their usual hour, blissfully ignorant of the sleep I sacrificed for just a few moments of quiet.  A few moments of peace.  With a sigh I rise and quietly move through my nightly routine, then take myself to bed.  As I lie with my head on the pillow I pause once more, staring into the darkness, listening to the quiet of the night.  I tell myself to drink it in.  To remember this feeling.  Then I close my eyes and accept the coming of a new day.

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How to make an infant’s costume hat for about $2

This how-to explains how to make a hat for a Toy Story Alien infant’s costume, but the same basic idea may be adapted to make several other costume hats, such as a hat with cat’s ears, a hat with dog’s floppy ears, a hat with butterfly antennae, etc. Please read through ALL of the instructions before you begin so that you are certain you understand them and can decide in advance which optional things you’ll want to include and which parts, if any, you may want to change to suit your infant’s costume.

To make the base of the infant’s costume hat, you will need a fabric stretch headband approximately 3 inches in width, in whatever color will work with your particular costume.  Mine is neon green and I purchased it from the 99 cents Only store.  You can also find them at stores such as WalMart & Target.  Second, you will need at least one sheet of felt (roughly the size of a piece of printer paper should do), again in a color which suits your costume.  My felt was also neon green and purchased for under 40 cents at Joann’s Fabric & Crafts Store.  For the eye, you can purchase either a large googly-eye or one small piece each of black and white felts and use either hot glue or a small amount of embroidery thread to attach it.

You will also need:

  • a pencil
  • a marking pen/pencil for marking the fabric (disappearing ONLY) OR chalk
  • 1 piece of standard copy paper (or any paper you can use for creating a template)
  • a cloth measuring tape (or you can substitute a length of yarn & a straight ruler)
  • some thread
  • a few straight pins
  • a sewing machine that can make a straight stitch and a standard zig-zag stitch
  • a seam ripper

Before you begin, get your cloth measuring tape (or length of yarn) and set it nearby because you’re going to want to do these first two steps pretty quickly.

The first step to making your infant’s costume hat is to place the headband on the baby the same as you would your own head, but pulled a little lower on the forehead. This means it should create a circle that begins just above the eyebrows, follows around to one ear, down to the base of the back of the child’s head, around the second ear, and back up to above the eyebrows. If you’re still not clear, see the clip art below or check any early 1980’s photo with a woman wearing a wide elastic headband (not the exercising kind!).

Just picture the headband a little lower over the eyebrows and you've got the idea.

Once you’ve got the headband in place, take your cloth measuring tape (or length of yarn) and measure the diameter of the inner circle of the headband in several places. You want to determine the widest amount of scalp/hair showing inside the circle created by the headband.

Measuring inner circle of headband while on baby's head

Measuring inner circle of headband while on baby's head

Once you’ve determined the widest measurement, add 1 inch for seam allowance and you’ve got the diameter measurement you need to create your template. Divide that by two and you’ve got your radius measurement. (Don’t worry, you don’t actually need to remember what a diameter or a radius is to continue.) (Oh, and feel free to remove the headband from baby’s head now.)

The diameter measurement (including 1 inch for seam allowance) which I determined for my infant’s costume hat was 7.5 inches.  Therefore my radius was 3.75 inches.

****CHEATER’S TIP: If you are blessed enough to have a compass you actually know how to use, or a bowl, can, or other round object which just happens to be the exact same diameter as the circle you just measured, grab it, trace around it onto your piece of paper, and skip ahead to where I’ve typed, “Cheater’s Return Point”. ****

Take your cloth measuring tape and lay it flat on your piece of paper. Make sure it’s as straight as possible from the end until whatever your diameter measurement was. Hold it still and use your pencil to make a dot at the end of your measuring tape (or zero), your radius measurement, and your diameter measurement.

I made a dot at zero, 3.75 inches, and 7.5 inches.

Lift your measuring tape and check that you now have 3 dots in a row.

Using your radius or middle dot as a rotation point, turn your measuring tape so that it is perpendicular to your first line of dots. (Like you’re going to make a plus sign.) Make sure your radius measurement lines up with the center dot and then mark the zero and diameter points again.

I lined my measuring tape up so that 3.75″ was again matched up with the center dot, then marked zero and 7.5″ again.

Now rotate your measuring tape again so that it runs half way between the first and second line of dots but keeps your center dot and radius measurement matched up. Then mark zero and your diameter measurement again. Repeat until you feel comfortable that you can connect the dots to form a fairly uniform circle of the correct size. (No flat-sided circles allowed!)

Making the template for infant costume hat

Making the template for infant costume hat - your dots should be neater and you'll probably need more of them.

****CHEATER’S RETURN POINT!****

Now grab your scissors and cut out that beautiful circle.  Congratulations! You have just completed your template! Yes, it’s just a circle, but it’s the right size circle for your precious baby’s head and it’s perfect (or as close to perfect as it needs to be).

Next step? Place your circle on top of your felt so that one edge of your circle is touching one of the short sides of the felt. See that extra strip of felt left over on the other short side? Find a straight edge to mark yourself a straight line and cut that off. You’ll need that later.

Cutting off the extra strip of felt

Cutting off the extra strip of felt

Your felt should now look pretty close to square (as opposed to a rectangle), fold your sheet of felt in half.  If one side still looks longer than the other that’s the side to fold on.  (In other words, make the shorter sides touch.)

Now, take your template and set it on top of your folded felt so that the circle arches up toward & just barely touches the folded edge. Half (or nearly half) of your circle should be hanging off the cut edge of the felt.

Placing the template on the folded felt.

Placing the template on the folded felt.

IMPORTANT! Your center dot should be at or slightly above the cut edge of the felt. If your center dot is below the edge you’re felt was not big enough for the diameter of your baby’s head and you will need to get a second piece to accommodate your larger diameter.

Holding your template in place, grab your marker pen/pencil and trace around the outer edge of your template onto your felt. When you get to the point where the circle starts to curve back inward, eyeball a straight line from that point down to the edge of the felt (should be no more than an inch on either side). When you lift your template you should have a very round hill type shape – as if you’re looking at the very tip of one of those capsule pills. (You know, the ones you take to relieve the headache brought on by a day full of “worst behaviors”.)

Don’t even THINK about touching those scissors yet! If it makes you feel better, you can stick a pin in the center of your hill to keep the two layers of felt together (remember it’s folded in half still).

Now it’s time to move over to your sewing machine and turn it on (or in my case, clear off some space at the dining room table, reach dangerously high overhead to lift down my machine from the only storage spot I could find that was safe from little fingers, remove the dust cover, spend 30 minutes searching the entire house when I discover that my darling husband has “borrowed” the power cord again for one electronic gadget or another and forgotten to return it, give up, call husband, find the cord at last, plug it in and breathe a sign of relief when it powers up smoothly).

With your felt still folded, use your machine’s straight stitch to stitch along the line you’ve drawn on your felt. Do NOT stitch along the open edge.

Get away from those scissors! Unless you’re looking for a basic bald cap, this is not the time to cut!

Now, I am making a Toy Story Alien hat for my infant’s costume. So I need to add long pointy ears here. If you are making a cat costume, now would be the time to add your cat’s ears.  (This is not the time for antennae or floppy dog ears. Those come later and if you’re making a butterfly or floppy-eared costume hat, you can skip down to “it’s time to make the antenna” and be sure to read the Optional Steps & Tips section at the end.)

Think of your “hill” as the top of your alien’s head. All you need to do is use your marking pen/pencil to outline some simple ears directly onto the felt on each side of your alien’s head. You can practice on a piece of paper if you like, or, if you’re very nervous about your artistic ability, you can probably find a picture online that you can print out to scale and then cut out as a template (you’d only need to print one ear since you can flip it to trace the other side).

Once you’ve got your ears drawn, use your sewing machine’s straight stitch one more time to follow the outline of your ears.

Okay, now you can get out your scissors.  (But don’t put away your machine yet! We’re coming back to it soon.) Using your scissors, cut along the outside of your newly sewn alien’s head and ears leaving about an 1/8 of an inch of felt to make sure your stitching stays in.

If you’re making an infant’s cat costume hat and you don’t intend to give your child an extra set of eyes, congratulations! You’re done! If you are making a Toy Story alien’s hat like me, it’s time to make the antenna.

Remember that extra strip of felt? That’s for the antenna. Fold your strip in half so that the short sides are touching. Now go ahead and, using your marking pen, draw the antenna directly onto the felt. Again you can practice on paper or go online to find a picture to print, cut, and trace. Whichever method you choose, remember to leave roughly half an inch for seam allowance along the bottom where you will need to attach it to the base of the hat.

Once you’ve draw your antenna, use your machine’s straight stitch again to follow your outline.  Then go ahead and use your scissors to cut it out, but leave the seam allowance on the bottom.

Okay, here’s where everyone’s favorite tool, the seam ripper, comes into play. (Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with mine, but this part is easy and quick, I promise.) Take your antenna and hold it in place at the top of the hat where you want to attach it. Using your seam ripper, break the stitch on the arch of the hat at the points where the antenna’s stitch line touches it. This marks either end of the section of stitching you are going to rip out to create a hole into which you will later slip the end of your antenna.

Once you have broken the stitch at each end, continue using your seam ripper to remove all the stitches and extra thread in between. As I mentioned, you’re goal is to create an opening for your antenna.

Now, insert your antenna into the hole and use either your fingers or a straight pin to hold it in place as you use your sewing machine’s straight stitch one last time to stitch over exactly the same line you just finished ripping out (closing the arch of the head with the antenna’s base stuck inside).

Next flip the hat inside out and use your scissors to trim any excess fabric (again leaving a 1/8th inch seam allowance) to make the hat more comfortable for baby.

Flip the hat right side out again.

It is now time to locate the back of your hat.  The back of your hat is determined by looking at both sides and deciding which side looks the ugliest. That’s the back. If both sides are equally unattractive you can play eeny-meeny-miny-moe, or flip a coin. It’s up to you.

Now, get your fabric headband and lay it out flat, with the seam centered on the bottom. Mark a dot at the center front of the headband, and on each folded edge, a half inch below the top edge of the headband.  Similarly, mark a dot (with disappearing ink or removable chalk or pencil) on the bottom edge of the center front, center back, and each folded edge of the hat. Now slip your headband inside the hat and stretch it out to check that the marks line up nicely. Then place pins at the front and back, keeping the corresponding dots matched up, to make it easier to sew. The point is to evenly distribute the headband around the hat so that it doesn’t bunch all in one place.

Warning:  Sewing an infant’s hat this small is NOT easy to do on a sewing machine with a standard size sleeve thingy. (Yes that’s *my* technical term for the part of the machine usually used for sewing sleeves or other circular seams.) My machine has a standard size sleeve thingy and I barely managed it. If you’re baby’s head diameter came out smaller than mine and your sleeve thingy is standard sized, you may want to consider borrowing one with a smaller sleeve thingy.

Use your machine’s standard zig-zag stitch to sew along (and just slightly over) the edge of the hat to attach it to the headband with a 1/4-1/2 inch seam allowance inside the hat. Don’t worry if the headband moves a little vertically making your seam allowance inconsistent. As long as you have at least 1/4 inch you should be fine. It’s most important to get the horizontal distribution right so pay attention to those matching dots. You will need to use your hands to manipulate the elastic band through the machine as it will want to squeeze shut and stay put instead of moving with the feed dogs (feed dogs are those teeth like things under the needle that help the fabric move from the front of the machine to the back of the machine).

Once you’ve accomplished that task, stop and admire your work! You’re nearly done, the most difficult part is over, and the hat is looking great!

Toy Story Alien Infant's Costume Hat so far....

If you’re making a Toy Story Alien like me, the only thing left is to add one giant eye (the aliens in the movie had 3 but you’re kid already has two so adding just one central eye should create the right effect).  Since sewing in a circle is hard at any size and doubly difficult in small scale, I suggest either using embroidery thread to create a small knot in the middle or hot gluing your eye to your hat. (Please be sure baby isn’t modeling it at the time!!!) If you can find a large enough googly eye to purchase, great! Glue that thing on and you’re done! (But keep in mind you’ll need to glue it to the felt portion of the hat since the glue won’t hold well on the headband.) If not, just buy a sheet of white felt and a sheet of black felt (ought to be less than $0.80), cut out one large white circle and one significantly smaller black circle. Glue or knot the black circle in the middle of the white circle, then glue or knot both circles to the front, center of your hat, and voila!

Congratulations! You have just completed your Toy Story Alien infant’s costume hat!

Optional Steps & Tips:

* As a mom you know how unpredictable a baby’s growth can be. If you are making your costume a month or more in advance you may want to consider adding a half inch to the diameter measurement (in addition to the 1 inch seam allowance) to leave room for a growth spurt.

* If you want to make a butterfly’s costume hat, simply purchase an extra sheet of felt, fold it in half, draw two antennae, stitch and cut as directed above, then make two openings in the arch of the hat instead of one and stitch the antenna in. A dog’s floppy ears would work the same, except that you may want to use just one layer of felt instead of two to make them more floppy. It’s up to you.

I hope that you enjoyed this how-to and understood the instructions given. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at coeurmama@gmail.com !

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