product review

Product Review: LittleHippo Mella Toddler Alarm Clock

Product Review: LittleHippo Mella Toddler Alarm Clock | Writing Between Pauses

Sleep is, as most parents know, a precious commodity.

When Forrest was first born, I didn’t sleep for days. I don’t say this to scare new moms, or to brag, or to participate in the strange “well, I sleep LESS!” Olympics that sometimes occurs between parents. It’s just a fact, but I don’t think I’m alone in it. I was induced into labor on a Tuesday, slept exactly 3 hours then went into labor for 7 hours, then Forrest was born. And from the moment he was born until about 72 hours later, I didn’t close my eyes once. Nurses were in and out of our room; there were hearing tests and blood sugar tests and medications for me and uterus massages for me. Then there were jaundice tests and heavy whispers between nurses. I took my first shower and went 20 hours without peeing because of the preeclampsia medication, which was another worry. I swelled again.

All-in-all, I didn’t even sleep much the first time I told Danny I absolutely needed to close my eyes and not get up for a few hours. I slept about 45 minutes, then woke up to pump and feed Forrest again, carefully removing him from the jaundice space bed he was inhabiting at that moment.

Sleep didn’t get much easier. For the first 9 months of Forrest’s life, we fed on demand not out of choice (although many parents do make this choice and that’s absolutely fine for them), but because Forrest’s late preterm status, low birthrate, and early struggle with jaundice and feeding had set him back, weight wise. I wanted him to catch up, his pediatrician wanted him to catch up, and that meant waking up every time he woke up and feeding him.

Friends, he woke up every 2 hours every single night for 9 solid months. And for 6 of those months, I was also still pumping every time he ate. So that meant waking up, feeding him for 20 minutes, putting him back to sleep next to Danny, getting up, getting my pumping equipment, pumping and massaging for 30 minutes, cleaning up, storing milk, mixing up formula and milk for the next feeding, sanitizing my pumping equipment, and then going to bed myself… then being woken up maybe 40 minutes later to do it again.

Again, I’m not writing this to scare anyone. This is just the way it was for us. It’s just something we had to do. But it wasn’t fun. I was absolutely miserable, barely sleeping, gaining weight at a rate that is still somewhat alarming, and irritable as all get out.

When we decided to sleep train at 9 months, it was for two reasons: firstly, I was having such bad anxiety that I had developed burning mouth syndrome, a syndrome where your mouth feels constantly dry even though you are producing saliva; and secondly, Forrest had finally reached a growth percentile that our pediatrician was happy with.

Cut to 6 months later and we were all happier. Forrest was finally meeting developmental milestones at the right time instead of towards the lower end of normal. We were all doing a lot better. And truly, we slept great for a long time.

Until February of this year. You see, it was in February that Forrest climbed out of his crib for the first time. He had been (and truly, continues to be) a rather stellar sleeper. Sleep training changed our lives and Forrest thrives on the routine that sleep training gave him. He goes to bed at 6:30 and while his wake ups have always been a bit early, we got 10-12 solid hours out of him most of the time so we couldn’t really complain. But once we switched him to a toddler bed, we struggled with him climbing out of bed, waking up far too early, or just doing random things in the middle of the night (like collecting toys and books into his bed).

We made it work for a long time: letting him play at 3:30 in the morning, hoping he would crawl back into bed eventually and sleep; letting him get up and run around in his room even though we knew he was beyond exhausted. However, when he did these things, my husband slept fine—but I would be awake, watching him on our monitor at 2 or 3 in the morning. I just couldn’t sleep knowing he was awake.

Finally, during the summer, I purchased the LittleHippo Mella Toddler Alarm Clock. We set it up and started using it around July or August. At first, we didn’t see much of an improvement. Sometimes, Fo still woke up at 4am and decided it was time to party. He was still young enough that he didn’t really understand the “rules” of the clock. It’s only been in the past month or so that we’ve seen a huge improvement.

The LittleHippo Mella Toddler Sleep Training Alarm Clock

It’s been in the last 2-3 months that Forrest has been staying in bed through the night really well, but waking up really early. Part of this has been reducing the amount he naps and adjusting his bedtime. These are things that can be really challenging; I get 2-3 hours every evening to work out, prep for lunches the next day, blog, and answer emails, as well as do any cleaning around the house that I can’t get done with Forrest around. So giving up another little chunk of that time has been hugely challenging.

However, the Mella has been a huge help for us. Here’s how Mella works:

MELLA uses colors and facial expressions to teach your kids when it’s time for bed and time to wake up. Half an hour before it’s time to wake up, MELLA will glow yellow, signaling it’s almost time to start the day. When MELLA turns green, it’s time to wake up!

Basically, you set a sleep time in the Sleep/Wake setting. Sleep time for us, it’s 6pm so that Mella is “asleep” when we bring Fo to his bedroom. Then, you set a wake up time; for us, that’s 5:50am, which is later than Forrest ever sleeps. However, Mella glows yellow 30 minutes before the “wake up” time to indicate play time. So if you’re ok with your toddler waking up 30 minutes early and playing, that will most likely wake them up. However, the yellow and green colors are very similar to each other, so Forrest has a slightly difficult time telling the difference. We set this wake up time later so that he can simply get up when Mella glows yellow.

I love how cute Mella is; the little face on the front is especially helpful for Forrest because, even though he struggles with the yellow versus green light, he knows when Mella is awake versus when she’s sleeping. And now that he’s old enough, he understands that when Mella is asleep, he needs to be in bed.

LittleHippo Mella Sleep Setting
LittleHippo Mella Awake Setting

Mella also has a nightlight option; the front face will glow a variety of colors (you choose your preferred color) for 30 minutes until your child falls asleep. This is a nice idea, but the light is actually quite bright! Forrest has a star night light that he prefers. As well, Mella works as a sound machine too, with a set of 3 sleep sounds. We have a separate sound machine (so many machines in our son’s room at this point); however, the sound machine we have is notorious for burning out, so it’s nice to know we have an easy replacement for when it goes.

The Mella clock has really helped us start to sleep more in the mornings. Forrest finds it easy to understand now. I would say, if you’re looking into this clock, your child should be at least 3 before they are able to understand it effectively. That might vary child-to-child, but 6 months ago, he didn’t always “remember” the rules about Mella, even if he could talk about what Mella looked like.

Mella also has a battery back up, so if the lights go out, it is still running. Forrest always sleeps through the power going out, but we worried about maintaining his routine even through that. We like that we can also move Mella around without worrying about resetting everything!

If you’re the parent to a toddler or preschooler that has been waking up earlier and earlier each day, the LittleHippo Mella alarm clock is an investment—at $50, it’s not the cheapest alarm clock out there. But it has been a huge help to us recently. So much so, that I worry about it breaking! It has helped us to get more sleep, especially in the last few weeks.

Product Review: Starbucks Cold Brew at Home!

Product Review: Starbucks Cold Brew at Home! | Writing Between Pauses

Over the summer, I developed a serious cold brew problem. The Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew at Starbucks is one of my favorite drinks of all time: it is really coffee-flavored, lightly sweet, and perfect for a cold day. It's also not super calorie heavy; 110 calories for a tall is actually pretty decent. And compared to other drinks at Starbucks, it has 14g of sugar--which is still a lot (about 3.5 teaspoons). Hence, why it's not an every day treat! 

While cruising Target, I noticed that Starbucks now sells packs to make cold brew at home. They come in a variety of flavors, but for around $8 for a box that makes one pitcher, I decided to just get the regular version. 

Cold brew at Home
Making cold brew at home
Is Starbucks cold brew at home good

The instructions are quite easy. However, it does take 24 hours from start to finish. You fill a pitcher with 4 cups of water, add the two giant tea bags of coffee grounds, and pop it in the fridge for 24 hours. Yep, 24 hours. When it's ready, you add another 4 cups of water, remove the big packs of coffee (carefully, I accidentally broke one), and your cold brew is ready to enjoy. 

Minus the fact that it took 24 hours (I don't know why I thought it would be 4-5 hours max!), the cold brew it produced was delicious. It tasted just like the cold brew you would get at Starbucks; with a packet of Truvia, a tablespoon of salted caramel creamer, and a tablespoon or so of almond milk, you have a lower-sugar Sweet Cream Vanilla Cold brew at home. 

The pitcher made about 8-10 servings of cold brew for me. At $8 for a single pitcher, that evens out to $1 or less per serving, which was pretty good considering a drink at Starbucks is $3 or more. Ultimately, it saves money and you can control the calories and amount of sugar in your drinks more effectively. 

Fall is fast approaching, so I've been experimenting with cold brew and pumpkin spice. Let me tell you: it's just as delicious with a little Pumpkin Spice creamer and almond milk! If you love cold brew, but are tired of spending so much money at coffee shops, these are a great option. 

Product Review: Uniquely J Voxbox*

Product Review: Uniquely J Voxbox* | Writing Between Pauses

This is going to be a rather quick review. To start, I received three products in this Voxbox from Influenster and, not to give it away, they all fell a bit flat. It's hard to get excited about crackers and freezer bags, but I did my best!

Disclaimer: as always, the asterisk (*) in the title of this blog post denotes that I received these products free in exchange from review. However, my choice to feature them here is my own and all opinions are my own. You can read more about my disclosure policy here

What is Uniquely J? 

Uniquely J is the generic brand of Jet.com, a website that I know most for having somewhat bizarre commercials. Jet.com is a lot like Amazon, selling household goods on subscription services for cheaper prices. So basically, you sign up and get toilet paper autoshipped to your house every 6 weeks--so it's technically cheaper than buying it from the store. 

Uniquely J is their brand of just about everything: coffee, paper supplies, cooking supplies, cleaning supplies, snacks... They've got a bit of everything. You can check it out here

What I Received

In this voxbox, I received: Fig and Olive Large Crisps; Almond Chocolate Biscotti; and Freezer Bags

Mocha Almond Biscotti

Uh, yeah. Freezer bags. 

Freezer Bags

First things first, let's discuss what I liked: the packaging of these products is cute. I mean, it's really cute. The boxes are cute. Everything is cute. But then, you open them. 

Ok, it's not quite that dramatic. 

Fig and Olive Crisps

But I was pretty disappointed by the snacks because, well, they have the makings of everything I love. I love biscotti! I love crackers! I love those things! Yet, I wouldn't eat either of these things by choice. 

Let's break it down.

I'll start with the Fig and Olive Crisps. They're insanely sweet. Not sweet and salty. Not savory with some sweetness. They are sweet in the way that British people often describe American bread. (Yes, you're not alone, Brits. I, a born and bred American, also hate how sweet our bread is.) They are blisteringly, mouth-puckeringly sweet. I have no idea what you would eat these with, honestly. A dip might help reducing how teeth-numbingly sweet they are, but I honestly can't imagine what I would dip them in. Cheese? Gravy? The possibilities are all quite disgusting. On the plus side: Forrest likes them, but occasionally I catch him eating crayons. He is two years old, after all; his tastes aren't exactly discerning. 

Next, let's talk those Almond Chocolate Biscotti. Almond! Chocolate! Biscotti! Can you imagine? It sounds delicious, right? While the Fig and Olive Crisps are much too sweet for being a savory cracker, these biscotti are not sweet enough, despite being essentially a cookie. What is going on?! They are vaguely chocolatey, with bits of almond in them... but I wouldn't call them a biscotti. It was like two different kinds of blandness getting married to form another type of bland in the form of a cookie. They are aggressively bland in a way that is almost unsettling. And worse, they aren't even whole. This isn't a sleeve of little biscottis; it's a bag of essentially biscotti pieces. It's so bizarre! How can something that should be so easy to make taste amazing taste like I'm eating a piece of cardboard that's vaguely chocolatey? 

Needless to say... the two snack choices didn't make me very happy!

Then, of course, we have the Freezer Bags. I don't even know what to say about these! How do you review freezer bags? They zip. They have cute little designs on them, which isn't exactly my thing, but it's a nice touch. They seem to freeze well. They are quite thick and you get a lot in the package. It's hard to like or dislike freezer bags! 

It's funny because this voxbox had the other option of receiving cleaning supplies... I would much rather have gotten cleaning supplies, because I love a good window cleaner or wipe for my counter! These snacks have officially been put into the "treats for Forrest" bin and we've moved on from trying to make them work. But hey, the Uniquely J coffee does look really good and the prices certainly aren't bad. 

Review: Foot Petals Andi Classic Trainer VoxBox*

Review: Foot Petals Andi Classic Trainer VoxBox* | Writing Between Pauses

Disclaimer: As always, an asterisk in the title of this post (*) denotes that I received this product complimentary, in exchange for a review. However, all opinions remain my own. For more information, please see my disclosure policy here

A few weeks ago, I received a questionnaire from Influenster. I receive them pretty frequently and, while I do receive a fair number of voxboxes, I didn't expect to receive this one. I remember filling it out, but I wasn't sold on it; after all, I am purposefully sparse with my shoes (I have four pairs only) and didn't feel like I needed more. 

However, when I want to my mail box in the first week of November and saw these shoes waiting for me... I got a little excited. When I had filled out the survey, I fully expected to receive something other than shoes: inserts, maybe, or a foot spray, or something small. But a full pair of shoes? A full pair of shoes? That's pretty cool. 

I've been blogging for nearly 10 years, but the novelty of receiving a pair of shoes to review is still there! 

I was so excited to try these on. I am a big fan of Sketchers GoWalk or Go Lite shoes; I've taken a pair of Disneyland every time I've gone and they are dream shoes for heavy walking. Day to day, I'll admit, I don't do a ton of walking, but I do take Forrest to the park every day that I can and we try to stay active when we're at home. I was excited to add another pair of comfortable shoes to my arsenal (cut to me cringing at this... when did I get so old?) and these really fit the bill. 

Let's get into specifics: I received the Andi Classic Trainer in gray, in a size 7.5. I think I put that as my size for fear that the shoes ran small; however, a 7.5 is really big on me. I tend to wear pretty thick socks, so it's not a huge issue, but I can easily slip these on and off without taking off my socks. So, true sizing or even sizing down would probably be recommended. I do wish I had a 6.5 in these! 

Foot Petals Andi Classic 1 | Writing Between Pauses

First things first, these shoes are comfortable. Not quite as walking-on-clouds comfortable as my favorite Sketchers, but they are very comfortable nonetheless. They have an insert in the middle of the heel that provides support. They feel a little bit like the orthopedic shoes I used to wear when I worked at a deli, but a lot cuter. 

I picked the Andi initially (way back when I did that survey) because they were the most "plain" and I figured they would go with more of the clothes I wear daily. I really love wearing these with leggings and jeans; they make a great casual shoe for when I'm running errands. They definitely aren't the cutest shoes in the world; in person, they are kind of round and remind me a little bit of turtles. 

Overall, what's my opinion on these shoes? If you're looking for a comfortable walking shoe, they definitely should be on the list. At $99.99, they are pretty steep for a pair of shoes (admittedly, more than I would consider paying usually); but they are extremely comfortable, so if you do a lot of walking (or are planning a trip to a place like Disneyland), they're a great option.