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Category Archives: Baby & Toddler Essentials

You might remember a few years back I made a video “A Year with Solly Baby“, which was a compilation of videos of me wearing Lulu in her Solly Wrap from the time she was born until she turned one. I had such a wonderful time making that video that I teamed up with Solly Baby to make another video for them. The results of those compiled clips is below, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have them, and to share this video with you. Solly Baby asked me to write a few words about our time living abroad and this is what I told them…

“For the past two years we’ve been living abroad, having moved to a small town outside of London when I was pregnant with our third child. We were drawn to Europe from the Pacific Northwest by the lure of collecting passport stamps, and a desire to show our kids new food, art, scenery, and cultures. When our son was just a couple weeks old, we applied for his passport and soon started filling it, and ours, with those stamps. We’ve hiked around beautiful lakes and eaten Cornish pasties in England; climbed peaks and fortress steps in Salzburg; sipped beers in Belgium, and eaten ice cream in Amsterdam; wandered by Picasso and Gaudí in Barcelona; and splashed in Norwegian fjords. For much of that time with our baby happily observing, snoozing, or nursing in our Solly Wrap.
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Traveling with our kids was always something we dreamed of, an idea that we valued, and with a lot of hard work we were able to make a reality. Traveling with children is not always easy, but it’s always worth it. I keep that in mind as a mantra as I plan our greatest adventure yet – a six month long journey that will take us through Europe, Great Britain, and across the United States back ‘home’ … though we’ve learned that home can have so many definitions and nuances: a cozy place to sleep, a fragrant baguette, a familiar book, or a wrap that holds your baby close and secure in an unfamiliar, exciting place.”

Music: Nothing Much by My Bubba

Even though this is my third time starting solid foods with one of my babes, I still felt overwhelmed going into it. It’s a big change going from having a free, convenient, works-every-time supply on your person to feeding your baby solids. We put it off until Roux was almost 7 months old because we were traveling… and because it felt a little overwhelming. The sweet folks at Nuna UK sent us a high chair for Roux and, I know it’s silly, but that made me really excited to get him eating. I don’t work with many companies reviewing or promoting products, but I really love Nuna. I’ll put it out there right away that Kyle and I both agreed the Nuna Zaaz is the best high chair we’ve ever used, and between my first two kids and all my years of nannying, I’ve tried quite a few.

starting solids nuna zaazPINstarting solids nuna zaazPINNuna sent us our stroller and our travel cot (that Roux still sleeps in every night) just before he was due. They’d reached out at a time when I was feeling so unsettled – not sure what to do with all that nesting anxiety because we didn’t have anything for Roux. Those packages arriving on our doorstep, giving me something to assemble, brightened our experience here so much. So when they offered to send a high chair, I said, “Yes, please!” It’s so odd, this living abroad while have a baby thing. There are these amazing moments where it feels like we’re on a great adventure – and then there are these other moments where I feel sad that he’s not having his baby days in our “real” home and sleeping in the same crib or eating in the same high chair his sisters did. So having his own, very nice, very special stroller, cot, or high chair means so much to a sensitive, sentimental mama like me.

starting solids nuna zaazPINstarting solids nuna zaazPINstarting solids nuna zaazPINIntroducing Roux to solid foods has been really fun. When the girls were his age they hardly showed any interest in food at all, preferring to nurse the days away. But this boy is so into his food that for a couple (rather unpleasant) weeks there he would sit in his high chair and shriek at us while we rushed to make him food… now he seems to understand that, if he’s in his chair, we are going to feed him and he can relax. That, or the fact that once he’s in his chair he has two big sisters who rush to grab him a handful of Cheerios.

starting solid foods nuna zaazPINstarting solid foods nuna zaazPINstarting solid foods nuna zaazPINWe started off trying a bit of Baby Led Weaning, but his choking and gagging freaked us out too much so we went back to our trusted French Kids Eat Everything approach. I bought an inexpensive immersion blender on Amazon and started making him some purees. We skipped the rice cereal and went straight for carrots, peas, apples, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, bananas, etc. After the first couple weeks of him devouring the fine purees, I started purposely leaving some texture in his food. Now he loves to feed himself rice cakes, small vegetables, finely diced chicken, bread crusts, smashed black beans… and usually ends the meal inhaling a bowl of oatmeal amped up with formula.

starting solid foods nuna zaazPINstarting solid foods nuna zaazPIN

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We adore Freshly Picked shoes. I’ve been collaborating with this company since Gigi was a tiny tot. Here’s what I love about their shoes and moccasins: the kids can put them on themselves, they’re lightweight which makes them comfortable for the kids, and easy for me to bring along as an alternative pair when they get sick of wearing their rainboots/their boots get wet and muddy, and they come in a million wonderful colors and designs which the girls love to chose from.

The girls picked out three new pairs – one pair for each of the girls ,and one for their baby brother. Gigi, who is very into Star Wars lately picked herself a black pair because, “That’s what Princess Leia would choose.”, Lulu chose a sparkly pair called Merci because, “They’re sparkly like the Eiffel Tower!”, and the girls chose the silly B-A-N-A-N-A-S pair for Roux because they’re awesome.

freshly picked moccasinsPINfreshly picked moccasinsPINfreshly picked moccasinsPINfreshly picked moccasinsPINfreshly picked moccasinsPINfreshly picked moccasinsPINI’m teaming up with Freshly Picked to give away a pair. You can enter by leaving a comment here on the blog, and enter over on Instagram. *U.S. ONLY

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We have worked with Jennifer Adams, the author of the wildly popular BabyLit Board Books in the past, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her again. We are big fans of her BabyLit Board Books which include Jungle Book, The Wizard of Oz, Moby-Dick, Sense and Sensibility, Anna Karenina, Don Quixote, Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes, Jabberwocky, Dracula, The Secret Garden, Wuthering Heights, Romeo and Juliet, and my personal favorite, Pride and Prejudice. We’ve collected most of them and I give them as gifts all the time.

Any book that helps bring the classics to kids and gets them started early on a love of reading is a really incredible thing! The illustrations, by Alison Oliver, are vibrant and layered and both of the girls keep going back to these books. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a Les Misérables Board Book since Gigi is completely obsessed… it would be lighter for her to carry around than her 1,232 page copy! Along with the amazing board books, BabyLit also makes four wonderful playsets: Moby-Dick, Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, and Jungle Book (each playset also includes a copy of the book)!

Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing the fun ways we’ve introduced these playsets into our home preschool “program”, and along with each post I’ll be giving away a matching playset!

We started off with Alice in Wonderland because Gigi has been all about tea parties lately, and you know I love any opportunity to bake a cake! I took a lot of time to set up a sweet little tea party while she napped, I even got out real china! We had spent the morning making a letter E cake since that was the letter we were focusing on that week, and I pulled down my own annotated copy of Alice in Wonderland, and this wonderful book called The Other Alice, Gigi had a fabulous handed-down Alice costume, so once she woke up she slipped it on, and we had tea and cake and worked together to set up her new playset. Then, while she played with it, I read to her from my copy of Alice in Wonderland. She was only half-listneing as she played and ate, which was the whole point. It was so fun to watch her use her rich imagination to bring the characters to life while she listened to Lewis Carroll’s wonderful story.ALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINALICE IN WONDERLAND BABYLIT BOARD BOOKPINTo enter the giveaway and win an Alice in Wonderland playset leave a comment! I’ll announce the winner when I share our Moby Dick Playset “Pirate Party” next week! You can also enter on Instagram! Good luck!

GIVEAWAY CLOSED.

baby toddler essential listPIN

I get asked all the time by girlfriends what are the baby/toddler essentials they need to get through the first two years with a new addition. I put together a comprehensive list of the basic baby things you need to get started for putting together a registry or shopping for your baby. I made this list when G was about six months old, and have updated and made changes to it now that Lulu is (almost) 9 months. I hope this list and my opinions on these items help you get prepared for welcoming a baby into your homes!

Bathing and Toiletries…

Tub: We mostly just do sink baths or I dunk Lulu in with G for a quick rinse. We also had this tub from IKEA which was great. It’s only $8 and it now makes a great summer outdoor water station.

Towels: We use the Aden+Anais towels and washcloths for post-bath drying. They’re thick and well made and last forever!

Baby Wash & Lotion: We use California Baby shampoo and body wash and other products. We also love Dr. Bronner’s, we use their almond, lavender, and unscented soaps. I use almond oil, Spectrum Organic coconut oil, or this homemade body oil after baths to keep skin soft and moisturized. (Be cautious with almond in case of nut allergies). A great site for looking at toxin levels in beauty/bath/sunscreen products is the Environmental Working Group. Burts Bees also makes some great baby products.

Sunscreen: I prefer to use Badger Baby Sunscreen. It’s expensive but it doesn’t have all the bad stuff in it. (Pediatricians only recommend sunscreen after 6 months). Again, the Environmental Working Group is a great site for finding the best/safest sunscreen for your family

Tiny Colds: When Lulu gets sick we rely on the brilliant NoseFrida. It is totally disgusting but it works to clear congestion in a way those little bulb snot-suckers don’t. Kyle (and lots of other Dads I know) won’t go anywhere near it but mom’s everywhere love it. We have one in our travel bag too. It’s a lifesaver. We also rely on this Vick’s humidifier.

Tiny Fevers: We invested in the Braun Thermometer and love it. It’s fast and easy and accurate and it’s great for sneaking in for middle of the night fever reading.

Potty Training: We recently discovered and love this NextStep Toilet Seat. It fits discretely onto your toilet and the kid seat magnetically connects to the larger lid so it’s easy for everyone to use without having a bulky or awkward separate seat. We will keep our Baby Bjorn Toilet Trainer Seat in the car for long road trips and visiting friend’s houses.

Diapering Needs…

Newborns: I swear by the Pamper’s Newborn Swaddlers. They fit tiny babes and have a yellow line that turns green when they are wet so you know when you need to change them. They are great in the first few weeks. I’m also hoping to try out the BumGenius newborn cloth diapers this next time.

Cloth Diapers: We tried a few but stuck with the BumGenius 4.0 Diapers. We love them. I did a big post here on cloth diapering.

Disposable Diapers: I always have current size disposable diapers on hand. I use Pampers or Huggies. I also really like the Seventh Generation diapers but they’re a little expensive for us. We gave up trying to use the cloth diapers while on trips out of town, and even sometimes in town it’s easier to not have to lug around a wet/dirty cloth diaper.

Wipes: We use the Kirkland Premium Baby Wipes (the Costco Brand) and love them. They’re soft, inexpensive and unscented. The main issue for us is keeping as much unscented as possible. We never used a baby wipe warmer but a lot of moms love them. This Munchkin wipe warmer with a little light on it looks great.

Diaper Cream: We use Bourdreaux’s Butt Paste for diaper rash. Be sure to use it with disposable diapers only. It will create a water barrier on your cloth diapers and make them less absorbent.

Changing Table: We didn’t have a changing table! I found over the ten years that I nannied diaper aged babes I very rarely used one. Most of the time kids were changed on a mat or blanket on the floor. You never have to worry about the baby falling… although changing on the floor does allow for a faster escape once they’re mobile! We did get this simple contoured changing pad (and these covers or these ones) for floor and bed changes.

Sleeping…

Swaddles: We love the Aden+Anais brand for swaddles. They are easy to use and hold tight. Plus, these beautiful swaddles can be used for just about anything and everything. They’re on the top of my baby essentials list.

Chair: Baby Bjorn ChairBy far one of my favorite baby items is the . We didn’t have it this third time around and I sure wish we had. It was given as a gift and it was one of the things we used the most. We also had extra covers for it and they were great for keeping it clean and dry and using it when we first started feeding Gigi solids but she couldn’t sit up on her own.

Blankies: Gigi fell in love with the Aden+Anais Issie Security Blankets. She sleeps with them every nap and every night… we have 12! We’ve gotten a few of the Aden+Anais Bamboo Securtiy Blankets for Lulu too.

Co-Sleeper: We always used a travel crib/cot. Most recently, with Roux we used the Nuna Sena and LOVED it.

Crib: Lulu’s crib is the IKEA Gulliver crib. We got it in white but they have it in natural wood too. It’s inexpensive and simple. It transitions into a toddler bed as well so it works for a really long time.

Crib Mattress, etc: We got this Sealy Foam-Core mattress because it’s lightweight which makes it easy to change the bedding. We couldn’t afford the nice organic mattresses but this one has great reviews and we’ve loved it. We have this Organic Waterproof mattress pad cover and love it. It’s soft and cozy and easy to wash and dry. I originally bought cheap sheets from Target and we’re still using them but I don’t like them. I will be replacing them with these inexpensive Carter’s Jersey Cotton soft sheets.

Noise Machine: I can’t say enough about the Sleep Sheep. We loved it. It bought us lots of sleep! It works in two settings 23 minutes and 45 minutes. It takes babes 20 minutes to fall truly asleep so the 23 min setting was great for soothing her into sleep, it’s designed to shut off just after they’ve fallen asleep so it doesn’t disturb them or shock them out of slumber by shutting off too early or too late. Babies sleep in 45 minute cycles so the 45 minute setting worked great for buying us extra sleep cycles early in the morning. We listened to a lot of waves and rain those first six months (not so much the heartbeat or the whales)! We never really used the sheep itself but took the sound box out of the back and took it everywhere we went! This time I will be purchasing the On the Go Sleep Sheep which is smaller and straps onto the car seat or stroller.

Baby Monitor: I did a lot of research before Lulu was born and we got the Phillips Advent Basic Monitor. It works great and it has great range. It does have a funny sound delay and sensitivity settings that took us a while to get used to but I’m really happy with it. I know a lot of people who have the more basic and less expensive Sony BabyCall Monitor too and they love it.

Movement Monitor: We did not have a movement monitor when G was a newborn but we got one this time because I had pretty severe postpartum anxiety last time. I was pretty nervous and anxious and checked on Gigi about 5,000 times a night/a nap in those first months (I wish I was exaggerating). The Snuza Hero Baby Movement Monitor snaps onto the diaper and is designed to vibrate if the baby hasn’t moved (a.k.a taken a breath) in 15 seconds, a audible alarm sounds after 20 seconds. It’s $120 but I loved it. It gave me such peace of mind and I was able to relax and get more sleep. We used it until Lulu was rolling around (up until she turned 6 months). I am so glad we got it this time.

On the Go…

Infant Car Seat: When Gigi was little we had the Peg Perego Primo Viaggo SIP 30/30. This car seat is designed for babies to use it up to 30lb/30in. Since we are both tall we figured (correctly) that we might have a tall baby. This car seat was also one of the top rated for safety on consumer reports. I felt that is was safe and secure therefore I have no complaints! Some people don’t like that it’s really heavy, but that’s part of what makes it so safe.

Car Seat: Once your baby reaches the height/weight limit you’ll need a bigger car seat. Again I went with the top rated on consumer reports for safety. We have the Britax Boulevard 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat. It’s designed for rear-facing up to 40lbs and forward facing from 40-70. Gigi is now 2 weighs 25lb and is 35in tall and seems to be way too tall for the seat. Another great car seat is the Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat . It’s only $125 so it’s really reasonably priced. It also rates high on consumer reports.

I have been researching my options for Extended Rear Facing, we plan to keep Gigi refacing as long as possible (hopefully up to the four year mark). We just got her the Diono Radian RXT and so far we love it! Lulu just moved into the Britax mentioned above. When Lulu is ready to move into the Radian RXT, we will get G a Diono Radian R120 (which is the same as the RXT but it doesn’t have the head rests so it will be more comfortable for a bigger kid. The Radian carseats by Diono are fantastic! They can be used from 5-120lbs! They run around $250 but I think they’re totally worth it whether or not you plan to do extended Rear Facing. One thing that you might consider if you buy a Diono car seat is also purchasing this inexpensive Diono Radian Angle Adjuster. We have a wagon-type car and found that we needed it to give the passenger more room. You probably only need it in a sedan or wagon style car, not a van or SUV.

*If buying or registering online through Amazon I highly recommend choosing a car seat that’s “shipped and sold” by Amazon. Our infant car seat was sold from a smaller company via Amazon and when we had an issue with it, it was impossible to deal with! Had it been purchased directly from Amazon they would have been able to replace it/work with us directly. All three car seats i linked to above are shipped and sold by Amazon.

Stroller: We have and love two Nuna strollers, the Nuna Ivvi Savi which is a fancy “luxury” stroller, and the Nuna Pepp Luxx which is an umbrella-type stroller.

Baby Carriers: We have the Ergo Baby Carrier and love it. It’s comfortable and can be used for a long time. The only other baby carrier we have is our Solly Baby wraps. They are lightweight, beautifully made by wonderful mama named Elle, and I can’t say enough about these wraps and the Ergo. They’re must haves! We use the Ergo for more active outings and the Solly for lighter use.

Diaper Bag: I mostly use my great Tano purse that has lots of pockets as a diaper bag but for bigger outings and when Gigi was really tiny we also used the Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag. It was inexpensive and it wasn’t ugly. That’s saying something when it comes to diaper bags! The Skip Hop bag is still in use 7 1/2 years later.

Emergency Kit: After 10 years as a nanny and 7 as a mom, I’m a big believer in the “emergency kit”. It’s amazing how many times I’ve been saved by having a bin in the car with extra diapers/wipes, a change of clothes, a few squeezy packs of food, a small container of formula, an extra bottle, a blankie, pajamas, a binki, a board book…  The trick is to remember to replenish it when you deplete it.

Nursing/Breastfeeding and Eating…

Breast Pads: Lansinoh Nursing Pads are the way to go, they are the best disposable breast pads. There are also great washable pads that I’ve used and loved. I know some moms who have used used and loved the reusable silicone Lily Padz.

Lanolin: I loved the the Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter and I loved it so much. I also had a few of these Lansinoh Soothies. If you put them in the fridge for a few minutes before putting them on sore or cracked nipples it will help you get through the first few weeks of breastfeeding! Another thing that works great is taking cold green cabbage leaves, rolling over them with a rolling pin and then tucking the cold leaves into your bra… green cabbage has antibiotic and anti-irritant qualities and reduces swelling and engorgement. Also, you look really glamorous with cabbage in your bra.

Breastfeeding Pillows: I loved my Boppy Breastfeeding Pillow. In the early weeks I propped it up with an extra pillow to get Gigi up to the right height. I know some moms prefer the My Brest Friend Pillow but it looks a little cumbersome to me. The third time around I didn’t use any pillows, but it was great in the beginning with G and L.

Cover: I used and love the Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover… at least at long as Gigi left it in place. By the time she was 5 months old I was flashing everybody. This time around with Lulu I hardly ever used a cover… sometimes I used an Aden and Anais Swaddle, but mostly people just saw my boobs.

Pump: The Madela Breast Pump In Style is the best breast pump around. It’s expensive but if you are having more than one baby it’s worth it! I had a hand-me-down one last time but this time my sister and I have co-invested in a new style pump. The rhythm pump system is fantastic. This time I will be ordering this ridiculous looking Simple Wishes Hands-Free breast-pumping bra so I can read or work while I pump. The ultimate tool for multitasking. I also have a  Madela Harmony Manual Hand Pump and I’m so glad I do. It’s great for short trips or for when I am away from the baby a little too long!
*Breast pumps are now considered preventative and are now covered 100% by all insurance (mandatory), and are not subject to deductible. Thank you to the new healthcare reform! Check with your insurance company!

Bottles: I’m a fan of the Born Free Bottles. We have both the glass and the BPA Free plastic ones in both the 5 and 9oz sizes . They are easy to use and Gigi never seemed to have any issues with air bubbles from bottles. They are wide-necked so the nipple is wider which Gigi also preferred. Lulu hated, hated, hated bottles. I was very persistent and eventually she took to these Comotomo Baby Bottles. Once she accepted them I slowly transitioned back to the Born Free Bottles since we were already invested in them, though in the end she only took a few bottles.

Highchair: In place of a highchair for Gigi we opted for the more discrete Stokke Handysitt which also allowed Gigi to sit at the table with us rather than separately. I have to admit there were times I wished we had a highchair but in retrospect I’m really glad we stuck with the Handysitt. Another amazing (but more expensive) highchair is the Stokke Tripp Trapp highchair. It’s made by the same company that makes the Handysitt. This time with Roux we got the Nuna Zazz and it’s been the best high chair I’ve used.

Baby Food: You can read my big baby food post here. I bought about 50% of Gigi’s baby food and made about 50% of it. I made it in large batches using our Cuisinart which worked perfectly. However, Gigi was a slightly picky little eater and flat out rejected many of the combos I made which left me feeling exhausted and frustrated with a lot of wasted food/time. I love the idea of using a small system like the Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker because you can make smaller batches, defrost frozen food and you only have one small thing to clean instead of several large things but I have opted to use a 4 Cup Cuisanart Food Processor instead. After reading French Kids Eat Everything I’m determined to introduce Baby #2 to a variety of foods early on and this will make that easy and doable without all the waste and all the dishes. Lulu has been loving her purées and I’ve made them all at home. I use a small pot with a lid and a simple basket steamer and then I use a Hamilton blender to purée the food really fine, as she grows we are using the Cuisanart Food Processor more (it leaves a bit more texture than a blender). I use these OXO Tot storage containers, this set has both 2oz and 4oz containers. We love both these Baby Bjorn “pelican” Bibs, and these Aden+Anais Bibs.

Miscellaneous Things I LOVE…

These DRONA boxes from IKEA are tucked in corners and under tables all over our house. They store toys, puzzles, diapers… everything. They keep all the clutter under control. They are really inexpensive and come in a few fun colors. We have 12 total!

Sophie the Giraffe Teether toy. Gigi loved it. Lulu loves it. It’s cute. It’s French. It worked on her little gums.

We had a salt rock lamp in our room when Gigi was sleeping with us. The light was soft and peaceful and made it easy to see her, change diapers, feed her, etc. but it didn’t interrupt her sleep or ours. I normally need it to be really dark for sleep but this soft light never bothered me. We never used a nightlight and Gigi doesn’t have on in her room now. It would be wonderful to have a dimmer switch in her room/in the nursery for late night visits/diaper changes/etc.

Gigi loves her Melissa and Doug shopping cart, her Fisher Price Medical Kit, and her Ikea Kitchen.

Books…

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child which was very informative regarding how much sleep kids need.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems which have great methods, ideas, routines and advice. The Baby Whisperer books were my favorite and I still use the Solves All Your Problems book now.

French Kids Eat Everything. This book completely changed the way I am going to approach baby food introduction and has completely changed the way we feed Gigi now. I’ve just done a big blog post on it here.

Brining Up Bébé was a fun book to read and gave me some perspective on the French parenting style which I am really drawn to. French parenting seems to be a bit more in sync with my instincts than some of the more American based options like Free Range or Attachment Parenting. I didn’t always love the author’s attitude but I appreciated the main points about parenting.

Well, there you have it! Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions in the comments below! This list is bookmarked along the left hand side of the blog so you can easily refer back to it.

*Finally, I should note that I registered via Amazon when I was pregnant with Gigi and am so happy I did. It was easy and I loved their universal registration option which allowed me to add items from outside sites. Again, I recommend registering/purchasing the big items that are shipped and sold directly from Amazon as it’s much easier to deal with them directly if you have an issue. I found when big items (like car seats) were sold by Amazon from outside companies it was really difficult to deal with warranties and issues.