The consumer whore report on healthy eating

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, (and by “you” I mean my fellow consumer whores who believe in supporting local business but are continually lured by the Siren Song of the Starbucks drive-through) but your friendly local international coffee chain is trying to go healthy. Are you familiar with the new menu items? Oatmeal with dried nuts and berries? The multi-grain roll? A dash of protein powder for your skinny latte? I am a regular drive-through customer, and I cherish the occasional morning commute that includes a one-on-one with a venti latte and an old-fashioned doughnut. But I’ve been reading up on health issues for my age group (holy shit, I turned 34 and I didn’t even mention it here!) and it occurred to me that my twice-weekly doughnut probably wasn’t the best medicine for my increasingly middle-aged organs. So last week I tried a few of the “healthy offerings” in lieu of my sugary little friend, and before you place your order for a fruit stella with its “juicy baked berries and omega-3s,” let me give you a Grade Adler-style woman-on-the-street review of the new menu: EW.

I like my latte, and I don’t care what you say about the tastelessness of protein powder–adding a dash of healthy to my java changes the way it tastes. And the multi-grain roll? I should not have to worry about breaking a tooth on a whole grain while experiencing the sensation of chewing 8-hour-old gum. The oatmeal wasn’t bad, but really, it would be difficult to screw up instant oatmeal. And what exactly IS a stella? Does calling it a stella make it more appealing than what it actually is, a pricey chewy fruit granola bar?

I find myself on the horns of a dilemma, and I have to say, I’m kind of used to sitting atop these particular horns. I know I should eat healthier food–more fruit and fewer mini Snickers bars, more whole grains and fewer doughnuts, more water and less diet Coke. But I don’t want to, plain and simple. It is an effort for me to plan ahead for this kind of eating. I like fruit, but it is messy and has to be cleaned; I have never had to wash a mini Snickers bar before popping it in my mouth, and while I actually LIKE drinking water, there is nothing quite like an icy cold diet Coke in the late afternoon. With a mini Snickers bar.

And yet. I want my daughter to have healthy eating habits. I want her to like eating fruit. I want her to prefer water over soda. She has never actually ingested soda (except for that one time when she was about 7 months old and leaned over and swigged a swallow right out of my straw, but that was not my fault becuase I was not aware she could drink from a straw!). She loves grapes and blueberries and apples. She drinks only milk and water, not even juice, and even though she has a serious ice cream addiction, I limit her consumption severely. I manage to set a good example by restricting my own bad eating habits to the car or my office, but I feel sort of like a scam artist. Okay, very like a scam artist. And I’m telling you about it because admission of a problem is the first step to fixing it, right? So I’m going to publicly declare my devotion to healthier eating, because a month from now, when I talk about how good that old-fashioned doughnut was on the ride to work, I fully expect one or more of you to make a snarky comment along the lines of, “Huh. I guess that healthy eating thing didn’t work out for you.”

But let me make one thing clear: I will not be adding protein powder to my occasional latte, and I will not be attempting to eat any more of those horrible rolls, and I can make instant oatmeal myself for a fraction of the cost. And also, just so you know, I will not be throwing out my mini Snickers bars, and when I break down and eat a handful at the end of a long day, I certainly won’t be talking about it here.

This post has been brought to you by our very first Guest Blogger, hd, from One Small Corner of the Universe. If you would like to be a guest blogger let us know!


stroller wars revisited

Our stroller (the Mutsy 4-Rider Light) is awesome.
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It drives like a dream (moms in my group who tested it called it the Ferrari of strollers compared to theirs) and is nice-looking and functional and extremely cozy (once we got into the big boy seat). He loves being in it and falls asleep every time. Perfect. BUT I would not pick it if I had it to do again. We wanted a stroller that took a bassinet, a car seat and a regular toddler seat. We didn’t need the bassinet. He HATED the bassinet. He hated the car seat, too, of course, but not the way he HATED the bassinet. We used it TWICE. Now the cat sleeps in it. I would have purchased the stroller we are now going to get as our lightweight, travel stroller (the Quinny Zapp). It can take a car seat and that would have been fine for the infant days. And it weighs 12 pounds, which is half what ours weighs. And it folds down to nothing.

BUT when we were picking strollers, the car seat that goes with the lightweight wasn’t approved for the US yet. So I couldn’t have it. And I thought I wanted a bassinet. I thought it would be so cute to have a little swaddly baby in there. I thought he would sleep in it all the time. HA.

When I say all this to Wes, he shakes his head. “I would have overruled you,” he says.

“No, you wouldn’t have. I was pregnant and angry. I would have won.”

“No. You would never have won. Two words. Or is three? Anyway…. Toddler. FunSeat.”

He is right. I never would have won the fight. The Toddler FunSeat wins. It goes on our stroller once Beck is big enough. It has a little fake steering wheel and the most gigantic basket ever. It really is so adorable that Wes once had all the sales guys at Buy.Buy.Baby gathered around the Internet oohing and aaahing at it with him.

Note, written later: Zapp does not recline, I discovered once we got it so maybe it would not have made a good daily stroller after all.

More Baby Necessities on a Small Budget

The first installment brought you the big items for the nursery, this installment will deal with the smaller, but no less necessary, items for a nursery.

Stroller: I probably should have talked about a stroller in the first post as strollers can be VERY expensive. I don’t have a whole lot to say about strollers, though, and plenty of other people do. We made a common first-parent mistake and bought a travel system: matching baby bucket and gigantic stroller in one. It was handy to have a stroller that we could pop her bucket on and the sun shade and weather shields (though the sunshade wasn’t strictly necessary at first as the baby bucket had a sunshade attached) are nice but the stroller is SO big and SO heavy and takes up SO much room in the trunk… so we bought a cheap umbrella stroller for $15. And that works well, except it doesn’t have a sunshade or the storage that the large stroller has. And, the umbrella stroller’s handles are too short for me to push comfortably. So, what I wish we’d done was purchased the baby bucket separately instead of in a travel system, and gotten something lightweight and easily folded like this Snap n Go stroller. Of course, that doesn’t solve the dilemma we face now that Sassa’s older and out of her baby bucket: do we go for storage and a comfortable height for me with our HUMONGO stroller, or get something lightweight, small and convenient at the price of no storage and me unable to push comfortably? Not to mention that there’s no reclining seat in the umbrella and so it’s harder for Sassa to nap on the go. We did get a mesh stroller bag (something similar to this) to add some storage to the umbrella stroller, so that’s an option to eliminate at least one of the issues. So I guess I should put this out to my more stroller-savvy readers: is there a reasonably priced, light-weight, compact, easily maneuvered stroller out there with an under-seat storage basket, a reclining seat, a sun hood, adjustable height handles, and (because I’m asking for the moon here) an accessory tray to hold my latte? Or is there something with most, but not all, of those options? A really good, well-planned stroller would be useful for years, so I suppose that this would be something that spending more would be justifiable, but I get a heart attack thinking of spending over $250 for a stroller (hey, this is Baby Necessities on a BUDGET). Oh, never mind about the need for a cupholder as I see that there are tons of options for adding a cupholder for my latte, still, it would be nice…

Swing: There are some babies who don’t like swings. There are some babies who think swings are so-so. And then there are some babies who NEED a swing. Because you don’t know which type of baby you’re going to get, and indeed, because babies can change their views on swings at a whim, I strongly suggest that you get a swing before the baby arrives. And I strongly suggest that you get one used. Some people suggest not getting a swing at first and just taking your child somewhere to try one out before buying it. I think this is a waste of time. The first few times that we put Julia in her swing she greatly disliked it. If we’d been trying it out at a friend’s house, or the store, we would have left without buying. But, because we had it there, out of desperation a few times we put her in the swing and she got used to it. There were times she wanted the swing and times she couldn’t stand the swing – it was worth having the swing in our living room during the times that she couldn’t stand it for the peace it brought when she could. The swing turned out to be something that I would have felt good about paying full price for – because it was so necessary and because Julia was small enough that we used it up to her first birthday – but we didn’t know it would turn out that way at the time, so I’m glad that we got it for free. Definitely get your swing used. Check around, ask people with kids, or people who know people with kids, if any of them have a swing in storage that they can lend you. If that falls through, turn to the ever-handy classifieds. New swings can be expensive, and they’ll often have extra gadgets attached – toy bars, mobiles, lights, noises. These things are nice, but they’re not strictly necessary. Klove and I got our swing (and bouncy seat) for free from a friend, and we were lucky in that they matched our nursery theme, but the swing was missing its toy bar, and the lights and sounds and mobile worked only sporadically if at all. And it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the motion of the swing. It was nice that our swing had the option of swinging back to front or side to side, there were times when Sassa was fussy and all it took was changing the motion, but apart from that… basic is just fine. If you find a used swing that works for a good price, take it even if it doesn’t match your décor. It’s less exciting than getting a new one, but it’ll be better than paying full price for something that doesn’t work for your child.

Bouncy Seat: This is another item like the swing that some babies love and some babies hate. Our baby hated hers. No matter how often we put her in it she would only stay there for a minute or two, tops. And she would NEVER sleep in hers. Other babies are different. Like I said with the swing, we got ours handed down to us, so I don’t resent having it at the time, though I did resent kicking it around when she wouldn’t use it. So, put the bouncy seat in the category of: get it used if you get one at all. If it’s stained you can always throw a receiving blanket over it to make it look sweet and pretty.

Baby Bath Tub: Choices here will kind of depend on the size of your baby and your own preferences. Sassa was a tiny baby, so when she first came home from the hospital we bathed her in the little tub they sent home with her. Later we moved to the kitchen sink. We had received a baby bath tub at one of our showers. The baby bath tub came with a detachable bath sling similar to this one. We have a very tiny main floor bath, and no master bath, and we found that we were disinclined to drag the baby bathtub out and fill it up only to have to drain it and dry it off and put it back away again after every bath, so we took the bath sling off and found that it worked marvelously in our kitchen sink. And that’s how we bathed Sassa for months. The bathtub just took up space in her nursery. The sling was small, quick drying, and easy to use. If I were to do it again I’d skip buying the whole baby bathtub, and simply get this bath sling. This sling can be used in the kitchen sink OR in a regular tub if your baby is too big to fit in your kitchen sink. Another inexpensive item that might work better for larger babies is this bath cushion though I’ve never tried it, so I can’t be sure.

When your baby is old enough to sit and play in the tub, honestly I’d just throw a towel in the bottom of the tub for traction and cushioning, run only a few inches into the tub, and call it done. As for bath rings, our baby bathtub did transform into a bathing ring, but we found it awkward and Sassa hated to be in it. The baby has to be able to sit in order to use one anyway, so why bother with it? You’re not going to leave that baby’s side while it’s in the tub anyway. I’ve heard of some people using a plastic laundry basket in the tub to help corral their sitter, and that would certainly be cheap and convenient in terms of storage (gotta have laundry basket anyway, right?), so you might consider trying this, too. Or at least googling it to see what other people say.

Crib Set: Over the years when I thought about having a baby, one of the things I spent the most time thinking about (besides the baby itself, oh and name choices) was what kind of crib set I wanted. When I was 20 I nearly shelled out $150 for a Rainbow Fish crib set. It was so cute! Even though I had no plans to get pregnant any time soon, I was too tempted by the cuteness. I’m so glad that I didn’t. By the time Klove and I got serious about having a baby, I looked for the Rainbow Fish set and found that it was no longer being sold. I was heartbroken and so I looked in consignment stores and ebay and scoured the internet looking for the set. And when I found pieces of it I was inevitably disappointed by the quality. So I started looking hard at commercially available crib sets and I couldn’t believe the prices that were being charged for such poor quality items. Now, not all crib sets are poor quality, but they’re all relatively expensive. This is another one of those items, like the crib itself, that has a limited use span. We didn’t want to pay $150-$200 or more for something that was only a decoration and wouldn’t be used for long. So, since my mother is a fantastic quilter, we asked her if she would sew us one as her gift to us. She agreed and one day we went to a fabric store and picked out our pattern, decided what pieces we wanted, and went to look at fabrics. The pattern was on sale for $2.50, the fabrics and notions (including jersey for matching sheets) were less than $30, and there were bumper pad forms for about $25. We chose to have my mom make a dust ruffle, bumpers, a diaper stacker, a cushion for our rocking chair, 2 crib sheets, a crib quilt, and 2 hanging organizers. My mother was able to modify the hanging organizer pattern so that it hung by Velcro along the sides of the dresser we were using as a changing table.

So, here’s what I suggest: if you can sew make it yourself. Or if you have someone in your family or close friend group who likes to sew, I’d approach them and see if they’d be willing to sew your crib set as a gift to you. I say approach them, because they might not think of it on their own; they might think you’ve got a set picked out from a store, or they might never have sewn one before and so it wouldn’t be on their minds and thus they wouldn’t just offer. But it’s easy to do, and I haven’t met a sewer who didn’t think that the project was a fun one. If you’re worried about the cost of the fabric PLUS the cost of the labor would be too much for this particular person, you could offer to supply the fabric and notions if they’ll do the labor. And they can always say no and you’re no worse off than you were before.

If that fails, go back to those handy classifieds. There are some quality sets out there that hold up well to handing down, and I’ve even seen NIP sets for very low prices. Of course, the crib set is so crucial to the overall look of the nursery that I don’t blame you if you’re too choosy to find one used or for sale on the classifieds that’ll suit you. This might be a case where esthetics outweighs budget. If that’s so, start looking early, cruise ebay, comb the internet and do the best you can to get the best deal you can wrangle.

A word about diaper stackers: they’re not always a standard piece included in a crib set. Some people (like us) love them and use them constantly (right now that’s the only piece of Sassa’s crib set, aside from the quilt, that we’re still using) Other people never use them at all. Klove and I buy our diapers in bulk and so we like to keep the big box out of the way and refill the stacker; my brother and sister in law bought diapers in smaller bags from the grocery store and just had the bag lying around. Think about how you think you’re going to diaper. Disposable bulk? Disposable small purchases? Cloth? Does it bother you to have commercial packaging lying around? Do you want something portable to hold your diapers? If you’re buying a commercially prepared crib set you might have to purchase the diaper stacker separately. In that case, you might not find it worth it to buy one. If you’re making your own, or having someone else make it for you, it won’t cost that much extra to make one, so I say get one and see.

Also, sheets: Sassa wasn’t much of a vomiter. She spat up a lot, but it was reflux, and we got into the habit of laying her on a cloth diaper or burp rag. So, for us, 2 crib sheets turned out to be fine. My mother made us two sheets to match the crib set and we just alternated them. I’d start with two pretty sheets, and get a couple of plain white cotton ones as back ups and that should be all you need.

Decorations: Exploit the talents of others. Look around your family and friend sets. Do you have people who are artistic or crafty? Someone who likes to draw or paint? Exploit them! Talk to them about painting a mural for the nursery walls as a gift. Or, take a page from HD’s book and get a number of people to each paint a tiny canvas with a picture that relates to your nursery theme. Such a project could even be a shower activity. Is there someone who likes needlework? Ask them for a wall hanging, or a pillow for the rocking chair.

Look to the talents and hobbies of the people who love you, chances are they’ll love a chance to give you something more personal and meaningful as a gift for the baby, and you’ll end up with a nursery that is unique and reflective of your life and family. You don’t even need wildly creative and skilled people for this… you could decorate your nursery wall with the handprints and signatures of your family and friends. Got someone who loves photography? Ask them for copies of some of your favorite pictures that they’ve done, or see if they’ll accept an assignment from you to match your theme. Heck, even if you don’t have a photographer in your family you can do this yourself. Take enough pictures on a digital camera and a few, at least, are bound to be good (just look at my flickr set if you’re in doubt, any of the good pictures I’ve taken are entirely by accident) and even a mediocre shot can be made interesting with some creative cropping. And they’re bound to look better and be cheaper than many commercially-available, mass-produced nursery wall hangings.

Ok. That’s long enough for now. I’ve covered most of the major purchases, I think, that you’d need in the first six months or so. One more post talking about feeding supplies, infant toys, clothing, hygiene and pharmacy items and I should be done. Anything I’ve forgotten so far?

Baby Necessities on a Budget Pt 1

With Lauri sailing on through her second trimester, she asked me what baby things they’d need and how best to get them. So it’s taken me a couple of weeks, but I’ve come up with a list of what I think you need when you have a baby, and how I think you should pay for them. It’s long, so if you don’t have need of this info you might want to skip it. Though, if you have a baby or children and you want to chime in with your own suggestions, that would be great, too.

Ok, let’s start with the basics:

Crib: Get a crib. Even if you’re planning on co-sleeping, get a crib. At the very least it gives you a safe place to put a crawler for a few minutes while showering. But, unless you’re very sure that you’re going to have a passel of children who are going to play rough, I’d say don’t buy a new crib. I comb Craig’s list and the classifieds every day and there is no shortage of cute cribs for sale there. This is a piece of furniture that your child will use for maybe 2 years, unless you’re planning on having more kids to pass it down to, it’s just not worth the expense.

When looking for a used crib, keep in mind that all modern cribs are built to certain safety standards. If you’re getting a crib that’s only a few years old they should be compliant as long as they’re in good condition. But if the crib you’re looking at is older than that (or you’re not sure how old it is) here are the safety guidelines you should stick to:

The slats and bars should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart. There should be no cutouts on the head and foot board that your child could get their limbs or head stuck in, stay clear of finials at the end of posts, and posts themselves should be no higher than 1/16th of an inch above the rails.

One final note on cribs: get one with a drop side. You may never use it, but do you want to risk that? Here’s the thing. Your baby may end up being the easiest sleeper in the world. Your baby may NEVER vomit in the middle of the night. Your baby may be a light baby that doesn’t break your back to lift up and down out of a crib without a drop side. But, do you REALLY want to take the risk that one night you’ll be seriously sleep-deprived, unbelievably tired (I can’t stress that enough…), with a possibly sick, but definitely cranky baby at 4 AM when you’re trying to lay it down for the 6th time that night, and realize that the only thing that’s going to help this kid stay asleep while transitioning into the crib is for your legs to grow an additional 3 feet in height, or for the crib’s side to drop… and that at that point it’s far more likely that you’ll spontaneously gain the extra height needed because that side is NEVER GOING TO DROP because you didn’t think you were ever going to need a crib whose side dropped? Please, avoid that future blog post, get the crib with the side that drops.

Now, for the mattress. There have been recent studies that suggest that older (read: used) mattresses contribute to SIDS deaths. I’m not going to relate the theory here, but here’s a link if you’d like to read it for yourself. Reading the articles on the toxic-gasses theory of SIDS, it seems that older mattresses cause SIDS because of the toxic chemicals interacting with common fungus producing toxic gasses. Older mattresses have more fungus in them, but the new mattresses STILL have the toxic chemicals and flame retardants in them. For these reasons I recommend that whether you choose to buy a new mattress or go with an older mattress, you should wrap it or buy a gas-impermeable cover. We bought our mattress new for $40. If we have a second child before Sassa turns 3 then we’ll be buying a new crib mattress for our second child, too. However, if our second child comes at the same time, or after, Sassa transitions from a toddler bed (which uses a crib mattress) to a regular bed, we’ll be using our old mattress, but regardless; we’re buying a cover for it to reduce the off gassing. So, make choosing an old or new mattress a personal choice, but buy the cover, ok? It can’t hurt, but it could save your kid’s life. And even if it’s a total scam, at $30 for a cover (or less than that if you choose to wrap your mattress yourself) it’s a pretty cheap one.

Changing Table: Ah, the changing table. Use of a changing table is purely based on your lifestyle and choice. I can tell you that Klove and I use the changing table constantly. All Sassa’s diapers are changed on it, we get her dressed on it, we do her hair on it, we lotion her up on it. Considering that Sassa didn’t sleep reliably in her crib until she was a year old, the changing table has been the single most useful and necessary piece of equipment we bought. But you may not be like that. Think about what you’re going to need and how accessible your nursery will be to the rest of your living space. How likely are you to use a changing table as opposed to just using a mat on the floor or couch? The thing that’s helped our table’s use has been the fact that Sassa is such a small baby. At 23 months old she’s still only 23 lbs. If Sassa had been a significantly bigger baby we might not have been so willing to lift her up to the changing table so often.

I say, hedge your bets. Unless you can get one for free don’t get one of those changing tables that are only ever changing tables. Don’t waste your money on one like this. Like a crib, this piece of furniture has a limited time before it’s useless and you’re selling it or storing it or passing it down. When every dollar counts, not only now but in the future, don’t spend your cash on something with a limited life span. If you’re going to spend money, spend it on a dresser. But also, don’t think that you need to spend hundreds of dollars on a special dresser/changing table combo. Klove and I spent hours on a hot summer day driving from store to store to pick out our changing table/dresser. We weren’t just shopping at specialty baby and children’s shops, either. In fact, most of our searching took place at regular furniture stores. We had specific size requirements because of the tiny size of our nursery, if you don’t have those then it probably won’t take you as long to find one. In the end we found a beautiful solid wood dresser at a store that sold unfinished furniture. The height was perfect for both Klove and I, and it was only about $60. My father finished it with a clear coat, but we could have done that ourselves had we needed to. Because it was solid wood we were able to attach a thick, contoured changing pad (around $20) to the top (via strapping and screws in the back) and a safety belt. The dresser is anchored to the wall behind it. Even if we had never, or rarely, used it as a changing table, it would still be a useful piece of furniture. And once we’re done using it as a changing table, it’ll remain a useful piece of furniture. Considering how much we have used this dresser, it was worth the time spent in going from store to store to make sure we got the perfect height.

Bassinettes, cradles, Moses Baskets: Nothing says baby more than one of these items and I don’t know about you but my heart just melts at the sight of a bassinette shrouded in white eyelet. But, if you’re on a budget, don’t buy one. Or, at least, don’t buy one new. Again, if you really want one, check the classifieds. Just keep thinking of the dollar spent/time used ratio, and keep the time used side heavier than the dollar spent. A baby is usually only in a cradle or bassinette for 3 months or so. Don’t spend a lot of money on something that will have more sentimental than practical value. Now, if you’re a busy person and you have a large home and you want something that you can lay your child down in to sleep that’s easy to carry around, then it might be worth it to get a Moses basket (I’d still get one used if you could). But if you’re just looking for something to put in the family room to hold your sleeping baby instead of walking across the house or up the stairs, then you can achieve the same effect by getting a pack n play with a convertible bassinette attachment. And, again, if you can get one used so much the better. Klove and I bought ours new and though it’s proven necessary and useful, it hasn’t been SO useful that I’m entirely happy with the $125 we spent on it when I see ones for much cheaper on the classifieds. Oh well, live and learn, eh? I guess, if you think you’ll use it a great deal, and you’d like one with a lot of bells and whistles, and you’d like it new, then put one on your registry and hope someone gets it for you.

High Chair: You know, before I had Sassa I had no idea how much a lifestyle can impact high chair use. I just thought that you get a high chair and that’s that. Good thing we got one for free. We got a nice high chair for free: removable pad, reclining seat, big tray that came off with one hand. And even though we got it for free, it wasn’t worth it to store it. By the time Sassa was big enough to sit in the high chair, she was used to sitting in her bumbo seat. And, more importantly, WE were used to sitting her in her bumbo seat. We sat her in her bumbo seat, on the table, to do almost all of her feedings. We put her in her bumbo seat, with toys, on the kitchen counter when we were cooking. She preferred to be up closer to face-level with us, and we preferred to have her in arm’s length. By the time she was old enough to pull herself out of the bumbo seat (and had the desire to do so) she was nearly a year old. She sat in her high chair for a while, but she missed being right at the table with us. So we asked for this booster seat for her 1st birthday. She’s been sitting at the table with us since. The booster seat is adjustable for weight and height, so she’ll probably be in this seat for quite a long time. So, when thinking about a high chair, think about your home and lifestyle. If you’ve got a smaller kitchen and/or dining room, you might consider just getting a booster or feeding seat.

Car seat: This one is hard for me. Sassa was a tiny baby and so we used her bucket (detachable rear-facing baby seat that you can carry around with you) all the way up until her first birthday. She was small enough to sit in it and it was so handy when she would fall asleep in the car. We could bring it in the house and set it down and let her finish her nap. But many babies grow out of their buckets right away. So, here’s what I’d suggest. I’d suggest starting with a bucket. You could consider getting one used, but only if a) the seller can guarantee that it has never been in a car accident, b) it’s in good condition, c) you check with the manufacturer to make sure that it hasn’t been recalled, and d) it is not past the expiration date. The expiration date should be marked on it somewhere. Check that out. Don’t buy a car seat used unless all of these conditions have been met. I would not spend a lot of money on a bucket, though, unless you have a very small baby. I’d just go straight for a convertible seat. And get the safest one that will fit in your car regardless of price. This is what you’ve been scrimping your money for – so that you have the money you need so you can make sure that your baby is safe without breaking your budget. If you’re getting all those other baby “big ticket” items for free or used off the classifieds, then you can put the car seat you want on your registry and encourage people to chip in for it, or give you gift cards towards it. I’m not going to recommend specific brands or models or suppliers, though, as I’m not fully educated in the varieties of them and I’d hate to recommend something that wasn’t safe. Google it.


Most people probably wouldn’t put this on a list of basic necessities for a baby. I do, though, because aside from the changing table and our club chair, this piece of equipment was the most useful baby item we owned:

The bumbo seat: this seat is the reason Sassa was sitting, unassisted, when she turned 4 months old. We started putting her in the bumbo seat when she was 6 weeks old. At first she could only sit for a few minutes, but she grew stronger and stronger. Sitting in the seat, on the table or counter, put her in a position to see what was going on around her, and to begin interacting with everything and everyone from a very early age. It fostered her sense of independence and physical competence. In this way it was not only a useful piece of gear, but it was incredible for her physical and mental development. And it gave us a place to put her when we were making dinner, doing dishes, paying bills, or what have you. It was portable in the extreme – moving from kitchen to living room to outside. We carried it with us to friends’ houses to hold and feed her in. For $30 it was well worth every penny we spent on it and I can’t imagine life that first year without it. Even though she outgrew the bumbo seat by the time she was 10 months old, the ratio of price to use was so skewed to the use side it would have been a bargain at 3x the price. Since Sassa grew out of it we’ve lent it to two other families and they’ve both gotten the kind of use that we did out of it. If you can find one used, that’s great, but if you can’t then pay full price for it. It’s worth it.

Ok, that’s enough for today. Tomorrow: baby bathtubs, swings, bouncy seats, and other extras.

Edited: Just to test my own theory, I scanned the on-line classifieds today. Cribs: I could have gotten a basic crib with a mattress (basic meaning that I don’t like the style but could have painted it to blend in with my vision of the nursery) for $45. There was also a solid maple sleigh crib with mattress and bedding offered for $100 if I wanted to splurge. Or there was a cherry crib without mattress for $35. I saw a playyard/bassinette combo for $35 and a cradle for $25. If I was suddenly 9 months pregnant and needed to get this stuff bought TODAY I could have crib, mattress (but not the wrapping I feel is necessary), bedding, and a playyard with a bassinette attachment for $135. If I wanted to splurge I could get the cradle and make the total $155. And that’s just by looking for one day. If I were going to outfit a nursery now I’d start looking early, set my style and price ahead of time, and just bide my time looking for it to show up. 10 minutes a day scanning the on-line classifieds can end up getting you a crib that you are very happy with for less money than you’d expect. Unless you’re Bri and Wes, of course, because they’re picky… (I love you two, but I cannot see you getting a crib off the classifieds and being happy with it, so I’m so glad that you didn’t.)

stroller wars part 728

Wes and I have been debating the relative merits of the various ridiculously expensive strolles for many, many years now. We had thought it was a simple debate between the Bugaboo and the Stokke Xplory. The first two rounds of in-person exploration of the two landed us firmly in the Bug camp. There were times we thought that the decision had really been firmly made. We thought the Xplory was too plasticky the first time we saw it. The second time, when I was pregnant with the penguin, we thought that the mechanism for taking off the bassinet was too difficult. A green Bug, we decided. We were seemingly done.

But time is a funny thing, and TK has taken a damn long time to be made. We have changed our minds a zillion times. We have explored more stroller websites than seems natural. We have read more daddytypes posts about strollers than could posisbly be good for us. And now we can’t decide again.

And now there are more options!

And now every single solitary person in Park Slope is driving a Bugaboo.

Seriously. The other morning I went in to work late when I was feeling sick. It was 10 am and I was at the corner of my street and I looked around while waiting for the light to change. I spotted 7 strollers from where I stood and 4 of them were Bugs.

I am not completely thrilled with following the herd, but when a product is good, people buy it. I could get over this. Wes, though, would really like to be different. He will go with the Bug if we really decide it is the BEST but if there is an alternative that is just as good, it might win on just not being the Bug.

So. Mutsy came onto the scene because it is suddenly available in the U.S. More specifically, it is now at Buy B*y B*by (ie, the big, scary baby store), where we can compare the three front runners. These are up for consideration because they can all hold a bassinet, a seat, or a carseat – that’s our standard. They are all damn heavy and will be too much for me to carry down stairs to a subway alone (though we could handle it together), so we are aware that we will eventually need a cheap umbrella stroller. But a very large percentage of my time is spent in my neighborhood walking, and we want one of these fabulous strollers mostly for that. So we went for more research at the big, scary baby store.

(They also have the Orbit, which we used to find interesting, but which we did not like in person and which I would not buy anyway because A) the car seat really hasn’t been tested much and B) you have to pay for all the pieces separately and that’s lame.)

We got demos tonight in the Mutsy and the Xplory and learned that the Xplory isn’t really hard to take apart – we just had a bad salesperson at the last store where we saw it. The folding mechanism on the Mutsy is about a zillion times easier than either the Bug or the Xplory, and that’s a really nice feature. Both of them are higher up than the Bug, which we really like. The Xplory’s wheel base is a tiny bit narrower than the other two, though not by a lot. Mutsy has more accessories and fun things, like stands to make the seat into a bouncer or standalone bassinet, and a special toddler fun seat with steering wheel that looks awesome. The Mutsy and the Xplory have non-air-filled tires, which means not having to pump them up and not worrying about popping them.

Wes’ problem with the Mutsy is that it looks a lot like the Bugaboo and he doesn’t want anyone to think that he has a Bugaboo “knock-off.” The Mutsy price tag is still extremely high (though a couple hundred less than the other two) and that alone makes it no knock-off in my opinion. Plus, stroller conoisseurs will know that it is a new and special thing. People will start to recognize it as they have the Quinny strollers (still not available in the U.S. and not adaptable with U.S. carseats – otherwise we would be investigating them).

I would almost venture to say that we are now deciding between the Mutsy and the Xplory. But the Bugaboo has a way of winning us back every so often so I can’t say that yet. We have such a very long time to go, still.


Buy Buy Xplory Bugaboo?

Last night we spent more than one hour in Buy Buy Baby in Chelsea. I am almost ashamed to type that. I felt like such a fraud that I kept touching my stomach in that way newly pregnant women have, hoping people would take me for one – I feared their newly-heightened senses of smell could sniff me out as “not one of us” and they might take me down, tearing me limb from limb like hyenas. In the end, though, I decided that it was fine. In a few short weeks, we will be in the thick of it. We will have entered the Trying To Conceive world, and it might not work. We do not know how long it will take, but it is very likely that it will not be immediate. And that we will be bitter, if for no other reason than that we are dropping a grand a month to try and make this puppy. So we may not feel like gleefully poking fun at bassinets and “Breast Friend” pillows and scary looking animal characters on onesies. So now was a good time to go. We are still hopeful. We are still happy and excited. Let the pregnant women sniff me out. Let them stare.

Certainly they had reason to stare. My sister is visiting and she and Wes and I spent a considerable amount of time playing with the two $800 strollers. Wes was concerned about their abilities to “emergency stop” – apparently he anticipates many occasions when the stroller’s brake must be suddenly THROWN ON to avoid danger. We pretended to be strolling along with the Xplory or the Bugaboo and to have a sudden strolling EMERGENCY and then threw on the brake to see which one was quicker. We were laughing SOOOO much. Wes is the best husband ever. But I digress.

For those of you not in NYC, the Bugaboo is EVERYWHERE. Park Slope is brimming with them. Because of this, we had a HUGE bias against it – and I, not usually the type to care what other people have or don’t have – was just as against it as Wes, for once. If you’re going to spend that much money for a stroller, I thought, it had better be pretty fucking unique.

So we went into Buy Buy Baby to examine the Stokke Xplory up close and personal. It has long been my favorite online, and while I continually told myself we would most certainly NOT be spending that much on a stroller, I still secretly thought that I might ask my parents for it as a shower/Christmas/birthday gift once I’m pregnant. It’s truly magnificent to behold online. There’s a 7 minute video showing its many varied functions and abilities, complete with varied mood music for the various Dutch babies of different ages. I loved it.

And then we met it. And it was… sort of… plastic-ish. Really plastic-ish, actually. I wasn’t so thrilled. I thought it drove well, and I loved that the baby can be seated so, so high up, away from exhaust and closer to human eye contact. But… it was made of plastic, in the end.

And the hated, much-maligned Bugaboo…. truly, a work of art. Amazingly engineered. Lightweight aluminum frame. A wonderfully cushioned handle (comparable to the feeling of, say, my Saab’s steering wheel). A turning radius you wouldn’t believe. A feeling of quality in all its parts. A wonderful verstility. A stylish, clever machine. I know that I sound like a parody of myself at this point.

I wanted to hate it. I am still shaking my head at it. How can this be? How, for once, can the masses have gotten it right? At least it’s Dutch (like me).

We’ve decided we’ll get it in black so that it will be less conspicuous.

Added years later: We didn’t get a Bug. Ha.