Friday, May 24, 2013

Product Review: Chicco Liteway Stroller

     Today Mason had his 4 month checkup and he is a big boy. He is off the charts for height and weight at over 27 inches and 16 lbs 7 oz. He is one ounce shy of doubling his birth weight, which babies are expected to do by 6 months, not four. I guess he's an overachiever like his mommy! Alas, I digress. What I am trying to explain here is why I needed to find a nice lightweight stroller. I was done lugging my heavyweight in an infant car seat!

What I was looking for in a stroller:

  • Accommodate an infant that is not able to sit up on his own.
  • Lightweight and not take up the entire hatch of my Prius.
  • Easy for me to fold and unfold while holding the baby.
  • Durable and versatile enough to grow with the baby.
  • Nice looking, low profile. 

After I came to terms with the fact that I will never be able to afford or justify spending $850 on this masterpiece, I began comparing a few different strollers. I really didn't want to spend a fortune, and I needed something right away because I had an upcoming trip with Mason. After comparing several different brands and models online with the help of some YouTube demonstrations, I ended up purchasing the Chicco Liteway at my local Buy Buy Baby. I was also able to use one of the store's 20% off coupons on this purchase which made it a great value.

The stroller came pretty much assembled, except for attaching two of the wheels, the canopy, and the cup holder. None of these elements were rocket science. I actually had the most trouble snapping the cup holder on, but managed to muscle it. I probably had the stroller assembled in less than 10 minutes.

Figuring out how to fold and unfold the stroller was a bit tricky at first, but once I got the hang of it, it became pretty quick and easy. The Liteway smartly makes use of foot pedals to lock and unlock the stroller into position, which is very handy when you are juggling a baby. Another handy feature is the hook that locks into place to hold both ends of the folded stroller together. The pieces are lined up perfectly so that when you fold the stroller down it grabs on without you having to use your hands and attach them. I did find this to be a bit cumbersome though when trying to unfold the stroller because it would get re-hooked while I was opening the stroller. The seat reclining mechanism was also very easy to operate.

The Liteway is well constructed and pretty durable. The seat material is a heavy weight canvas that I am sure will hold up over time. The front wheels spin as well as swivel to make turning easy. You can also lock the front wheels if you're strolling over rougher terrain where you need a little more traction. The ride is very smooth. The stroller survived being sandwiched between two other strollers, slung over the shoulder of an airline baggage handler, and dropped into the floor at the airport gate, so it can definitely take a beating. It's not the lightest stroller out there, but I have no trouble lifting it into and out of my car.

For Baby: This is the one area where I am not completely satisfied. The one problem I have with the stroller is the headrest area. There is a nice round padded spot for the baby or child's head, but they decided to sew the logo patch right at the top of this part. This makes a bit of a scratchy edge for my poor baby's bald head. The canvas material, while durable, is also not very soft or inviting. I would have liked to see a soft insert for infants, since the stroller is marketed for newborns to 40 lbs. I really couldn't see a newborn being totally comfortable in this stroller without doing what I did and putting a cozy blanket behind them. The backrest does recline into 5 different positions, including laying almost flat, which is excellent for an infant that cannot sit up yet (or even for a snooze at any age). Another feature I really liked was the adjustable leg support. You can lift it up to help prevent an infant from sliding down, or you can fold it down for an older child. The canopy is a good size and I like that is locks into place. The peek-a-boo window is a nice touch as well. There is also a boot that you can pull over baby's feet which will be great for cold and windy days.
For Mom or Dad: The stroller is a height that neither myself nor my 6 ft 4 husband had any discomfort in pushing. The handles are nicely padded and the cup holder is a bonus to have on a lightweight stroller.

The Chicco Liteway has a nice look to it. It isn't terribly flashy but I would say the look of it is better than average. It does come in some pretty snazzy colors, but my store only carried the red or gray option and I went with the gray. I should mention that the storage basket underneath the seat does detach and convert into a tote bag. Although I did not take advantage of this feature I can see it being useful. 

Overall I am happy with my choice of the Chicco Liteway. Though it could use a few minor improvements, it has some standout features that outweigh it's shortcomings. Little Bird seemed happy enough to be in it and it was definitely easy to travel through the airport with. We will surely continue to use this stroller as Mason gets bigger. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

5 Tips for Flying Alone with a Baby

     Guess what?! Mason and I survived our cross country trip. And although I am jet-lagged and just plain run down, I did manage to keep my sanity intact. I am making a list of my tips for flying with a baby (specifically if you are flying alone with a baby). I looked up a lot of different tips about flying with infants, and while many offered some good pointers I think most of them were redundant and missed some key items to remember. These are the 5 things I found most helpful.

My precious cargo.
  1. Pack for the Poopocalypse. Of all my greatest fears about flying with the baby, only one of them actually happened and it was the poop. Mason happened to get a case of the runs on the day of our first flight. We went through three diapers at the airport, and then he had an epic blowout on the plane. Poop went up his back, it was all over his outfit, and somehow in the process of changing him some even ended up on his hand. Yuck. Luckily I was well prepared with 2 changes of clothes for him, one for myself (luckily, it wasn't that bad), and plenty of diapers and wipes to sustain us. I have to give major props to Virgin America for having a decent sized bathroom (for an airplane) and a surprisingly large changing table in said bathroom. Though Mason is only 4 months, he is off the charts for his length and in the 90th percentile for weight and he still fit quite nicely on the table. 
  2. Snag a late upgrade OR purchase a seat for baby. I know this is not a financially viable option for
    a lot of people and it probably wouldn't have been for me either if my parents hadn't bought my coach ticket (grandbabies are very persuasive). Many airlines offer late upgrades for a much cheaper price than you would ever get a first class or main cabin select ticket. I upgraded to first class for our first flight which definitely eased my anxiety. This was the first time I had ever flown first class and I thought it would be kind of cool for Mason to have his first plane ride in luxury. Not that he'll remember it or anything. But I have the ticket to put in his baby book! The big benefit for either scenario, especially for nursing moms, is extra arm room. I flew in coach for the return flight and I had to do some Cirque Du Soleil contortions to feed Mason.
  3. Make friends. Not just any friends. Find someone else on the flight flying with children, or even better with a baby. I happened to run into a couple on the same first flight with a baby. If anything I had someone to commiserate with. It made me feel less anxious. And had I been back in coach with them I absolutely would have traded seats with their seatmate. Also make friends with the flight attendants. They can hold your baby while you pee. This is important. This was easier in first class where the attendant only has 8 people to look after, but no matter what section you're in the attendants are always standing by the bathrooms. It would probably not be a bad idea to make friends with whoever you are sitting next to but some people would rather not be bothered even by conversation. On my first flight I was lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me (yes, in first class). So I had two first class seats to myself (Jackpot right?). The second flight was very full and I had a young woman next to me that immediately put on headphones, which was fine by me. 
    I wish I could sleep this well on a plane.
  4. Know the rules. My husband and I had no idea that he could go through security with me and take me all the way to the gate because I needed assistance with the baby. A very nice lady working the check in counter told us since I was travelling alone with a baby she could print a pass for him to assist me in getting to the gate. We met another woman travelling with an infant and she had no idea you could do this. She also didn't know you could gate check a stroller. So this poor petite lady was lugging her baby through the airport in an infant carseat, when she could have had someone go with her or at least had a stroller to push him in.
  5. Don't stress it. I certainly wouldn't say that travelling alone with an infant was easy. But it was not the nightmare that I built it up to be in my head. Even with the blowout, an hour and a half delay on my return flight, and testing my flexibility in coach, I would say that I had a pretty good travel experience.Mason was outstanding, but I really tried my best to make sure all of his needs were met and that he was as comfortable as possible. Yes, this meant that I didn't really get to take advantage of the free entertainment (or the free drinks for that matter) in first class. But the best feeling was standing up at the end of both flights and having everyone around me remark at what a great baby I had and that he didn't cry and slept most of the flight. A guy even stopped me walking out of the gate to tell me that I had "the best baby ever. Ever." You can't walk away from that and say your experience was a bad one!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

In Anticipation of Flying with a Baby

   In two days I will be flying cross-country with Mason, who is just shy of four months old. Chris and Daniel are staying home to go to work and school while I take the little one out to visit grandparents. Yes, you heard right. I am travelling alone with a 4-month old.
   This is the first time I will be flying with a baby and to be doing it alone makes me more than a little nervous. My biggest fears are as follows:

  1. Poop. Specifically a blow out. Specifically on the airplane. It's hard enough getting myself in and out of a tiny airplane bathroom. Add to this equation my big guy (who is close to outgrowing his 6-month sized clothes) and a diaper full of leaking breastfed baby poop. Not pretty.
  2. That awkward moment when. I hope I get lucky enough to be sitting next to a woman (even better, another mom) because it's going to be pretty awkward to have to whip out a boob next to Mr. Suit and Tie or Mr. Dirty Old Man. Yes, I have a nursing cover, but let's just say I am not the most graceful at using it. Mason also not a fan.
  3. The shoes-stroller-backpack-ID-baby-metal detector-ticket juggle. I have enough trouble getting through security by myself. In my head I imagined not even taking a stroller and just wearing baby in
    Is this for real?
    my Ergo carrier. Then I saw the Bathroom Babykeeper and realized "Shit. How am I going to pee?" I hope a fellow traveler takes pity on me and helps me manage all of my extra accessories. 
  4. Angry glares and heavy sighs. You know there will be that guy that sees a baby coming onto an airplane and internally flips his shit. Then he passive-aggressively gives you dirty looks and mumbles things under his breath the entire flight no matter how well behaved the baby is being, which brings me to number five...
  5. Total meltdown. Mason goes totally out of character and decides that he is pissed off and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Now, Mason is a pretty chill baby as long as he is with Mommy, so I have that going in my favor. But when he gets upset he lets you know in a not-so-subtle fashion. I'm talking full on red-faced screaming that even a pair of the most expensive noise-cancelling headphones will not tune out. So in the unlikely event that number five happens, I may have to train myself in the art of ninja so that we might escape a plane full of angry travelers with number four rallying them with a speech out of Braveheart.
   In the meantime I will frantically try to make sure I have packed everything I will need and that I have backups for my backups. How do babies so small require so much stuff? Next week I will either be working through the PTSD or I will be sharing how we managed to survive the trip with my mental health intact. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On Becoming Domesticated

"I will never have kids."

I can remember saying this around age 20, when the independent, single life was vastly more appealing than the thought of getting tied down by bath nights and bed times.

"I am far too selfish."
Me, have kids?

Famous last words right?

Truthfully I have always liked kids, partially because in some ways I never grew out of being one and partially because they are just a lot of fun. But being responsible for them? That's a whole 'nother story. And also truthfully, at the time I really didn't picture myself having children and I probably was far too selfish. But that's the thing about life isn't it? It's ever evolving.

I met my husband, Christopher, while visiting my best friend, who lived on the opposite coast. Coincidentally, at the time I was on strike against relationships in general and firmly set in a "single and having fun" state of mind. Perfect time to find a husband right?

Chris happened to be Bestie's cousin, and I'd known her since we were eleven. How I managed to not cross paths with my husband for the 12 years we'd been friends? Beats me! But Chris and I have one of those 6 degrees of separation kind of stories. Went to the same high school (at different times), our dads worked for the same company (in different states), and so on.

Jeep and I in the early days.
So here I am, 3000 miles away from home, and dead-set on just "having fun." I will not be tied down. No way. Not me. And I get off the airplane to where Bestie and Chris are waiting and right off the bat we are making googly eyes at each other. Just having fun. Right. 

How did just having fun turned into I can't possibly live another day on this earth without you? That's another mystery of life. I'm going to be cliche for a minute and say we just kind of hit it off. We didn't just have fun together, there was some force beyond our control, compelling us to share our deepest darkest secrets, hopes, dreams, and fears.

Me and Daniel.
Then there's the kicker: Chris also happens to be the single dad of an adorably cute 2.5 year old boy named Daniel.

Here I am, Ms. "I'll never get tied down", and I have fallen madly in love with a single dad. Now what?

So I did what any sane person would do. I quit my job. I loaded as many of my belongings as I could fit into my Mazda Protege. I left my family, friends, and hometown. And I moved 3000 miles across the country to begin this life as a wife and eventually as an adoptive mom to Daniel and a biological mom to our other son, Mason.

Now I get excited about things like Daniel learning to tie his shoes, planting cauliflower in a raised garden bed, or making Mason laugh for the first time. If you had walked up to 20-year-old me and told her that in 6 years she'd be excited about buying a new stroller she'd have laughed in your face.

The day Mason was born.
But there's something to be said for becoming a mom, and it's something you can never quite really understand until you're deep in the trenches, exhausted beyond belief, teeth a little fuzzy (when was the last time I brushed them?), getting peed on for the umpteenth time and this little face looks up at you like you're his world. And you are.