Category Archives: strollers

My First Stroller Derby

One of my summertime projects has been to get back into running. See, I signed up to run the Army Ten Miler this fall with a group of mommies like me who have wee ones and soldier husbands. Our team is called the “Military Mommas” and to motivate us through those 10 undoubtably painful miles, we’re raising money to support the Fisher House Foundation, which provides housing for military family members while their soldiers undergo medical treatment. (Click here if you’d like to donate.) While the charitable fundraising is helping pump me up for the run, it’s not doing the work for me, so I decided to sign up for the Save the River 5K last week as a fun way to log some miles.

This particular 5K is a little event–about 300 participants–and anything but competitive. It’s one of those small-town events where it’s ok to walk, kids and grandparents are totally invited to participate, and strollers are more than welcome on the course. I used to be a runner, but it’s been a good five years and change since I could last call myself one, so this low-key event was so my speed (or lack thereof). Given the baby-friendly set up, I decided to take the wee one along for the run and fun.

I run with baby and the buggy from time to time, but this was my first baby-in-tow race and I definitely learned a few things about being a mom on the run:

  1. Learn to be loud. Chances are you’re not going to be the first up at the starting line–stroller pushers tend to wind up near the back of the herd–so find your stride becomes first about just finding a clear path. You don’t realize how much extra room you need to maneuver when you’ve got your front traversing wheel locked into a stationary position for a better ride, so moving through the crowd becomes a little more difficult, especially when the people ahead of you are doing their own thing. Many thanks to my friend Eva who was clearly a good 30 seconds faster than I and was alerting people to watch out behind them that a stroller was coming through as she passed them. I actually heard someone call her a bitch for doing it–mostly because she passed them, I think–but I thought she rocked because as much as I wished my Baby Trend Jogger had a horn, it didn’t. And god knows I didn’t have enough breath left to do my own shouting–on your left!
  2. Don’t run alone. Misery definitely loves company, so I count myself lucky enough to have a couple of friends do the race with me because I think I can officially say it would have been rough to do it alone. Somewhere into mile 2, I know I definitely looked at my friend Lesley and said, “This sucks.” But having a running partner (or two or three) was a lot of fun, too. I know as Lesley and I came into the last half mile we decided to pick up the pace and as we were sprinting toward the finish, our heavy breathing was definitely punctuated from time to time with encouraging words to each other like, “We can do this.”
  3. Water breaks are for sissies. There were two water stations along the course. I wasn’t thirsty when I ran past the first one, but when I saw the second I was dying for something at least sort of cool. I let go of the stroller handle to grab a cup and as soon as I did I realized that there was no way this water thing was going to happen unless I stopped. Not only was water splashing out of the cup, but I felt like I could barely steer the stroller. And seriously, stopping was not an option because I was never going to get the baby rig going again if I did. Next time around I’ll definitely have a water bottle with a squirt top stuffed into the cup holder.
  4. You’ll make insta-friends. When you’re working a stroller at one of these races, you automatically start picking out other stroller runners and kind of naturally gravitate toward each other. I had seen two mommies with their strollers before the race that sort of caught my eye, mainly because they had the same stroller as I did, their babies looked to be about the same age as mine, and they looked like they could tear up some asphalt with three wheels. (Turns out one was a half marathoner and the other was a triathaloner.) As I headed into mile 3, I saw the two of them up ahead of me. They got hung up at the water station, so I ended up passing them. But after the race, the two mommies wheeled over to me to congratulate me on my finish. I was kind of blown away–my face was too red to have made my finish look easy–but I thought it was really cool of them. Turns out we had more than just the strollers in common–their husbands too are military–so it was a fun way to meet some new people.
  5. It’s more fun that you think it’ll be. I set out with no goal other than to finish. But just being with the crowd on a nice day on the River turned out to be quite a bit of motivation. I ended up finishing in the top quartile–if you want to check out the rankings, you can find them here–despite what during my running heydey would’ve been an embarassing time. But out of all the fun runs I’ve done over the years, I definitely won’t forget this one because it felt awesome to hear someone yell, “You’re the first stroller!” as I ran over the finish line. Of course I would’ve felt even better about my final results had there a 1 minute handicap, but it was enough to know I at least finished in front of the only dad I saw with a stoller at the start line.

So, it was a lot of fun and just what I needed to help me get a little closer to be ready for the big 10 mile trudge in the fall. Many thanks again to my running buddies–definitely couldn’t have done it without you–and to Save the River for organizing such an awesome event. Definitely signing up for the stroller division next year!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under activities, babies, baby travel, daily life, fitness, health, military families, mommy care, moms, photos, strollers, workouts

Stroller S.O.S.

Getting a flat tire stinks. But when you’re a mommy like me, getting a flat tire–or two, in my case–on your stroller really sucks.

In some ways, I shouldn’t be surprised. I am hard on my stroller, putting it through its paces week in and week out. It is baby and my primary mode of transportation; so, for more than a jog around the neighborhood a few times a week, it’s called into service for nearly every errand, from grocery shopping to the post office to the dog’s daily walk. I dare say that between the nanny and me, we probably put 20 miles a week on it, at least–and that’s excluding runs, which if I’m honest, I am not nearly consistent enough with to count in my weekly mileage.

And then there’s the terrain. It would seem that rolling over sidewalk wouldn’t be all that stressful on a stroller, but city strolling has little in common with a walk around a new neighborhood development. There’s a reason it’s called an urban jungle.

An average outing for me with the stroller involves negotiating stairs. I usually avoid bumping down our front stairs, if I possibly can, which are scary steep in heels and pretty much death defying with a stroller with a baby in it. So, I usually try to go out through the backyard, which has far fewer stairs but a number of other obstacles, including lifting the stroller over the toe-kick on our back gate and maneuvering it between the cars and over the gravel in our parking spots.

Offroading in the city

Then there’s the back alley, which is in itself an adventure because you never know what kind of rodent carcass or trash, broken glass, abandoned TV or mattress or other matter of debris you may encounter. Not only that, but the terrain is atrocious–half brick pavers, half pavement, it’s all pocked and pitted making for a seriously bumpy ride for baby.

Once out to the main street, it only gets marginally better. In my neighborhood, there’s all manner of sidewalk cracks, curbs, and increasingly construction.

When I lay it all out like that, it’s no wonder I had a tire blow out given all the bumping, thumping, and thudding along. But two in one week seemed a little much. The stroller gods certainly had it out for me.

But one of the problems with having a tire malfunction–other than it can put your stroller out of commission–is figuring out how to fix it. I so wish there was such a thing as AAA for strollers.

With the first tire problem, a slow leak in the front tire, I tried to pretty much ignore it for as long as I could. I would pump it up with the air compressor, but after about a day and a half, it would deflate. I toyed with using that spray Fix-a-Flat, but I was scared that I would ruin the tire and then be really screwed. Fortunately, the nanny passed a bike shop on one of her outings and 10 minutes later, the problem was fixed.

However, the second flat, occurring just a day or so after the first tire was

Tire trouble

fixed, was a bit more traumatic. I noticed a weird sound coming from the stroller on the way to the gym one morning, but I thought it was it was the strap on my bag dragging on the ground. However, as I came out of the elevator at the gym, I took a look down and noticed that one of the back tires was looking rather pancake like.

Fortunately, there’s a Target in the same building as the gym, so post workout, I popped in there to buy a cheap bike pump to get me home. (Yes, I totally was the person using the pump before I bought it, but I was desperate.) However, the flat was so bad that I had to stop and pump up the tire three times before I got home and the trip is all of 10 blocks or so. So, back went the stroller to the bike shop.

But when I had called around to a few bike shops to find out of if they could fix my tire troubles, the answer I got was maybe. Most shops were confident that they could fix any tire-related problems, but anything more than that and I likely would’ve been out of luck. So, it got me thinking about what I would do if I had a bigger problem, like a wobble in the front wheel or a broken foot brake or something.

Where do mommies go for heavier duty body work on their strollers? If a bike shop can’t (or won’t) do it, what would option B be? I suppose you’d have to try and sort it out with the manufacturer. Just saying it makes me feel like I have a headache coming on. I imagine spending a gazillion dollars to ship the stroller back to the manufacturer only for it to take weeks to resolve the problem. (Where can you even get a box big enough to do that? My stroller box is long gone.)

At any rate, all this stroller drama just served to highlight two things for me. First, I’m glad that I have more than one stroller. I was able to use my umbrella stroller while the jogger was out of commission. It made carrying my groceries home a little more difficult because it has a much smaller basket, but it worked in a pinch.

Second, I’m glad that I didn’t spend a whole lot of money on any of my strollers. I mean, tires are one thing. They can be more or less easily remedied. But I can imagine how irritated I would be if my $400 (or more) stroller had any sort of problem that needed more specialized attention. At least with a value-priced one, the worst case scenario is just buying a brand new one. Not exactly ideal, but, hey, if I had to do that, I figure I still come out ahead in terms of dollars spent on strollers than if I had bought the expensive one in the first place. And with how hard this family is on its strollers, I’m not confident that any stroller is really up to the challenge over the long haul.

2 Comments

Filed under babies, baby gear, baby travel, daily life, strollers

Lost Today, Found Tomorrow

There are good, kind people in the world. My cynical nature makes me forget that sometimes, or, well, most of the time. But it’s days like yesterday that remind me that maybe human nature might be human after all.

See, the day before that I was having one of “those” days. You know, the ones where the harder you try to get things done, the less you get done. So, I was way behind on a deadline, which was stressing me out all day. (Lord knows I hate to miss deadlines, even though that’s more like the norm these days.) The dog also needed to go to the vet to get to the bottom of his GI issues.

So, I make arrangements with the nanny to come get the baby for the afternoon, so I can get my work done; we decide she’s going to keep him at her house, and I will swing by and pick him up on my way home from the vet. Now, being the city mom that I am, realize all this is happening on foot. Walking not only alleviates worrying about parking (or worse, a parking ticket), but the dog gets some exercise.

Everything goes swimmingly at the vets. The dog is rather well behaved from the time we get there right through when he gets what seems like a gazillion shots. Nearly $300 later and 90+ minutes later, we’re out the door, headed for the nanny’s.

When I arrive at the nanny’s, it’s well into his witching hour, but baby is giggling up a storm. That good fortune lasted about as long as it took me and nanny to get him and the stroller down the flight of stairs to the apartment building lobby. At that point, it was a zero-to-60 meltdown.

Fortunately, I live one block north and about four blocks east of the nanny, so we didn’t have too far to go. But when baby is screaming bloody murder, it can seem much, much further than it really it is. I mean, the dog could barely take a sniff at something before I was yanking his leash, telling him to hurry up. I assure you that to a mommy there’s nothing worse than her baby in full meltdown.

After what feels like an eternity but is in reality five blocks, I arrive in front of our house. I lug stroller with baby (and dog) up the front stairs–baby is still screaming, mind you–and get the keys in the door. Once inside, I turn the stroller around to take the little sweetie out. Ummm, where’s his blanket? And even more concerning, where are his socks?

At this point, I’m realizing that for at least a portion of our journey, if not the whole thing, my kid has been in his stroller with his bare feet completely exposed to the winter weather. And I’ll tell you it was cold. I was wearing hat, gloves, and quilted jacket, so I’m totally feeling like a negligent mother. How could I have possible missed the fact that he kicked not only his blanket but his socks off during his tantrum? I would have had to all but run over the darn blanket.

The thing that especially sucked is that this was one of my preferred blankets for baby. It wasn’t expensive–Circo for Target–but it was awesome. Super soft, velvety fleece on one side, and warm, cuddly, shearling-esque fleece on the reverse side. Damn, why did I have to lose it?

I’m not going to lie. This simple act of losing this blanket, which in all honesty was totally replaceable, nearly caused me to have a mommy meltdown. It’s hard to explain mix of emotions that I was having–I was pissed at myself for everything from not finishing my story to not realizing that the blanket fell off of baby; I was upset by the fact that my kid was screaming his head off, no doubt partially because his little hobbit feet were probably freezing; and I was feeling a little helpless because with it getting late and baby in full meltdown, I couldn’t just go back and retrace my steps. I was frazzled to the point where any logical suggestion as to how to remedy the situation seemed like it would take a Herculean effort. All this compounded by the fact that I was utterly exhausted after getting up at the ungodly hour of 3am to try and get a jump on finishing my story.

I resolved myself to just going to bed at 9pm, getting some much-needed rest, and buying a new blanket the following day, assuming that the Target had one in stock. For the benefit of all those who live in the suburbs, I’ll point out that in urban retail locations, it’s pretty much a given that the store will be out of whatever you are looking for. Literally, you will see bare shelves in a place like Target. For example, I’ve come to realize that it’s extremely hard to find baby socks at this time of year despite the fact that I probably pass by the Target at least three times a week to check.

After a fairly good night’s sleep, the situation seemed way less dire than it did at 8pm the previous evening. Baby was in a fantastic mood, so our morning routine actually was ahead of schedule. So, at 9am I realized I might have enough time to pop the baby in the stroller, get the dog on the leash, and get out and retrace my steps before my weekly 10am Tuesday conference call.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to find the blanket. But I thought I would give myself some peace of mind (and the dog a little exercise) if I just got out and checked. Four blocks from the house, I saw this:

Blankie, blankie, wherefore ought thou, blankie?

That’s right, someone had seen the blanket, presumably strewn across the sidewalk, and hung it with some care on the fence. This is Washington, D.C., mind you. People aren’t that nice.

Or are they?

This is the second major baby gear casualty I’ve had–and the second one that has come back to me. The first was a bootie that was lost on the way to the gym and found as I retraced my steps home. I thought that was awesome. But I also thought it was a single-shot kind of stroke of luck. But being reunited with the long-lost blankie after it spent a cold, harsh winter night on a street corner? Never thought that would happen.

Needless to say, I’m glad I was able to get it together by the morning to get out and look for the darn thing. But even more so, I’m glad to know that I live in a neighborhood where people actually have the heart enough to make it as easy as possible to retrieve lost baby items. It’s like they can appreciate how hard it is to just get out of the house on time, much less make a special detour on the off chance that someone hasn’t snatched up such a lovely baby blanket. For that small courtesy in a big city, I am grateful.

2 Comments

Filed under babies, baby gear, daily life, moms, strollers

Stroller Envy

I have three strollers. It sounds excessive, I agree. And I’m embarrassed to admit that. But having the right stroller for every occasion make seeming superfluous worth it because it makes life just that much easier.

When I was pregnant, I stressed about the stroller. I was adamant about finding a single stroller that was light weight, sturdy yet compact, good for nice sidewalks and gravel roads, reasonably priced, and could handle my kid from infant to toddler. Let me just save all you newbie moms the trouble of doing the research and just tell you that such a stroller doesn’t exist, no matter how much you spend. And trust me, you can spend $400, $600, even $800 (or more, gulp) if you want.

But it’s funny how once you go through the whole stroller selection process, you start noticing what kind of strollers other mommies have and somehow that starts to say something about the kind of parent they are.

For example, when you see someone with a Bugaboo, you think one of two things: mom and/or dad must be making beaucoup bucks or mom and dad are finicky first-time parents. (Why else would you pay nearly $900 for a stroller?) At the other end of the spectrum, a Graco stroller system somehow seems démodé. Quinny strollers are for those parents who still want to believe they’ll look chic and uber urban even with spit up down the front of their expensive clothes. Bob strollers say future soccer mom while City Mini strollers are for those who want the look of a jogging stroller but don’t want to jog. The list goes on and on.

When I was first stroller shopping, I didn’t know that my stroller would say that much about me. I was willing to pay a decent amount (<$300), if I could find one that could do everything I needed it to do. But as I started to really think about things, I realized my needs were diverse and evolving and maybe I was expecting way too much out of a single stroller. I mean, I needed something I could go for long walks with dog with but also could throw in the car easily when I went to run errands and yet could maneuver through crowds and over curbs.

So, at first, I started thinking that a nice, sleek jogging stroller would be the right fit for me. But those are inappropriate for newborns. Most joggers recommend that babies be about 6 months old before they ride in them. And I think there’s little more ridiculous than when you see parents put these teeny babies in strollers that are too big for them, so they end up all scrunched over and miserable looking. So, it was clear that I needed something for the early months as well.

Stroller #1: Pour le petit bebe

Figuring that out was easy. Every new mommy I knew swore by the Snap ‘n’ Go. That’s the Baby Trend model, but it’s basically one of those inexpensive, super light, folding stroller bases into which the infant car seat clips. Let me just say that they are awesome. I used mine all the freaking time. It made taking the baby from the house to the car to the stroller–and back again–as easy as possible, considering how heavy and cumbersome infant car seats are. I finally had to give it up around the five or six month mark because baby stopped being able to fit into the infant car seat. Good thing because I literally had almost worn the wheels off of it.

Granted, I could have opted for a larger stroller–even a jogger–that also allowed for the infant seat to clip into it. And the jogger I eventually chose had that option. But honestly, I never used it for the simple reason that clipping the car seat into the jogger made the whole contraption seem absolutely enormous. The Snap ‘n’ Go was much more maneuverable.

One stroller down and two more to go.

Stroller #2: The work horse

As I mentioned, I did end up getting a jogging stroller, but after I came to grips with the fact that I would indeed have multiple strollers, I downgraded my expectations–and budget. I ended up grabbing a Baby Trend Expedition jogger from Target for a whopping $107 at the time.

When I was shopping I had liked the Bumbleride Indie. A friend recommended it and a few of the books I had gave it good ratings. But I couldn’t get over the $450+ price tag and felt weird asking my parents to shell out for it on our behalf. So, I started looking rather pragmatically at my choices. At the end of the day, I looked at the Baby Trend and it had basically the same features. Maybe the Indie was a little lighter, but as another friend reminded me, no stroller, especially with a kid in it, is going to be feather light. So, the maybe pound or two difference really wasn’t worth hundreds of dollars in my book.

Plus, I figured, worst case scenario, the thing would fall apart in a year and I would have to buy a whole new stroller. If that was the case, I could afford to do that four times and still come out ahead of where I’d be had I spent the bucks on the fancy stroller. Plus it came with two cup holders that I didn’t have to pay extra to have.

Hello, stroller numero deux.

But it doesn’t take long after assembling the jogging stroller to realize that no matter how much time you agonized over finding the most compact jogging stroller, you’ve still got a pretty big contraption on your hands. And for as much as they may fold up easily and fit into their own bag, it’s not something you can just throw in the back of the car easily if you’ve got a lot of groceries, shopping bags, luggage, or in our case, a large Doberman. Just to give you an idea, our jogger generally gets strapped to our roof rack when we travel any amount of distance. So, are you really going to put your kid in a jogging stroller to run a quick errand? Ummm, no.

Stroller #3: On the fly, baby

And so it began to occur to me that I needed yet another stroller–one of those inexpensive umbrella strollers that could be stashed in a closet or in the trunk of my car. There are so many options that I think I just ended up picking one rather randomly–the Chicco Capri.

I think I mostly just liked the color, but after taking it out on it’s inaugural spin today, I will say that it’s super compact and light–perfect for taking on the metro and to restaurants. About the only negative I can see about it is it’s sun shade. It’s a separate canopy piece that you attach/detach, and I wish it somehow could collapse in on itself like the canopies on full-size strollers.

But it does the job, so I guess that’s really all I need. And I think that’s just the best way to look at the whole stroller selection process. For some reason, it seems like a huge decision when you’re seven months pregnant and trying to feel prepared for your first baby. But really it’s not that big of a deal.

The reality is no matter how much you spent on your stroller, as a new mommy, you’ll end up cursing it at some point. Every stroller feels heavy when you’re carrying it up a bunch of stairs. Every stroller can be difficult to get through a store door when you’ve got your hands full. And when you’re living in a city, every stroller seems to take up too much room in your condo or row home. On the flip side, every baby will find a way to fall asleep in his or her stroller, whether it be a $25 deal from Costco or an $800 Peg Perego. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?

So, when I look at my three strollers, what do I think they say about me? I’m practical, appropriate, and all about keeping it simple.

4 Comments

Filed under babies, baby travel, daily life, infants, moms, newbie parents, newborns, strollers, travel

Stroller Snooze

It’s amazing what moms will do to keep their sleeping beauties just that way–sleeping.

When my little bundle of boy falls asleep as we bump along the sidewalks during a walk around the neighborhood, I do everything possible to avoid waking him up once we reach home. That most often means wheeling the stroller right up the back deck, through the kitchen, and into the living room, where I don’t dare touch one thing on him or the stroller for fear of disturbing his slumber. I don’t even dare lift up the weather shield when we’re inside.

I love that strollers are seriously narcotic. Once he’s strapped in, baby seriously racks out.  The best part is he stays asleep in it even when it’s not moving. Today, for example, we’ve rounded the corner into a third hour of a nap. In that time, I’ve showered and dressed, taken the dog out, caught up on my e-mails, written a news story, and worked on scheduling meetings during a conference next week.

Needless to say, I’ve got him strapped into this thing at least three mornings a week.

Lights Out!

Leave a comment

Filed under babies, daily life, infants, moms, sleep, strollers, working mom