Everyday Reading

July 24, 2014

Many, Many Words About Strollers

This isn't a sponsored post. I asked Britax to send me a stroller for Europe this fall and I'd include it in our Instagram photos while we were traveling and they kindly agreed, but I love this stroller so much, I just want to tell you all about it in more than an Instagram caption. Also, ignore how crabby my children look in all these photos. 

Bart and I like to joke that we like a 3:1 stroller to child ratio.

Sadly, it's not all that much of a joke.

We have the carseat/stroller combo-type stroller (which we bought for the princely sum of $20 from some friends in Boston before Ella was born), the umbrella stroller we bought at a garage sale (after a year or so, I said something about how we paid $8 for it and Bart said that we grossly overpaid. I agree - it's a pretty pathetic stroller), and the Craigslist jogging stroller.

When Ani was born, we bought a double jogging stroller. For the last 18 months, that's been our primary stroller and we've gotten a lot of use out of it, but it's hard to put in the car (unless you hook the wheel over the back seat, it rolls around while you drive), it's a little too wide for some doors (the first time I walked to storytime in Texas, Ani had to sleep in the hallway outside the storytime room because I couldn't get it through the doors), and then in the early spring, it fell over in the garage and I ran over it with the car. It was miraculously unharmed except for the little plastic piece that locks it shut, so it was even MORE hard to transport or store.

When we went to Chicago, we ended up just taking the travel system stroller because we could snap the carseat into it around the airport and if we put the seat back all the way flat, both girls could sit in it (which sometimes worked like a charm, and sometimes resulted in them fighting like cats and dogs because neither of them wanted the other to sit in front of them and they couldn't avoid touching each other).

We knew we needed to get a new stroller before we went to Europe this fall. We absolutely had to have a double stroller, and we needed one that wasn't side-by-side. So, after four years of avoiding stroller research at all costs, I finally started looking into what double strollers would fit our needs.

Basically all our friends in Durham have the City Select stroller (at MBA family events, there is always a half dozen or more identical black strollers all lined up in a row), and Merrick has that one too, but I knew you had to break it down into multiple pieces to fold it down, and with all the traveling we have this fall, I just didn't think that would work well for me.

I was sold on the Britax B-Ready for several reasons.

First, it's basically the size of a decent single stroller (in fact, you can just buy it as a single stroller and then add the second seat on when you have a second child). It's not too wide for any doors and I knew in Europe, where the streets tend to be narrow, I'd need something thin.

Second, the seats can both lay almost completely flat (without touching the other seat). Since I'm guessing we'll have a lot of early morning/late nights/long days while we're traveling, I really wanted it to be possible for both the girls to sleep simultaneously. Assuming Ani decides to be a stroller sleeper. Cross your fingers on that one.

Third, it can collapse flat with both seats in place. This was the biggest selling point for me. You just lay the bottom seat flat and then fold it up and snap the lock in place. Done.

Fourth, I love that you can get an attachment so your infant carseat can snap in. I love the convenience of the stroller/carseat combo (no finagling a sleeping, boneless infant out of the carseat and into the stroller for a 5 minute errand). When we have another baby, I'll buy that attachment and a compatible carseat. Then I won't constantly have to be deciding between taking the stroller that can fit both a child and an infant and one where I can snap the baby in and out of the car and stroller without waking it up or dealing with buckles and what-have-you.  (I was constantly making that decision when Ani was born, and it was exhausting (and I basically always chose wrong)).

Fifth, and this is a totally stupid tiny thing, but I love that the brake on this is a push pedal (you just push down on it to lock it and then push down again to release). All my other strollers have had a brake where you had to put your foot UNDER the brake level to release it and since we've always lived somewhere where I wear sandals 90% of the year, this was always super painful when I had to pop the brake up with the bare top of my foot. (Of course, I'm guessing I won't be wearing a lot of sandals in London from September to December, but. . . it's the principle of the thing).

The day after my Britax B-Ready shipped, I happened to see a mom at the grocery store parking lot loading the same stroller into her car, and I asked her how she liked it. She said, "This is my second baby and third stroller and it's the best stroller I ever have used. You will LOVE IT SO MUCH." She was not wrong.

My main concern was that my girls would hate being sort of underneath. But actually, neither of them minds it at all. They switch back and forth, sometimes requesting one or the other, but with no real preference. When we were in California for the Fourth of July, Merrick also mentioned that she thought her boys wouldn't like that setup, but when we took only our stroller down to the beach one morning and made the older kids walk, her little guy happily sat in the bottom seat with no complaints.

And my girls can climb in and out of the bottom seat on their own, which I find really convenient because then I only have to snap them in. And Ella can get in the front one by herself too - I'm not sure about Ani, although she probably could because if she sees Ella do something, she's convinced she can do it too. And she's usually right.

I also like that, because the second seat is below, the stroller isn't particularly long. Some double strollers are like pushing a boat - they are SO long.

Also, it's really amusing to take it on in public and have someone comment on the child in the front seat and then, as we pass, do a double-take and say something like "There's ANOTHER one down there!" That's probably not necessarily a selling point, but it does make life and outings a little more fun.

I really wish we'd just gotten this stroller to start with, since it would have been perfect for one child and then we'd only have to have bought a second seat when Ani was born instead of a complete second stroller.

Of course, when Ella was born, we had about $5 of disposable income, so any stroller not from a garage sale was pretty much out of our budget.

But after buying four strollers before this one, we should have just gone with the B-Ready.

July 23, 2014

Healthy Banana Fudgsicles

Since we're basically living on the face of the sun this summer in Arizona, you can imagine that popsicles are making many appearances around here.

I made these a lot a few years ago, and then couldn't find the recipe. I finally stumbled upon it again a week or so ago, and when Bart was having some major chocolate cravings, these were a big hit.

And it makes me really happy when I can give the girls an afternoon snack that isn't totally jammed with sugars and fake ingredients. (Not that we aren't getting our fair share of sugar and fakeness elsewhere).

I haven't had a real Fudgsicle in probably 20 years, so I can't really compare, but I think these taste fairly close. Even Bart, who can be a tough critic of healthier treats, was a fan.

By the way, I'm super in love with these IKEA molds. They aren't too big, which means my girls can actually eat an entire popsicle before it melts all over their clothing (this NEVER happens with a big commercial popsicle. They are always disgusting after I let them have one). Also, there are holes in the stick so the popsicle doesn't do that obnoxious thing where it splits in half down the stick and you have to balance it on that tiny wooden stick. And. . . $1.99 per set. So. I love these things.

Healthy Banana Fudgsicles
(slightly adapted from Chocolate-Covered Katie)

Makes 6 small popsicles (perfect for my mold)

1/2 cup canned coconut milk
2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 ripe bananas, peeled
1/2 tsp vanilla
(optional) 1-2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Add sugar to taste if needed. Pour into molds and freeze until solid.

July 22, 2014

A Simple Pre-K Plan

I know. The words "back to school" make you kind of want to scream right now. It's only mid-July!

And yet, in Chandler, school started up yesterday, apparently (I am not complaining, because there is nothing I love more than going to Target and the library in peace). So I'm starting to think about school this fall.

Last year, I wrote about my plans for doing preschool with Ella.

We kept it up most of the year, although it ended up being more like once or twice a week, rather than three times. It was really a good experience for both of us, and I'm excited to do a little bit more this year.

Ella still has one more year before she starts kindergarten, and some of you super long-time readers may know that I've been seriously considering homeschooling for many years.

My ideal scenario would be for her to do dual-enrollment and have her attend public school part-time (probably for specials, like music, art, and PE) and do the rest at home with me.

So this fall kind of feels like a trial year.

Like last year, I want to keep it low-key (especially since we'll be in London, which means I don't exactly relish the idea of hauling over boatloads of school supplies).

Here's the plan:

A super simple curriculum for your pre-k child

Reading: I've been really incredibly happy with Phonics Pathways, and I'm finally going to buckle down and buy my own copy instead of using the library's. I feel super stressed about teaching different rules, so it's been really nice to have it just lay them out one at a time, with a clear explanation and then plenty of practice. I seriously love this book. (We've also been using the BOB books and some easy readers from the library for additional practice).

Math: Ella LOVES math. She finished the first kindergarten book and we ordered the second one, which she's also cruising through. Bart also does a lot of mental math and counting with her too, mainly when we're driving around.

Out-Loud Reading: When we're abroad, I'll probably have to move over to mostly digital books to read-aloud to her. We've been blazing through the Toys Go Out series, and then next up is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I'd also like to find a few books set in London to read aloud this fall (Paddington Bear being one of them). Any suggestions welcome.

Art: Look, I'm totally lousy in the art and art history department, but since we're going to be in London with some of the best art museums in the world within walking distance, it's time to be a grown-up and learn something about art. I've been looking into some of the children's programs they have at the various art museums, and I think it'll be really fun (and good for me too).

Handwriting: I've heard great things about Handwriting without Tears, so I'm ordering the Grade 1 book for Ella (kindergarten is letters and numbers, which she's sort of beyond at this point).

Science: I mentioned in the preschool post last year doing science, and it was hands-down Ella's favorite thing. But there's just no way I can handle the supply gathering and stuff parts of science while we're abroad. I was really impressed with the few projects we did out of Mudpies to Magnets, so I'll order a copy once we're back in the states.

Misc: I grew up on Singin' Smart, so I ordered a copy of it for Ella for her birthday. I think she'll love learning the states, capitols, planets, US presidents, and major bones of the body. And I'm excited to brush up myself.

Anyway, I'm getting excited about the whole thing. Wish us luck!

P.S. I've partnered with Great Clips and AdoptAClassroom.org to help teachers get ready for back-to-school season. The average teacher spends $1,000 of their own money on resources, classroom supplies, and other educational materials for their students (yikes!). For every download of the Online Check-In app (so you don't have to wait in line when you go for a back-to-school haircut), Great Clips donates funds to support classrooms all over the country. You can also upload your own back-to-school supplies list and every day, one lucky winner will get their school supplies bought and shipped to their front door for free! (Also, this video of two teachers who had their classrooms totally revamped just about made me cry. I wish it could happen for EVERY teacher).


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