Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Birthday Party Blast from the Past

Hi Everyone. Wow, I can't believe what a terrible blogger I've been lately. Pretty much every night I think about writing a post but then I end up watching some Gordon Ramsey show on and falling asleep.

Anyway, since we all know how much I love to plan a birthday party, and I had such a good time reminiscing over pictures of K's first birthday, I decided I would post pictures from her second birthday since that is the only other party missing from this blog.

The theme of her party was Mickey Mouse Clubhouse because she was a big fan of that show back then. I used store-bought invitations and thank you cards that featured Mickey, Goofy and Donald. The color palette was (obviously) red, black, and white.

The tables were set with one red tablecloth and one black and I used black and red paper plates and napkins.

Below is the birthday girl enjoying breakfast with her Mickey balloon. Behind her you can see the best part of the decorations (at least for the kids it was.)

I hung red, black and white crepe paper streamers in one of the doorways between the kitchen and the dining room and the kids LOVED running through the streamers, around the corner, through the other kitchen doorway and back out through the streamers again. It was a big hit for very little money.

For party favors each of the girls got a red necklace, a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, a Mickey Mouse bracelet and a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse coloring book with crayons.

Since K's birthday is during the scorching months of the summer we often set up a pool or sprinkler in the backyard for the kids to cool off.

And we definitely allow skinny-dipping at our parties. This was a cute pool with the giraffe slide but unfortunately it didn't stay down very well since it was blown up and not really heavy enough.

My Mom decorated the cake and the cupcakes. I purchased the cake topper and cupcake picks from

Auntie Cousin and K have birthdays within two days of each other so we often sing to both of them. Here they are blowing out the candles.

Here's the wee birthday lass and her little lamb before opening gifts. It's so fun looking back on these photos and seeing how little she was three years ago. It's hard to believe in just two months she'll be five.

On a funny side note, I've mentioned before how I plan party themes years in advance so that way if I see a good deal for a theme I have in mind, I can purchase it right then. I guess I should have realized that a five year old is going to have her own ideas about what birthday party theme she wants and of course it's not what I had planned. Oh well. I'll save the circus/carnival themed party I was going to do for another year.

Lastly, and while this doesn't apply to this post at all, today is the third anniversary of the loss of our second child. It's still hard to wrap my mind around. Sometimes I wonder what she would be like if she were here. Who would she look like? What would her personality be like? But then I think about how much I would miss E and her sweet / crazy little personality and her beautiful blonde locks and blue eyes. I know we're incredibly blessed and I have faith that someday we'll be reunited. I love all of our children so much, even the one I never knew. God bless you, Allison.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Let's Review... Travel Strollers

Hello. It's time again for another product review. This time I'll be discussing what I feel are the strengths and weakness of three different lightweight travel strollers we own, focusing on three points: weight capacity, total weight, and maneuverability. Since we'll be using one of these strollers on our up-coming vacation with our older daughter, these three points are the most important to us. As I've mentioned before, I don't get any kick-backs or free products from these companies. My reviews are solely to help other parents out there when deciding which baby products to spend their hard earned money on.

First up is the Babies R Us Lightweight Stroller. This is an umbrella-type stroller with a few upgrades and at $30.00 it's the cheapest of the three travel strollers in this review.

According to the statistics on their website, this strollers weight capacity is 35 lbs and its total weight is 6.5 lbs. Our older daughter, K, is heavier than the suggested 35 pounds however we still use this stroller with her in a pinch. Because she's heavier that their suggestion the maneuverability of this stroller suffers. However at a total weight of only 6.5 pounds, this is the lightest stroller making it easiest to carry around for travel purposes.

Next up is the Jeep Cherokee Lightweight Sport Stroller. The exact model that we have is no longer for sale so this is the link for the new version: Jeep Cherokee Sport Stroller. My review here will be of the model that's no longer available since that's the one we own. At $50.00 this is the middle of the line for price.

According to the statistics on the website, this strollers weight capacity is 40 lbs and its total weight is 11.8 lbs. One of the updates from our model to the current one is that the weight capacity has gone up to 50 pounds. If that had been the case with this stroller it would have been my winner. However, at only a 40 lb top limit this impairs its maneuverability enough to rank it second in my review. At 11.8 pounds this stroller still feels very light to carry which is important when considering travel.

Last up is The First Years Ignite Stroller. Coming in at $57.00 it's the most expensive of the lightweight strollers in this review, however it's the one we decided we'll be taking with on our vacation.

According to the statistics on the website, this strollers weight capacity is 50 lbs and its total weight is 17.5 lbs. While 17.5 pounds doesn't sound like a lot, this stroller seems surprisingly heavy to me given its small footprint which is the one downfall I have found so far. I'm not sure if it's the higher weight capacity or something about the wheels but this stroller is a DREAM to maneuver, even with our older daughter in it.

Speaking of footprint, each of these strollers fold up to a fairly small size with the Babies R Us Lightweight Stroller being the smallest overall. The Jeep Cherokee Lightweight Sport Stroller is the shortest but also a bit wider and The First Years Ignite Stroller is the tallest and a bit wider than the Babies R Us stroller with its larger wheels. This is relevant when deciding which stroller will fit in the back of an already tight trunk stuffed with luggage as well as gate checking it at the airport.

I could have cropped this closer but the baby butt is too cute to cut out.

Each of these strollers have some additional "bonuses" that while they aren't absolutely necessary, they are definitely nice to have.

The Babies R Us Lightweight Stroller has an adjustable canopy which is great for blocking out sun when it's in any position other than straight up. It also comes with a small removable storage pocket for diapers, wipes, toys, a sippy cup, etc. There's an even smaller pocket inside that for keys and a phone.

The Jeep Cherokee Lightweight Sport Stroller has a hard plastic parent console with two cup holders and a small storage space, a removable plastic child tray, a large plastic footrest, a decent sized storage basket underneath that is easy to access, two cargo bags to hold additional items (I don't really get these), and a window in the canopy making it easy to see your child when the canopy is open. The canopy is not adjustable like the Babies R Us version; it's either open or closed. This stroller is very easy to open and close with the one-hand fold design. It also stays upright when folded which is a very nice feature when storing the stroller during its off time.

The First Years Ignite Stroller has a fabric parent console with a drink holder and a small zippered pocket for keys and a phone. Like the Jeep stroller, it has a fixed canopy and a storage basket underneath that is a bit more cumbersome to use due to the frame of the stroller to accommodate the heavier weight capacity. It's also the tallest of the three strollers which is great when you have a tall husband like I do. It's also the only stroller with an adjustable five-point harness. While this isn't as important with our older daughter since I don't plan to buckle her in anyway, it will be very nice when we use it with our younger daughter.

Here you can see how the Babies R Us stroller on the left has an adjustable canopy
(it's pulled down so it's covering the front of the stroller).

As far as fit and comfort go, my daughter says she likes the Jeep stroller best. I don't know if it's really because it's more comfortable or if it's because it's blue (her favorite color). She seems to fit in these two strollers about the same. They have a longer seat which is good for her longer legs, a bit of a higher back which is good since she's tall and they are a bit wider to accommodate an older child. She is really too tall for any of these strollers since her  head extends past the top of the back but I know we are going to be doing a lot of hiking / walking on our vacation and while she can and will do a good part of it, I also know her legs won't last as long as ours and if we want to be able to see all of the sights I have planned, we're going to need a stroller for her. (Thankfully Little Sis is still small enough to carry in our Boba 2G Baby Carrier so we don't have to bring two strollers.)

So, based on the maneuverability, the higher weight capacity, and the taller handles, The First Years Ignite Stroller won out as our travel stroller. I'll do a follow up post about how it worked out "in the field" when we get back from vacation. Honestly though, if I had remembered we had that Jeep stroller in the basement and had not felt how amazing The First Years Ignite stroller maneuvered, I would have saved the money and brought the Jeep stroller; it was a very close second. Like I mentioned before, maybe the higher weight capacity has made the newer Jeep models easier to maneuver and it would win me over.

(P.S. I own two other strollers that I'll review at a later date. And just so you don't think I'm crazy owning so many strollers, the Jeep stroller is my Mom's.)