Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Valco Baby Ion Ex 4 Two Double Stroller

I managed to find a great half-price deal on a new Valco Baby Ion Ex 4 Two  via e-bay about four months ago, so I snatched the stroller up before trying it out in a store. I really liked it the minute it arrived, but as Andrew got bigger, I knew it wasn't going to work for us.

So... I resold the stroller (for a $30 loss!). But, in the meanwhile, I was able to write up a review of it for you. Voila!

My first impression of the side-by-side Ion Ex 4 Two was that it was an awesome stroller. Its egg-shaped chassis is very sleek-looking, toddler-climbing strong, and slim enough to fit through most standard-sized doorways. It handles like a dream, even with one-handed steering, and I really liked the multi-position-adjustable handlebar. I also loved that there was no way that I could kick the back axle of the stroller without taking an abnormal lunging step (I'm 5'4'').

The sun-canopy offers excellent coverage (very much like the City Mini) via a zip-out extension and has a nice-sized mesh child-viewing window. And, the under-seat storage basket is very large and easily accessible. There are also two hanging, compartmentalized storage bags on the back of each seat, one of which is detachable and can be used as a small portable hand-held diaper bag.

Valco Baby Bassinet, $100-ouch!
Also convenient is that each of the seats can recline to almost flat quite easily and independently of each other. The seat backs are nice and supportive too, unlike our 2010 City Mini single stroller in which Andrew slumps even after buying an extra back support board. Valco sells adapters for some car seats as well as a bassinet, which is great, and belly bars come standard with the stroller (no extra fee!) Plus, folding the stroller is a breeze--just twist the knob on top and lift a safety latch and the stroller folds inward so that the seat fabric is not exposed to the elements.

The stroller is typically $500 and the accessories aren't cheap either. The bassinet runs around $100 and the car seat adapter is $40 (a better bargain, I think, if you can find the adapter compatible with your seat.) There isn't a built-in cup holder for you or your little one either--unless you'd like to purchase an accessory, of course!

It takes a bit of practice learning how to adjust and unbuckle the five-point harness, but I guess this is so that little geniuses don't figure how to get out. Also, while the fold is easy to figure out and accomplish, it isn't a self-locking fold and it isn't a very flat fold either.

Additionally, while the stroller is super easy to assemble, I had no idea how to attach the upper portion of the storage basket for which there were no assembly instructions. I contacted Valco Baby and they sent me an instructional video and some photos to help me out with the installation, but it was still a pain to do (email me if you'd like a link to the Valco materials.)

Finally--and my reason for returning the stroller--because of its sleek and slender design, larger toddlers are not going to fit into this double stroller for long. Andrew was not even two when I got the stroller, but  being 3 feet-ish tall, the fabric from the canopy and curved headrest of the stroller seat hit him on the head. The seat width is also slimmer than other doubles and I could tell my 35-pounder would outgrow it soon. Not to mention that adding a car seat adapter would have taken up more of his space.

The bottom line:
This is a really great stroller if you have smaller children, but there are other strollers out there that would be better for the longer/heavier haul. I'm looking into purchasing a Joovy Ergo Caboose, which transforms from a double stroller with a car seat adapter to a sit-n-stand. As always, I will be sure to report back here. Until then...

Monday, March 26, 2012

I'm Pregnant and I Know It!

This video is hilarious and is totally me right now. "Waddle, waddle, waddle, waddle, waddle," internet friends!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Baby Liam in 3D (my visit to Hudson Valley Ultrasound)

I've been missing in action, forgive me. But I've got a fun post for you today! Last Friday I went for a 3D/4D ultrasound at Hudson Valley Ultrasound in Munroe, NY and I'm happy to introduce to you baby Liam for the first time in 3D!

How stinkin' cute is he??

The image is blurry because I snapped a shot of an ultrasound printout with my cell phone, but I actually received a CD with over 70 printable/shareable images with my $149, 30-minute-long ultrasound session. Plus, I received a free video of the whole session which is something fun to have (normally a $25 value.)

We had a really nice experience at Hudson Valley Ultrasound. My husband wasn't able to come along due to work, but my mom came along and Andrew too. The ultrasound room was large and comfortable (with a big couch to seat a bunch of family members), and we were able to see little Liam on both a big movie screen and a television. Andrew kept laughing because the baby looked orange on the screens, so I think he's convinced that his little brother is orange (maybe he'll have red hair too so it won't be far from the truth!)

The ultrasound technician was very nice and he worked hard to get a good shot of the baby, even though he was hiding behind the placenta. He seemed genuinely happy every time the baby smiled or yawned for him, which I though was sweet too. The tech confirmed the baby's gender again for me and also confirmed that he was positioned head down.

I left the session really happy we had decided to schedule a 3D/4D scan. I didn't have one with Andrew because my OB provided us with so many ultrasound photos, but this time around I had only 3 or 4 pics. Along with the pictures on the CD, I received 4 black and white and 2 color ultrasound printouts with my session. The ultrasound tech also handed me a small Enfamil diaper bag containing formula samples and a bag containing other baby loot (Similac samples, magazines, etc.) before I left, which was a nice surprise.

Check out http://www.hudsonvalleyultrasound.com/pricing.html for details about ultrasound packages and pricing at Hudson Valley Ultrasound. They even offer sonogram streaming to a remote computer, which is great for far-away family members who want to be involved.

My only disclaimer is that the office can be a bit hard to find because the Google Map plotting is off and it is a shared office/storefront with other providers. The office is actually located just after the intersection of Lake Street and Millpond Parkway (the lake will be on your right and the office will be on your left, right before the parking lot entrance.)

The parking can also be a bit sketchy (either road parking or the one parking spot designated to the ultrasound practice in a shared parking lot), but we managed to find it and snatch up a parking spot no problem.

Now, let's scroll up and look at Liam again! <3

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Product Review: Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag

Duo diaper bagThe Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag was one of the free gifts I received for attending the Martha Baby Shower Show Taping.... and it is providing me further evidence that the "expert" who chose all of the must-have baby picks for the show really have no idea what he was talking about! Sure, the bag is really cute in the wave dot print that we received, but once put into use a parent realizes it is far from a must-have diaper bag.

First off, the Duo is small at just 13" wide x 13.75" high x 4.25" deep. And while it does have 11 organizer pockets in all, they are arranged in such a way that restricts the interior storage space of the bag. I barely fit all of my son's accessories into the Duo (forget about stashing a winter coat in there) so this is certainly not at bag that will be useful to us when our second is born this Spring.

Bag interior. The black lines (zippers) running
vertically house the parent pockets.
I think that, in addition to the bag's tiny depth dimension of course, the major design flaw is this: there are two zippered parent/accessory pockets on the top of the bag that extend only halfway down into the bag's interior. If you put anything substantial into these pockets--say, your wallet--your access into the bag is cut off and you lose precious storage space.

Any mother knows that you don't want to be pulling everything out of your bag to find that one item that has gone missing. So, the folks at Skip Hop have failed miserably by making a bag with inner environs that are infuriatingly hard to navigate. They do offer a Duo Double which is 5 inches wider, but at 13.5" high and still 4.25" deep, you're still going to run into the same accessibility problems. 

Now, there are pros to this bag of course. I do like the sturdy, fashionable material the bag is made of, the magnetic pocket closings, the side cell phone pocket, the shuttle clips that you can attach to your bag (but, seriously, I'd just hang it by the strap and be done with it) and the soft, removable shoulder pad strap. The Duo also comes with a changing pad in the back pocket and the front two pockets are insulated and nice for keeping a juice box and some snacks. Oh, and its currently listed for $58. 

BUT, what does all this matter if I can't fit or find anything inside of the bag's interior? If Skip Hop would expand the width of this bag significantly and maybe extend the parent pockets all the way down to the bottom of the bag (so one wouldn't have to deal with weird half pockets getting in the way), then we'd have something to talk about! As it stands, though, there are other better bag options and the Duo is not so much of a "must-have" if you value not pulling your hair out! 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Limited Sizes of Robeez On Sale at Totsy Now!

Robeez undoubtedly makes wonderful shoes for wee little ones. Their shoes are, of course, very adorable, but they are also high quality and soft or flexible-soled to help pre- and early walkers gain confidence. What they aren't always, necessarily, is cheap, and it can definitely be hard for some to spend $30 on a pair of "booties" that fits into the palm of your hand. But boy, if you're lucky and can find your kids' shoe size available, Totsy is making it a whole lot easier right now with their Stride Rite Sale (Stride Rite recently acquired the brand.)

*Be sure to head on over before everything is sold out! Sizes are very limited and the sale ends soon.*
Robeez Little Sheriff
Robeez line of super-comfortable, leather indoor/outdoor shoes are perfect for hard floors when your little one is just beginning to walk. Being able to feel the ground through the soft, flexible shoe sole helps so much with balance and the shoes keep little socks and feet clean, unlike poor Robeez-less Andrew's feet when he was smaller. They also have a textured, suede sole to prevent against slipping. Needless-to-say, our next little guy will be getting some Robeez regardless if I have to pay full price!

On my shoe-shopping wishlist from this sale--and not available in our sizes, unfortunately--are the Robeez Lil Sheriff cowboy boot ($16; originally $33) and the Robeez Brown Sandal ($15; originally $32).

Robeez Soft Soles Cozy Bird
Robeez Cozy Bird; $12.95 at StrideRite.com
So, head on over to Totsy now to see if you can snag a pair before they are gone. Or, if you're looking for a pair of Robeez in a size or style that is not listed at Totsy today, be sure to check out Striderite.com or Robeez.com. I've seen Robeez on-sale for as low as $12.95 or $14.95 on these sites. That's a very good price for an incredibly useful and stylish shoe!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We Have a Kushies Winner!

Amanda is the winner of the Kushies pink polka dot sheet giveaway. Congratulations to Amanda and thanks to everyone for entering. Here is the random.org generator I used to pick the winner, just for posterity:

I hope to have more fun giveaways in the near future, so please keep stopping by! In the meanwhile, guess our next baby's due date, height and weight HERE and you could win some nice handmade soap this April/May! Be sure to enter game name RocklandMother2 to get to the game and to put the baby's gender as a boy.

See you soon!