the weekender: vacation edition

Was it cruel of me to open on this photo?  I'm sorry, I just could not resist!  It's kind of hilarious - life with a toddler, one minute you're hanging ornaments and the next it's all coming crashing down.  Literally, in this case, because this is when I realized that these bulbs were glass and thus quite breakable, making it impossible for her to continue "helping" me string them along the front porch. 

For the record, I'm not typically a proponent of pre-Thanksgiving Christmas decorations, but since we were leaving for an entire week right before Thanksgiving I knew it would majorly stress me out to have to rush to put them up, so I gave in!  

Then we went to Florida! 

Full disclosure - I am mega proud of this pic.  Earlier that day I ran my fastest 5K ever (23 minutes!!) and I have to attribute that all to the Tone It Up Fit For Fall #charitychallenge that I completed the previous week.  100 miles over those 12 weeks along with god knows how many burpees but it was totally worth it.  For the record, I didn't lose or gain a single pound, but my fitness level changed noticably!  Next week I'm starting the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body guides, which I've heard are both amazing and somewhat grueling.....wish me luck!  

Aside from pool time we spent evenings playing games...

and even made a trip to Disney one evening for Mickey's Magic Christmas Party!  

Claire looked like that for 90% of the trip, but she did ride It's a Small World and The Haunted Mansion!  

Then we did an adults only day at Universal Orlando, the highlight of which was obviously the Harry Pottery parks of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley!  

We bought Claire a little souvenir home, to keep for a few years from now when she's old enough for the books....

Claire was basically an angel on the flight down, but more challenging to keep still and entertained on the flight home, which directly intersected her nap time.  I thought this might mean a sleeping baby during the flight, but NOPE.  AND THEN THIS HAPPENED.  Right when we landed, of course.  

Okay, so now that our vacation is over I'm officially declaring it the holidays!  Our tree got a little Mouse magic of its own...here's Claire pointing out our newest ornament addition.  


the best deals in baby gear and where to find them: uppababy vista review

This is the face of a very adventurous one year old girl.  A girl who once upon a time was almost always wrapped to her mamas body - a bit timid in the face of a big world and almost always comforted by the closeness of being carried on a parent's hip.  

But all children grow up, they say, and Claire has done so as well.  As I'm told by her teachers, her grandparents, all my friends (and seen with my own eyes) Claire has somewhat exploded as a human being within the past month and we are delighted and also trying to catch up to her rapid fire developments!  

A girl who once only said "hi" and "mama" now answers "Claire!" to "What is your name?"  She can make the animal sounds of no less than 10 animals and has begun to hum along to the ABCs.  We are still working on "please, thank you, you're welcome" but she unsurprisingly has a firm handle on "more, help, up."  She can spot a "woof woof" a mile away and loves to point out the moon.  

Most of all, she has decided that physical independence above all else is a necessity when we are out and about and because of that we've had to reconsider our thinking in the stroller department....

As the proud owners of a nice little arsenal of baby carriers, we previously hadn't owned much of anything in the way of a good stroller.  We have a great jogging cart (essential) that was a generous gift, but it has a fixed front wheel so it doesn't function as an everyday stroller - it's literally only for running or attaching to the back of a bike.  For everyday trips to the farmer's market or park, we had a pretty crappy Britax that was a total disaster once we started using it with our 23 pound baby.  

That "B-Agile" could fall off a cliff as far as I'm concerned - while it seemed fine with a teeny newborn that we didn't take many places, with an active toddler it suddenly seemed flimsy, rickety, and difficult to steer.  No room for storage, a recline method that woke a sensitive napping toddler, and such crappy wheels that if we hit a curb she was nearly tossed out altogether.  (Also, these are all things highlighted in the stroller's many one star reviews - WHY did I not read the reviews???)

uppababy vista review stroller little britches mt mount vernon il illinois baby gear

One thing I have learned with babies is this - and this applies to nearly everything out there - buy the best, and don't buy it new!! People change their minds almost constantly and you can buy strollers like used cars; with very little mileage and a big discount.  

uppababy vista review stroller little britches mt mount vernon il illinois baby gear

Want to know how we got our hands on this stroller for $350?  I'm going to let you in on my best kept parenting secret (but only now that I've perfected my "stroller stash" haha!)  

My #1 go to for baby gear is Little Britches

uppababy vista review stroller little britches mt mount vernon il illinois baby gear

But let me back up.  After doing some research online, I decided the only way to go was to get an Uppababy.  

This one is the Uppababy Vista, their most full-featured stroller, and to say Claire and I are in love with it would be a gross understatement.  This thing is the Cadillac of strollers.  She frequently climbs into it and tries to buckle herself in - I am not kidding!! Just to give you a quick overview, these are a few of my favorite features and reasons why I chose it: 

 - Folds in one piece (or two, for a more compact fold)
 - Huge extendable sunshade
- Adjustable footrest
-Magnetic peek a boo window in the sunshade so that you can check on a sleeping baby with no noise
-Automatically locks when folded, but easily unlocked to unfold.  
- Seat reclines to five different levels facing out to the world or towards the parent - this includes a position where baby sits up entirely straight, which was an essential for Claire
- Comes with a beautiful bassinet for the newborn stage so can be used from birth
 - The basket underneath is literally the biggest of any stroller on the market, and accessed so easily - it also has pockets near the back for essentials like phone and water bottle
-Has an option to add a rumble seat to make it a double stroller, and 2015 version can be a full double stroller with two toddler seats, or a toddler seat and bassinet
 - Telescoping adjustable handlebar for parents with a big height difference
-Foam filled rubber tires will never ever go flat, but it has great suspension that keeps baby from feeling bumps in the road
-Adapts to fit many brands of carseats to be a travel system, including Uppababy's own highly rated brand, Mesa
-I also love how high up Claire sits in it, and I find it to be a really attractive stroller - no, not Bugaboo attractive, but we'll get to that in another post in a couple of weeks! 

Basically it has everything.  I had to have it - nothing else would make me happy!  Having had a baby for over a year I know how much those little details matter, and since I was making the investment either way I wanted exactly what I wanted.  

uppababy vista review stroller little britches mt mount vernon il illinois baby gear

I knew Darrell would never clear me to pay the full price tag, and admittedly it was hard for me to swallow as well (over $1000 for the whole kit and caboodle new, gulp) so I called Little Britches to see what they had available!  Sure enough, there was a silver/black frame Vista in stock - my preferred color combo - and she was letting it go for $350.  

Little Britches is an incredible discount baby gear store in my hometown, but lest you think that irrelevant to any of you that live across the country, let me first say that they ship, and at quite reasonable rates, in my opinion.

Kelly, the owner of Little Britches and deal finder extraordinaire, has relationships with baby stores all over.  These stores have policies that prevent them from accepting any products in shipments that have even slightly damaged boxes - I'm talking bent corners, tiny holes in cardboard - baby stores have among the most strict and sometimes pointless standards for order acceptance.  In addition she hunts down gently used items or accepts them for store credit and spruces them up.  While there is no high-tech website, I prefer the personal approach you can get from her store - she'll post giant albums of photos of what's available in store from time to time, and you can comment there on half off Diono car seats, Uppababy and Bugaboo strollers in every style and color, and bassinets, pack and plays, walkers, bounce seats from 4moms (I could go on, but I'll stop here, you get the idea!)  

If for any reason you don't see what you're looking for on their Facebook page, message them!  They will keep an eye out for deals and get back to you, in my experience almost always within a couple of weeks.  No matter your price range, needs, I've never found a better deal somewhere else on an item I needed for Claire - I truly swear by them for baby/toddler gear, and so do all my friends with children.  

 If you're in the market for a new stroller, I'd highly recommend the Vista and I know there are a few more at Little Britches right now!  Definitely check there before you buy your next carseat or stroller - I guarantee you will save money and leave with something your baby will love.  I'll be reviewing a few more strollers and carseats from Little Britches in the coming weeks and I hope it will be helpful to anyone in the market for those items!

I'll also  link you here, to my favorite baby gear reviewer on Youtube, where she demonstrates how each feature works and how to fold/assemble this specific stroller.

*PS - this post was not sponsored in any way!  I genuinely love this store and am always eager to help support businesses in my home town.  Buying baby gear for Claire at Little Britches has saved us so much money over the past year!  


the weekender

The theme song of our weekends the past two weeks has been "crunch crunch crunch."  

I don't know what inspired her to stop and hug this pole, but apparently it just had to happen.  I wasn't fast enough with the camera, but she HUGGED it.  

We recently discovered the most AMAZING playground for smaller children in the Clayton neighborhood, Shaw Park.  The entire facility is fenced in with latch gates to get out, and this little structure as you can see is so perfectly low to the ground!  Claire had a blast being able to access nearly every aspect of the area and I was much more comfortable letting her roam a bit away from me.  Freedom!  Within reason haha.  

 And then it was Halloween weekend!! Claire isn't quite old enough to understand the excitement of "dressing up" and I'm fairly sure she just though this was an everyday outfit, but I was in love with her costume!  Sweet Audra from "The Baker Chick" was kind enough to lend it to us (see it on her adorable son Hugo last year here!)  

We took Claire to a Halloween party at our neighborhood parenting store (foregoing trick or treating because she isn't really old enough) but honestly she didn't just love the party!  I don't know if she was teething or overwhelmed by the crowded room, but we were there for an hour and she was sitting at the front door of the store saying "outside!" so we packed her up and went home for a nap.  At least I got some cute photos!  But this one REALLY sums up her feelings about Halloween apparently :/ 

I had planned to be a "party animal" for an adult party we went to that evening, but at the last minute I decided to get more millennial and be Socality Barbie - click here if you don't get it - which was way more fun and also WAY more comfortable!  

Last but certainly not least, Sunday afternoon we went to a matinee of Matilda the Musical at the Fox Theatre and it was SO good.  It was a very quirky musical - truer to the storyline of the book than of the movie - and the little girl who starred was just ten years old and phenomenal.  I completely forgot how sad that story is and cried quite a bit actually!  

Grainy selfie required to document the three of us getting together for something so fun.  Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!  

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