Minted + A Giveaway

Holiday greetings from the Younger-Monsons!

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My first Christmas out of college I wanted to feel grown up, so I decided it would be my first year to send out holiday cards. I went to a craft store and bought paper, ribbon and doodads and assembled 30 cards by hand. {So that’s how I passed time before I had a blog, bakery and baby….!}

In the years since I think I sent out one holiday card, but I’ve missed more years than I can count.

This year we have a bundle of joy to make holiday cards merry & bright. We had our photo session with Cramer Photo, and when the photos arrived I had just started to research sites when Minted contacted me about doing a post. Since I had just been at Minted that very morning ooing and ahhing over the selections, I happily accepted!

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Just days after I designed our cards they arrived at our doorstep dressed to the nines.

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One piece that makes Minted different from other online paper companies is that they crowd-source design and art and find artists and designers from all over the world to submit their work for consumer printing:

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Shopping for a holiday card design is a bit like choosing a wedding dress. There are so many beautiful ones that could be “it” but when you see your card you just know. Thus, when I saw this honeycomb + gold card I knew it was ours! {I also really love this one and this one and this one.} I can’t say enough good things about how nice the cards are. Five gold stars!

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I customized the card with some festive scalloped edges

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And gold glitter liners for the envelopes

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Sticking them in was as easy as a piece of Christmas pie:

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And as a final detail, I chose these stick on return address labels that wrap around to the back of the cards with a cheerful message

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In addition to holiday cards, Minted also has New Years cards, wedding invitations, birth announcements, party supplies and anything printed you can dream up. Here is a sample of some of the year-round gifts you will find for teachers, grandparents, pet lovers and more.

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With holiday giving spirit, Minted offered to sponsor a giveaway so one of you can enjoy something specially designed as well. Giveaway will run until Saturday at midnight and the winner will be shown here on Monday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

And now I have to find a good Christmas movie to watch while I piece together, stuff and address my cards!

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This post is sponsored by Minted. Minted bought my holiday cards for me this year. I have no incentive for you to shop at Minted!

Board Books From Buzz

A guest post from Grammie Buzz, who just happens to be a trained children’s librarian! Here are her picks for some great board books.

Mazen, right from the start, liked books.  What more could a writer grandma ask for? Here are some winners!

His mom and dad read this one with amazing gusto. Lots of clippity clopping along with happy chaos!

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Sturdy tabs help small hands turn the pages in Baby Colors.

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Who doesn’t love a peek-a-boo book combined with rhymes and a surprise mirror at the end?

Peek a Who

Baby’s face becomes a fox’s: “Good night, my little fox,”  a candy: “Good night, my sweet,” a dumpling: “Good night, my little dumping,” and plenty of others in Good Night!

Good Night

Llama’s got all the cool moves!  Mazen is learning to zoom right along with him.

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Delicious foods and familiar endearments are just the recipe in these two titles.

You Are My Cupcake

Babies adore looking at other babies. Voila!  Babies everywhere!

Babies Everywhere

Sometimes toddlers are lickety quick, and other times they are slow, slow, slow. Celebrate the concept of speed with Duck and Snail.
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Celebrities often miss the mark when they write children’s books, but Spike Lee and his wife are right on!  They capture the personality of a very determined baby.

Please Baby Please

Bathtime, lift-the-flap, and touch and feel splash together in these bright photographs.

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Babies are babies all over the world!

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And two classics!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See features the tissue paper collages of the beloved Eric Carle.

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And last but not least, meet the creatures who love Little Gorilla. And since this book ends with a first birthday party, Little Gorilla makes the perfect gift for that landmark occasion.

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This grandma is on her way to the bookstore soon. I’m going to scout out some new books to add to my pile of presents.

What about you grandmas and moms and aunts and caregivers out there?  Any titles to suggest?

Mazen’s Favorite Toys At 12 Months

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Favorite-Toys

1. Tegu Blocks. We went to our local toy store, Shenanigan’s, looking for first birthday gifts and I asked the woman: “Of all the toys in the store, what would you buy for a one year old?” Without hesitation she recommended these magnetic wooden blocks from Honduras. They are sustainably sourced, non-toxic, and made by a company with many honorable missions. M loves to carry them around the basement and smack them together. Someday soon he will be building towers like his dad! They are a bit pricey, but they seem like they will last – both in quality and in interest.

2. Manhattan Toy Stow and Go Cart. This cart is perfect for learning to walk, pushing around the yard and giving Pumpkin rides.

3. VTech Baby’s Learning Laptop. Karen bought Mazen this laptop when he was young and it’s been one of his most beloved toys. When he was just learning to sit up he liked to open and close the lid over and over, and now that he can stand he dances to the music it plays! I don’t think he has written any blog posts on it yet…

4. Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb. Our current favorite book! Matt taught M to pat his tummy as the drum, and now if you show him the book he pats his tummy on command. He smiles his way through this one.

5. Kidoozie Funtime Tractor. This one was another first birthday gift from us and M LOVES it. So do most kids who come over to play. The animals and Old MacDonald make noises when you push them, and if you touch the orange button in the front the whole tractor moves forward. Pumpkin likes to ride on it! What a clever toy this one is.

6. Kid-O Tip Truck. M loves this truck and also has the red car of the same brand. They have a timeless quality about them, and they are fun to roll on the ground.

7. Fisher-Price Brilliant Basics Corn Popper. M didn’t quite get this popper until he could walk, but now that he can it’s one of his favorites. He pops it all around the house!

8. Orange Tabby Kitten Puppet AKA PUMPKIN! I can’t believe Pumpkin is on Amazon! We bought M this cat puppet after he fell in love with it in a toy store. Of course she is named after our neighbor cat of the same color. M hasn’t shown much interest in any stuff animals except this one. He has started to cuddle with her and pets her. And he loves to walk around holding her by her tail.

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Cloth Diaper Confessions

For a year, we used cloth diapers and loved them. Honestly. The Bum Genius Freetimes were our diaper of choice, and the OsoCozy liners made disposing of solids very easy.

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Are you picking up that I am using the past tense here? Have you noticed Mazen wearing disposables in my Instagram photos? Sadly, for the moment, we are off of cloth diapers.

Up until 12 months things were humming along just fine. And then all of a sudden, the solids were no longer solids. What used to be easy to drop into a diaper pail via a liner was now a disgusting mess. The poop went beyond our liner’s edges, and I found myself cleaning it off the diapers with wipes, dunking them in the toilet (I will never do that again) and trying to figure out the best way to clean the edges before putting them in our wet bag.

I asked my friends if this change in poop style was normal. They said yes. I cried.

They weren’t entirely right. We switched to disposables for a week and then one day – the poop was back to normal. I happily chalked it up to teething or a new food and we went back on cloth. Two days later, I found myself with more messes. The cloth were just not working.

It’s been about a month now and we’re still on disposables. While M’s poop is back to the “good kind” (ha), we haven’t gone back to cloth. I’m just too afraid that the next diaper will be the gross kind again. And after a month in disposables, I’ve been spoiled. I’d also like to add that I’m never talking about one poop a day. Nope, my child is a poop machine.

I’m glad that I can change his disposable while holding him down with one hand (something I can’t do with all the snaps on the cloth).

I’m relieved not to have to do 3 extra loads of laundry each week, even though they were never that much of a pain.

And honestly, most of all, I’m so glad his 12-18 month pants fit properly.

On the one hand, I feel like a failure because I am just not brave enough to continue with the cloth.

On the other hand, I’m proud of the fact that we kept approximately 2,500 diapers out of the landfills by using cloth for the time that we did.

I definitely want to cloth diaper our second baby, if and when we have one. Pre-solid food poop was no big deal, and the solids for the first 6 months were simple to clean up. We may not be done with cloth with Mazen. Maybe we will use them again during potty training, for example. I just don’t know. But for now, we’ve put them on hold.

Organize With Cozi

Of all the press releases and pitches that fly into my inbox, I am most interested in those related to organization. Does that say anything about my personality?! I am a very organized person, yet I am always looking for the next best thing.

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Thus, Cozi was recommended to me as a way to organize the chaos that comes within a family. Now that it’s not just Matt and me, we have more to juggle. Mazen isn’t into school, sports or extracurriculars yet, but I can totally imagine that managing a household of school-aged children would need quite the organization system. Cozi simplifies all of that chaos into a user-friendly, clean format that can be shared among family members online or via mobile device.

Memberships are free, and there is a premium version called Cozi Gold that is ad free and offers more features. Cozi gave me a Gold subscription to share the inner workings with you all.

Overview

When you first log in you can see all of the different categories you can track: events and appointments, to-do lists (and chore lists!), grocery shopping, meal planning, group messages, and even a journal.

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Starting with the calendar, I entered in our appointments for the week. You can see at a glance who is involved with each event thanks to a color coding system. This isn’t as necessary with a baby, but imagine having 5 children and needing to know who goes where when. And this would be especially helpful if some are young and find tracking their color easier than reading a jumbled calendar. There are different views too – from day to month. And you can easily print your calendar to post on your household bulletin board too.

Weekly Schedule

You can also change everyone’s color, which I did after the fact:

Change Colors

Just like in Google Calendar, you can enter events by writing in plain text: “Mazen Doctor Tuesday at 2pm” and it auto formats the event for you. That was my favorite part! It was really easy to use, and I didn’t have any glitches. Lastly I loved the layout of the calendar – big dates and bolded events – plus my meal plan built right in!

Top of calendar

If you have access to a sports schedule or your spouse uses another kind of calendar you can also import calendars with Cozi. I don’t know if I could get Matt to actively log in everyday, but I could easily get his work calendar integrated into the family’s.

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I put our meal plan in too. It was nice to have everything all in one place. I ended up changing our meals around a bit in real life, but that’s just me. It was still nice to be able to match meals with days.

Mealplan

Right in the program you can find tons of recipes and quickly add them to your meal plan with the click of a button. PLUS it adds the ingredients to your shopping list! For those who are strict meal planners, this would be so handy.

Recipes

I didn’t need very many groceries this week because I had just been to the store, but I kept a tally of things I would need for my next trip as we ran out of them. Very nice because when I sit down to make a grocery list for the week I always forget things we ran out of like ketchup.

Groceries

There is room for different store lists if you shop around too. I made a separate one for Target! It was really easy to use and check off in the store from my phone.

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You can also assign to-dos to other family members. How handy! Imagine a chore list divvied up between siblings or a honey-do list easily nudged over. I assigned Mazen the task of putting away his toys, but unfortunately he did not follow through : )

ToDolist options

Another reason this would be an amazing app for families with a lot going on: messaging. I sent a message out to my family members about dinner. Mazen checked his plastic cell phone and confirmed that he would be to dinner on time.

Dinner Message

Lastly but not least, there is a journal feature. As someone who blogs, I loved this. Blogs are hard work to maintain, but this journal was simple and a good reminder to jot things down during the day. Sometimes you just want to remember something about each day that passes, and this is a great solution for busy moms and dads. You can even share the moments via email to grandparents and friends.

Journal

I currently use Google Calendar to keep myself organized. I do my meal planning on a chalkboard in the kitchen, my to-do listing in Gmail, and my grocery listing on paper. So I really did like how this consolidated everything into one command center. I found the mobile app very handy to have with me at all times. The bottom line: there’s no way your family won’t be organized with this system!

Here a chance to win a Gold subscription via Rafflecoptor! Giveaway will run until Monday, September 23.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post was sponsored by Cozi.

Welcome To The Family

No, we’re not expecting again Smile Just welcoming a few new products into the family of “things we love during baby’s first year.”

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First, this truck and car. Mazen LOVES them and my mom bought from a store and from Amazon. {Here is the car and here is the truck.} He absolutely loves them because they’re so easy for him to hold and drive around. Froggie loves them too! The back of the truck flips up – little things are so cute.

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Second, I found this awesome Slli Squeeze at our local consignment store called Kid To Kid. It’s kind of like the reusable pouches but made of silicone and with features like a connected cap and a more drinkable spout. So far it’s been great for smoothies and applesauce and is easier to clean than the Little Green Pouch, but I think it’s also a tiny bit harder for M to suck out. He has to squeeze more instead of just sucking.

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These Tommee Tippee bibs have been great. We were using these Green Spouts brand ones for the longest time and they wouldn’t really stay open to catch the food, plus they were harder to clean. I’ve been so much happier with the Tommee Tippee bibs. They roll up neatly for the diaper bag too. I hear this OXO Tot one is really good as well.

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Lastly on the food front, Lunchskins sent me two of their reusable pouches to try. So far I love them. Just as convenient and easy to use as a Ziploc bag without the trash at the end. The Velcro is very strong, so I didn’t worry about them opening up in my bag. They are dishwasher safe and quick drying. So many cute colors and designs too! I am partial to the bike one : ) I just bought 4 more!

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This book is awesome! My mom brought it to us at her last visit and M loves it.

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Lift the flaps for the win

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And last but not least, these Osocozy cloth diaper liners have made cloth diapering an older baby so easy. I was not about to dunk my hand in a toilet, and the thought of a sprayer had me thinking about what would spray back out at me. The liners have been a fabulous compromise. A tip from a friend let me know that they are actually washing machine friendly, so if you just have a #1 diaper you can send them through the laundry. We re-use them until they are thrown in the diaper pail with the #2s (they are marketed as flushable, but I’ve been warned against that for the love of our pipes). So soft too! {These Bummis liners I did not like nearly as much, and they did not survive the laundry}

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That’s all for now!

High In A Chair

We’re nearly a year in and have gone through lots of gear. I’m sure I’ve been disappointed in a few items (although now I can’t think of any off the top of my head..) but overall, most things have been great. Love our BOB. Love our new Clef Foonf car seat (should that be another post?). We love our crib and our our video monitor. Our OXO wipes container and cloth diapers. We have changed very little about our nursery.

This post, however, is about our high chair – the OXO Tot Sprout chair.

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The Sprout chair is definitely not on the cheap end of the spectrum, but knowing it would have prime real estate in my kitchen/dining room for years, I wanted something that would be pretty to look at and functional. Plus it matches our dining room light shade!!

We have been super happy with both the high chair’s look and function! Luckily it was a gift from my parents. It sat in a box in the attic for about 8 months until one day we decided it was time to get Mazen used to sitting in it at mealtime before he was ready to join us for solid foods. We brought it down and it was assembled in no time.

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One of the best parts is that it’s really easy to clean. If you haven’t heard, babies make HUGE messes while eating. Food in hair. Food on floor. Food in every crack you could imagine. Thus, I have to give the high chair a good cleaning after every.single.meal. Luckily, this chair has made that easier for me.

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The material is fabulous for wiping down. We used a cloth-seat chair while at the beach and I was shocked that such a chair existed. The cloth was impossible to clean without putting it in the washing machine. The Sprout chair wipes clean so easily, but the cushions also velcro off and are easy to run under the sink. The straps could be easier to clean, but I wipe them down and they are fine. Caitlin showed me how her Chicco high chair had the worst grooves for collecting crumbs. Luckily there are very few grooves on this chair, so crumbs don’t get stuck.

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I love that the tray is small enough to fit entirely in our wide one-basin sink. HUGE plus. The high chair at the beach had a reallllly big tray, which I guess is a plus if your baby likes to push food around, but it was much harder to clean. I haven’t had any staining at all with the tray either, berries galore included.

I do have two minor complaints: 1) The sides could be deeper to help keep food on the tray when hands start fingerpainting and swiping food off the edges and 2) On occasion water gets inside from the front lever, but I have learned how to avoid this problem.

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I added a hook to the back so I had a place to hang M’s bib to drip dry. So handy! I keep the chair tucked away in the corner of our dining room when not in use. I love that it’s on the petite side.

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Love the wooden legs. When M is hungry he crawls over to the chair, pulls up on it and looks back at me as if to say “Please can I get in!?”

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Pros: Easy to clean. Pretty. Small-ish.

Cons: Price. Low tray sides.

Mazen gives us two thumbs up too!

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Anyone else have a high chair they highly recommend?

Battle Of The Sippy Cups

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We started giving Mazen water when he was about 7 months old and we went to Arizona for vacation. It was hot and in the dry heat he seemed to be thirsty beyond his breast milk intake. As his solid food consumption has increased over the past 4 months, he now drinks water with his meals and I offer it to him on walks and throughout the day as well.

When we first started offering water we used a bottle because he was familiar with how to drink out of it. That way we could gauge exactly how much water he really wanted rather than using an unfamiliar cup. We have gradually transitioned to a sippy cup, but it’s been a long road finding the best one. For the longest time M couldn’t drink out of it by himself – we had to hold it up to his mouth for him.

Then we discovered THE STRAW. What a genius invention. I can’t remember exactly how M learned to use a straw, but I would let him practice on my adult straws and he seemed to get that pretty quickly. Learning the baby cup straws just clicked for him one day (after lots of straw chewing first!)

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Here are the sippys we have tried and their pros and cons in order of preference:

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Babies R Us brand sippy $4.99

Love: Nothing

Cons: No handles so it’s hard to hold, sippy mouth is hard to sip, leaks from top

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Babies R Us Purely Simple Training Cup $5.99

Love: Baby-friendly top, good handles

Cons: A bit leaky, M couldn’t figure out how to tip it up, not the cheapest

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Munchkin Click + Lock Sippy $3.75

Love: price, the click + lock feature is awesome, big handles

Negative: M doesn’t drink out of it well

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OXO Tot Straw Cup $6.99

Love: straw, awesome locking lid tucks straw away, chic colors

Cons: straw is high flow so it spills out easily but would be good for thicker smoothies and things, price, no handles so hard to hold

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Munchkin Click Lock Flip Straw Cup $4

Love: straw, price, click lock is great, no leaking

Cons: no handles so hard to hold

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Zoli BOT Sippy Cup $12

Love: this was our favorite for a long time. Handles are great, straw is great once M learned to use it, love the straw flip for upside down drinking, if necessary, spill proof, lid is nice

Cons: surprise puddles started leaking from the rim during our Williamsburg trip. A huge negative with fancy cameras and cell phones in the diaper bag! Price is high. Straw is hard to clean (I wouldn’t serve smoothie in this)

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Nubby 2 Handle Flip n Sip Straw Cup $6

Loves: Our current favorite because it has handles, flip straw, no leak and low price

Cons: None so far

So the Nubby wins – for now. I’m sure our preferences will change, and I’m keeping all of these in case Mazen learns to sip the spouts in time.

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Every baby is different, so what’s your #1 sippy?

The BOB Revolution

When I was pregnant and listening to the Pregtastic podcasts, I remember hearing the women call themselves “BOB snobs” whenever the stroller topic came up. Now that I am a BOB owner myself, I understand what the hype is about. Admittedly I haven’t pushed that many other kinds of stroller, but I can tell you that as an active mama the BOB is one incredible set of wheels.

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We decided to buy the BOB Revolution CE. There are several models of the BOB to choose from: the CE has the smallest wheels and therefore folds up the smallest. It’s for “city” use (hence the C). The SE is just like the CE but with bigger wheels, which makes running a bit easier but transport a bit more difficult. I believe on both the SE and the CE the front wheel can swivel for walking or lock for running, making the strollers great for either. The last model we considered was the Ironman, but with big wheels and a front wheel that doesn’t unlock, I ruled that one out pretty quickly. I knew I’d be doing loads of downtown walking, a fair amount of running and some traveling, so since the BOB was going to be our primary stroller we went with the CE. Thanks to Papa and Mimi for the wonderful baby gift!!

When Mazen was young we did a lot of walking with the car seat adapter, especially when it was very cold outside. We had a cozy shower-cap-style cover to go on the car seat that kept him snug as a bug. When spring arrived we got the clear from our doctor to begin running with him in the main seat and haven’t used the car seat since.

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The 5-point harness is super easy to use (unlike a car seat harness which is much harder to get around the arms). Mazen always seems very comfortable.

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He seems to love our walks and runs and rarely complains. If he does, it usually means something else is wrong like he is ready to nap. I give him toys to play with, but most of the time he likes to pick one toy to hold onto tightly and goes into a relaxed state taking in the world.

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The BOB’s features are great – the sun shade is huge and has multiple positions for cloudy and very sunny days. Everything but his little toes can be shaded, and I keep sunscreen in the back pocket to put on his legs on sunny days.

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Peeking in:

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There are multiple pockets for parent and baby storage – one on the back for gloves, sunscreen, etc. and some on the inside for baby things. Mazen likes to store his cell phone in there : )

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I bought this awesome Diono console for $10 on Amazon and love it. I often put my phone on the left, keys and sunglasses in the middle and water bottle on the right. The Garmin lives in my stroller now too : )

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The basket underneath could definitely be bigger. Just another inch or two would make getting the diaper bag in and out SO much easier. But I suppose the stroller is made for running more than it is shopping, so I can’t blame them. A lot of times I just end up clipping my diaper bag to the handlebars, and if fits well there even with the console.

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The brake is big and very sturdy (especially compared to other strollers I’ve handled), although it’s hard to do when you’re wearing flip flops.

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Folding the BOB up for car transport or storage is easy, although I wouldn’t say it’s one-handed easy. But it’s easy to figure out. I’d say the size of the stroller is its only downfall – considering we want to bring it on vacations it takes up more of our trunk than I’d like. In our Highlander it’s easy to get in and out, but in our Accord we couldn’t fit much else in with it because the front wheel was so tricky to tuck away.

As for running with the stroller, it’s great!! It’s much easier than I though it would be thanks to physics. Objects in motion stay in motion. Of course physics comes in to play on hills too, so to be honest I usually walk up most of our steep hills in town. Running with the wheel locked had a bit of a learning curve, especially if there are turns in your run, but it’s something I’ve gotten used to. The shocks on the BOB are amazing – I can go over bumps and sidewalk cracks and with a slight downward press on the handlebars barely interrupt the ride. And it did fabulously on the beach at low tide!

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My favorite part of stroller running is that I can take so much gear with me. I don’t have to carry my water bottle, I can take my fleece off after I warm up and store it below, and I can carry my phone, some fuel, sunglasses, a raincoat and more – all ready if I need them. I actually prefer stroller running for this reason alone now!

I am not affiliated with BOB – just love my stroller and wanted to share why.