The Endurance of the Bugaboo Frog

Bugaboo Frog Instruction thumbnail
Bugaboo Frog instructions

(Original post: Bugaboo Frog Stroller Manual)

I’m not a blogger these days, as I’m too busy doing a thousand other things between caring for kids and having a million other distractions. However, I’m impressed that over all the years, my posting of the manual for the Bugaboo Frog has endured as the most read post this site has ever seen.

This is a testament to the ubiquity and sturdiness, but also the absurdity of time and money new parents (including myself) put into items for our newborns only to have them endure long past the stage where they are necessary. I ended up with these instructions, not for myself, but for a friend. I had actually bought a new Bugaboo Bee that, now my kids are mostly bipedal, is with another family. That one didn’t seem to have the endurance of the Frog, for whatever reason, and I actually changed the wheels twice due to a recall. Such recalls are what prompted me to buy new for so many things, but hindsight reminds me how much of that was to placate anxiety.

That being said, if I had advice to give to a parent looking for the gear that you will use a maximum of 3 years per child, but maybe just even 6 months, it would be to utilize neighborhood and community resale, gear exchange and freecycle groups, and splurge on the little extras that make things easier.

Heres’ an example of some things that didn’t break the bank, and were great accessories for the first few years:

Bottle Bag

Bottle bag – A bottle bag was indispensable , even after we were done with bottles. It’s good for breast milk if pumping away from home, it’s good for bottles on the go, for sitters and childcare, and of course it can be used as a snack/lunch bag when you’re done with bottles. I like the quality of SkipHop stuff in general, and you can often use other cool packs to keep it chill. Find the Skip Hop Insulated Breastmilk Cooler and Baby Bottle Bag here.

Stroller Organizer

Stroller Organizer and Cupholder – I found that so many strollers did not have helpful caddies for going around town, so I ended up with a couple organizers and cupholders. There are many to choose from, all around the same price point. This one has the features I like, including many pockets, places for beverages, and easy off and on to the stroller. Find the Stroller Organizer as here.

Diaper Bag

Diaper Bag – Everyone has their idea of the perfect diaper bag, but for me you can’t go wrong with LeSportSac. They’re so easy to wash, so lightweight, and so cute, that with their ripstop fabric, these things endure like crazy! I used mine for both kids, and now it’s on to another family. I can’t recommend the LeSportSac Classic Ryan Baby Bag enough. Find it here.

Diaper Wallet

Diaper Wallet – I really don’t know how I got around without a diaper wallet. It was a good thing to have stashed around just in case you needed to make a quick change, light enough and small enough to throw in a bag, even a re-usable grocery bag for a trip to the store. If you get one diaper changing item, the SkipHop Pronto is a classic in design and function. Find it here.

My American Utopias

The thoughts presented here have been a long time coming. Thanks to Mike Daisey‘s recent performance of American Utopias for inspiring me to finally write this down.

WDW July 1985By the time I arrived at Burning Man, it was already too big. In August of 1999, a friend I met through the Internet met me in Chicago with his (unknown at the time) dying truck, soon to be filled with all we would need for our road trip and week in the desert. Through car trouble, $300 for a broken water pump in Wyoming, and a busted transmission that left us hitchhiking in Utah, we made it to That Thing in the Desert that would rise to a population of over 20,000 people that year.

I was in my early twenties and had recently changed my college major to religious studies. Through the dust storms, the glittering night skies, and alkaline dust that permeated my skin, cracked my feet, the most amazing thing to me was the rise and fall of this city. I had lived for three years in one of the great American cities, built on big shoulders and “no little plans.” The sweat and blood that built Chicago was stained into the concrete and bricks, the human hands that built them forgotten like a mobster built into a bridge.

Every hour of every day in Black Rock City was humming with life and work. The building never stopped, as with its destruction. When it wasn’t the people tearing down and burning, it was the wind, rain and dust chipping at the foundations. Hard work and hard partying, the community brought everything they thought they and the city needed: community colleges, 12-step meetings, a movieplex, a coffee shop, a smut shack with grilled cheese, bars, clubs, souvenirs, fantastical sites, body art, sinners and saints, prayer, yoga and on and on – but all on the terms of the small groups of people, and all as a gift. A shining, blinking, strobing, face-melting gift.

The beauty of Burning Man was what I was learning in my religious studies work in college – human beings are creators. Like my professor, Dr. David Gitomer at DePaul University pointed out, even our July 4th barbecues connect us to our ancient ancestors. We gather in reverent groups for intoxication and gluttony, making a burnt offering over charcoal briquettes to the spirit of freedom, our love and identification with our home and country. The beauty of Burning Man was seeing the play within a play – America within America – freedom pushed to the edges of what the law allows. And I still marvel, today, and wonder at the hands that, before my very eyes, built this city that Daniel Burnham would envy.

Five years and three Burning Man attendances later, I went to Walt Disney World for what I expected to be a torturous nine days. I had been hoping for a Hawaiian vacation instead, but was outvoted by my in-laws. The Goth deep within me shriveled at the thought of The Mouse, the happy and perfect artifice that would surround me. It was painfully ignorant of the horrors of the world, which for all I know, was why Disney was discouraged in my house growing up.

Four days of drinking Florida water, bad coffee, and eating Mickey Mouse shaped waffles, I was hooked. One by one, I started accumulating Tinker Bell-festooned items. We gathered as a family in Epcot one evening to see Illuminations, their spectacular firework extravaganza. As the sun went down, carts of blinking and spinning lights started appearing. People, young and old, wore glow necklaces and children danced with blinking, twirling batons. Oontz-oontz-oontz sounds rose from the shrubbery, and every so often, a voice from the ether would remind us that we were just moments away from Illuminations.

To this day, this is my favorite fireworks show. The park is full, the crowd is electric, and the entire vibe sinks within me, pulling out the psychedelic glasses that make the world shine in the dark. A lit, spinning globe, covered with images and movies takes a journey around the lagoon.

A beer from the Rose and the Crown before Illuminations in 2009

My first Illuminations hit me hard. I realized that Disney was Burning Man and Burning Man was Disney. Some will argue that Disney is for spectators, where Burning Man is for participants, and that the economic differences between the capitalist and gift economies are enough to make them distinct, but I would say no – these places share the same ancestry that Daniel Burnham shared as the architect of Chicago’s White City, these places are testaments to the magnificence of human creation and destruction. They touch on the monuments of fallen cities stretching through the millennia. While Burning Man sees its lifecycle in only a week, it gives us a taste of that ecstasy that every builder of every great palace and cathedral evoked.

Mike Daisey is currently doing a show called American Utopias, and I saw it in Seattle this past weekend. The major elements are Disney, Burning Man, and Occupy Wall Street, two elements I am familiar with, and the final less so. I stood in a disorganized queue after the show, wanting to talk more with him, and specifically ask him about Illuminations, but I didn’t get my chance. Oddly, as another person was talking to Mr. Daisey, I piped up to talk about how even at Burning Man in 2004, I saw the Default World seeping through the cracks, specifically bringing elements of commerce, and though I didn’t mention it, the violence of growing cities. In a flash, I found myself, not standing face to face in a three-person conversation, but rather, talking to a circle of people listening to me, with Mr. Daisey being one of them.

American Utopias, by Mike Daisey, is not my favorite work. It speaks well to the uninitiated, but for me, I wanted to have a longer conversation. Burning Man, Disney, America – there is no singular experience that defines it. We are all building our cities and engaging with a consensual reality, and at times deliberately engaging in subversion. Utopia literally means “no place,” but what I observe is beautiful about the human experience is that so many of us engage with the world and with each other as if there is a means to create or travel to this place physically or spiritually. I am excited that Mr. Daisey finds this subject interesting enough to bring to his audience to engage.

Toddler Travel

We’ve been traveling with our son since he was about six months old. Anyone who tells you that it’s easier to travel with an infant before they’re able to squirm out of your arms is telling the truth. The only exception is that you’re usually too tired to enjoy the trip. There are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that have made a difference in how we travel.

1. Pacifiers, or drinking/nursing. The reason why many babies cry on planes? Their ears hurt. They can’t clear them the way we can, and their best option is crying, and also, they’re in pain. Sucking on something, or drinking something, can help release the pressure in their ears.

2. If you haven’t purchased a seat for your child, get to the airport early, and make sure you’re one of the first people up at gate’s desk. With all boarding passes for your party in hand, politely ask one or all of your party to be seated by an empty seat. If there is space on a plane, they will likely accommodate you.

3. CARES Child Airplane Safety Harness – Now that you have an empty seat next to you, with this easy-to-travel with harness can strap your toddler into the empty seat you just procured. Our son knocked out for two hours on a six hour flight, and was very happy most of the time. This harness is FAA approved, and easy to install. My other recommendation is to make sure you’re on an airline that still does family pre-boarding. United does not do family pre-boarding.

I’m sure there are more tips, but these are the three that really got us through our last bit of air travel. Good luck, and bon voyage!

Yelp So Serious

I’ve been on Yelp for awhile, now, and finally made Elite status last year. What this means (aside from what they tell me) I actually have no idea. The status did, however, make me want to Yelp more. I signed up for their Yelp 100 Challenge, which means I review (or meaningfully update) 100 businesses during this calendar year. I have been pretty much reviewing every place I’ve gone.

What is interesting to me is how seriously some people take Yelp. I know that I take my reviews seriously, and try to be fair and informative in my reviews (It’s my duty!), while maintaining that my point of view is mine, and mine alone. I may come off as being righteously judgmental, but I want to be fair to other people’s experiences of these places. Certainly, as was the case when we were visiting Houston a few years ago, it was a negative Yelp review that steered us to our extremely positive experience at a local eatery.

For instance, some people really, really like chain restaurants. They like comfort, they like predictability, and certainly, in most any town outside of Seattle (that’s not PDX or SFO), I love my Starbucks. You rave about an Italian restaurant because it’s just like Olive Garden? Likely not my scene. You claim to have had the worst restaurant experience because you saw words like “cornichon,” “pig cheeks,” and “rabbit terrine” and didn’t know what anything was – probably worth my consideration (though not without context).

I don’t want to say I’m a food snob, because frankly, I don’t require fancy food or great expense to make me happy. Good food can come from a food truck, great coffee can be brewed at home (and the folx at Tonx Coffee can help), and sometimes the best burger can be found at Dick’s.

That being said, I’ve had a few people respond to my reviews since I started Yelping more regularly. A local shop owner felt that I was unfair in my stars. I wrote her back, since she had reached out to me politely. A local cafe owner reached out to me, and we arrived at the same appraisal: his cafe wasn’t out to make fans of everyone – just those who “get” their aesthetic. Most recently (and surprisingly), I was contacted through my blog by someone who was sputteringly LIVID at my poor review of Ruth’s Chris in Wailea, Maui. I came to the conclusion (after some Googling) that the author was less concerned with my Ruth’s Chris review, and more concerned with the critical, yet positive review of an establishment he co-owns on Maui.

This brings me to my question – do people really take Yelp that seriously? While certainly, it does help guide some of my choices in situations of indecision, I find it hard to believe, as was the case with the first business owner I cited, that one single star review could taint a business that was knee deep in five star reviews. Further, I view Yelp reviews as the opinion of individuals aggregated for ease of the masses. Kind of like the Rotten Tomatoes for food and services. If Roger Ebert loves a movie, but A. O. Scott does not, and you know you tend to agree with Roger Ebert’s opinions more (historically speaking), it doesn’t make A. O. Scott definitely wrong, it just means he has a different aesthetic.

Choosing to write 100 reviews for Yelp this year is my way of committing to writing. I have been woefully out of practice, and while I’m not truly editing all that I put out there, my hope is that through repetition, I will find my critic’s voice, and hone my critical eye and expression in prose.

Do any readers here have any insight as to why anyone (businesses or consumers) may take Yelp so seriously?

Interlude (When I’m not making delicious food.)

Uncle Bazel said to me, “Why you so fat?” I was eleven years old and at the yearly family reunion in the Appalachian foothills. He was of my grandparents’ generation, and this was the first time I really remember anyone in my family pointing out my size, or so pointedly, my failure. I was teased most of my childhood and adolescence by peers for being overweight. I have never felt comfortable in my own skin for any great length of time. I achieved my great weight loss after years on Weight Watchers, stoked by a personal tragedy, and literally running from my anxiety. I noticed that as I got smaller, the models in magazines got larger. It was bizarre, sitting in the bathtub, actively wondering if I was experiencing body dysmorphia, or if the fashion magazines had finally started hiring slightly larger models.

It’s still bizarre, because though I’m intellectually certain that the fashion industry hasn’t started using models above a size 2 in their magazines, I still remember that moment with a hint of doubt. Maybe they’re a size 6?

I want to print out a picture of one of the Domino Dollhouse models in lingerie for inspiration. I’ve been fighting, trying to lose weight for a year post-pregnancy, and letting myself feel pretty horrible. I realized that what I find beautiful and sexy in other women, regardless of size, is their chutzpah. It’s hard being a woman, regardless of size, but I truly want to high-five every large woman I see working and sweating in a gym, running down the street in athletic gear, or rocking leopard print leggings, short skirt, and sparkly bustier.

My smallest, stable weight of my life was 155 lbs. That was 2010, and I was running regularly, and by the end of the year, completed my first half marathon, running 13.1 miles in roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes. I wanted to lose another 10 lbs, at least. Twenty pounds would get me to the middle of the recommended BMI. You could see the sinews in my neck, my chin was sharp, my collarbones were defined and my ribs could be seen on occasion. I had loose skin from years of being much heavier, and I felt, still, like I was too big. The twist, though that while my internal dialog was still hateful, the outside world was more welcoming. Athletic people chatted with me more, people were more open with me, and attractive people treated me like a peer in a way I had never experienced before. Sometimes I wanted to tell them, “You know, I’ve really been fat most my life, are you sure you want to still talk to me?” I felt like an imposter.

Pregnancy made me have to lose the super-tight control I had over my eating, and daily pain towards the last part of my pregnancy kept me from even walking the usual distances I was accustomed.

I go to the gym three times a week. I don’t run much any more, and I miss it, but I just don’t have the time to do it during day light hours. I’m stronger, and I think I’m more physically stable than I was right after I gave birth, but I’m still 50 lbs from my “goal weight.” If I look at the fat % on my scale, I’m realistically 40 lbs away from what my weight should be at my current fitness level. It still puts me above my BMI (which is bullshit, I know, but some metrics are just burned into my head.

Lovey Tee in Purple - Domino Dollhouse
Lovey Tee in Purple – Domino Dollhouse
I went shopping this past weekend and finally bought some clothing that fit me, and looked good. Some of it was even a bit daring, in that “LOOK AT ME” kind of way. I’ve been waiting and working hard to become that magical person that can be sustained by smaller amounts of food and abstinence from all delicious fats and sugars, meanwhile punishing myself with an ill-fitting wardrobe, hoping I’d fit into my old clothes if I just worked hard enough. I’m hoping, now, that if I stop punishing myself, that maybe everything else will fall into place. I don’t know. I have come to the conclusion that maybe it’s not just me, but my Mirena BC that’s also impacting my weight loss. At any rate, instead of finding thinspiration in an anorexic model, instead I want to look at my beautiful, voluptuous kindred, some of which are larger than me, who have said (at least with their well-fashioned hips), “Today, this is me, this is my size, and I look fantastic.” I can’t wake up and be a size 8 for the day, but I can wake up and feel good about the size I am while trying to figure out how to get to the size I want to be. Right?