About Me

My photo
I'm a married mum who loves chocolate & music & having an opinion on just about everything! E-Mail summermama@hotmail.co.uk

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I'm An Auntie

Wonderful, amazing, brilliant news this week.

My sister-in-law (Hubby's half sister) and her hubby have had a baby.

Their son was born on 20th June, making me an auntie for the first time. Its strangely exciting; Despite or perhaps because I have The Boy, I have been out every day since my nephew was born trying to find him a gift.

Why is it, when you don't have the money, or you don't have all the information (we didn't know if I would be welcoming a neice or a nephew into the world, so I couldn't pre-buy specific stuff) or for whatever reason you can't get it just then, you find all kinds of wonderful, beautiful, just perfect items? Then, when you do have the money, and the information, or whatever, suddenly you can't find jack shit? I've been everywhere I know I've seen gorgeous stuff the last few weeks - and all they've got now is a load of old rubbish!! Not even stuff I might think, I don't know, then it grows on me - oh no. Everywhere has cleaned out the good stuff I've been eyeing hopefully and ordered in a lot of old crap now I want to get something! I'm in the next town tomorrow, bigger than here, so I'll have a nosey round there I reckon, see what I can find!

The Hubby, The Boy and myself will go and visit soon; The Nephew was born by c-section, so I'm not even sure if his mummy is out of hospital yet, or what - I expect she would be, as its a couple of days ago now, but I suppose it depends on how it has been. Look at me and The Boy - not as straightforward a delivery as we'd hoped, and we ended up staying in for three days altogether after he was born. And still after that the first day we were home our midwife said if I couldn't get him to eat then he'd be re-admitted! Argh no!! Anyhoo! I'm sure none of that has happened with The Nephew; my ma-in-law is staying with them since they live so far away from us and my sis-in-law wanted the additional support of her mum being with her, especially since her hubby is going to have to cut short his paternity leave! (We won't even go there; sis-in-law not impressed with his work right now one little bit!) We're not sure at this moment in time when we'll go and visit, we'll see what happens, but it will just be for the day; We'll leave early, stop in at my parents on the way for lunch, go to them for the afternoon, back to parents for dinner on the way home, get home around ten or eleven hopefully. The Boy can sleep in the car, he'll be fine, I've got his play tray now for longer journies and some brilliant things by Clippasafe (only £1.50 for two!) for putting around your buggy (or in my case, the carseat harness) and attaching kids toys to it! No more throwing the toys out of the carseat and getting the hump coz he gets bored, the toy remains attached hurrah!! I'm looking forward to seeing them, it will be brilliant.

Like so many people, my sis-in-law suffered the loss of pregnancy before she got pregnant with The Nephew. If her first pregnancy had continued, her baby would have been born around Christmastime last year - instead, she was announcing her second pregnancy to us. It was a sad but wonderful time, and the pregnancy wasn't easy, but here we are, me with The Boy 10 and a half months old, her with The Nephew, newborn. We finally got here. Its taken us a long time; both of us struggled to conceive initially - but we've finally done it. This Christmas is gonna be amazing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Product Review: Quinny Zapp and Quinny Zapp Xtra

How Much? RRP £155 for the Quinny Zapp: RRP £230 for the Quinny Zapp Xtra OR buy a Zapp Xtra seat unit & recline adaptors as accessory for standard Zapp at RRP £100
Where? Any authorised Quinny retailer

When I went on maternity leave from my job, the lovely people that I work with did a little collection and they brought me a Quinny Zapp in Rebel Red to compliment my existing travel system. As I've already mentioned, I have the Maxi Cosi Mura 3 for my 'home' pushchair, but it isn't the most practical item to fit into my car when I'm going a longer distance and need to take a lot of other stuff, for example when we go back Down South in the next couple of weeks to visit my sister-in-law, who is due to have her first baby any day now, we will need a bag or two of belongings with us and a set of wheels, and with that in mind I have a problem; I needed a bigger car, or a smaller pushchair.

Enter the Quinny Zapp ...

Quinny Zapp Rebel Red (2010)

Quinny Zapp chassis (Limited Edition B&W Black chassis 2010) and Maxi Cosi CabrioFix Tango Red (2010)

The Zapp chassis is compatible with the Maxi Cosi CabrioFix and the Maxi Cosi Pebble carseats, and at a lightweight 7.8kg for the chassis and an ultra compact fold, it makes the Zapp an ideal buggy for popping in the car boot of even the smallest vehicle. I can successfully get a weeks worth of grocery shopping, plus Zapp chassis, into the boot of my little car, which is great for me.

The Zapp isn't a standard fold which both my mother and my mother in law can't get to grips with. I love it, because it folds the chassis down much more compact than you'd expect considering its 102cm tall when unfolded (Tall enough for Hubby to use it without stooping, and he's 6ft 1ins). You've got buttons either side of the chassis as you're standing behind it - Number 1 you press in, and because its a memory button it stays in; Then you press number 2, which isn't a memory button so you hold it in; Now with your foot, bring the number 3 unit (on the central tube of the chassis) towards you and the pushchair unfolds. In reality, I find my toe doesn't quite stretch down as far as where the number 3 unit is located (I'm 5ft 6ins - my mother in law is 5ft 4ins and for her its impossible without a limbo-type excersise underneath the handlebars). A lot of the time I end up on my knees to unlock this part with my hands, which I guess shows it could be improved upon. One thing I must say here is that a clean with furniture polish and a soft cloth really does help the fold and unfold mechanism, it makes it much more smooth up the central tube which makes it much easier. Its recommended thats done every six to eight weeks depending on how much you use it, I would say you'd probably need to do it every four to five weeks really to keep it as good as possible. Also the wheels need regular cleaning too, I just unlock mine from the chassis and swirl them about in some warm soapy water, clean the attachments on the chassis with more furniture polish and then rinse and dry the wheels before I put them back on. Also Back to Black (for cars) will bring up the wheels a treat, they'll look as good as new, but as this is a type of polish be very careful as it will mean the unit is more slippery to control and also it means the brakes won't be able to hold as well!

Also when you fold the Zapp down to make sure that front wheel doesn't get damaged in transit, a good tip is to always lock it in the non-swivel position when you fold it down so its more protected and within the chassis but also it means it won't move around and get damaged that way. The Quinny Zapp travel bag is available as an accessory but it is a tight fit and to be honest unless you do a lot of airline or coach travel and particularly want the chassis in a bag then you probably won't get much use out of it. I just put the Zapp in my car boot folded down and it's all fine.

To begin with, I kept the chassis fitted with the carseat adaptors and no fabric in the car boot along with the raincover for the CabrioFix and when we reached where we were going I'd pop the CabrioFix out of the base and off we went. Thinking back now I should have insisted when I was discharged from hospital with The Boy that Hubby brought in the Zapp chassis so I could have wheeled the CabrioFix rather than struggled to carry it from the maternity ward down to the car (why is the maternity ward always the furthest from the carpark?!?) It would have saved me a lot of trouble! (I was insistant that I carried The Boy out of hospital and wouldn't allow Hubby or mother in law to help at all!) But despite that, afterwards the Zapp chassis travelled everywhere in the car with us, and proved its worth time and time again. I will say that when the CabrioFix had the summer cover on it, due to where the fixing points are under the handlebar knuckles, it did make putting the carseat onto pushchair adaptors more difficult as sometimes you had to try and get them in the right place before the carseat would click into position properly.

I'm glad I took the Mura when I went to stay with my parents - because I took The Boy out for many long walks using the Mura carrycot, and he wouldn't have been as comfy in the CabrioFix, and also because when it snowed, the Mura got through it like the Zapp wouldn't have hoped to in a million years! But generally speaking for standard UK weather, the Zapp is fab. Its lightweight, so its easy to lift in and out of the car, but a downside of this is that you really cannot hang anything from the handles. I know all manufacturers say this, and all mums go, Yeah, yeah, whatever, and hang stuff from the handles anyway, but with the Zapp the manufacturers do mean it. Its such a lightweight product that even the weight of a jacket on the handlebars can alter the centre of balance enough. And again while manufacturers always say keep your hands on the handles at all times and all mums say, Yeah, yeah, whatever, it is again really important with the Zapp, as due to the lightweight chassis a child kicking out or wriggling about a lot could easily throw the Zapp off balance (especially the rather large four year old I saw in town having a paddy the other day in a Zapp!) The good news is though that since 2010 the Zapp has a little shopping basket (doesn't hold much, but it is enough for a couple of small items) I tend to keep my raincover in the shopping basket when I'm out with the Zapp, but you can't leave it in the shopping basket when you fold it up as the fold mechanism needs the basket to move with it, so it has to be emptied prior to folding.

Since The Boy became too large for the CabrioFix and I changed over to using the Opal carseat, I can no longer pop the carseat onto the chassis when we reach our destination, so I had Hubby fit the seat fabric back into the Zapp chassis, and evicted the CabrioFix raincover out of the car in favour for the standard Zapp one. The Boy loves being in his Zapp as he's world facing and it offers a very upright position compared with a lot of pushchairs; I notice in the Mila he looks like he is quite far back and he strains to sit up further - but while I know he likes being nosey I must admit I still prefer the Mura for longer times in the pushchair as it means I can interact with him much more easily and see what he's up to (he has a habit for pulling off socks, shoes and hats and throwing them around at will when we're out as well as grabbing things off shelves in shops!)

Also with the Zapp I love that its got two pedals; One is the brake on (a nice obvious red triangle) the other is the brake off (a plain grey triangle on the standard Zapp, a black one on the Limited Edition chassis). I'm lucky enough to have a Limited Edition B&W 2010 collection Black Zapp chassis now, which looks amazing with my original Rebel Red fabrics in it, and I'm quite tempted to see if I can find a set of the old colour Cobalt as that was a striking rich blue which I think would look lovely in the Black chassis.

My mum doesn't really like using the Zapp that much, but she's got more confident with it over time, and with the addition of the Zapp Xtra seat and recline adaptors she much prefers it! When we stay at their holiday home on the coast whether its for a day or longer, we put the Zapp Xtra seat unit into the chassis so that The Boy can be parent facing (or rather, grandparent facing!) and reclined for when he drops off to sleep. It saves me having to take the Mura when we visit, which is more space left in the car and less for me to remember, both are good bonus points as far as I'm concerned! Mum really cannot get to grips with the folding and unfolding though, and neither can my dad (maybe a generation thing, because it doesn't do what they expect it to do?) I think that given time they would get the hang of it though. As it is if I leave The Boy with them I put the Zapp into position so its ready to go and even if they don't go out all day and just leave it parked in the corner they're happier that they could go out if they wanted to!

My mother in law hates the Zapp. She says its too heavy (really!?!?) that its awkward to use (she compares it to a supermarket shopping trolley with the front wheel on swivel, but with it locked she complains it is too difficult to steer) She doesn't understand how it folds down or unfolds, and every time she tries to do it she has trouble. She doesn't like the raincover, she doesn't like how upright The Boy sits when he is in it (she says it looks like he's going to tip out) and she doesn't like the fact that she can't recline it if he falls asleep in it. Get the feeling she isn't keen? Well so did I, and since she does look after The Boy quite regularly for the whole day while I'm in the office, I felt it was important that she had something she could work better with! The other week it took her and father in law almost an hour to unfold the Zapp, and she was in a right pickle with it when I got there (I can't for the life of me work out what they expect it to do or how they can get it so wrong every time, but there we go!) so I did some research then popped out after work and did a spot of shopping and brought home a Maxi Cosi Mila. More on that in another blog!!

My Zapp is still a much loved member of the household for me, but it is my car buggy and if I'm going out walking I would never take the Zapp instead of the Mura. I find, especially in our town, that because of the hard wheels and lack of suspension, The Boy looks like he's being jolted about the whole time in the Zapp, whereas in the Mura its a much smoother, more enjoyable ride for him. The Zapp has its place though, most definitely; It made travelling with The Boy when he was younger much easier, just slotting the carseat into the chassis before we took off was great, and now he's older and uses the standard fabric most of the time he gets a nose around when we go to somewhere different, like into the City for the day. As the summer progresses and we go out to zoos, parks etc it is going to be used much more often, and while I don't expect to not have any niggles at all, it certainly does what it says it does, and you can't say fairer than that.

Personally I think the cost of the Zapp Xtra is excessive, and I wouldn't use it as a transport system for a young baby without a carseat - while the Xtra seat does go parent facing and does recline to make it suitable from newborn, personally speaking I feel I would want more protection around a young baby. The first time I used the Xtra seat unit, The Boy was four months old, and I put it away after that until he was eight months old and by then I felt it was more suitable. He was too exposed in the Zapp Xtra seat unit and it doesn't offer a lot of padding either, so I much preferred him to be in the carseat ont he chassis when he was younger. Also I found that when using the Zapp Xtra seat unit in the recline position the hood is inclined to flop down when you go over bumps or in the slightest breeze; Though it has been confirmed that thanks to customer feedback, Quinny are investigating how this can be remedied. When the seat unit is parent facing it won't sit totally upright (the mechanical aspect of the unit makes this impossible to achieve with satisfactory safety results) which will upset a few customers who want older children facing them, as older children will want to sit more upright than this seat can offer in parent facing mode, but I don't know of a pushchair that does offer fully upright in parent facing, correct me if I'm wrong. The industry on the whole seems to believe that once baby is old enough to go forward facing, all us parents will be happy not looking at our precious bundle every few minutes to chat, check they're OK, etc - I know a lot of parents do just stick their kids in a forward facing buggy as early as possible so they can ignore it 90% of the time, but some of us like to interact more with our kids and it doesn't seem fair that we're missing out on this ability with so many of the products right now not offering a full range of parent facing options, but there are apparently a lot of technical problems to overcome.

Anyway I love my Zapp, but I'm not so keen on the Zapp Xtra - I can see why they tried to do it, and I hope the customers are happy now their feedback has introduced this new model to the Quinny range, but personally it doesn't rock my world; The only thing I prefer on the Xtra compared to the standard model is that The Boy can be parent facing, but I don't feel this is enough to justify the cost. If anyone is considering a Zapp Xtra this is my advice;
- Don't buy one if you want to take the pushchair walking in the woods, at the beach, or you live in an area with a lot of uneven road surfaces/potholes/cobblestones etc to negotiate. The Zapp is fine for smooth surfaces like shopping malls, supermarkets etc, but anything else is a pretty rough ride for a young baby.
- If you get one, get the shopping basket for it, as that will make all the difference when its a case of carrying shopping or fitting it into the basket, but unless you particularly think you'll need the travel bag don't bother with that! Also I think it would be fairly preferable to have a parasol on the chassis, as the sun canopy is deep but quite high, making it fine for an older, taller child, but not as suitable for a younger child.

I give the Zapp a four out of five: It really could do with softer wheels or some suspension, but ultimately you get a basic pushchair for your money that you can use with your Maxi Cosi Group 0+ carseat so it does what it says on the box and you can't really complain!

The Zapp Xtra I'm not impressed with :( I'd give it three out of five, simply because I think they didn't take it far enough to make it entirely suitable for a young baby to use. More padding or a baby nest for the seat unit would be a welcome addition.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Good Times & Bad Times

It's been a funny old week, the last 7 days.

On one hand, The Boy has been coming along in leaps and bounds; He's 10 months old and so far hasn't been one for crawling, but this week he's been getting a lot more mobile, pulling himself into a sitting position with ease and from there rolling and reaching to get to what he wants. He's used the sofa, the playpen, me, his father, the dog (our eye-rolling, ever patient Border Collie) the chest of drawers in his bedroom and his cot to aid him in his climbing, getting from a sitting position into a stand: The trouble is he remains so thrilled with himself when he succeeds that he throws his arms in the air and looses his grip on whatever bit of furniture he's climbed up (or person, or animal) and so he falls back onto his bum again. I expect every child does the same thing when they're at this stage. He's also become a lot more vocal; He'll sing and chatter along with you a lot more, he loves it when he makes a noise and you copy him, and the other day he and the dog had a wonderful long conversation which resulted in the pair of them being given a biscuit for their good behaviour (though not the same type!) In fact, The Boy and the dog are quickly becoming best friends (The Boy is amused by the dog, and the dog in turn appears amused by The Boy and the fact that food is more freely dropped on the floor around The Boy's highchair).

Moments like that I can smile and laugh, I feel happy and buoyant, my heart fills with love until I feel my chest might explode, my eyes get all teary (Dear God, look what pregnancy and the result has done to me, I cry at every little thing now!) Then, just as quickly, those moments disappear, and once again the darker side of our current reality sneaks in.

The Hubby was advised the other day that his 'preliminary end date' of employment with the well known DIY chain that has gone into administration will be 17th July. Its a Sunday, and the aim is that once the store reaches that date most items will have been sold: It will be a case of getting rid of just about everything that isn't nailed down on the Sunday (and probably some stuff that is nailed down ...) and the doors will shut on that Sunday afternoon and the staff of that store will become statistics of this recession, just more unemployed people with families to support. We're not yet sure what The Hubby will do in terms of future employment; He can't abandon his current position now or he won't qualify for redundancy and notice money. So he has to stick it out for as long as it lasts to get what he's owed, but on the other hand really he wants to have something lined up, or how long can we survive on redundancy and notice pay with my meagre little wage offering? Either he needs another job, or he's going to be a stay at home dad with a part time job and I'll be a career Mum, out working 12 hour days six days a week to even out what we've lost!

On the other hand, The Boy sounded like he said "Mama" the other day and my heart melted; Of course I cried. It happened after a really rubbish day where I felt awful and as well as pure joy for some reason I also felt ridiculously inadequate. Feeding him this evening I was overwhelmed with the same emotion; I've created this perfect human being, my body grew him and protected him for nine full months then delivered him into the world, and he's my responsibility: He's a gorgeous, laid back, happy, content and turning out wonderfully well so far if I do say so myself. But I mean, wow, really? I was remembering the other night how comforting it was, as a child, to be cuddled by my mum; The smell of her perfume, mixed with the hairspray she wore, and the soap she'd used, and the laundry stuff and if she'd been at work (as a hairdresser) she'd have this scent of perming or colouring lotion about her too, but it wasn't horrible, it all blended together in a single scent that I recognised easily with my eyes shut - My Mum and I'd cuddle into her and fall asleep on her feeling totally safe and relaxed and contented. Then I looked down in my arms and there was The Boy snuggled into me looking safe and relaxed and contented, and I thought, Oh man! I'm the mummy now, and that scares part of me beyond belief even now.

But you know what? The good times & the bad times, it's what I signed up for. As long as I've got The Hubby & The Boy nothing can touch us.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Product Review: Maxi Cosi CabrioFix & Maxi Cosi EasyBase 2. Car Travel With Baby Made Easy!

What? Maxi Cosi CabrioFix (Group 0+) and Maxi Cosi EasyBase 2 (seatbelt fitted)
How much? Maxi Cosi CabrioFix RRP £125: Maxi Cosi EasyBase 2 RRP £90
Where? Available from all authorised Maxi Cosi retailers

As I mentioned before, my carseat of choice was the Maxi Cosi CabrioFix (Tango Red) to be used with the Maxi Cosi EasyBase 2 since my little car doesn't have IsoFix points.

Maxi Cosi CabrioFix Tango Red (2010)

Along with the carseat I was lucky enough to be able to get the matching footmuff (RRP £40) the raincover (RRP £12) and Ecru summer cover (RRP £20).

As my due date approached, Hubby went out to my little car with the EasyBase 2 and within ten minutes he was back again having successfully fitted it into the car using the three point seatbelt and positioned it, at my direction, behind the passenger seat. It did mean moving the front passenger seat forward slightly, but then Hubby always used to have it pushed as far back as possible, so he was still comfortable enough with the change. He again marvelled at how easy it had been to install, though he insisted I went to the car and confirmed he had fitted it correctly! Indeed he had; again without instructions and with no previous experience of the EasyBase 2. (Always check though - did you know a staggering 80% of carseats fitted with a seatbelt are fitted incorrectly, and in the event of an impact it’s as useful as a chocolate teapot if it isn't fitted properly!)

Wow. How easy it made things - after watching parents struggling with babies and carseats and seatbelts before I had The Boy, it was one of the aspects of having a baby I really wasn't looking forward to (aside from the actual labour, obviously!), but the base made all the difference. Once the base is fitted in the car, it’s just a case of 'clicking' the carseat in and out - and the Maxi Cosi Pebble can also be fitted with an EasyBase 2 as well, in case your car doesn't have IsoFix or if the IsoFix connections are not approved. (Always check your vehicle before you buy a base or carseat that uses IsoFix, go to the carseat fitting list to check it's suitable before you part with your cash) Being able to remove the CabrioFix so easily meant I could get The Boy all set before we left the house, in his carseat & harnessed safely, then walk to the car carrying him in it and clicking the seat into the base in one simple movement before we set off. There are no additional belts to do up once the base is fitted; You just click the carseat onto the base and an indicator window either side of the base will change from red to green when the seat is correctly in place - lovely and simple, as well as reassuring that it’s done properly. As the Mura comes with the adaptors you need to use it with the CabrioFix or Pebble carseat, I could also have taken the Mura chassis in the boot when I went out and popped the carseat onto it when we reached our destination, but I didn't (I have a Quinny Zapp for my car boot, which I'll write more about later!)

As the cold winter came, I started using the CabrioFix with the matching footmuff - the footmuff sits in the carseat and the harness comes through it, so you don't have to mess about trying to get baby into the footmuff and then into the carseat, you set it all up, pop the baby in and do up the harness, then zip up the footmuff and you're ready to go. Again, its simplicity and it’s so handy - but one word of warning, the footmuff is so good that you need to be careful baby doesn't get too toasty! Remember when you're in the car on a cold day nine times out of ten you'll have the heating on - in the back of the car, baby in a footmuff is like you driving along wrapped in a thick duvet, so keep that in mind and don't let baby get too hot. Whenever I went out with The Boy using his footmuff, I kept what he wore simply to what he'd been wearing indoors - a vest and a sleepsuit most of the time - as additional clothing would have just been too much.

The Boy was four months old when I removed the lumbar support from the CabrioFix - this little wedge shaped piece of foam comes out of an envelope of fabric at the tail end of the headhugger in the carseat, so it can be removed before the headhugger, which was necessary in our case as The Boy is so long. The lumbar support provides a newborn baby with a more lie-flat position for travelling, as well as valuable cushioning around the vulnerable lumbar region when they are very little. When he was five months old, I moved the harness up from the lower down hole to the higher up hole to provide him with more space, but still left the headhugger in the carseat to provide him with optimum protection. The handy thing with this carseat is that you have both sets of holes in the headhugger too, so moving the harness up doesn't mean you have to stop using the headhugger, and if necessary you can put the harness through the top holes of the carseat and the bottom holes of the headhugger to get even more use out of it. Remember the spine and neck of a young baby is even more vulnerable than an adult, and it’s imperative that they're properly protected in case of an impact. It’s for this very reason that rear facing carseats are safest for such young children.

The Boy was seven months old before I removed the headhugger altogether; By that age he was sitting up well, had good neck and spinal strength, and I was satisfied that as he was still rear facing, in the event of an accident he'd be strong enough not to be killed or seriously injured by the impact. Considering that the guidelines estimate a child will be about 6 months old when the headhugger is removed, and most parents remove it up to three months before that, I can only think that some parents simply don't think of the consequences if there were to be an accident with the child so unprotected. The most common reason for removing the headhugger is that the baby looks squashed; Baby came out of a much smaller space, and if you hadn't noticed they tend to curl up anyway in a position that seems uncomfortable to you and me, but they're absolutely fine and comfortable. (They'd soon holler if they weren't comfy, let’s face it!)

I stopped using the footmuff when the weather was warm enough for me to drive without the heating on; If The Boy was wearing a jacket he was fine. With the early heatwave of this year though I did find that he started getting too hot, even just dressed in a sleepsuit, as the fabric of the carseat is a manmade fibre mix and the fire resistant coating unfortunately gives it a bit of a plastic feel, so it does get pretty sweaty in there, especially as The Boy was getting bigger. I started using the summer cover, and found it helped greatly, so its well worth getting one if you find your baby or child gets too hot in the carseat. The summer cover is 100% brushed cotton (like a towelling nappy) so its breathable and it pops on over the carseat easily; Even though I had the Ecru colour (which is cream to you and me!) I thought I'd have issues with it getting grubby, which it didn't, too badly (but then The Boy doesn't eat in his carseat) but a couple of times I did remove it and stick it through the washing machine (maximum 3o degrees, delicate cycle) and pegged it out to dry on the line. It was dry really quickly, so it was never an issue.

Maxi Cosi CabrioFix with Ecru summer cover

The CabrioFix carseat is suitable for use up until baby reaches 13kg, and as I said previously its safest for baby to continue to travel rear facing for as long as possible. However, The Boy is a tall and broad little man, and even before he reached 13kg he was too big for the seat. A guideline is that the harness should be no more than an inch above or below the level of the shoulders, and at 9 months old the harness was more than an inch below his shoulders, so I had to find an alternative. Realising that keeping him rear facing for as long as possible is the safest option, I decided to go for a Maxi Cosi Opal, which is a cross-over Group 0+ and Group 1 carseat - until he reaches 13kg he remains rear facing, once he reaches that weight the seat goes forward facing.

So now the Maxi Cosi CabrioFix and the EasyBase 2 are all packed away safely for use again for The Boy's siblings, if and when they arrive. Another thing worth mentioning is that its not recommended you store items like that in the loft or garage; Due to the nature of the plastics and polystyrenes that make these items perform as you would expect in the event of an impact, storing them in an area where they are subjected to serious temperature change such as a loft or garage can accelerate the ageing process of them, and even if they're re-used within the five year lifetime there is a risk that in the event of an accident they won't protect the occupant as they should. And that’s another interesting point: Did you realise that carseats and carseat bases should be replaced once they reach five years old? This is due to the natural degradation of the materials used to make them - as with any plastic based item it can become brittle and could get hairline fractures which could then cause it to shatter in the event of an accident. Even if you only used the product for 12 months and packed it away for use, if it isn't used by the time it reaches five years old it should be safely broken down and discarded so it can't be used. It’s recommended that the harness is cut out, that the fabrics are stripped, the polystyrenes broken down and this will leave you with the basic plastic shell. You should then contact your local recycling centre to see which components they can recycle and what should be thrown in the normal rubbish.

I give the CabrioFix and EasyBase 2 a four out of five - to only be improved upon by the development of fabrics which make little one less sweaty!

Product Review - Maxi Cosi Mura 3

When I first discovered I was pregnant, I started thinking about which travel system best suited my needs. Hubby & I do a fair bit of walking - mostly around town, but also through the local forests & I realised that with a baby we'd also be including parks and zoos and other places we'd not ventured to before. Therefore, I was in a dilemma; I needed something that was as practical in town as it was over rough terrain: I wanted something that felt sturdy and secure for my newborn & I needed something that was suitable for myself (5ft 6ins) and Hubby (6ft 1ins) to use.

My decision was a fairly straightforward one, for me. It was a decision between getting a Quinny Speedi SX or a Maxi Cosi Mura 3. In the end, I went for the Mura 3 due to personal preference on the appearance of it overall. I opted for a Maxi Cosi CabrioFix carseat, though the Maxi Cosi Pebble is also compatible, again a personal preference. Since my little car doesn't have IsoFix points, but I knew having a base would make life so much easier, I included a Maxi Cosi EasyBase 2 into the equation, and to complete my travel system I decided upon the Mura carrycot to match. I chose everything in Tango Red, as it's more interesting than plain black and gender neutral (We didn't find out whether we were having a boy or a girl).

Maxi Cosi Mura 3 with Mura carrycot in Tango Red (2010)
As soon as I received the travel system, I took it home where Hubby set it all up. I literally sat on the sofa and him being a man didn't look at the instructions once, but successfully set it up and had a play with it before declaring that it was "Quite nice, really" (He'd trusted my judgement entirely) I love the Mura 3 chassis with the carrycot for a newborn baby and I wanted chance for our dogs to get used to it being around (they've always both been a bit dubious of bicycles, skateboards and prams/pushchairs).

I can see an obvious downside to this travel system package already - the cost. At RRP £335 for the Mura 3, £145 for the Mura carrycot, £125 for the CabrioFix and £90 for the EasyBase 2 it isn't something that everyone would be able to afford, and for that reason I do understand why the Mura isn't as popular in the UK as I believe it deserves to be. In addition to this, there's hardly any retailers you can go and view a Mura before you part with your cash; And at that price, quite frankly, you'd have to be mad to buy it without seeing it and testing it first. But I'm fortunate enough to have been able to have a proper look at it and to be able to ask questions of expert demonstrators about it, as well as having the opportunity to 'play' with it and see how I felt about it before I committed to getting one.

After The Boy was born, it was a matter of days before we gave the Mura a test drive; Only in the back garden, as I was in no fit state to go any further, but it provided a lovely secure environment for our precious bundle as the rest of us enjoyed the sunshine, he slept peacefully in the carrycot with the hood up. When he got grizzly in the early days despite being clean, dry & fed, Hubby would pop him in the carrycot and take him for a spin around the garden which soon chilled him out. Hubby was impressed with the fact that, thanks to the extendable handlebar, he could easily move the Mura about without bending over it, and given that he was moving it around a garden with two excitable dogs running around as well, he was also impressed that it was such an easy unit to move, contradicting the sheer size and sturdy look of it.

Once I was back on my feet again, we took to taking walks into town with The Boy in the Mura carrycot, snuggled up and protected from the elements when it was chilly yet cool and shaded from the sunshine when it appeared. Thanks to the air filled tyres and brilliant suspension on the Mura, potholes, cobblestones and curbs provided no problem as we glided about with ease: The only troubles we had was negotiating some shops, as they seem to try and cram so much in a tiny space and we'd get in the door (no problem) to find there was no clear pathway around the shop that we could negotiate. I have commented to several shop staff that surely if my Mura can't manage the layout of the store then certainly no double/tandem buggy would be able to, nor would a wheelchair - and I was under the impression that this was something retailers had to ensure was possible. Likewise, there are a couple of stores in town with steps to the front step - one with a step as you actually go through the door - which makes getting in and out of them awkward, but I think you'd find that with any buggy, not just the Mura, and again it would be impossible with a wheelchair which is surely discrimination of a sort?

When The Boy was four months old, I travelled back Down South to stay with my parents for a few days, and here the Mura was really put through its paces. Our visit was only going to be for a long weekend, and then it snowed heavily, and we were stuck. My little car certainly wasn't going to make it to the end of the road, never mind doing the 100 mile trip back home, nor did I want to attempt that with The Boy - what if we broke down, or crashed? - So we stayed there, and needless to say I had to find a way of entertaining my four month old. We went for walks - yes, walks - in the snow. It took a while, it certainly got my blood pumping (what a brilliant workout!) but the Mura soldiered on and found no problem with negotiating snow drifts that at times covered the wheels. Yes, every now and then I had to stop and kick the snow out of the double front wheel where it compacted in and made steering difficult, but on the whole the Mura, which I loved anyway, was even more adored by me. Meanwhile, as I was trogging along in the snow, I saw numerous other people struggling with their pushchairs, some had even opted to walk with baby in their arms (I couldn't bring myself to do that - what if I slipped over?) The Boy remained cosy (you get a gorgeous fleece blanket with the carrycot) and dry thanks to the lovely big PVC which covers the entire Mura carrycot and has a little flap on the front, so every now and then I could undo the flap and say hello and make sure he was quite happy - and every time, he was. Even though in the snow what should have been a 15 minute walk was almost an hour, we got there safely and he was warm, dry and content, and our friends were very impressed we'd made it to them at all!!

At home, we left the Mura set up with the carrycot in our front room and wheeled it back and forth into the dining room and kitchen as we needed to. It provided somewhere for The Boy to sleep downstairs, high enough that he was out of the way of the dogs. Now before you all shout at me, I am well aware that according to the instructions you should never leave baby unattended in the Mura, and the definition of unattended means removal of your hands from the pushbar. However, while I did break the rules there, I would like to point out that at no time did we leave The Boy alone in a room in the Mura, nor did we allow him to sleep in it overnight (this isn't suitable as theres no ventilation in the mattress & base of the carrycot). And despite our dogs rushing about there was no time when the Mura even showed the slightest hint it was going to topple. A bonus to it being such a bulky beast is that it is very stable despite being a 3 wheel model, and to be honest I've not found a situation yet where I was even concerned it was going to topple.

The Mura carrycot is suitable for a child up to 9kg or until they can sit upright, which is around about six months for the average child. However The Boy is tall and broad and by five months old while he was still below 9kg and wasn't sitting up, he was literally filling the carrycot, top to bottom, side to side (he grew out of his Moses basket at three months old so I knew the Mura carrycot wouldn't last much longer once that happened). It was a sad day when I removed the Mura carrycot and packed it away in anticipation of any siblings The Boy may get in the future, but I was excited as I unpacked the Mura standard seat unit and set that up on the chassis.

The Mura seat unit isn't to everyones tastes, I'm well aware of that, but I love it. It's broad and padded, with an adjustable footrest and three recline positions, and instead of the standard bumper bar at the front of the child it has a funky looking T-bar. When The Boy first went into the seat unit there was no point in using the T-bar: He was still to little to be doing anything other than being reclined back and sleeping as we travelled. As he's got older though, he's developed a passion for gripping the T-bar and twisting on the foamy bits as if he's on some sort of moped!

Mura 3 Tango Red (2010) Parent Facing mode
This is where a bit of a minus point comes into it for me :( Which is a shame, because I do love praising my Mura, I think it's a wonderful product but with the seat unit on in parent facing mode its very difficult to access the lovely large shopping basket. When using the chassis with the Mura carrycot I could put loads of stuff in the basket without worrying; with the seat unit on in parent facing mode it becomes more difficult as you have to try and wedge things in at funny angles so that you can a) get them in and out and b) so you don't knock the big red button underneath the seat unit which is the seat removal button. If you knock that and unlock it the next bump you go over or tip the chassis to go up a curb your seat unit is going to slide out of place, which isn't good for anyone involved! Also while the sides of the triangle shaped basket are quite high, the back is quite low; I expect this is due to ease of being able to get things into the basket, but it does mean that it makes it more easy for things to slide out again, especially again when you're negotiating going up curbs.

The sun canopy on the Mura 3 has been changed from the 2009 style to the 2010 style that I have, and has been changed again in the 2011 style, I believe due to the fact that like me a lot of people found the 2010 style a bit awkward: You've got two black clips either side of the sun canopy and you have to splay them out to unlock them and at the same time bring the sun canopy forward. Well, I don't know about many other mums out there but despite rumours to the contrary I only have one pair of hands and so keeping two clips unlocked at the same time as pulling the sun canopy forward requires some additional help, which isn't always practical. I've developed a knack of standing to the side of the Mura, unlocking the clips and holding them in each hand while I use my forearm to knock the sun canopy forward far enough to that I can let go of one clip and lock out the sun canopy without forcing the mechanism, which once broken will require a full sun canopy replacement as they're not an item which can be repaired. Once the sun canopy is out though, its a lovely large size providing plenty of shade and has an additional flap on the front for those days when the sun is bright and low down or baby is in recline position - Now The Boy is 10 months old he has a habit of playing with that bit though so it does become a bit useless!

A lot of people look at the Mura and think it isn't suitable for them because its so heavy and bulky - it is heavier than many similar items available, but to me that equals sturdiness, a good solid unit that I'm not afraid will topple over or break or become easily damaged; Its a beast and it provides my baby with a comfortable and safe place to be while we're out and about. Also, despite the size of it, I can fit it in my little car (A 10 year old VW Polo) I have to remove the seat unit and the wheels, put the chassis and the wheels in first and the seat unit last but it still all fits in my boot with The Boy's changing bag. Also despite its size it is very manageable and easy to push - my best friend, who isn't a mum and hasn't any experience with pushchairs etc - always says to me that she expects the Mura to be heavier and more cumbersome than it is.

On a lovely warm day in April, the Hubby and I drove to the local forest with The Boy in his carseat and the Mura in the boot, and we took a lovely long walk (five miles) around one of the trails. For the first time ever we used the Mura seat unit in the world facing mode so that The Boy could see the lovely area we were walking around in, and the Mura did brilliantly well yet again; It bounced merrily over the largest of bumps and found no problem at all crossing a small stream of water, passing over layers of mud, moss, grass, twigs and other forest-type bracken. I passed control of the Mura onto the Hubby so that I could concentrate on taking photos, and when we got back to the car he was full of praise for it yet again, complimenting it on how well it had coped with the off road experience that a lesser pushchair would have struggled with, or not coped at all.

Last week, Hubby went to the local dental surgery to pick up registration cards for us both: He was looking after The Boy on his own. He arrived at the address to find a doorway leading to a square area with a steep staircase rising up ahead of him. For patients who had difficulty with steps there is a stair lift for use, but there is no help for parents with pushchairs :( This left Hubby to bump the Mura up the stairs backwards (NOT recommended!!) in order to get to the small reception area at the top. Coming down again he faced another problem, as the angle of the stairs would have meant The Boy was virtually dangling, but luckily another patient arrived as he was contemplating what to do, and this other person was nice enough to grab the front of the Mura chassis and help the Hubby carry it all downstairs. While I blame the dentists surgery for being thoughtless in not planning for this, it does go to show that sometimes less is more when it comes to a buggy, and while I adore my Mura it would have been easier to cope with this situation had Hubby been with The Boy in a smaller, lighter unit. It just remains to be seen how on earth I cope with going to the dentist with The Boy, as there is no way I'll be able to get him & a pushchair up such a long, steep staircase, so I may be left in the doorway phoning the surgery on my mobile and asking them to send someone down to give me a hand!!

As if on cue The Boy is now singing at me through the baby monitor, and I can think of no more to say about the Mura other than I adore it, and if ever anyone were to ask me if I'd recommend it I would have no doubt or hesitation in telling them a massive YES!! Its a fabulous, tough, sturdy unit and if you can stretch to the cost, it is well worth the extra pennies.

Maxi Cosi Mura 3 Tango Red (2010) World Facing Mode

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself

Well, I'm not a man of wealth and taste; In fact, I can't make a claim to being any one of those three things - but that song is and always has been one of my favourites, so it seemed appropriate to choose.

I'm 30 years old and I've been married for four and a half years. My husband, our baby and our dogs share a three bedroom house in East Anglia.

My husband is 31 and he's about to be made redundant. It’s charming, isn’t it, to have that knowledge without knowing when it will happen, or what will happen to him when it does happen. He may have a job with the new company taking over the well known DIY chain he currently works for; He may not. He may have a job in the current store for another day, another week, another month; There has been no official word on when the store will shut its doors for the last time. He's worked for this store for four years now - since we moved from South East London. He's good at his job - he's trained in all areas of the store - and he's well liked by other staff and customers - some of whom actively seek him out, even when he's not in uniform! Previous to this, he was pretty much a kept man for some time, as when we lived Down South I was earning a bloody good wage at my then-job - He worked part time as a kennel hand, so dogs & DIY are what my hubby knows!

Our baby is 10 months old today. He's brought so much joy and happiness to my life I cannot even begin to describe. Hubby and I tried for 18 months before I got pregnant, which was tough, especially when it seemed like everyone else I knew and saw around was either pregnant or with babies in pushchairs. Our son is laid back, gorgeous, charming and altogether delicious.

The Boy and myself enjoy lots of walks as well as car journies as our local area is quite limited when on foot and one of the joys of East Anglia - or at least where we're located - is that public transport is very limited, so very often we have to drive down lots of monotonous A roads or winding country lanes to get where we're going.

The rest of what I am planning to write about is just us, in general, life as it happens, the ups and the downs, and the bits in the middle. Would love to hear your feedback but please remember if you're offensive or plain rude then you're not welcome. I'm just a normal mum making my way in this confusing land of parenthood. And now, The Boy is requesting my attention for a nappy change and an episode of Waybuloo, so I'll sign off x