Flying Safe

Huzzah! It’s time for a barrage of product reviews here at HSWT. First up is what saved my bacon during our recent trip to New England– the CARES harness. For those of you who suggested this to me, thank you thank you thank you!

The CARES harness is the only FAA-approved toddler harness. While most folks prefer schlepping the car seat (and for good reason), I knew that it just wouldn’t be practical to haul the seat and the kid by myself. Then, there is the real fear factor– the Kicking of the Seatback ™. I had nightmares of my favorite little man kicking wildly in his car seat all the way from Chicago to Rhode Island.

So what is this magical device, you ask? You can get the official details here, but I can summarize it in simple terms. It’s basically an H-style harness that wraps around your plane seat and also connects through the normal lap restraint. What it is NOT is a 5-point harness, so there is nothing that supports the crotch and keeps your kidlet from sliding down and slipping out of the harness.

Pros: This thing is small, lightweight, and even comes with its own carry bag. Alexander loved that it came in a brightly colored bag, and we even tested it out at home. The whole contraption easily fit in my backpack, but it would even fit in a purse! There is a minimum weight requirement (check the website), but I foresee using this until he sizes out. Aside from the whole safety thing, Alexander LOVED it. He could sit next to me like a “big kid,” was able to use his tray table for play/coloring, and there was no way he’d be able to kick the seat in front of him.

Cons: As I mentioned earlier, the lack of crotch-belt caused our little guy a little frustration as he repeatedly slid down in the seat. You also have to attach the gizmo to your seat after boarding the plane, which involves wrapping it around the seat and tucking it under the seat tray behind you. Several flight attendants noticed me doing this and gave me the head nod. I would anticipate having to do this yourself– though they didn’t mention it, I would assume that since it’s a personal device that airline staff can’t actually affix it for you. (However, I was able to do this while wrangling a toddler already next to me in the row) It also retails for around $50, which is a little steep if it’s a one-time use.

The Verdict: Get this now before the makers of this product decide to hike up the price. HSWT was able to score one using a 20% discount at our local baby superstore. The size, the ease of use, and ultimately, our little guy’s happiness and comfort made it a no-brainer.


Don't mind me. I'm just enjoying Sky Mall and earning triple miles for this flight.

Don’t mind me. I’m just enjoying Sky Mall and earning triple miles for this flight.






Carry On



It’s been far too long since HSWT has posted anything related to travel. Well, in several days, all that will change. After our unfortunately mangled autumn travel plans, we were able to reschedule our flights and adventures. Perhaps, more interestingly though, that travel includes me traveling solo with my favorite toddler at a major airport. I repeat, it will be me and Alexander versus the world until we hit baggage claim.

Laugh all you want, but if you’ve ever spent any quality time with a toddler, the thought of navigating an airport (let alone an airplane!) with a toddler is a death-defying feat of bravery. Yes, we’ve traveled with this kid before on a plane, but let’s face it. He was much, much tinier, less vocal, and far less mobile. As in, he could barely sit up on his own. Now he’s all over the place. Consider this a trailer post of some sort– I’m certain that wacky hijinx will ensue as we navigate an airport, attempt to disassemble a stroller at the gate, and board the plane without tantrum (him OR me).  I’ve loaded Alexander’s Mickey backpack with lots of books, snacks, and games; fingers are crossed that he won’t be screaming “All done!” before we’re asked to mind the safety briefing. I did give him a quick peek at the contents just this afternoon, and when we picked up a new book at Target, he requested it for “backpack- airplane!”

HSWT will also be sharing several travel product reviews soon, including the CARES harness, packing cubes, and a travel carseat cover.

Stay tuned as we share our exciting adventures of removing shoes, turning all all electronic devices, and somehow entertaining a toddler above 10,000 ft!







This sip’s for you!

Which one of the following items is the least controversial?

A. Politics

B. Religion

C. Sippy Cups

Believe it or not, the seemingly innocent sippy cup is a hot topic in the parental world and quite an interesting foray into the scary, scary world known as the “Mommy Wars.” I felt compelled to post this entry after reading several articles recently about the pros and cons of the almighty sippy cup.

Disclaimer– I am not an expert in this field, and while I won’t give my own personal take on whether sippys are more harmful than helpful, what I can provide is my own experience with Alexander. Because of his cleft palate and lip, suction wasn’t an option for his drinking– so straws and sippys were right out. This forced us to look at alternatives– a combination of open cups, hybrids, and sippy cup hacks.

Since it’s been far too long since we’ve provided a product review at HSWT, today we present three options– all of which were suggested by speech/feeding therapists and road-tested by our family. Though these were selected on the basis of Alexander’s inability to suction, they are usable for children with normal palates. None of them is the perfect cup, but hopefully this might provide you with options to consider. I was surprised just how fast Alexander took to these cups, which encourage healthy mouth/tongue behavior, and we have been able to use all of these interchangeably.  All are available on Amazon for about $5 or less each.

Philips AVENT natural drinking cup

Philips AVENT natural drinking cup

Philips AVENT Natural Drinking Cup: This cup simulates natural drinking motion by having the opening controlled by light pressure from the upper lip.

Pros:  This lightweight cup with two handles is really easy for your kidlet to handle.  They can drink from anywhere along the rim of the cup, and very little pressure is needed. It’s also a closed cup, which limits spills from little hands.

Cons:  Because little pressure is needed for the seal, energetic shaking of the cup might causing some spilling.  Also, for Alexander, this cup was too difficult to use before his lip surgery because his cleft made it nearly impossible to depress the cup lid.  The transparent cup isn’t insulated, but measurements on the outside make it easy to tell how much your child is drinking.

Flexi-cut drinking cup

Flexi-cut drinking cup

Flexi-Cut Cup: This small and lightweight cup has a notch which helps with controlling flow of liquid into the mouth.

Pros: Though this is primarily used for children with drinking difficulties, it makes a great training cup. It’s lightweight, easy to clean, available in multiple sizes, and incredibly inexpensive.  The small size is perfect for little hands, and it is a great step toward using an open cup. The nose notch makes it a little easier for kids new to cups to better watch and control how much they drink in a single sip. Since it is small, spills are usually fairly limited.

Cons: Because it’s an open cup, this is best used as a training cup under supervision. There aren’t any bells or whistles here, and it’s not insulated. This cup is more commonly associated with therapeutic use, so it’s next to impossible to find in baby superstores. However, it’s readily available on Amazon in packs of 5 for $10.

Playtex Coolster Tumbler

Playtex Coolster Tumbler

Playtex Insulated Coolster Tumbler: This closed cup operates on suction via a removable valve.  It bears a strong resemblance to a full-sized travel coffee mug. By removing the valve (which is easy), small amounts of liquid can freely flow from the small opening in the lid.

Pros: This brightly colored cup was immediately well-received by Alexander. He loved holding it and shaking it. Even with the value removed, Alexander had to completely overturn the cup in order to spill contents. Though it’s advertised for cold beverages, warm formula/milk stayed pretty warm during use. Its size works well for standard cup-holders in cars/strollers.

Cons: This is the largest of the three reviewed cups, and often required my assistance during use when the cup was full. It was difficult to tell if/how much Alexander was drinking, since the product is opaque and does not have measurement lines.The small opening (with valve removed) clogged easily with thicker liquids.

 The Verdict:

Believe it or not, the simplest of the three options worked the best for our family. While the Philips and Playtex models are still in rotation at our house, our everyday choice is the flexi-cut cup. Even though Alexander’s drinking skills have drastically improved, the lightweight, reusable cup is perfect for everything from milk to a sip of water. Though it does require some amount of supervision during initial use, if the goal is using a standard open cup, I can wholeheartedly say that this cup encourages good posture and confidence in grasp, liquid control, and coordination. Alexander loves being able to handle his own cup, and we’ve been able to use this cup both before and after cleft repair.  I’d highly recommend this cup to any parents looking for alternatives to sippy cups in order to train their children on open cups.


Behind Bars

Well, it’s finally happened.

After several somewhat luxurious months of Alexander moving at a snail’s pace, our little man has taken off! When we’ve been asked what the greatest challenge is so far in raising Alexander, our usual answer is the speed at which he’s changing. Yes, all kids grow and change quickly, but it’s eye-opening to watch a little boy go from being unable to sit up to cruising (look at that mommy word!) in three months. He’s catching up physically incredibly quickly, and his teeth are coming in like crazy– it’s almost as if his entire body is suddenly going into overdrive to make up for lost time.

So after a lot of makeshift barriers and trying to keep our kid contained, Brian went out one night early this week on a mission for a baby gate.  Though I initially felt a little guilty gating Alexander out of our kitchen (and subsequently, our stairs), it’s provided a great deal of relief. It almost felt as though Alexander changed from a slow crawl to a super-speedy

The only one in our home enjoying the new baby gate more than me is Benny!

Benny endorses this baby gate.

little man overnight! It was late last week that under supervision, he did a full ascent of our stairs, sat at the top, and clapped for himself. Luckily, he’s not so thrilled with trying to get back down, so he usually just sits at the top and waits to be carried back down.  In any case though, the stairs and the kitchen are by far the most interesting places in our home now. I can’t even begin to explain how great it was to unload the dishwasher without a little boy drooling on all the clean silverware. I know this is just me dipping my big toe in the ocean of parenthood, but an empty dishwasher (even if just for a second) is a thing of beauty.

Aside from Alexander’s significant physical developmental strides (quite literally!), we’re noticing him increasing his communication with us, especially through mimicry and signing. I just about broke down into tears during breakfast once this week when he signed “kiss” to me; after a quick kiss on the nose, he smiled and clapped. Considering the  coordination needed for this sign, I was more than surprised that he picked up on that one before some of the simpler ones (like “eat” and “ball”). Now, his favorite signs are “kiss,” “baby,” and “cat.” While he can’t say his name, he can make out an “Ahh-lahhh” when we practice saying things. We’ve started saying grace with him before his (five!) meals, and he gives an emphatic “La!” after we say “Amen.” I know that his brain is still developing as far as content and context is concerned, but we are definitely noticing more repetitive responses from him, which is really heartening.

Alexander checking out the Toys R Us ad-- yet another incredible unstaged photo!

Alexander checking out the Toys R Us ad– yet another incredible unstaged photo!

This week, we have someone from the county coming out to discuss the early intervention program and to get Alexander set up with initial assessments. Although we continue to struggle with lots of parenting issues, I feel as though we’ve been spared up to now from the nightmarish “child development” charts. Talk to a new parent, and by their third pediatric appointment, all you hear about is percentiles.  For Alexander, we cheered when his head finally made it on the chart, but we’ve never really put much thought into where he compared to other kids his age. For the first time though, we’ll be getting a full assessment to see what programs he qualifies for and which ones might benefit him before he starts school a few years down the line. Even with the assessments though, each one of his successive surgeries will change his physical and developmental stages so much, that everything to us is just a sliding scale and a work in progress.

I’ll end with what I consider a fairly comical paranoid parent story. After watching Alexander interact with a classic stacking ring tower at the children’s hospital, we decided it was a good addition to our home. We picked one up, and for several days, I played with him using the toy, encouraging him to try stacking the rings on the tower rather than banging them together or sucking on them (two of his favorite forms of play).  The few times he attempted stacking them, he usually tired of it within seconds and soon was back to his books.

One day last week during Alexander’s playtime, I was fooling around with my new jade bracelet, slipping it on and off my wrist. Alexander looked at me and my wrist, and after a loud “la!” he began pulling the rings off the stacking tower, and slowly threading them all onto both of his arms. I handed him two additional rattles, which he happily added to his full arms. Soon, he was smiling and clapping with his plastic ring-laden arms. And to think that I was worried about his hand-eye coordination. It just goes to serve that most of the time, we just need to relax and let them figure things out!

Alexander demonstrating how his prefers to use his stacking rings.

Alexander demonstrating how he prefers to use his stacking rings.




Bring on the blocks!

B.Blocks- a set of 10

B.Blocks- a set of 10

When I first saw these blocks, I knew I had to get them for Alexander. I loved the B. Blocks One Two Squeeze Blocks so much that I’ve gifted them before and would happily do so again. Since our little guy is at the stage where everything is immediately tested out in his mouth first then slammed against the nearest surface, I look for durability and somewhat safe substances. Granted, Alexander rubs his pacifier against just about every surface he finds– from shopping cart to floor, his pacifier is practically a walking bacterial colony. Still, I’d prefer not to purchase products labeled “Now, with more BPA than ever!” (Note- I’m still not even sure what BPA is, but I do know that it’s bad and knowingly purchasing toys/items with this substance immediately discredits you as a parent).

We received this set of 10 numerical blocks as a gift for Alexander, and we subsequently purchased the 26-block “architectural” animal series below.

A few of the 26-block animal series

A few of the 26-block animal series

I love the color of the blocks, the design and durability, and perhaps most of all, the squishy plastic construction. I’ve seen Alexander suck, chew, squeeze, and fall on these things with no harm done to any parties. Likewise, I’ve stepped on a few without the legendary “lego pain.”  On each block there’s either a letter or number and some kind of animal or shape representation. I love the saturated colors, and the animal references are fun and whimsical.

If you aren’t sold yet, each set comes in its own reusable bag w/ handle PLUS an little insert showing how to repack the blocks back in if you’re a little OCD.

What I love most about these blocks is that I’m pretty sure their uses will grow along with our little man. Sure, right now they might as well be teethers, but they’re slowly turning into construction and color toys. The architectural set is a bit of a splurge, but frankly, even Brian gave a little squeal when he saw some of the cool pieces.

Pros: Colorful, BPA-free (yes!), and very durable creative toys; the carry bag is pretty versatile, too. We use ours for travel toys.

Cons: While they’re no Grimm blocks, they aren’t cheap either. The 10-block set will set you back about $15 from Amazon, and the architectural ones are closer to $30. You can also find them at your favorite baby superstore.

The Verdict: Heck, yes! I’d start with the small 10-block set and see how it goes. I also highly recommend this for a gift– the packaging even includes a gift tag! Alexander would give two tiny thumbs up, but he’s too busy jamming a block in his mouth.





All Bottled Up

This will be the first in an ongoing series of product reviews at HSWT (yes, that’s Have Stroller, Will Travel for all of you acronym fans). I can promise you that anything I post about I’ve tried first-hand. If I say it’s great, it’s worked for us; likewise, if we’re not a fan, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a terrible product.*  I owe a great deal of gratitude to a variety of sources for our successes– an unnamed baby discount book that every mom-to-be hears about from others who have been there and done that, general parent-to-parent advice, and sheer dumb luck.

Now, onto the reviews!

I never thought I could get so excited about a cleaning product, let alone a somewhat uni-tasking one. I present to you the Oxo On-The-Go Drying Rack w/ Bottle Brush.

We initially puchased this for our trip to China, knowing full-well that we’d need to set up a BabyCentral(TM) in a hotel bathroom. I originally put an awesome-looking full-size rack for home that resembled our front lawn into our cart during one expedition to the local baby superstore.  I got a slight eye-roll from the spouse, even after I showed him all the little add-ons (all sold separately, mind you). “But look! It’s a flower that serves as a peg! And this little twig you can buy will dry all his pacifiers!” My appeal didn’t work, and we went home that night without any rack.

As time ticked down for China, I got desperate and began looking for small, lightweight drying racks. When I found the OXO model, I was sold. This little contraption folds open to reveal plenty of space for bottle drying and also comes with a full-size, collapsible OXO bottle brush. The brush actually opens to contain a nipple-cleaning attachment (which had no meaning to me until I was trying to get gunk out of those tiny things), and the brush fits snugly in the case, so there’s no jostling. I was even able to put a small sponge in there and a small container of dish soap. Closed, it’s approx. 9 x 6 x 2.5″ and incredibly lightweight.

So what’s the big deal about this, right? What continues to unreasonably thrill me about this is that not only did it work really well during our travels, but that we have never purchased a full-size rack for home. We just opened this little contraption up on our kitchen counter, and we were set. It’s really easy to clean, and the color choices (orange, green, aqua) are all pretty inoffensive.  I also like that it’s small enough to haul to grandma and grandpa’s house for the weekend and use without completely taking over their kitchen counter.

Because this product is so awesome, I can’t wait to find new uses for it once the bottle days are over. I’ve already thought about using it as a backup drying rack for our camping trips and family vacations when you want to bring your travel coffee mugs and water bottles with you, and even for trips to the Happiest Place on Earth (when every mom in her right mind plans on a few non-mouse shaped breakfasts in the hotel room).


Pros: Compact, utilitarian, and for $14.99, it’s a steal!

Cons: The bottle brush just doesn’t seem to want to stand up in its holster.

The Verdict? Buy this now!


*Companies who produce said products, please don’t begin to send me hate mail unless you’re willing to start sending me products to test in order to change my mind!