06 July 2009

Stroller Poor

When I purchased our fourth stroller, I thought it would be our last. I had no idea that I was already pregnant with my second child. We weren't trying to get pregnant at the time, and we thought by the time baby number two would come along, that Max would no longer need to ride in a stroller. So when we found out that Maggie was on her way, we started to explore how we could avoid getting a fifth stroller.

Our first attempt was to get the Buggy Board, a little board attached to the stroller where the older child can stand. Max did really well on the first test run. He seemed to really enjoy riding the stroller this way, until we reached a familiar path, and Max decided he would prefer to walk on his own. This made it enormously more difficult since Max likes to wander around taking his time picking up rocks and inspecting the bugs.

Paul decided we needed to "train" him to stay on the buggy board. That weekend we took Max shopping. He did great getting there, though it took all four hands to pop him on the bus, followed by the stroller, parking the stroller and getting him seated. Still, something I would be able to manage by myself with practice. Then we go to DM (a kind of CVS) where we needed to pick up a few things. As soon as we entered, Max popped off the buggy board. We tried to convince him to stay on the buggy board, but half way through the store he was too distracted to cooperate anymore. So, our next solution was to try him on the child size shopping carts. Max bounced around the store like a pin ball. Watching him run at full speed pushing the shopping cart through everyone and everything in his way was entertaining, but not practical.

Our next thought was to teach him to walk next to us while we pushed the stroller, holding his hand. Trying to convince a two year old to stay with you when there are so many tantalizing things on the shelves is harder than convincing U.S. Congressmen to impose term limits in Congress. Our next thought was to give him something to occupy his hands, so we picked the biggest item from our shopping bag, and gave that to him to carry. This actually worked several times, and it seemed we had a solution to shopping with our two-year-old on the loose.

Several times Paul and I ventured out with Max, strollerless. Usually our trips ended with Paul carrying Max home on his shoulders or asleep in his arms. Still we kept our heads in the sand, convinced that we would be able to get Max used to the buggy board or walking along side us.

Then Maggie was born. I could carry Maggie in a sling, and push Max in the stroller. This worked the first couple times, until I tried to go down the escalator at the train station. When I would bend over to hold the stroller, I had to use one of my hands to keep the baby from falling out of the sling. Max's safety now depended on my other hand holding the precariously perched stroller on the escalator. On shorter shopping trips I put Max on the buggy board and Maggie in the stroller. Max's first time off the buggy board, I gave him a giant bottle of water to keep his hands occupied. Shortly afterwards he had managed to pick up a Snickers bar and would have fit a few other items under his chin given more time.

The last straw was on the way home, when in typical two-year-old fashion, Max kicked and screamed in my arms the whole way home, while my mother pushed the baby stroller. This was the last straw. My mother wasn’t going to be in Germany forever to help me. I needed a double stroller with all the features I described here, and it needed to seat two children. There isn't a single double stroller that fits into our elevator, so I would have to enter the building via the garage and leave the stroller in the bike room. Still there were features we couldn’t live without, like big wheels for getting on and off the bus and trains. All the inexpensive tandems out there didn't have big wheels, and few of them are designed to balance on the back wheels long enough to ride down the escalator.

There was one stroller, the Phil and Ted's stroller that is ingeniously designed, with an sibling seat that fits under the stroller, but after seeing one in person, and its design flaws, I didn't feel like it was worth the money, 800€ after adding all necessary accessories. We didn’t want to pay that price when we hopefully won't be using the stroller for more than a year-and-a-half.

So it we started looking at side-by-side strollers with necessary feature, like the TFK, Urban Jungle or Easy Walker, but those prices were still sky-high. We looked at E-Bay and visited a family selling their double stroller. Even second hand, we were looking at spending at least 6oo€ for something we wouldn't use for very long.

We briefly considered buying Chariot’s bike trailer that doubles as a buggy. 1000€ doesn’t seem so bad, when a bike trailer can hold the children up until they are about six-years-old, and afterwards can be used to lug around groceries or any number of items you might want to take along with you on a bike ride. This we would be getting a lot more mileage for our money, but it was still a lot of cash, when we are trying to save for a car.

So back to the drawing board and after a full days search online, I found a little known stroller company, which makes the Crown. It still doesn't fit into the elevator, but it had all the desirable features plus some extra perks, and with all the accessories and shipping cost only 350€. The only thing I would change about the stroller is to make a larger storage compartment and to go back to one of their older models where they have two front wheels, not just one. Two wheels makes it much more stable when going up escalators or getting on to buses.

Now if only Pasing Bahnhof would finish the construction on their escalators and elevator, I’d be set.

Update: Within 3 months of purchasing this stroller, it started to fall apart, and I regret not buying a more expensive stroller.

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