Why I Will Not Buy Another Maclaren Stroller (and why you shouldn’t either)

I recently had one of the most terrible customer-service experiences I’ve ever had, and as a result, I feel no other choice than to say this: DON’T BUY A MACLAREN STROLLER!  

Certain Maclaren umbrella strollers are subject to a recall, and if a repair kit is not installed, you child is at risk for finger amputation. However, when I called to get a repair kit, they asked for proof of purchase (NO OTHER COMPANY has ever asked me for this in order to honor a recall). 

When I mentioned that the strollers were purchased second hand, the rep said that the original owners should have done the repair, and the fact that they didn’t is not Maclaren’s problem, and that the repair kit will cost me $50 (by the way, the Consumer Products Safety Commission website said this repair would be free, with no mention of any conditions). He said it is company policy, and that there’s nothing they can do.

I asked to escalate the issue. He said no. I asked him pointed questions (“don’t you care that there are kids that could still be injured by this?”). He gave me the same lines about company policy.  Every appeal I made to him was countered with “sorry, company policy.” The complete lack of empathy was appalling.

So I wanted to take a moment to warn everyone about a company that puts its bottom line before standing behind their products and protecting children. I implore everyone who is shopping for a stroller to not buy a Maclaren until this policy is changed.

The details of the recall can be found here: 


To The Car Who Rode My Bumper Through the School Zone


Dear Person Driving the Cream-Colored SUV:

I may not be in the work force right now, but I get it. I’ve been in your shoes before. You only get an hour for lunch, so you need to hurry if you have errands to run or food to pick up. Or maybe you’re on your way back to the office and running late because of traffic from everyone else trying to do the same thing.

And then, bam! You see the blinking lights of the school zone. And, for about a quarter of a mile, you have to slow down to 15 miles per hour.

And you’re forced to slow down. Because you’re behind me. And I’m going 15. And it’s ticking you off.

Who does this guy think he is? you probably are thinking to yourself. You’re chomping at the bit to get to wherever it is you’re going, and I’m holding you up. I don’t see any kids out there! I don’t see why I have to go 15 miles an hour! 

You’re right. You don’t see any kids. And that is precisely why you need to go 15 miles an hour.

Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there.

Maybe you don’t have kids, or maybe your kids are older, and you’ve forgotten what it’s like to have little ones. Well, one thing you may have forgotten (0r may not be aware of) is the fact that little kids can be unpredictable. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had one or both of my kids break into a sprint away from me in a parking lot. It scares the hell out of me.

I pull them back and very sternly admonish them for acting so carelessly. I then hug them tight and tell them that I’m not mad–I’m scared. I’m scared because I don’t want anything to happen to them, and that they need to hold my hand in a parking lot. They need to stay close because they’re little, and little children are sometimes hard for people in cars to see.

And if people in cars can’t see them, they don’t know they’re there. And they won’t stop.

I remember the stories from when I was growing up in my things-like-that-don’t-happen-here school district. Stories of people speeding in the school zone. And the kids that got hit. The kids that were sometimes launched in the air by the impact. Kids with permanently debilitating injuries. Or worse.

I remember tut-tutting at those stories. What a shame, I would think. But now that I have children of my own, those stories don’t simply give me pause any more. They terrify me.

So I know that you’re probably tired, and stressed out, and have too much on your to-do list today, and are probably a little impatient because of it. Again, I get it. I’ve been there. I still have days like that. But when it comes to the school zone, please think of your kids, even if you have to think back to when they were little. Or think of the kids you might have one day.

Just think. And please slow down.



My Wife and I Did Nothing For Our Anniversary


On September 18th, my wife and I celebrated 16 years of marriage together. And I’m using a very loose definition of the word “celebrate.”

I wanted to do something special, but something always seemed to come up. The week or so leading up to it was tough, as we were doing a lot of prep for an upcoming consignment sale, which ate up a lot of our free time. Furthermore, I can take the kids out with me to shop while my wife is at work, but they’re at an age where they are not the most discreet. When she gets home at the end of the day, they tend to announce things like “Daddy bought you a necklace, but it’s a surprise.”

I was determined, though, to end the week on a high note. On the day of our anniversary, both girls were in school. This gave me two and a half hours to get it together and do something special without the kids in tow. The perfect opportunity.

Or so I thought.

The night before, my wife asked me to drop something off at someone’s house. I found out, though, that this person lived down an unpaved road off of another unpaved road, so I couldn’t go more than about 12 miles an hour to keep from blowing a tire. It took a little longer than I thought it would, but afterwards, I still had two hours before I had to pick up the girls. No problem!

But then there was the tooth.

The night before, I noticed that one of my molars was a little sensitive to cold. The next morning, it became clear that it was not going away; in fact, if anything, it was getting worse. When I could no longer ignore it, I called my dentist, who told me to come to the office immediately if I wanted to be seen that day. So my wife had to pick the girls up at school during her lunch hour. Fortunately, my tooth only needed a filling, and it was good as new. My window, unfortunately, had closed.

I made the most of it, though. The girls and I did go and pick some things up for a nice meal that night, and they also insisted that we get Mommy some flowers, too. So, after bathing the kids and getting them to bed, my wife and I enjoyed home-made chili with a bottle of craft beer. Not the most romantic, but still very nice.

On the surface, you could say that it wasn’t anything special, as if it were any other day of the week. But while the romantic gestures are nice, marriage isn’t always about fancy dinners or expensive gifts. It’s mostly about having each others’ backs. I do things for my wife that she can’t do because she has to work. She comes through for me when I find myself in a bit of a jam, even if it impacts her work day. So, no, we didn’t do anything for our anniversary this year. But we do things for each other every day.

My wife, however, would probably say that I need to plan ahead a little better next year.


The stuff that dreams are made of


Image courtesy of Just Between Friends

Whether you just recently became a parent or are a seasoned veteran, one thing is certain: kids come with a lot of stuff. In fact, it is almost inconceivable just how much stuff comes with them.

What is equally overwhelming are All The Things You Absolutely Must Have For Your Child you hear about from books, magazines, online, from friends, family and off course the infamous baby registry suggestion list. Bouncers, bottle warmers, baby tubs, diaper pails, nighttime soothing sound machines…the list goes on. It can be difficult to decide on what is essential and what would be considered nice to have, but the world wouldn’t end if you decided to pass on it. As time goes on, though, and with a little guidance, you can quickly determine what the Things You Can’t Live Without are. For example, we found a baby swing and a pack and play to be great things to have. A baby wipe warmer? Never – we chose to believe cold wipes build character.   And each kid is different.  Heck, Daughter #2 was so impatient to get her bottle that we hardly used our bottle warmer with her.

So you get all this stuff, and you’re set. For a while. Then, your kid gets older and you find that you need different stuff. Once you move on from the big plastic toys that tend to take over your house (indoor play yards, exer-saucers, bouncers, activity tables, and so forth), maybe you think you’ll have your house back. However, it is followed by the toys with lots of little tiny parts, like Legos and Barbie accessories and building blocks. And if your kids are anything like mine, there’s the books. Oh, all the books. The toys may get smaller, but you’ll find that they end up taking up just as much space as the big stuff due to sheer volume.

So you’re probably thinking “Great, I’m going to have to re-mortgage my house to be able to afford all this new stuff, not to mention the addition!” Well, if you buy new, maybe so. But here’s the beautiful thing–you don’t have to buy new. Consignment-sale season is just around the corner, and most (if not all) of this stuff can be bought pre-owned and at a substantial discount.  And the one we frequent the most is the Just Between Friends Sale held in Glen Mills, PA.

You can find just about anything they need there, from a play yard with a napper for infants to board games you can play with your teens. What sets this particular sale apart, though, is the vast array of things to choose from. For example, if you’re looking for a pack and play or a high chair, a lot of sales will offer maybe two or three. At Just Between Friends, you’ll probably have around twenty to choose from. In addition, if you sign up to be a consignor, you can unload all your outgrown stuff in order to have room (and money) to replace it all with more age-appropriate stuff. And if you find yourself with a new baby, no problem! You can go back and get all the stuff you thought you didn’t need any more.

Our girls are already seasoned masters of the consignment-sale switch and are eager to sell things they are finished with in order to buy new treasures.  It keeps our clutter down and our budget on track. I’m sure that, with the great merchandise at great prices at the JBF consignment sale, you’ll find just the stuff you’re looking for.

The Just Between Friends consignment sale takes place September 17-20 at the Brandywine Youth Club, 41 S. Thornton Road in Glen Mills, PA. Go to jbfsale.com for more information.

free pass both - fall 2015

The Liebster Award


Many thanks to @carlito_burito for my nomination for this award!

The Liebster Award is a great way for new bloggers, or bloggers with a smaller following, to get to know each other. In accepting the Liebster Award there are some rules to follow as best you can:

1. Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you and link to their blog.
2. Post the Liebster Award badge on your blog.
3. Answer the 11 questions posted by the blogger that nominated you.
4. Write 11 facts about yourself.
5. Nominate 5 bloggers (with fewer than 400 Twitter followers) who you feel deserve the award.
6. Write 11 new questions for your nominees.

Questions for me:

1. What is your favorite movie?
Star Wars. A cliché answer, perhaps, but it was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. I think I owe my lifelong love of film to it.

2. Do you have a motto you live by and what is it?
I feel like it’s very difficult to sum up a person’s core beliefs into a single pithy statement. However, if pressed, I would have to say “Love” (both the noun and the verb). It’s so much more appealing than the alternative.

3. Where would you like to travel to that you haven’t already been to?
Domestic: California and the West Coast. My sister lives there, and I’ve never been. Foreign: probably Prague. I hear it’s beautiful, although I think I missed the boat on trading a pair of jeans for a car.

4. Do you have any hidden talents?
Not really. I’m remarkably ordinary. Although my wife often mentions the fact that I am a repository for useless knowledge.

5. What is your fondest childhood memory?
Probably the day that my older sister and I had breakfast on top of the refrigerator. My mom came downstairs, looked at us, shook her head and made herself some coffee.

6. What is your biggest pet peeve?
Nails on a chalkboard. Yikes. Sets my teeth on edge.

7. If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
T. Rex. And not because the new Jurassic Park movie is coming out. I’ve always thought T. Rex was a badass. (This bears no resemblence to my actual personality, mind you)

8. What was the first album you ever owned?
A friend of mine made me a cassette tape of Business As Usual by Men At Work. If you’re talking about the first album I purchased with my own money, it was Duke by Genesis.

9. If you could learn one thing in a day, what would it be?
Play the piano. Not a very practical skill, I know, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to be able to do.

10. What was your favorite toy as a child?
It was a Teddy bear I named Edward.

11. If you could go back in time, what period in history would you live in and why?
This is a tough one. Visit? I can think of a few (the 1850’s because its social and political rancor reminds me of today, or the 1960’s for the music). But live there? Not so sure about that. I’m too wedded to modern conveniences like smartphones and antibiotics.

11 random facts about me:

1. I am left-handed.
2. My older sister and I are 14 months apart.
3. My daughters are 13 months apart.
4. I used to teach science before I was a stay-at-home parent.
5. I was a professional video editor before I was a teacher.
6. I don’t like sushi. Its consistency gives me the heebie jeebies.
7. I never kissed a girl (who was not a relative) until I was 18.
8. My first celebrity crush was Olivia Newton-John.
9. As a tourist, I’ve spent more time in Europe than my own country (something I would like to remedy someday).
10. I learned to swim when I was in my late 30’s.
11. I could eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day.

Please take a look at my nominator’s blog page – Carlyakamummy.

I nominate the following bloggers for the Liebster award:






My Questions:

1. What made you decide to start a blog?
2. Do you find the social media element of blogging as enjoyable as the blogging itself?
3. What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do?
4. When you get a spare hour how do you spend it?
5. If you could live anywhere, where would you live?
6. If you were a household appliance, what would you be and why?
7. What’s your favorite book?
8. Is the experience of being a parent different from how you imagined it?
9. Is there a song that describes your life, and if so, what is it?
10. What would be the first thing you would do if you won the lottery?
11. Where do you see your blog (and you) in five years?

The “Hapless Dad” Stereotype Is Offensive–Until It’s Not


Last Mother’s Day, while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I remember seeing this article about the Tough Mother Challenge. I sat there for a bit, looking at the sensationalistic title, and was dumbfounded that in 2015 this is still considered something that will draw a chuckle from most “ordinary folks.” Imagine–a dad changing diapers! Cooking a meal! Picking out something for the kids to wear! Doing a load of laundry! For AN ENTIRE WEEKEND! The avenues for hilarity seemed endless, let me tell you. (Fortunately, as of right now, I haven’t seen an article like it in the news this year)

I scrolled through a number of dads’ responses to the article. Some were humorous, some (like mine) were angry, and some were insightful, like this one:

Sharing care is a two-way deal, and the really hard bit is LETTING GO of a role you possess – much harder than taking more of the other role on. The silver lining: 200 mothers are going to let go of their lead role for a weekend. In similar games like this in UK, the results are quite interesting, because fathers discover the privileges they are missing out on, and some families strike new deals (but the media won’t report that – it won’t fit “the story”.)–Duncan Fisher

Duncan was spot on–stories about how this experiment might change the way partners approach raising their kids would most likely be ignored, in favor of the “hapless, harried dad” stereotype. One story even had the tired cliché of Dad burning the toast while trying to make breakfast. Really?

I was all prepared to fire off an angry email to the editors of the Daily Mail to chastise them for perpetuating this outmoded way of thinking. This story got my dander up, and I was ready to let loose on the poor intern or secretary who would undoubtedly open my email.

But I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t. Because later on, the Hapless Dad stereotype ended up rescuing me.

The girls were out of school on a break, which typically means that when I need to do pretty much anything, they have to come with me. On this particular day, I had to ship a package to Canada, which meant I had to go to the post office (it requires filling out a customs form, which I can’t do online). It also meant tearing the girls away from whatever it was they were doing to wrestle them into the car, with Daughter #1 protesting the whole time “But why do we have to go?”

After finally getting them to the post office, there inevitably was a line.  The girls are far past the age for a stroller, so I had no way of corralling them when they started tearing around the lobby, running back and forth, and touching everything within reach. In spite of my pleas for calm, there was little I could do, since chasing after them would mean losing my place in line. I spoke gently. I spoke firmly. I yelled (not my finest hour, I admit). I promised incentives. I promised bribes. Nothing was working.

Finally, it came to my turn, and just as I was ready to start, Daughter #2 announced “I have to go potty.” And there’s no potty at the post office. Of course.

I assured her that we were almost finished, and that I would get her home, or someplace with a bathroom, as soon as possible. Fortunately, no one else was in line behind me, and the mail clerk at the counter, who had witnessed my struggles, took pity on me. “We have a bathroom in the back,” she said. “I can let you back there when we’re done.”  I thanked her profusely (I’m sure it helped that the clerk was a woman–and probably a mom to boot).

So our trip to the post office turned out to be educational as well as something off of our to-do list. I learned how to mail a package to Canada, and the girls and I got to see what a post office looks like from the other side of the counter.

Normally, I’m pretty together about these sorts of things, but there are times when I’m hassled and harried and I forget to go through the checklist (potty before we leave, things to occupy them, etc.). Whether consciously or unconsciously, did I play up my distress during this incident? Perhaps. Do I feel good about it? No. Fortunately and unfortunately, our society has low expectations for dads out alone with their kids, and we can get away with getting special treatment if things go wrong. But doing so, while it helped me in the short run, it just perpetuates the stereotype.

And I’m not planning on resorting to that again, if I can help it.

C is for Capitalism

I’ve written here before about my sometimes cluttered and messy house. While I have been working on instilling a sense of responsibility in the girls, their compliance has been uneven. Some days they are extremely helpful while others they’re…well, just not. They’re still fairly young, and I am trying to keep my expectations realistic, but I don’t want them growing up thinking that someone else is going to do everything for them.

Sometimes, though, we accidentally hit upon something that motivates them. Like the Chore Tax.

On a day where Daughter #2 was being especially immobile, my wife said something to her out of frustration:

“I would like you to pick up the things we asked you to pick up.”


“Okay, we’re taking a money out of your bank.”

We were amazed by how well this worked. After a look of horror on her face, she quickly performed the chore we asked her to do.

Of the two of them, no one is as enamored of money as Daughter #2. Maybe she understands how money works (that we need it for food, clothes, toys and special things like trips), and appreciates its value. Or maybe she just likes that it’s shiny a gets a kick out of hearing the coins go “clink!” in her bank after earning a quarter (or nickel, or whatever we have on hand). And the thought of money coming out of her bank instead of going in…well, that was just more than she could take.

Perhaps bribing your kids to do chores isn’t the best choice. I worry sometimes about creating an environment based on “what’s in it for me?” However, they’re a little young to simply be satisfied by a job well done. They’ll get there eventually. Besides, there is a lesson here as well–you have to do something in order to get something. And if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, there are consequences.

She’s Not As Crazy As I Thought She Was…

At first, I thought my wife was crazy.

She told me one weekend that she was headed to a consignment sale to buy things for the girls. USED things. I was dubious about what she’d find. I expected her to come home with little, if anything, at all.

Boy, was I wrong.

The entire back of the car was full. Bags of clothes. Giant plastic toys. Bags of other things I could not identify. My heart rate started to jump. What could she have possibly found that would prompt her to do this? And, more importantly, how much did she pay for all this stuff?

When she started to unload the car, though, I was amazed. This was most certainly not junk. These were brand-name items, and some of them looked barely used. Toys from Fisher-Price, Vtech, LeapFrog, Little Einstein. Clothes from the Children’s Place, the Gap, Old Navy, Ralph Lauren, Gymboree. There were board books (always a plus–the girls love being read to) and home safety items (outlet covers and the like), some of which were still in their original packaging.

Despite these amazing finds, I cringed at the thought of how much all of this cost. But my blood pressure lowered when I saw her receipt: everything, in total, was a little over a hundred bucks. I was dumbfounded.

So now, we look forward to sale season, every year, twice a year, wondering what treasures we might find. And there is one in particular that really gets us excited: the Just Between Friends Sale held in Glen Mills, PA.

About three years ago, we started consigning things ourselves as a way to make room for new things as the girls outgrew clothes, toys and other items. I have assisted my wife on drop-off day (the day before the presale where the consignors can shop), and I am always amazed when I walk in the door. Racks as long as football fields full of clothes from newborn to child to even some adult sizes. There is a table of books that is probably just as long. Behind those are shelving units of toys, carefully and neatly organized. Disney Princess? Sesame Street? Little People? No problem! There’s a rack for that.

Any new (or veteran) parent can find just about anything they need there, from a play yard with a napper for infants to board games you can play with your teens. Heck, there are even maternity clothes there if you’re just starting out! Believe me, after visiting the JBF sale, you’ll ask yourself why you would ever buy new again. And this is another thing I love about it–I think of all the plastic we’re keeping out of landfills by reusing items other families are finished with.

The key, I learned, is to know what you’re looking for, and to have the patience to find it. It also helps if you know how much things cost new. Case in point: my wife found a Step 2 play kitchen at one sale. Brand new, it goes for over $200. It was missing a few things, so she was able to get it for $15. I called Step 2, and for an additional $15, we were able to replace the drawer, decals, pots and pans, food, and phone. If we wanted to, we could have replaced all of the electronics for $40, but fortunately that wasn’t necessary. So, we essentially got a $200 kitchen for $30. And the girls love it.

So now, when my wife tells me she’s taking a vacation day to go to the presale, I hardly bat an eyelash. And I wonder what she’ll come home with. And with the great merchandise at great prices at the JBF consignment sale, I don’t have to worry about how we’re going to pay for it. We’ll just have to think about what to consign in order to make room for it all.

The Just Between Friends consignment sale takes place March 26-29 at the Brandywine Youth Club, 41 S. Thornton Road in Glen Mills, PA. Go to jbfsale.com for more information.

coupon spring Glen Mills 2015

Thank you

I didn’t know Oren Miller very well. I admit that I read a lot of his best and most memorable writing after his passing. But I will say this–it is quite possible that I would have abandoned this blog were it not for the encouragement of the wonderful community he helped to create. And for that, I am grateful. Thank you, Oren.

That is all.