Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How to survive in China with two kids and no car

I miss my car.

I shouldn't, because we sold it, so it's not technically my car anymore, anyways...but I miss having A car. I miss the independence it provided. I miss being able to make a change of plans midway through a shopping trip, and make an impromptu stop at target to stock up on a bunch of not-really-necessary-necessities. 

I love our driver. He is Sal's homeboy. He helps me with grocery shopping, and car seat installation. Can I just say that installing car seats, while easy enough...is a pain in the butt to do each and every time I want to go somewhere? Multiply that by two, and I'll be carrying almost 40 lbs of car seats up and down the elevator every time I take the car. I'm gonna have some strong arms at the end of this stint.

Since using the driver is sometimes more work than it's worth, we've invested in a few items that make life in China a bit more bearable. I love walking when the pollution levels are lower. It feels like freedom to load up my stroller and just walk wherever my heart desires. No translator needed. Just me and my feet, walking without help from anyone. It's an extra bonus when both kids rack out midway through a walk so I can enjoy the peace and quiet of honking horns and screeching brakes on the city streets. 

Obviously, having two little people to tote around changes things a bit, but we fell in love with the babyjogger city select stroller after seeing its narrower wheelbase (versus the standard side by side doubles) and stadium seating. Side by sides are less than ideal here, as sidewalks are not of uniform width, nor are grocery store checkout lanes wide enough. It met all my must haves. Large foam filled tires, easy folding for storage, car seat carrier compatible, and both seats are reversible and recline with large sunshades.  Oh....and the best part? A huuuuge storage compartment for my grocery hauls. 

It's still winter here (despite today being 75 degrees), so we have continued to use the Quinny footmuff that we purchased last year for our old quinny buzz stroller. It's super cozy and keeps Sal warm without needing to layer up on the clothing underneath. My kid haaaates jackets, so the footmuff has been a life saver. Added bonus? The Chinese grandmas approve and tend to stay out of my hair about my baby not being warm enough when I've got the footmuff on. I highly recommend this bunting bag to anyone shopping for one. Sal is 32.6" tall and still fits in it, however, I think he will have to pass it on to Carla after this winter. 

We use the chicco keyfit 30 carrier for Carla when we use the car. We left the base in the states, but it is quite easy to install with just the lap/shoulder belt. It also fits into my baby jogger city select by way of a universal car seat adapter. Most people in China do not use carseat carriers, and have no idea what they are staring at when I walk by with Carla loaded up in it (and covered with a anti-grabby McGraberson canopy cover made by my friend, Liz) so they keep their mitts off of her. I had problems with people reaching in my old stroller when Sal was little, so I'm relieved to see that the canopy cover really does work to deter curious hands.

Both of our kids enjoy a good swaddle. I swaddled Sal well into his 4th month, until he became the master roller, and the he switched to sleeping in a halo sleepsack. Our favorite swaddle blankets come from petunia picklebottom. We received one as a gift when Sal was born, and love the stretch and softness and perfect swaddling size of the blankets. I went ahead and found one on eBay before Carla was born for a steal of a deal. I usually swaddle her before sticking her in her carrier (unless we are going in the car-in that case, we buckle up appropriately) for extra warmth and snuggliness before we head out walking.

My diaper bag carries everything from sippy cups to passports to extra hats and matchbox cars. I'm partial to the Ella Vickers line of recycled sailcloth totes, because of their ability to withstand a beating. They are waterproof, which is extra helpful when it comes to leaking bottles and sippy cups, and have a nice large main compartment with three smaller pockets on each side. For me, that's just enough pockets. Give me any more pockets and I won't be able to find anything for a month of Sundays.

And lastly, my ERGO carrier. I freaking love this thing. I didn't invest in it (a whopping $16 on a Chinese website) until Sal was 15 months old, but it has been money well spent. I back carried Sal all around downtown Wuxi when my sister visited last Spring, and it also got us through our Bali trip when I was first pregnant with Carla. Now that she has arrived, I use my ERGO daily. She often takes one of her naps in it while snuggled up against me, so that I can have my hands free to do activites with Sal. It's definitely a must have item for me. I'm thankful to have found one for a fraction of what they cost in the USA. 

So much gear, but all so worth it for the ounce of freedom it provides us. 

What's your must have baby item?

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