Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Product Recall - Evenflo Switch-A-Roo Telephone Toy



Recall Notice Courtesy of Toys"R"Us:


Evenflo® Switch-A-Roo™ Telephone Toy
Model number 6391911




The mirror decal can peel away, posing a choking hazard to children. The decal should be removed and discarded immediately. Toys should not be returned to the retailer. For assistance, call Evenflo’s toll-free number at:


1-800-233-5921
(8am – 5pm ET) or visit
safety.evenflo.com


"R"Us Item # 227217

In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission


For more product recalls courtesy of Toys"R"Us, visit their Product Recalls List here.

For a comprehensive list of all the latest recall information, visit Recalls.gov.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nursery Adventures

I'm going to let you in on a little secret...

Nurseries are not for babies.

A baby does not need his own room. A baby does not need a $500 sleigh-style crib in a cherry wood finish with a three-level dropside and convertible crib rails. A baby does not need expensive matching crib linens and intricate wall murals and tons of fancy gadgets that swing and rock and play classical lullabies.


No, the process of planning and creating my son’s nursery has taught me that nurseries are for the adults – more specifically, for mommy and her brigade of fellow, future and former mommies to dote on and admire. In reality, babies don’t need much – and they certainly don’t require the level of pomp and circumstance with which many of us approach the task. The cuteness and the convenience and the variety of items chosen for a baby’s room is often based far more upon what mommy wants than what baby needs. This is why there are a dozen different styles of swing to choose from, all performing the same basic functions… and fifty different themed bedding sets for each gender… and a variety of pacifiers with butterflies or frogs or rainbows on them. I know that Jaxon won’t care or even know what color the changing pad cover is, and I’m pretty sure he would have been equally oblivious whether I had settled on the helicopter crib set I was considering for a time or the jungle theme I eventually chose. The wall shelves I painted and decorated with wooden animal cut-outs are adorable, but plain wooden shelves would have served the same purpose. I could just as easily have thrown his stuffed animals in a basket as hung them on colorful links suspended from the ceiling, as I opted to do.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this. After all, Jaxon’s not here to give his opinion on such matters. And many of the decisions I made when putting his room together were at least partly driven by logic: finding ways to make frequently-used items more accessible; using wall and ceiling space to make up for the lack of floor space; looking to minimize clutter and keep things organized. And yes, some of it was just too damn cute to pass up. But at the end of the day, all he really would have needed was a place to sleep, a boob to suck on, clothes to wear, diapers to poop in, and his parents to love him. The rest is just fluff.

However, the big nursery to-do does serve on other purpose - all of that planning, researching, brainstorming, shopping, building, painting, hanging, creating, organizing and re-organizing, arranging and rearranging was a very welcome distraction and an outlet for the misplaced energy of mid-pregnancy. I’ve said before that pregnancy feels like one big waiting game – waiting for the months to pass, waiting for test results or ultrasound appointments, waiting for news, waiting for developments, waiting for milestones, waiting for change, waiting for the fruits of your labor (no pun intended) – the time flies but it also crawls. Working in the nursery helped remind me that it was all leading somewhere, that I was working towards something – eye on the prize, as they say.

I had the somewhat unique and difficult task of transforming what was already my step-daughter’s bedroom/playroom into a bedroom/playroom/nursery for the two of them. And we are not talking about a large room – 10’ x 10’ at most, probably – so it was definitely a challenge. She already had a good amount of stuff in there and it was set up kind of perfectly for her – plus the placement of the windows and doors in the room didn’t leave a whole lot of options for how to arrange the furniture and such. I wasn’t quite sure how it was all going to work out, but hey, I like a challenge.

Okay, I was obsessed, actually. The baby shower really kicked it into gear – there was SO much stuff and so few places to put it at first, and having it all just strewn about was driving me crazy - it seemed impossible to think it was ever going to fit. From that day on I spent hours almost every night in that room or at Wal-Mart or shopping online for ways to utilize the small space and make a place for everything. I’d get out of bed at all hours of the night because I had a great idea and couldn’t wait until the next day, or because I’d come up with a solution to something that had been bugging me and was keeping me awake. I often spent my lunch breaks scouring the internet for ingenious storage tips and other upgrades to what I had already done, always trying to make it better and more organized and more cohesive. I looked at so many different types of storage accessories – shelving units, closet storage solutions, underbed storage, wall shelves, hanging storage, totes, bins, containers, racks, wall hooks, over-the-door hooks, toy boxes, buckets, bags, baskets, corner shelves, drawer dividers – I didn’t want to miss a single thing that might help maximize what little space I had to work with. I moved things around more times than I can count (and more than a few times they ended up right back where they had started). And of course, as I’d buy or receive more gear and supplies, I would change little things around here and there to accommodate.

I’m at the point now where I feel it’s basically done and pretty much perfect – there are a few little things here and there that need to be finished up, but overall I definitely think I did as much as I could with what I had to work with… but when I’m bored you still might catch me online looking at storage options or nursery d├ęcor just in case I find something amazing. And there are times when I’m sitting at home watching TV or doing something equally mundane when I wish there were something I could still be doing in the nursery. I’m happy to say, though, that I haven’t made any significant changes recently and I’m really happy with how it came out.

PICTURES!

Jaxon's Side of the Room:



























Angelina's Side of the Room:













...Continue reading!

Monday, June 1, 2009

There Are No Words...

Over the years, I have been known to dabble in a bit of mediocre poetry - it's something I routinely obsess over and then abandon for months at a time, but I always come back to it. Longfellow I am not, but when life starts to overwhelm (or underwhelm) me, it provides an outlet. I have written about so many different aspects of my life, from the trivial to the touching to the traumatic, that I was surprised to realize one day that I had not yet felt moved to write about my pregnancy. I sat down and attempted to put on paper the many feelings, emotions, thoughts and questions that I knew were floating around in my head - and found it nearly impossible. After the third or fourth time I had written, reviewed and erased several verses of prose, it occurred to me that my inability to express myself in this situation was the best testament to how truly profound and remarkable this experience really is - so instead of writing about it, I wrote about my inability to write about it. The poem below is the result.

Life is a funny thing.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

There Are No Words...


Pen to paper proves useless
The words don't come
Strange that I can’t explain this gift
Looking back through the pages
So many moments cast in ink
Dark days mingling with moments of greatness
Sweet sanity woven into the madness
Facts and figures
Puzzles and riddles
Questions and answers
Nonsense, common sense, perfect sense
Expressions of hope, fear, sorrow
Stories of loss, betrayal, redemption
The evil and the righteous
Declarations of love
Admissions of regret
Childhood, adulthood, awkward stages in between
Confusion mixed with clarity
Truth, beauty
Good, bad, ugly
The best and worst of me
I have written them all with ease
Thoughts forming letters forming phrases
Flowing from my hand
As if they’d been there all along
Waiting to be set down
And yet now, in this moment
The flutter in my heart leaves me speechless
Standard emotions easily identified
But the real significance
The true greatness
As I said, there are no words
An event that brings faith to the faithless
That makes men of boys
And humbles our very existence
If I could take the joyful tears from my eyes
The constant smile from my lips
The eager twinkle in my eyes
The nervous wringing of my hands
The impatient pacing of my feet
The excited racing of my heart
And put them all on this page
That would be the poem I’d need to write
To make it accurate
To make it complete
To make it worthy
In the absence of such a translation
I offer the closest summary I can summon: I cannot wait to meet you


...Continue reading!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Decision Time: Baby Gets a Name!!

After much debate, discussion and consideration, I am happy to say that we have officially chosen a name for our little munchkin!!

Please put your hands together for...

**Drum roll**

JAXON JAMES CASSIDY!

**Fanfare and wild applause**


What a relief - I know we've technically got plenty of time but it's nice to be able to match a name with the squirming critter in my belly.



Honestly, the middle name was the toughest part. We had pretty much settled on Jaxon as the first name for weeks before we came to a definite consensus on the middle name. All told, we really only seriously considered three first names, and about a dozen middle names. I even went so far as to take a poll to help us narrow down middle name options:


A quick note about the poll - for starters, you can see that numerically Charles got the highest percentage of votes. However, that only occurred because Charles was my father's name (he died when I was 11 years old) and pretty much his entire side of the family voted for Charles solely for that reason. While I don't consider that a bad reason for voting the way they did, I also don't believe it should be the only reason, and because of that I felt like I should really only count those family members as one collective vote (and that still left the name Charles tied for second place in the voting).

So the top five names were:

Jaxon Connor
Jaxon Charles
Jaxon Thomas
Jaxon Taylor
Jaxon James

Although we did appreciate the sentimentality of using Charles, neither of us really truly liked the sound or social implications, so we discarded that one almost immediately. Thomas wasn't bad, but it wasn't great, and that one fell off the list shortly thereafter.

At first I was really leaning towards Connor, but the fiance wasn't crazy about that one from the beginning and as time passed I also came to like Taylor and James more, so we agreed to nix Connor as well.

We went back and forth between Taylor and James a few times. More than once we were ready to settle on Taylor, and then something would change our minds and we'd be back to James.

It finally came down to two factors: complete name flow and nickname potential. While I thought that Jaxon Taylor on its own sounded better than Jaxon James (the double J thing really bothered me at first), when I added the last name into the equation, Taylor didn't pair as well. We also came to the conclusion that we like JJ as a potenital nickname better than JT, though we agreed that both are pretty cool.

Decision made. And now we play the waiting game until we get to match a funny little face to the name we've chosen - so close and yet still so far.

...Continue reading!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Baby Registry is Never Finished, Only Abandoned

I must confess, I have been working on my baby registry for months now. At first it was mostly just window shopping and information gathering. I checked out a few of the major retailers who offer baby registry services: Babies R Us, Baby Depot, Target and Walmart. After considering a number of factors, including selection, reputation, available resources, and convenience, I decided I would register at both Babies R Us and Target.

Babies R Us had the largest selection by far, and is the most frequently used retailer for baby registries. Also, their website is really detailed and user friendly. For instance, it offers a lot of good FAQs, checklists and buying guides for first-timers, which I really needed. The pictures and product descriptions are clear and extensive, and most of the products provide User Reviews so I could read the opinions of people who had actually bought and used the products.

I chose to register at Target as well mostly for the added convenience and the affordable but quality selection of products. Babies R Us stores tend to be few and far between (I think Connecticut has 4 altogether) while there's practically a Target in every town, and this works out for people who prefer to do in-store shopping so they don't have to pay the shipping fees to shop online. Plus, it's nice to be able to see things in person sometimes. Some of the items available at Babies R Us were not available at Target and vice versa, so it allowed me to pick from a wider range of items in certain cases. I also found that some of the items available at both stores were cheaper at Target, or that some items you could only buy online at Babies R Us were available in-store through Target.

When I started I really had no idea what I would need beyond the obvious general gear: crib, car seat, stroller, diapers, wipes, clothes, bibs, etc. Of course if that was all you needed, it would make for a pretty boring if not pointless baby registry so I knew there was more to it than that. Plus I wasn't sure how to choose between the brands, models and styles of all the various products. If left to my own devices, my baby registry would have probably developed in one of two ways: either a) I would have chosen too much stuff, much of which I would never really need or use, half of which would not even be appropriate for my purposes, and some of which would likely have been unsafe or poor in quality, or b) I would have chosen very few items, not even aware of the many smaller but necessary items I would need to purchase later on. Thankfully, as always, I did my homework. That's just how I roll.

First I scoured the internet for lists of "must-have" items. There are a number of different places that are happy to tell you what they think you should have when baby comes. Here are a few examples from:

Babies R Us
Target
Walmart
BabyFit.com
Parents.com

After printing and reading over numerous lists like these, and reading other articles and guide book chapters on the subject, I realized that, while there were many similarities, no two lists were exactly the same. I decided to combine all the information I had gathered and develop my own must-haves list that I felt would best suit my needs. I will happily post this in the near future, but keep in mind that what's "necessary" for me may not be "necessary" for you - and likewise, what I find to be completely useless may end up being your lifesaver.

Here are some of my general tips about building your baby registry:

1. Don't bother registering for clothes. People are going to buy you plenty of clothes. I'm not quite 6 months along, and I already have 6 or 7 outfits that people have given me "just because". If there's something unusual or special you want or need that you probably won't get without asking (i.e., I considered registering for a Christening outfit but then decided against it), then by all means add it - but also keep in mind that you have no way of knowing exactly what size your baby is going to be so it may be best to wait until after he or she is born to buy something event-specific or one-of-a-kind any way.

2. Don't forget the simple stuff. Feel free to register for the essentials, like diapers, wipes, formula, toiletries, medicine - I even registered for batteries to run the many different toys and gadgets also on my registry. You're going to need lots of those kinds of things, especially early one, and the costs can really add up. Wouldn't it be nice to have, say, a three or four month supply of diapers already waiting for you when you bring your baby home?

3. Don't be afraid to register for "big ticket" items. I say this for two reasons. Aside from the fact that you might just have very generous (or very wealthy) loved ones, it's entirely possible that a group of your friends, family and/or co-workers may want to get together and buy you one big gift from "the gang", so go ahead and put the $300 jogger stroller on there and they might take up a collection. What have you got to lose? The worst that can happen is that no one buys it for you. Which brings me to the second reason to put it all on there regardless of the price: some retailers (I know Babies R Us is one of them) offer a "registry completion discount" when you buy many of the leftover items on your registry after your shower - so if you were going to buy it any way, put it in on the registry, see if you get it as a gift, and if not, you might just get a discount when you purchase it yourself later!

4. Think ahead. While it is obviously most important to cover the bases of what you'll need immediately when you arrive home from the hospital, your baby will grow out of many of the toys, clothes, and other items fairly quickly, and his needs and abilities will change as well. For instance, since your baby can't sit up on his own or eat solid foods when you first bring him home, you won't need things like a high chair or feeding utensils right away... but you will. Since your newborn obviously can't read or problem solve yet, you won't need wordy books or puzzles right away... but you will. If your baby is born in the summer, he won't need a winter coat or snowsuit right away... but he will. Don't go crazy with down-the-road items, but it's a good idea to include some things that will become useful as time goes on.

5. Think outside the nursery. These days, it's perfectly acceptable to register for some non-traditional but still very important items you may not have considered. Do you have a digital camera to snap photos of your baby when he or she arrives? Do you have sufficient memory or other useful accessories for that camera? Maybe you'd like a digital photo frame or a particular software program to help you display the many pictures of your little one. Also, see if your registry of choice offers the option to include gift cards - Target does, for example - so that indecisive or impatient shoppers can get you something that doesn't require much time or thought but that they know will be useful to you - and that will ensure you get something you can use, either now or later on.

6. If possible, try to develop your registry based on both internet research and in-store visits. You probably won't be able to see everything in person, but it definitely helps to see some of these items up close - online photos and descriptions can be unclear and/or misleading, especially in terms of things like size, color and texture. In-store displays of items like strollers allow you to not only view but try out the products - I changed my mind about which stroller I wanted after I had the opportunity to see a few different ones and push them around a bit. When making your store visit, use but be wary of the in-store registry associates. They can be a good source of information but remember that they do work for the store and therefore it is part of their job to sell you on as many items as possible, wbuch may ultimately include items you may not want or need.

7. Even with the tons of extensive research I did - scouring the product descriptions, reading customer reviews, checking out consumer reporting sites, looking over articles, flipping through magazines and guidebooks, making and re-making lists - the actual registry process itself was, at times, confusing and exhausting. There is just so much stuff out there, so many angles to consider, so many different colors and styles, tons of little details. It is definitely a project you will want to do in stages. Start your registry early enough that you can take your time, but not so early that the items you've selected will be unavailable or superseded by newer models when the time actually comes for people to access it. Sit down for a few hours at a time and tackle it little by little, maybe focusing on a different category each day.

Expect that you might change your mind on certain items, possibly many times. As I said, I've been on working on mine for months, and I could probably continue to work on it for a few more, but it's come to the point where I just have to say, it's finished and I'm not changing it again - my baby shower invitiations are going out this week, and once that happens, you pretty much have to leave the registry alone from then on so that people can go ahead and shop for you!



...Continue reading!

Friday, April 24, 2009

From the Mouths of Babes

I believe that I have mentioned in previous posts (however briefly) that my fiance has a two-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. She spends every other weekend with us and she's hilarious. She's very bright and quite well-behaved - while she is definitely into her "terrible two" stage, even "terrible" for her isn't usually too bad. I won't ever go so far as to say that I consider her to be like my own daughter, but we definitely have a very obvious and mutual affection for one another. And her father adores her.

We have tried explaining to her as best we can that she is going to have a little brother. She seems to understand that somewhere in my belly, there is a baby. Whether or not she really gets the term "brother" is up for debate - while she occasionally uses the term, I tend to think that the true concept of that sort of relationship is beyond her grasp at this point. But the biggest thing she can't seem to understand is why she can't see the baby now. Allow me to recount what is quite possibly the cutest thing anyone has ever said to me.

While the three of us were lounging together in a Georgia hotel room this past weekend, the little guy was kicking around in there and I began to sort of rub my belly in response to his gymnastics.

My step-daughter noticed this, as she often does, and asked what I was doing. I told her that the baby was doing tricks in my belly. She proceeded to scoot over to me and lift up my shirt to look at my stomach. She glanced up at me inqusitively.

"Your baby brother is in there," I said, pointing to my belly.

"I wanna see!" she said, poking at my protruding belly button. "Open it up!"

I almost died laughing right there on our tacky hotel comforter.

"But the baby's not ready to come out yet," I finally replied. "He still has a lot of growing to do."

"I wanna hold him," she murmured.

Cue the melting of my heart.

"Well, when is all done growing and he decides to come out, Daddy and I will let you hold him."

Her whole face brightened up and she flashed this huge grin. "I can?"

Kids are incredible.

"Yes but you'll have to be very careful."

"Okay," she said, very serious-like.

And then she kissed my belly. Seriously, could she be any sweeter?

While this was a very logical, grown-up conversation, we were reminded later on that she is, indeed, still a very young child with a fuzzy understanding of the situation: the next time we talked about the baby, she informed me very matter-of-factly that it was actually Dora the Explorer in my belly, and that when Dora came out, she was going to play with her.

Oh, to be a kid again.

...Continue reading!

Recovering

I just wanted to update since I haven't been around for a few days and there may actually be one or two people reading this thing.

The Georgia trip took a lot out of me (even more than I expected considering I pretty much didn't sleep at all during the 16+ hour drives there and back) and I've been catching up some much needed rest and some equally necessary chores. However, I am working on a number of posts that I intend to get up over the next couple of days - the first hopefully later this afternoon! :)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Use the Term "Vacation" Loosely

One of my co-workers noticed that I am scheduled to be out of the office tomorrow and Monday - I am listed on our interoffice Absentee List as taking two "Vacation Days", so naturally she asked me where I would be spending my "vacation".

*Snicker*

Well, let's see. I will be traveling, by mini-van, from Connecticut to Georgia, starting at around 6:30PM this evening. I will be making this fantastic voyage (sorry, Coolio) along with my fiance, his mother, my 2-year-old step-daughter and my 3-year-old step-niece.

I'll give you a momeny you reflect on that. Mother-in-law, two toddlers, mini-van, 15-hour drive, one hotel room.

We are making the trip to the land of peaches and southern belles for a wedding. My fiance's cousin's wedding. Whom I've never met. Whose entire family are conservative Southern Baptists.

I'm sure I'll fit right in.

Our agenda: we will arrive sometime Friday morning, check into our one hotel room, attend a rehearsal dinner with the good church folk, return to our one hotel room, sleep for a yet-to-be-determined number of hours, wake up Saturday to attend a wedding followed only by a small dessert reception (which means no dinner and no dancing, and no booze, not that I can drink any way but it sounds like everyone else could use something to loosen them up), return yet again to our one hotel room, break bread with the family one more time on Sunday before crawling back into the mini-van for the trip home, to return home on Monday.

And they still have the nerve to call them "vacation days".

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cute Nursery Idea of the Day

POTD #147
Originally uploaded by
Kacey3

Have a look at the whole album and just try and tell me this isn't the one of the cutest, most creative, most well-done nursery murals you've ever seen. I absolutely LOVE how everything appears at eye level and more or less "to scale" as if you were face to face with the animals.

The Name Game

Like a lot of women, I've fantasized about the details of my future as a wife and mother since I was a little girl. What kind of wedding would I want, what would my husband be like, how many kids would we have. Many of us think about these things long before we are faced with the situations that require our actual decisions.

Sometimes what we think we might want when we are children or even as teenagers turns out to be different than we actually want when the time comes, and there are usually a good number of choices to be made that we had never even considered.

The nice thing about fantasies is that they can change and grow and evolve in your mind as often and for as long as you'd like, and you never have to pick just one. When the actual moment of truth is staring you in the face, when you have to pick apart the dreams and the musings of your youth, it can be very difficult to arrive at one definitive conclusion.

In my case, I can honestly say that picking a name for my child is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make.

It's not that I couldn't find plenty of names that I like. On the contrary, I have compiled a fairly extensive list over the years (which I will share with you in a future post). The problem is picking a first and middle name combination that a) sounds nice and flows well, both with each other and with his last name, b) is kind of unique and different but not too unique and different, and c) has what I call "positive nickname potential" - meaning that it provides for at least one or two good possible built-in nicknames, while at the same time offering few potentially embarrassing variations or other situations that could warrant ridicule from other children. Hey, this kid is going to have live with this name at least through his high school years (until he's old enough to legally change it, if he so chooses), and kids can be brutal. They will find plenty of ways to give each other a hard time, I don't want to give them extra ammunition by giving him a crappy name.

At the moment, we have reached a bit of a stand still. We have picked a first name that we are pretty definite about, but the middle name is giving us problems. My fiance and I have literally spent entire 45 minute car rides just saying names out loud, hoping to come across one that really "wow's" us. I am so desperate, in fact, that I have now posted a poll on my Facebook page listing all the possible middle name choices to let my family and friends vote on their favorites, in the hopes that their influence will at least help us narrow it down to a few. I will probably let the poll run until the end of April and see what we come up with.

I realize that technically this decisions does not have to be made until the baby is born, but for various reasons I would like to get a name picked sooner rather than later. I hope to have this baby named in full no later than Memorial Day.

Of course, I will keep you updated!

...Continue reading!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Things Weren't Crazy Enough...

Apparently, certain members of our household do not think that my upcoming addition to the family is going to be enough of a handful for their tastes, because in their infinite wisdom my parents went away for Easter and came back with a Norwich Terrier puppy.





Granted, he's cute, but did they really think this through?

Let's review: our household currently consists of my mother and step-father, my fiance and myself, my younger brother (and his girlfriend who doesn't technically live there but might as freakin' well) and, every other weekend, my 2-year-old step-daughter. We have now added a small, furry, untrained, ankle-biting firecracker to that equation, knowing that we are also expecting a newborn at the end of the summer.

Holy hell.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Old Wives Tell Many Tales

Before I knew the sex of my baby, I already had a feeling that it was a boy. In fact, from almost the very beginning I had a tendency to use "he" when talking about him and had focused my name search and nursery ideas in a more male-oriented direction. Of course, I left open the possiblity that my "feeling" might be more subconscious wishful thinking than true intuition. As it turns out, I was right all along, but that doesn't necessarily prove that it was motherly instincts at work - after all, I had a 50/50 shot of being right either way.

Before I actually knew for sure we were having a boy, since my gut feeling was not exactly a reliable indicator, I went searching online to see if there were any signs that might hint at my baby's gender. I was totally amazed at how many old wives' tales are out there that supposedly help predict whether you're having a boy or a girl!

Once I found out I was having a boy, I was curious how many of these stories held true, so I went back and compared the tales to the truth, as it applies to me.

Tale #1 - If you experienced little or no morning sickness in early pregnancy, you are having a boy.

True - I had very little morning sickness - there were a few weeks very early on where I felt nauseous on and off for most of the day and certain odors were extremely offensive, but it never led to vomiting or anything of that nature and it only lasted a short while. I was actually surprised at how uneventful the earlier months were in that regard.

Tale #2 - If the fetal heart rate is below 140, you are having a boy.

X False - My baby's fetal heart rate has always been above 150. At my last appointment, it was 154.

Tale #3 - If you're carrying low, you're having a boy.

X False... I think - I'm not really sure what is considered "carrying low" vs. "carrying high", and it's possible that my belly just isn't big enough yet to really see a difference, but it seems that most of the weight gain is occurring at or above my waist and not hanging down at all. If that what it means to carry high, then this one is false.

Tale #4 - If you are carrying the extra weight out front (as opposed to on the sides, around the hips and in your butt), you are having a boy.

True - Everyone says that from behind I don't even look pregnant because you can't see any extra weight unless you get a profile view of my stomach. That's where all my weight is, at least for now.

Tale #5 - If your belly looks like a basketball (small and round) and opposed to a watermelon (wider and more of an oval shape, I guess), you are having a boy.

True - My belly is definitely in a more compact little ball shape with all the weight concentrated to a small area sticking out right in front rather than spread wide across the length of my body.

Tale #6 - If your cravings lean more towards the salty or sour versus the sweet, you are having a boy.

True - I normally have a wicked sweet tooth, but throughout this pregnancy I have actually been turned off by many of the confections I used to totally love. While I've definitely gone on a few urgent ice cream runs, my snacking these days is more likely to consist of things like salt and vinegar potato chips, Sour Patch Kids, beef jerky, or Cheez It's. And for the first couple of months, I drank almost exclusively lemonade - it was borderline obsessive.

Tale #7 - If your feet are colder during your pregnancy than before your pregnancy, you are having a boy,

X False - I haven't noticed any change in my feet at all, temperature or otherwise.

Tale #8 - If the hair on your legs is growing faster during pregnancy than it did before you were pregnant, you are having a boy.

X False - Hair growth seems to be the same, as far as I can tell.

Tale #9 - If you sleep in a bed with your pillow facing north, you are having a boy.

? Huh? - To be honest, I have absolutely no idea which way my pillow faces. Not someting I've ever had to think about. Maybe I'll investigate and get back to you. But probably not.

Tale #10 - If the father-to-be is gaining weight along with you, you are having a boy.

X False - I actually think my fiance may have lost a couple of pounds since I've been pregnant.

Tale #11 - If your urine is bright yellow in color, you are having a boy.

X False... I think - To be fair, I don't typically survey the toilet after I pee to see what color my urine is, but I haven't noticed any neon colors catching my eye so I'm going with false on this one.

Tale #12 - If you hang a needle on a thread over your belly (or your wedding ring on a chain, apparently) and it moves in circles, you are having a boy.

X False - Okay, this is so ridiculous that I had to try it just for kicks. For the record, it swings side-to-side rather than in circles, which, according to the old wives' tale, would indicate a girl. I would love to know where this came from, and I may research it later.

Tale #13 - If you are having frequent headaches during your pregnancy, you are having a boy.

X True and False - I had really nasty headaches in my second and third months of pregnancy, but since entering my second trimester I've been almost completely headache-free. So depending on which stage of pregnancy you consider, this one could be considered both true and false.

Tale #14 - If you add your age at the time of conception and the number for the month in which you conceived, if the sum is an even number you are having boy.

True - I was 25 when I conceived, and I conceived in the 11th month (November), which gives me a total of 36. So yeah, it's even. I think this is a Chinese numerology thing. I believe the Mayans have a similar system.

Tale #15 - If you are looking better than ever during your pregnancy, you are having a boy.

Actually, True - Sure, I have my days - nausea and sleep deprivation aren't great for the complexion - but overall I would say (and have been told) that I look incredible for being 5 months pregnant. I've had people ask if I had my hair done (which I haven't in far too long) because it looks so healthy and shiny and the color looks so rich. One woman even told me I looked "radiant", which gave me a good chuckle.

I heard that the theory behind this particular tale is that girls steal their mother's good looks, so if you're lookin' good you must not be having a girl. I would love to hear what mommies of little girls would say about that. Too funny.

Tale #16 - If you have no problem eating the heel of a loaf of bread, you are having a boy.

X Wtf?!?! - To answer the question, I never eat the heel of a loaf of bed, so that would make this false, but really, it's not even worth answering. Seriously, what's up with this?

There are probably many many more out there - if you're interested, you can always count on a good ol' Google search to dig up the absurd and obscure.

So my final tally is 6 True and 8 False. Not exactly definitive evidence either way, but you can see there is very little science behind these old wives' tales to begin with.

My conclusion: while it might be fun to reference these myths and try to guess your baby's gender, I wouldn't go painting the nursery blue just because you call dibs on the crusty end piece of a loaf of bread. Enough said.

...Continue reading!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ultrasound: Take Two

Today I had my follow-up ultrasound to double check a few of the things they saw (or didn't see) the first time around. I am happy to report that everything looks fine. The chorioplexus cyst that showed up on the first ultrasound is already gone (if it was ever there - the doctors I met with today did not sound super confident that there was actually a cyst in the first place), the heart is good, all the extremities are good, the organs are good... and yep, definitely a boy!

Glad the doctor wanted to be thorough - and I'll always take an opportunity to have a peek at the little one, so no complaints! :)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cute Nursery Idea of the Day


The photographer featured above has an album devoted to her son's nursery, which she designed herself. In the series, she explains how a children's book inspired her to scatter birds in different places throughout the room to, as she says, "witness the story of his life". Here is one example of how she incorporated the birds to decorate an otherwise empty wall.

Simple and soooo cute!

Check out the rest of the album here!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spending for Baby: Tips & Tricks


No matter how you slice it, having a child is an expensive endeavor. In my post The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Part II, I listed some of the expenses you can expect to encounter along the way. Since I myself am not independently wealthy, I have been looking for ways to save a little money (and a little sanity) whenever possible. Here are my tips & tricks for easing the crunch and easing your mind.


1. BE INFORMED!

Knowing is half the battle, right? There are so many products on the market today for babies and new moms, so many different brands and styles and sizes, meant for different uses and purposes. It can be extremely confusing and overwhelming walking into a Babies R Us for the first time and seeing aisle after aisle of product to choose from. If you go in blind, chances are good you're going to make some unecessary, overpriced, wasteful purchases.

So, do your research. One helpful resource is a guidebook. These books give you product reviews and bargain hunting tricks, offer comparisons of brands and models, point out what to look for when buying key items, and help you distinguish between what you may want and what you need. Baby Bargains: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on Baby Furniture, Gear, Clothes, Toys, Maternity Wear and Much, Much More! comes very highly recommended (and, considering it's currently in its 8th edition, it seems to have been successful for some time).

The internet can be another great resource as long as you're thorough. The good thing about a book is that the author has already weeded through a lot of the available information and combined that with his or her own experience to give you what they believe are the best recommendations available. The internet has no such filter. You will finds all sorts of information and disinformation, some of it useful and some of it not. To guard against this, don't take one person's word for it - make sure you look in more than one place. The more sites you find echoing the same suggestion or recommendation, the more you can rely on that piece of advice.

Manufacturer's websites are good for looking at the available products, models, prices, and product details, but they typically do not provide the whole story. You're likely to find a lot of "pro's" and not a lot of "con's". You'll want to read product reviews and recommendations from people who have actually bought and used the product to see if there are any drawbacks or issues with the products.

For example, while shopping for a crib for the nursery, I came across one the looked really nice and seemed to have all the features I was looking for - and was moderately priced to boot. I even went and saw a floor model of the crib in person and everything looked good. When I got back home, I went online to read customer's reviews about the crib. It turns out that more than half of the reviewers complained that the dropside stopped working after only a couple months of use, and that the company did not currently offer a fix for the problem. Needless to say, I decided not to purchase that particular crib.

Look at the specifics of each item's intended use, purpose and age group. Certain products are made for newborns up to 6 months, others for babies 6-12 months, and so on. You don't want to buy too many for one age group and not enough for another, thinking they're all the same. One thing I didn't know before reading the fine print is that different bottle nipples produce a different "flow", each of which has a different purpose and is meant for different ages. If I hadn't been paying attention to the details, I would likely have bought nipples that my newborn couldn't even use.

Definitely check for product recalls before you buy. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission website has a looooong list of the most recent recalls.

You also need to be able to discern between what is really necessary, what might be helpful but not necessary, what is completely optional, and what is just plain useless. There are chapters in the guidebooks and sites online that will help you with that, but the ultimate purchases are up to you. Do you really need a video baby monitor so you can see your sleeping baby at all times? Do you really need a changing table or do you have a nice sturdy dresser whose top you could convert into a changing area? Do you really need a machine that warms up the babies wipes for you? Do the scented diaper pails really work or are they more hype than help? Are walkers really advisable from a safety perspective? There are articles and information out there about all of these things and more to help you decide if they're actually purchases you need (or even want) to make.

Also, are there things you may want later on but don't need right away - purchases that you can maybe put off so you don't break the bank all at once. Obviously, your newborn won't need a high chair immediately, for instance, or sneakers, or wordy books. Consider spending only what you need to now and save the rest for later.

Finally, ask other parents. There is no greater resource than the people who have been there before you. What kinds of items did other parents totally love? Which ones did they hate? Did they buy or receive things that they never ended up using? Is there an item they just couldn't live without? Can they recommend a particular brand that they really trust? Just like the online customer reviews, getting feedback from actual parents who have used the products will be invaluable.

2. BE THRIFTY!

This is my favorite category because it's sort of like a treasure hunt. If you had endless resources and a bottomless bank account, you could easily walk into any baby superstore and walk out with everything you could ever need or want for baby, all shiny brand new, with little time and even less effort. Hell, you could pay someone to do your shopping for you and not even have to be involved! But since most of us have yet to hit the lottery, it pays to know where and how to find gently used items for a fraction of the cost, as well as how to save some money when we do have to buy brand new.

Don't be afraid to accept good condition hand-me-downs. As long as they are clean and still in good shape (and safe, of course), baby won't know the difference, so what's the big deal? Baby stuff takes up a lot of room, so often parents of older children are dying to get rid of their old baby stuff. Clothes, toys, swings, activity mats, playards, stationary entertainers, diaper bags, crib linens - again, as long as they're all in good condition, no missing parts, no questionable safety concerns, they're all just as good as the brand new stuff.

Check out consignment stores and garage sales. I found some great maternity clothes at a consignment store just a few exits from my house - I got 3 shirts and 2 pairs of pants there for $50, all brand name! And the great thing about consignment stores is that product cycles in and out of there frequently, so you can go back a couple weeks later and find all new stuff! It's not quite tag sale season around here yet, but we're getting close and I can't wait to spend a lazy Sunday driving around and checking out the bargains I can find on toys, books and clothes for the little one. Also check out uaction sites like Ebay, or local classified-style listings like Craigslist and Freecycle, where you can find a large variety of used items that people are either selling or giving away.

One thing you probably should not buy used is your baby's crib. For one thing, safety standards for cribs have changed dramatically over the years and there are recalls happening all the time.

Of course, you can't buy everything used. So when you do buy new items from a store, make sure you:

- Keep your receipts. You may purchase something that turns out to be the wrong size, be impractical, not quite serve its intended purpose, or whatever - and you always want to the option to return or exchange it if that turns out to be the case.

- Price compare. Don't just buy the first one you see of anything - you might be able to find it a couple bucks cheaper, or on sale, at another location.

- Use coupons for in-store shopping and coupon codes for online shopping. Check weekly circulars for in-store savings and clip coupons in your weekend paper. There are online sites where you can print coupons and even get free samples.

When I'm doing any online shopping, I never check-out before I search the web for any availble coupon codes that may be out there. If you've done a fair amount of online shopping, you've probably seen the field on the check-out screen where it asks for a "Coupon Code" or "Promotional Code", something along those lines. There are websites where people list codes for others to use, either for a percentage off your order or free shipping or some other money-saving deal. I usually just Google the store I'm shopping at followed by "coupon codes" - so if I was buying something from Target.com, I would do a Google search for "Target coupon codes" and I would get a list of sites that have codes for that store. Not all of them will be relevant to your order, some of them will be expire, and some may just not work, but it's worth looking and taking a shot.

- Shop at discount stores like Target and Walmart, or check out outlet stores. I found some cute maternity clothes at Target for fairly cheap - of everything I bought there, my big "splurge" was a $30 pair of gray maternity dress pants for work made of this great lightweight material that fit like a dream and are so comfy. I also found a lot of cute things on sale at the nearby Motherhood outlet.

- Shop the sales. I always check the sale racks first whenever I go shopping, and I often check the weekly circulars to see if there might be anything on sale that I know we need or will need in the near future. Sometimes if I know ahead of time I'm going to need something in the upcoming months, I'll try to wait and find it on sale instead of buying it right away. I know a few people who do a lot of their Christmas shopping for the following year at after-Christmas sales. Don't buy things you won't really use or don't really like just because they're on sale, but if you're in the market for something you should try to take advantage of sale prices whenever possible.

- Buy out-of-season. If you buy a winter coat in June, it's going to be cheaper than if you were to buy it in December. A lot of clearance and sale items you find will be last season's styles. Just make sure you plan ahead in regards to sizes and age appropriateness.

- Buy in bulk. There are some things that you just know you are going needs lots of - diapers, wipes, formula, whatever it is. It's cheaper to buy those items in large quantities all at once than to buy a pack here and a pack there. Wholesale warehouses like BJ's and Sam's Club are great for stocking up on frequently used items, especially for larger households.

- Save your change. This might not sound like a big deal, but this little coins can really add up. You're not going to become a millionaire by throwing your unused pennies in a jar, but you could save up enough to buy a new toy, a DVD, a tank of gas, or even a nice dinner out for mom and dad!

3. BE CREATIVE!

Are you crafty? Can you sew, knit, cook, draw, paint? Homemade goods are definitely a cheap alternative to store-bought products, are more personal, and can often be better quality. Instead of buying expensive framed prints for baby's walls, paint something yourself! Instead of buying designer baby booties that he'll outgrow in a few months, take some time to knit a pair! Instead of buying expensive jarred baby food, buy some fresh fruits and vegetables or save your leftovers and make your own! There are food processors out there specifically for making your own baby food, and some parents swear by it, not only because it's cost-friendly, but because of the nutritious benefits as well.

A friend of the family recently had a little boy, and her mother came up with a great idea for wall-hangings in the baby's room: she went out and bought a copy of the mom's favorite from when she was a kid and cut out some of the illustrations and framed them. She not only created something cute and inexpensive for baby's room, but it has special significance to mom and grandma, too.

Another tip: recycle. Do you have an old dresser in the attic that's still in good shape but could use a new coat of paint? Roll up your sleeves, break out the sandpaper and and a paintbrush and voila! A new dresser for the nursery! No need to spend hundreds of dollars on a brand new piece of furniture. You can even buy some cute drawer knobs and drawer liners, or add stenciling, to really make it nursery-friendly and make it look like you spent a pretty penny at the furniture store. Got a plain old lamp that you're not really using? Paint the buy in fun, bold colors, pick up a new lamp shade in a cute pattern that matches the rest of the nursery, maybe add some polka dots or sparkles, whatever works for you - and now you've got a new lamp for the baby's room! You don't have to be artfully-inclined to do simple projects like these. Taking things you already have and making little changes or improvements can save you a ton of money over buying the same items brand new - and it might help you clear out some space in your attic!

4. BE REALISTIC!

- Sit down with your partner and really bang out your budget so you have a clear picture of what you have to work with.
- Recognize that there will be a few necessary splurges along the way. Plan for them.
- Accept your financial limitations and set boundaries.
- Know when to ask for help if you need it.
- Learn to say no. You're not going to be get everything you or your children might want, so do what you can, compromise when possible, and try not to stress about it.
- Don't waste your time worrying about what others think or what others have. If the mom next door has her nursery decked out in the most expensive designer brands sporting all the bells and whistles, so what. That is obviously more for her than for her baby, since he won't know the differnce in the slightest and probably won't even use half the stuff she packed the room with.

One final tip: if you know that you will be having a baby shower, it might be a good idea to wait until afterwards to go on a spending spree - chances are you'll get a lot of the items you want and need as gifts without having to spend a dime!

~*~

...Continue reading!