Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spend too much now, regret it later



When my daughter was a few months old, a friend introduced me to the joys of shopping with my baby at our local mall. This mall has the most beautiful family restroom I have ever seen....big comfy chairs and a TV to occupy older children, multiple changing stations with attached sinks and garbage bins, and private rooms for breastfeeding. To top it off, it is always extremely clean, and is attended to by cleaning staff almost constantly. Having previously been afraid to leave the house with my baby, I was excited to have a comfortable place to take her. During the day, the mall was never crowded, and I could leisurely stroll around, sip my coffee, and stop to reminisce with older folks about their children. My daughter loved looking around at all of the lights and different colors in store displays and, when she grew tired, would close her eyes and take a nap.

The unfortunate result of all of these trips to the mall was, as you would imagine, a growing number of unnecessary purchases. With your little angel looking up at you from her stroller, it is tough not to imagine the adorable sight of her in every cute little dress and outfit that Gymboree or The Children's Place are selling. (At least it was in my case!) All of this clothing truly was adorable, but her closet became so full that at most she wore every article of clothing only once or twice. That was certainly not the most economical use of my hard-earned money.

Let's take this one step further, and look at the future implications of my out-of-control spending. Assume that I unnecessarily spent approximately $50 per week on baby clothing. (I spent much more than this, but let's assume that most of the clothing was truly needed). This translates into roughly $200 per month on clothing that would be worn once, then put away, given to friends, or sold on consignment for pennies on the dollar. If I had kept that spending up for a year (assuming my husband wouldn't have cancelled my credit cards first), that amounts to $2400 in overindulgence.

Thankfully, this phase only lasted for about four months. The weather improved, and I began taking my baby for walks outside in the fresh air- which, incidentally, are free. However, in that 4 month period, I had spent approximately $800 on clothing that my daughter had barely used. Imagine if I had instead taken that $800 and invested it for her future. Even if I had placed it in a low-yield savings account, assuming a 3% interest rate, in 18 years it would have grown to $1,182. If I had invested that same $800 in the stock market through a 529 plan, assuming an average 9% rate of return, in 18 years it would have grown tax-free to $4,018. Had I stopped to think about this before, I would have gladly traded in some of those adorable dresses for over $4,000 toward my daughter's college expenses.

This is what my son looked like after bath last night, wrapped in his towel...

Friday, July 22, 2011

Coupon and great deal on diapers and wipes - today and tomorrow only!

I just went to Babies R Us to stock up on diapers and wipes, and got an incredible deal. Today they emailed coupons for $8 off boxes of Pampers diapers and $3 off Pampers wipes. This can be piggy-backed onto the ongoing sale that is giving half off a box of wipes if you buy a box of diapers. You can also use one manufacturer's coupon per item - so I used a coupon that I had for $3 off a box of wipes and another for $1.50 off a box of diapers. In total, I ended up with a discount of over $20! This was well worth the trip. The deal is only good for July 22 and 23rd.

Wonder how the extreme couponers do it?

In CNN Money's Tips from extreme couponing pros - Jul. 22, 2011, you can see an overview of suggestions given by coupon pros. A lot of this seems to be common knowledge, but it may be helpful for some.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's amazing how the kids take over...

Today I was speaking with a friend who is celebrating his 6th wedding anniversary this week. He and his wife are fairly young, and have no children. (I would never pry, so I don't know whether this is by choice or not.) Anyway, he is actually taking off the day of his anniversary, as he does every year, so that he and his wife can do something special.

This was just fascinating to me- and a little depressing at the same time. My husband and I have been together for 10 years, and married for most of those years. Our anniversary used to be a major event, but as children came, we gradually pushed the day aside. Now it is eclipsed by our son's birthday, which is only 3 days before. I know that couples who do not have children miss out on all of the love and adventure that children can bring. But sometimes, I do wish that it would be possible for my spouse and I to take a day or 2 and spend time together, talking only about "grown-up stuff". However, it is just impossible. When we do have a free moment together, like in the calm, quiet evenings after the kids are in bed, all discussion inevitably focuses on child-related issues. So, while I wouldn't trade my kids for anything, in some ways I do envy those couples who are childless by choice and are able to focus more on each other. One day when my kids are older and off on their own, however, I know that I will miss these days.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Working or Staying Home - A Required Choice

From an evolutionary standpoint, humans have come a long way in terms of child-rearing. Fathers are often much more involved in raising their children, and many stereotypes regarding the traditional roles of mothers and fathers are becoming less prevalent. Why is it, then, that there is still such a divide between mothers who stay home and those who work?

In recent years, the development of hidden "nanny-cams" has flooded the internet and news programs with images of abusive or inadequate caregivers who appeared to have experience with children and stellar references. Finding suitable, quality childcare is very difficult, especially with the added paranoia that these nanny-cam incidents have caused. Many, if not most, mothers would prefer to rear their own children, without depending on help from potentially unfit strangers. In some cases, even family members are unfit to help with childcare duties. However, for many women, staying home is not an option. Financial burdens require many households to earn two incomes just to pay the bills, requiring many mothers to work. In this unpredictable economy, many couples are fearful of giving up one job in case the other spouse is laid off. Some women have worked to establish successful careers, and feel that giving them up would take away a piece of their identity and in turn negatively impact their home life.

Regardless of the reason, the fact that mothers have to choose between working and raising their children is quite disheartening. Women have made many successful strides in the workplace that have put us on a great track to achieve equality with men. Yet we are hampered by the issues that arise when we become mothers. Some workplaces have accomodated the unique needs of mothers by allowing for telecommuting and flexible scheduling options, but these types of positions are hard to come by. Why is it that more workplaces have not stepped up to the plate? Flexibility in work scheduling allows a parent to have the best of both worlds: a successful career AND priceless time with his/her children. There is clearly a need for such arrangements. Just look at the number of "work from home" advertisements in most parenting magazines, or the number of mothers who choose to sell products from companies such as the Pampered Chef or Tupperware.

How can we make our voices heard and advocate for generally accepted standards for flexibility in the workplace? Are their organizations currently in existence that are already doing this type of work? If you are out there, please add a comment to tell us about your work. I will be happy to feature you in a future post.

I must also add that I am fortunate enough to have found a workplace and supervisor who make every effort to aid in work/life balance and allow a reasonable amount of flexibility. This is after suffering through 3 years in a workplace that was anti-mothers and outright discriminated against parents of young children in their hiring practices. I was relieved and overjoyed to find a workplace that understands if my child is sick and I need to work from home, or if I need to leave early to see my child's school concert. So if you are stuck in a workplace that is making it harder for you to balance work and family, I suggest that you keep looking for other options. Eventually you may find the right workplace that makes you feel better about having to work all day and be away from your children, and still allows you to spend quality time with them.

JLo and Marc Anthony are getting divorced

This is quite a surprise- though no relationship breakup in Hollywood should ever be a surprise I guess. According to the statement they released, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony have worked everything out and this is an amicable split, but I am sure there will be more dirt to follow. I wonder- did he cheat on her? Did she cheat on him? Or were the pressures of raising their two beautiful 3 year-old twins, Max and Emme, in the spotlight too much to handle? Sure, having children puts pressure on any relationship. Having twins, and being world-traveling superstars must put a level of stress on a relationship that is just unimaginable for us commoners. I feel sorry for the babies, and hope that somehow things are resolved and this couple gets back together.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Totally Inappropriate Gifts for Pregnant Women

If you are seeking a classy, high-end gift for your pregnant friend or wife, this list probably won't help. But, if you are seeking a funny gift, gag gift, or conversation starter, or are just looking for gifts to avoid, here are some ideas.

  1. Nursing bras. This cringe-worthy gift is practical, but really- is it normal to go bra shopping for a friend?

  2. The Giant Microbes Sperm Cell (Spermatozoon). Description from the store's website: "Our little man's man is the stuff of legends. You can bank on it."

  3. Yes, breast cream is another practical gift. But it is a little creepy to think that someone else is buying cream for your sore boobs.
    (Though this would be a funny shower gift for a woman who is publicly very squeamish about breastfeeding.)

  4. Fitness Magazine

Yes, this was an actual gift received when I was pregnant. What 7 months pregnant woman wants to be told to lose weight?

What do you think? Have you received any other funny pregnancy gifts? Or did anyone, without trying to be funny, buy you a completely inappropriate gift?

Finally, hospitals are taking a stand against elective C-sections

I was happy to read this article today about the changes the state of Louisiana is trying to make at hospitals across the entire state. This push, lead by Lousiana's health department, is in response to the state's consistently poor rankings for neonatal care and mortality and high rate of preterm births. What are the risks associated with preterm birth? Potentially, a whole host of problems ranging from developmental delays to problems with lung and brain development. So, why would someone want to induce labor early or have an early C-section 2 weeks or more before their due date? In many cases, it is simply due to convenience. Maybe they don't want their baby to be born on Christmas, or they are trying to have the baby when there is family in town to care for other children. No matter the reason, the possibility of suffering a little inconvenience is nowhere near as devastating as the possible detriment to the health of the baby. Way to go, Lousiana! Now only 49 more states to go!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New babies are so exciting!

We just got the news that our new little nephew will be born tonight. Although the mom-to-be was scheduled for a C-section in 2 weeks (for medical reasons), the little guy decided tonight is the night! I guess his birthday will be lucky 13. I should have known it was coming. All day I was surrounded by people talking about babies, people expecting babies, and even a mother who had brought her baby to work. It seemed like the universe was trying to tell me something- I guess I should have listened! Isn't there a full moon out tonight? I know it is an old wives tale, but something about the full moon seems to put babies in the mood to come out!

The most fun part of waiting to get the call that my new nephew has been born, of course, is hearing 1) that he is healthy and 2) what they name him. In our family, everyone pretty much refrains from discussing baby names until the baby is born. (It is probably because we are all so opinionated and nobody really wants to hear what we all think of each particular name that is under consideration.) So far, they have gone with very trendy names plucked from the top 10 list from each year of birth. I am very curious to see what this little guy is named!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ways NOT to induce labor - and some ideas to try

There are many old wives' tales about the best ways to naturally induce labor. While research has examined some of these different options, nobody really knows what triggers the onset of labor. As long as your midwife or doctor agrees, and you are close to or beyond your due date, you may want to try some of these options:

  • Drinking Castor Oil

  • Nipple Stimulation

  • Eating Spicy Foods

  • Walking, swimming, or other increased physical activity

  • Take a bumpy car ride

  • Have sexual intercourse

  • Drink red raspberry leaf tea or take red raspberry leaf tablets

  • Acupuncture

In a 2008 study (Murray, Kelsberg, Safranek and Crawford, "Clinical inquiries. Do any folk remedies or herbals help induce labor?", The Journal of Family Practice), researchers found that some methods of natural labor induction may actually be unsafe. Traditional methods which were deemed ineffective and possibly unsafe by the study included:

  • Evening Primrose Oil

  • Black Cohosh

  • Blue Cohosh

Interestingly enough, in its review of other studies, this study found that two methods appeared to be effective in starting labor: Acupuncture and Nipple Stimulation. Castor oil was found to cause nausea and vomiting, but not labor. I guess I know where to start when I am ready to evict my little one! While I could not find recent research data on other methods such as eating spicy foods, I may give them a try as well.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pennsylvania restaurant bans babies and kids under 6

Noise Prompts Monroeville Restaurant To Ban Young Kids - Pittsburgh News Story - WTAE Pittsburgh
Well, I guess that is one restaurant I won't be going to if I travel through western PA. This restaurant owner is tired of noisy babies and children in his establishment, and decided that kids under 6 will not longer be permitted to dine there. I sympathize with his view that many parents allow their children to run hog wild in restaurants. On several occasions, while sitting with my own (quiet, well-behaving) children in restaurants, we have been subjected to screaming and tantruming from other children that went on for an hour or more. However, I think this decision is a poor one, and hope that it hurts his business. Rather than banning all children, this owner should start speaking up when patrons' children are being disruptive and asking them to leave. This would weed out the bad apples and allow parents who are rearing respectful children (or who know enough to get the check and leave when a baby or toddler is screaming) to continue to enjoy this restaurant.

Friday, July 8, 2011

My theory on what really happened to poor little Caylee

Since everyone from Nancy Grace to Kim Kardashian seems to be throwing their opinion out there regarding Casey Anthony, I thought I would share what I think happened. This is based purely on what I have read from various news outlets and conjured up in my mind. I don't know anything more about this case than anyone else, but considering that I have always had a unique way of looking at the world, I might as well offer up this theory.

On the day in question (June 16, 2008), or perhaps the night before, maybe Caylee was killed in a horrible accident. Instead of drowning in the swimming pool, which the defense contended during the trial (and may have been made up based on another inmate's story), I believe that Casey tried to use Chloroform to put Caylee to sleep so she could go out and party. Maybe she even knocked her out and put her in the car to sleep. It is clear that Casey was quite the party girl, and also clear that her parents did not treat her as if they thought she was a good mother. So rather than ask them to watch the baby so she could go out drinking, and being forced to have her terrible parenting skills thrown in her face, perhaps she started looking for a way to keep her daughter safe that would allow her to leave her unattended and avoid letting her parents know what she was up to. So, maybe Casey tried to drug Caylee with chloroform and accidentally overdid it, killing the little girl. Still an accident? Yes. An accident that would put Casey in prison? Absolutely.

I did not feel that George Anthony was believable on the stand. Maybe he molested Casey or maybe he didn't. Maybe he had an affair or maybe he didn't. Either way, it did not seem as if he was telling the whole truth on the stand. I really think the jury didn't trust him. So maybe this really was a horrible accident and Casey enlisted the help of her father, who was formerly in law enforcement, to help cover it up. Maybe she had something to hold over his head as blackmail- such as allegations of incest and molestation. She could have used this to get him to help.

Now there is Cindy Anthony. Yes, it seems clear that she lied on the stand regarding who made the searches for "chloroform" on the family computer. But perhaps it is because she is trying to protect her daughter, not because she knows something. What if George helped Casey dispose of the body and Cindy had no knowledge? What if Cindy simply believes her daughter had something to do with Caylee's death, and that it was an accident, so she was trying to help? Or, even worse, what if Cindy believes that George really did molest Casey- and now she is trying to protect her daughter from prison, since she couldn't protect her from him?

So, what do you think of this for a possible theory?

I love shoe socks!

OK, let's all admit that putting shoes on an infant is a little ridiculous. They can't walk, and they generally hate to wear them. My daughter would scream and cry if we put shoes on her, from the time she was about 6 weeks old. (Of course, now that she can walk, she loves them!) The only point of putting a pair of shoes on a pre-walking baby is to complete an outfit.

Faced with the choice between making my child miserable by putting shoes on her, or making her outfit look less cute by only putting her in socks, I chose to keep my child comfortable and just try to keep her feet out of pictures. However, one day my sister-in-law came to the rescue with what came to be one of my favorite baby inventions: shoe socks! I had never seen them before, and I was so excited to put them on my daughter. I fell in love with them, and had to purchase other styles. I stuck with the Trumpette brand, and found that the socks were high quality, resisted fading, and miraculously stayed on my daughter's feet, even when she was at the stage when she could pull off socks made by other brands.

When my son came along, I was excited to find that there were versions for boys as well. I ran out and purchased socks that looked like skater shoes and ones that looked like sneakers. The boys' shoe socks seem to earn even more compliments from passers-by than the girls'. They are just adorable.

This is such a cute and unique idea. I hope you enjoy them for your little one!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Casey Anthony- not guilty? Did George Anthony do it?

Wow! I am not sure how Baez pulled this one off, but 12 jurors actually did not believe that Casey Anthony killed her daughter Caylee. This is surprising, of course, to most of the rest of the world. It is impossible to imagine any mother living as she did, partying and loving life, knowing that her child had died in a horrible accident. It just doesn't make any sense. Of course, we will never know the whole story. However, I do wonder if the jurors were most turned off by George Anthony. When asked if he had molested Casey, he responded "I would never do something like that to my daughter." To me, that doesn't sound like a typical denial. I know that if most men I know were accused of something like that, their response would be something more along the lines of "I am not a child molester" or "I am not a pervert". So if I was sitting on the jury, it would make me wonder too. And if you don't trust George Anthony, it isn't hard to believe that he really had an affair with a woman who had been helping with the search for Caylee, or that he would use all of his skills learned from years as a police detective to frame his daughter for the murder, or that he would fake a suicide to better sell the story. Then she would be labeled a murderer and nobody would believe her abuse claims. So I have to wonder- Casey was found not guilty, but was she actually innocent?

Friday, July 1, 2011

"My babies disgust me!"

In the latest Octomom drama, Nadya Suleman told InTouch magazine that her babies disgust her, and that her kids are so out of control that she hides in the bathroom for hours and eats lunch on the floor. She also makes references to her terrible financial situation. This is sad on so many levels. First, the fact that she gave birth to so many kids when she already was marginally caring for the ones that she had is just irresponsible. It seems she was just trying to become famous, which she achieved, but not for good reasons. The whole world has been watching the Octomom freak show and just waiting to see how these kids would be raised and how they will turn out. Based on this interview, it is pretty clear that the kids are being neglected. I wish this woman would finally do what she should have done when they were babies- hand them over to the state, let them be adopted into a good home or homes, and get some psychiatric treatment.