Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Perfect Gift

My mom has a giraffe.
My nephew has a tiger.
My niece has a polar bear.
A close friend has a beautiful gray wolf.

I have my very own star.

These are just some of the cool gift ideas for the person on your list who has everything.

My mom is infamously hard to shop for. Every year I ask what she wants, and every year I get the same response: "You know what I could really use? A new wind sock." Or some variation of that answer. I like to give thoughtful, distinctive gifts. Something that shows you were really thinking of that person and wanted to get them something special and memorable. A wind sock, though lovely and decorative, doesn't quite fit the bill.

A couple of years ago I had the idea to sponsor an animal at our local zoo. Henry Vilas Zoo is a small, free zoo in Madison, Wisconsin. It survives completely on donations. Through their website you can sponsor an animal. They have several different animals to choose from (it changes periodically) and it makes a neat gift. Mom got a lovely photo of "her" giraffe along with a certificate, information about her giraffe and a stuffed animal. (That I'm pretty sure became a dog toy. Everyone wins!) A lot of zoos offer this kind of program. Check around to see if you can sponsor an animal at your local zoo.

Inspired by the success of this endeavor, I decided that I would do something similar for other people on my list who are notoriously hard to shop for. Since my brother's kids aren't close to the Vilas Zoo, I explored some other options. The World Wildlife Fund Has a great program for "adopting" animals.

WWF has a huge selection of animals to choose from. For as little as $25 you can adopt an animal and get a neat adoption certificate, photo and a species info card. If you spend a bit more you get a plush animal, a gift bag, a framed can spend up to $100 and get a really neat, personal gift.

My husband may be getting a Platypus this year, in an effort to help him overcome his fear of them. But that's another story.

There are other organizations that offer animal adoption programs as well. Or, how about a gift membership to the International Wolf Center?

Or adopt and feed a cat at the Wisconsin Big Cat Rescue.

Have someone on your list who just isn't into animals? Why not get them something a bit more "out there" and have a star named after them. Years ago I received my own star as a gift from the International Star Registry. It's still one of the coolest gifts ever. I have a framed certificate and a map showing me how to locate my star (I think I need a better telescope then what I have available, but it's out there, and it has my name on it!)

There are a lot of other options available as well, just do a little looking around. Most of the places that I have worked with in the past have gifts starting at around $25, so you don't have to break the bank to get a very cool, unique gift.

I'm off to see about adopting that venomous platypus. Perhaps even a Jedi platypus with a lightsaber.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Best Halloween Costume Ever

I love Halloween. Every year I try to come up with a really fun, unique costume. Since this is my first Halloween with a baby, I knew my costume would have to be even more special and memorable. I also knew that I would be carrying my little dude, so I had to find a way to incorporate that into my costume.
After a chat with my brother-in-law I realized what the perfect costume would be.

King Kong.

The actual monkey part of the costume was easy. I just bought a monkey costume. There are gorilla baby costumes out there, but the ones I found were just too pricey. I think I ended up spending $12 on the little monkey costume from Target. Done.

The Empire State Building part was a bit more work.

I started out with 2 shipping boxes. I made sure that the largest one fit snugly on my head, so it wouldn't move around too much. Then I added a Kleenex box and a toothpaste box. The embellishments on the top are just cut out bits of a Count Chocula cereal box. I glued everything together, cut out a hole for my face and started spray painting. After that it was just a matter of a cheap toy airplane from the dollar store, a plastic underwire from the notions department (to attach the airplane to the top of the building) and lots and lots of electrical tape.

My husband even had to try on the costume.

Our King Kong costume turned out better than I had hoped and we have had a lot of fun with it.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I had a pain in the ass experience with a service rep on the phone today.  Actually, I had two of them.  I get very angry when I have to call anyone for any type of tech support/customer service.  It generally starts as soon as I hear "para continuar en español, por favor, pulse el número dos".

After complaining for a bit on Facebook, I felt inspired to tell my story.  But who wants to just read about my annoying customer service experience?  Wouldn't it be much more interesting to watch it in animated film format?

Enter Xtranormal.  

I'm sure most of you have heard of Xtranormal and if you haven't, you have probably seen one of the videos.  Xtranormal is a simple online tool that allows anyone to make their own movies.  As they say,  "If you can type, you can make movies."  I decided to give it a try.

It really is as simple as they say, and if you don't choose to publish your movie it doesn't cost you a thing.  If you do choose to publish it is very inexpensive.  I purchased 300xp (Xtranormal currency) for $5.  I spent 37xp publishing my first movie, so it was pretty cheap.

You begin by choosing your actors and set, and then you just start typing. It took a few minutes to figure out how to use all of the directing icons, but once you get the hang of it it's really very simple.  Strangely, dialogue that normally wouldn't be that funny is hilarious when it's delivered in a flat, monotone, robotic voice.  Particularly swearing.

Without any further ado, I present my first ever film!

This was a lot of fun to make, and I'm sure I will be making more.  I encourage all of you to give it a try, and if you do, please share your movies! I would love to see them.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Food. Glorious Food.

My first experience with baby food was in a dog obedience class when I was about 7 months pregnant. Our doggie decided he didn't like the training treats we were offering. The instructor suggested we try chicken baby food, so we went and bought some. Wow. No wonder the dog loves this stuff. It smells just like dog food. I can't believe babies will eat this stuff! I kind of gagged every time I opened a jar. I was immediately turned off of baby food. So, when it came time to start my little dude on solids I was already prepared to make my own baby food. I love cooking, so I was looking forward to making baby food. I did some research and luckily found that making baby food is incredibly easy, and inexpensive.

The Basics

Here is what you need to make baby food:

A food steamer, or something else to steam food in.  (I have a nice Black and Decker food steamer that I love, but you can do it on the stove just as easily) 
A blender or food processor. (I use a simple immersion blender.  Super convenient.)

That's pretty much it.

It is incredibly easy. I'll give you an example.

Carrot Baby Food

Steam about a pound of cleaned, peeled carrots until they are fork tender or "mushy". Let them cool slightly then purée, adding a little water as needed.

That's it! Baby Food!

You can prepare just about any kind of baby food this way. Even meats, though baking chicken just seems more natural to me than steaming it.

Now, think of how much money you can save doing this. Not only because you aren't paying for the packaging, but most baby food has added water and I would rather not pay for that. Plus, you can use foods from your own garden, the farmer's market or choose the best organic stuff out there. And you always know exactly what your little person is eating.

Last weekend I spent about 2 hours and $30 making baby food. Here are the results:

My freezer stocked with mangoes, peaches, broccoli, carrots, chicken, sweet potatoes, blueberries, avocado, peas, bananas, zucchini, apples, green beans and beets.

This will last my little dude for weeks.

Here's what I did:

I started the oven and baked a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I also threw a sweet potato in there. Meanwhile, I cleaned and peeled the beets and put them in the steamer. I bought a small bag of baby carrots so I didn't have to bother peeling them. I threw the carrots in the steamer as well as a peeled, sliced zucchini. I also steamed some apples (peeled) and peaches. I just used a bag of frozen peaches. I had a bag of frozen blueberries as well as frozen mangoes. I stewed each of these by putting them in a small sauce pan with about 1/4 cup water. Just let them simmer until they were soft, then purée.

While all of this was going on I put a steam cook bag of peas in the microwave. I also used the steam cook bags of green beans and broccoli. Again, cook them, let them cool and then purée, adding a little water as needed. (For the chicken, I used the pan juices instead of water) Lastly, I pureed a few bananas and an avocado; no need to steam these. I poured the purees in ice cube trays. Once they were frozen I put the cubes in labeled freezer bags. Now, when it's meal time, I just thaw a few cubes for my little dude.

If you want more info on making your own baby food, more recipes, or you want more info about what foods to give your baby and when, you have to check out Wholesome Baby They have all of the info you could ever possibly need for feeding your baby solids.

By the way...I am now making my dog's training treats too. He seems to like the homemade chicken baby food even better than the canned stuff, and I don't gag when I give him his treats anymore.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

30 Day Challenge: The Kiss

Every month I challenge myself (and all of you) to try something new for 30 days.  30 days is long enough to establish a habit.  It's also long enough to make a real change in your own life, and in the lives of those around you.

This month's challenge is:  The Kiss

There is a line from an old K.T. Oslin song that says, "Don't kiss me like we're married, kiss me like we're lovers."  That is the goal of this challenge.  I want you to kiss your significant other passionately every day.  I know this seems like a simple thing, but when is the last time you really kissed your husband or wife?  I'm not talking that quick kiss when they get home from work as you hand off the baby, or that little peck when you tell them good night.  I'm talking a deep, passionate, "grab-their-hair" kind of kiss.  A "steam-up-the-windows-in-the-back-of-the-Camaro-while-listening-to-a-power-ballad-mix-tape" kind of kiss.  The kind of kiss that your kids see and say, "ewwwwww...gross!"

Tell your significant other about the challenge, or don't.  Either way, I want to hear what kind of response you get.  Check back in with me at the end of the month and share your experiences.  I want to know how a month of passionate kisses changes your life!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


 The Cloth Diaper Whisperer is giving away:

1-Econobum Trial Pak (1 one size cover and 3 prefolds)
1-bumGenius Traveler Wet Bag

Head on over to The Cloth Diaper Whisperer to enter!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Product Review: ERGObaby Performance

Babies are so easy to carry around before they are born. Really, you don't even need to think about it. They just hang out in your belly, kicked back and relaxing and enjoying the ride. You don't even need to hold them, so your hands are free to do other stuff, like rubbing your aching back, or re-tiling your bathroom.

Things don't get tricky until after the baby arrives. For most babies born in the U.S., their first outing involves them being strapped into a car seat for the ride home. For some reason, people decided that their car seats were too good to just use in the car. Soon the old "baby bucket" started being used all the time by parents who were transporting their child from place to place. Just think about how often you see someone lugging one of these around with a slightly bewildered baby inside.

I'll admit, for the first few weeks we carried our little guy around this way. It was so easy to just strap him in from the comfort of his room, carry him (in the bucket) to the car and then pull out the bucket and carry it with us when we had to run errands. It was even a decent place for the little guy to nap.

Here is why this only worked for a couple of weeks:

In our quest to find the safest car seat available we also ended up with the heaviest car seat on the market. Even with a 7 pound baby in it, it got pretty heavy. Not to mention that I'm fairly short, so I wasn't able to just let the car seat hang from one arm at my side. I had to hold it up and out in front of me. This got old pretty fast. Luckily, my husband came along on all of the little outings during the first few weeks. He would usually carry the car seat while I took care of things that required two hands. If we went shopping we got 2 carts; one for our purchases and one to set the car seat in. You may be asking yourself, "Why didn't they just put the car seat on top of the cart? People do that all the time." Several reasons. The first being that our super safe, high tech car seat doesn't fit on the top of a shopping cart, which is fine with me, because (reason #2) it just never seemed like a very safe option. The idea of my fragile, precious little person perched precariously up on top of a cart that could easily be bumped and topple over is terrifying to me.

Now, I would like to touch for a moment on getting stuff done around the house with a newborn.
That little person wants to be held by Mom or Dad. All the time. This makes it extremely difficult to manage small household tasks like laundry, dishes, re-sealing the driveway, etc. Rather than just ignoring all of my household tasks in favor of snuggling a baby,(believe me, it was tempting) I decided I needed to find a hands-free baby-holding solution.

After a bit of research I decided on a sling. It seemed like such a great idea. Simple, portable, inexpensive and effective. Let's just say that the sling was not the right option for us. I practiced a few times with a Teddy bear to make sure I knew what I was doing. I watched the video, I read the instructions until I was confident in my sling-wearing abilities. Then, finally, I put my 4 week old son in the contraption.
It was awful. He was kind of folded up funny and jammed in there at what appeared to be a relatively uncomfortable angle. He was not happy. I immediately decided to take him out, but he was in there so good and snug that it was a bit hard to remove him. I finally managed to extricate him from the device after a brief moment of panic and some tears, both mine and his. After that I decided that the sling was not the right option for us. I folded it and put it on a shelf and that is where it remains to this day.
(incidentally, this was before the big baby sling recall)

Time to try something new.

Like a lot of you, I have seen "The Hangover". There are several scenes featuring a baby in a Baby Bjorn carrier. This looked like a pretty cool idea to me. And, hey, my husband might even use this kind of carrier!

We went and bought one.

This was a great solution for me. I could put my little dude in the Bjorn comfortably and do all sorts of things. I could do laundry, dishes, name it. This even solved my dilemma regarding shopping. I could finally take the baby shopping with me and not have to bring along my husband or use a second cart. I just took the baby out of the car seat when we got to the store, put him in the Bjorn and off we went. I could go on walks with him in the cold weather and just zip my coat around him and the carrier to keep him warm and snuggly.
The Bjorn worked really well for us until the baby got to be about 18 pounds. Suddenly I was having back pain every time I used the carrier. Often it would get a little tough to breathe with him strapped to my chest. The carrier is only designed for babies up to 26 pounds, so we weren't going to be able to use it a lot longer anyway. It made me a bit sad to think I wouldn't be able to snuggle-carry my little guy around anymore.

Around this time I was reading a forum discussing baby carriers. Someone asked people to chime in on which carrier they liked and why. A lot of people were raving about a baby carrier called the ERGO. I didn't see one comment about the Bjorn, and since I was so happy with mine, I decided to comment. In a matter of minutes there were several replies by people telling me that the Bjorn has been shown to be bad for a baby's spine.
What? Really? How come I wasn't aware of this? I never saw any warnings or read anything about it. I did some research and apparently there are a few studies that suggest that the way a baby's weight is distributed in a Baby Bjorn can be hard on their spine. I felt terrible. Here I was risking injury to my little dude without even realizing it. I decided that it was a good thing that he was getting too big for it anyway. I also decided to look into this ERGO carrier that everyone was saying such great things about. I went to their website and checked out what they had to offer. ERGO makes several different types of baby carriers, in a lot of great colors. Customer reviews for the products are incredible. People just LOVE these things. I did some research and decided to order the ERGObaby Performance.

Now I understand what everyone was raving about! This thing is fantastic! I was so excited when it arrived in the mail. I read the manual, adjusted the straps and put it on. (By the way, the design of the straps is great. There is an elastic band attached to them to keep the excess length from flapping around. Simple, but so nice). I put my 8 month old in the ERGO and immediately thought, "This feels so much better!" The weight is distributed across your hips instead of your back. Because of this, you can more comfortably carry your kiddo for longer periods of time. Not to mention I don't ever have problems catching my breath since there is no pressure through my chest.

Unlike the Bjorn, which has a more rigid frame, the ERGObaby Performance has a soft frame. This allows my guy to move around a little more. He has more wiggle-room and as a result seems a lot more comfortable. Speaking of comfort, the ERGObaby Performance is made from lightweight, breathable fabric. No more sweaty belly and sweaty baby on those hot days. I can comfortably carry him in this carrier for hours, and he really seems to enjoy it too. The ERGObaby Performance also can be used on babies up to 45 pounds. This means that you will be able to use it nearly twice as long as a Baby Bjorn.

I never see other people using baby carriers where I live and as a result people tend to comment and ask about the baby carrier all the time. Everyone comments on how happy, comfy and cute my little dude looks in his ERGO. I wouldn't be surprised if more people started using them around here. Another plus: this thing weighs next to nothing and can be folded up into a pretty small package. As a result, it's really easy to just pack into your diaper bag. This is so much easier than folding up a big stroller and stuffing that into the trunk of your car. Speaking of strollers, we do have a very nice one that we use on occasion, but usually I carry him. I feel that babies prefer to be held so they feel like they are part of what's going on. Also, you burn more calories carrying a baby than pushing a stroller :)

Last, but not least, I can carry him in front, on my hip or on my back, just (as my brother-in-law commented) "like Luke sporting Yoda through the swamps of Dagobah." Surely this should render the ERGObaby Performance cool enough for my husband to use as well.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Splits Personality

When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a Solid Gold Dancer. These women were so awesome! The costumes! The legs! The hair! The flexibility! Every week I would turn on the TV, move the coffee table out of the way and dance along with the show. I usually could follow their moves fairly successfully, with one notable exception: The splits. I was always in awe of how these women could effortlessly slide down to the floor in the splits; as easily as we mere mortals bend our knee. I was determined to do the splits as well.

Like a lot of young girls, I took dance lessons. Ballet, Jazz and the ubiquitous, and pointless, Tap Dancing. After years of dancing and stretching I still couldn't do the splits. The closest I could come was the white-guy-air-guitar-move where it looks like you are going to do the splits, but your back leg is still bent behind you. I was frustrated. Even David Lee Roth could do the splits better than I could.

Life moved on and I abandoned my quest to do the splits.


I was in a strip club one evening and this incredibly flexible girl took the stage. (Talon, you know who you are) She did things with her legs that most women, not to mention their husbands, only dream of. I caught up with her after her set and commented on her flexibility. She confided that when she started dancing she couldn't even touch her toes. I was inspired. I could already touch my toes! I had a leg up, so to speak. My quest to do the splits resumed.

I worked on my flexibility and stretched nearly every day. Within a few months I was incredibly close to doing the splits. Almost all the way down, I was just a couple inches from the floor. Granted, I had to ease myself carefully into that position. It was nothing like the fluid grace with which the Solid Gold Dancers slid to the floor. However, I was getting close.

And then, one night, it happened! The combination of a bit too much Scotch, stripper shoes, a very slippery floor and my sophomoric need to show off my near-splits talent led me to actually doing the full splits! And none of this "easing down into it" crap. Nope, just Bam! down to the floor. It was so satisfying, and exhilarating.

And painful.

A few months later, after my hamstring healed, I decided that doing the splits was overrated and I didn't feel the need to do them again.

In my quest to get back in shape after my son was born, I realized that I had lost quite a bit of my flexibility. It didn't take long for me to once again start dreaming of doing the splits. Plus, my husband thought it would be kind of cool if I could get my ankles behind my head. So, I started working on my flexibility once again.

This time I have a lot more knowledge of anatomy and physiology, so I am better prepared to do things the right way. I have a plan. The secret to doing the splits is increasing the flexibility in your hip flexors and hamstrings. You also want to make sure you don't have any tightness in your quads or your glutes. I have a few basic stretches that I am doing every day. Each stretch is held for 30 seconds. Be sure not to force anything, and don't bounce. Just hold the stretch and breathe. The most obvious stretches are simple hamstrings stretches (touching your toes is an example) and hip flexor stretches(deep lunges are an example of this) but there are other stretches as well.

There are tons of sites out there giving you advice on how to do the splits. Just Google "how to do the splits" and you'll see what I mean. Some are very simple, others are really in depth. If you want simple, I recommend this site.

If you are looking for something a bit more in depth I recommend this site. This one is close to the protocol I am using. YouTube is also a good source of tutorials on how to do the splits.

Already I am noticing a lot more flexibility, and as a nice bonus I have eliminated a lot of pain in my knee and lower back. I can't quite do the splits yet, but I will post a follow up when I can. And then, Marilyn McCoo, here I come!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I decided to mow my lawn today. 
I've only been putting it off for about 2 weeks.  It's not that I don't like mowing the lawn; it's actually kind of fun.  Besides, it's a small yard, so once I scoop the doggie poop it goes pretty quickly.  The reason I've been putting it off is pretty simple:  Mosquitoes.

I live in Wisconsin, so I'm used to dealing with the little blood suckers, but this year they have been pretty nasty.  It's been hot and rained quite a bit this Spring and Summer so the little critters are out in full force.

When I was a kid I remember being hosed down with Deep Woods Off on camping trips or any outdoor adventures during the summer.  Deep Woods Off is DEET based and I guess it is pretty effective, but I choose not to use those chemicals for my family.  I like to go the natural route. I am generally pretty anti-chemical, and DEET is one that I try to avoid.

What is DEET?  Well, according to Wikipedia, it is N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide.  It's a very effective insect repellent, particularly against mosquitoes and ticks, but it also has some nasty side effects.  There have been some reports of seizures and even death due to DEET toxicity.  Excessive DEET exposure has been reported to cause insomnia, mood disturbances and impaired cognitive function. It may cause skin irritation and you shouldn't apply it directly to the skin but rather over your clothes. However, it may dissolve some synthetic materials as well as plastic and leather, so be careful.  There is a lot of other info about DEET out there, so go do a bit of research if you are interested in learning more.  Let's just say I don't want to use it and leave it at that.

So, what do I use to keep the nasty biting things away from my family?  Well, I have used a lot of natural bug repellents over the years.  Generally they tend to use the same basic ingredients.  There are several Essential Oils that are pretty effective at keeping mosquitoes away and most natural bug repellents use a combination of them.  Citronella is probably the most well known natural mosquito repellent.  It has a sharp, lemony smell and if you don't like it then you probably won't do well with most natural bug sprays.  I happen to like the smell of Citronella.  It's a nice clean scent.  Other effective oils against mosquitoes are Lemongrass, Thyme, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Clove, Cedar, Peppermint, Geranium and Rosemary.  For the record:  if you do get bitten by mosquitoes, a drop of Lavender helps to relieve the itching and swelling.

The question is: How effective are the natural bug repellents?  
Pretty effective, but not long-lasting.  Virtually all insect repellents work by either masking your scent or by using a scent that insects tend to avoid.  In the case of Essential Oil based repellents this effect only lasts for 30-60 minutes, on average.  This is because the oils are volatile and evaporate pretty quickly.  The biggest drawback is that you have to re-apply them fairly often.  By contrast,  DEET can last up to 12 hours, depending on the concentration, but it needs to be washed off when you no longer need it in order to get rid of all the chemicals.  That means no cuddling with your baby or snuggling with your puppy until he's had a bath. With the Essential Oils you can snuggle away to your heart's content, and let's face it, no one wants to have to give their kids or their dogs extra baths.  Given the option, I choose to have a chemical- and pesticide-free family that smells nice and is snuggable and just apply their bug spray more often.

Here's some common sense advice:

  • Even natural products can cause reactions.  Always do a patch test prior to using anything new on your skin.

  • Avoid using essential oils near your eyes, nose or mouth.

  • Avoid using essential oils on young children's hands because they will put them in their mouth.

  • Ask your pediatrician about using natural insect repellents on babies.  Generally they will recommend waiting until your baby is 6 months old.

    • Remember that animals have noses that are much more sensitive than you.  If you choose to use essential oil-based products on them, please dilute them first.  

      If you do find that you need some kind of insect repellent on your infant and they are under 6 months old, use Lavender Essential Oil.  It is generally regarded as safe to use on infants under 6 months of age.  Again, I would recommend a patch test first as well as diluting the oil and checking with your pediatrician just to be sure.  You can never be too careful.

      Usually I make my own insect repellent, but there are some great ones on the market that are wonderful and effective.  Here are a few of my favorites:

      California Baby Bug Repellent Spray 

      Burt's Bees Herbal Insect Repellent

      These are both very effective, natural, DEET-free and great smelling. 

       So, off I go to mow my lawn.  My doggie and I have both been spritzed with our all natural bug spray and we are ready to tackle the skeeters and get in some quality snuggling time afterward.

      Wednesday, June 30, 2010

      Über n00b

      My son is a Geek.
      I mean that in a good way.

      It's an hereditary condition. His parents are both Geeks.  His paternal grandfather is a Geek.  It was bound to be passed on.

      I met my husband, Rick, online.  Usually when I tell people that the response is, "Oh, Match dot com? EHarmony? Some other dating site?".


      Neverwinter Nights.

      That's right, we met playing a MMORPG.  (If you don't know what that is you are not a Geek and will probably be lost throughout the entirety of this post.)  We were both Dungeon Masters on a world called Amon.  He had a hot avatar and I appear quite witty in game chat.

      We hit it off immediately.

      We eventually met IRL and the rest is history.  Eventually we moved on to a little game called World of Warcraft.  Some of you may have heard of it.  I realized that our relationship was going to last when Rick moved his computer to my apartment.  Now we could raid Molten Core side by side.  My druid kept his rogue alive through all the boss fights.  He backstabbed any trash mobs that tried to squash me.  It was so romantic!

      4 years later we were married and I was pregnant.  (Despite popular belief, my son was not conceived during server maintenance.) Throughout my pregnancy I continued to play WoW.  Our guild was progressing nicely, we had regularly scheduled raids and we had a great group of friends that we played with.  We spent most evenings on Ventrilo chatting with our guildies as we raided Naxxramas, Ulduar and ToC.  It was all very social and a hell of a lot of fun.  The baby seemed particularly fond of Naxx.  He usually got very active and squirmy and kicked my bladder a lot when we did Heigan the Unclean and The Four Horsemen.  I can't imagine how annoying it was to the rest of our party when I had to take a bio after practically every pull.

      Good times.

      My husband and I debated whether it was in bad form to take the laptop to the hospital so he could do dailies while I was in labor.  I was all for it; labor can be a very long, boring time for the dad, but in the end he decided against it. We did, of course, have the iPhones at the hospital so keeping friends and family updated on the "babby" status was easy.  As soon as Tripp entered the world phone calls were made to immediate family.  Close friends received text messages (it was 2 in the morning, we didn't want to call). We took pictures and instantly emailed them to everyone and posted them to Facebook.

      A few weeks after my son was born I realized that it would probably be a while before I had time to devote to WoW, so I eventually canceled my account.  Not so for my husband.  In the first few weeks of being parents we settled into that crazy non-schedule schedule of caring for a newborn.  It seemed I was constantly either feeding the baby, changing the baby, comforting the baby or trying to get a little sleep in.  Since I was breastfeeding there was very little for my husband to do.  He played a lot of WoW.  But, he also was great at soothing the baby when he was fussy.  How did he do it?  He held the baby on his lap while he played WoW.  (I highly recommend a Boppy if you are going to try this.  It makes it a lot easier.) Tripp seemed mesmerized by the colors and movement on the computer screen.  Even at his most fussy he would calm down immediately.  He would sleep for hours like this.  When he did wake up he would look around, watch Daddy PWNing some n00b and then contentedly fall back to sleep. This was quality bonding time.

      Fast forward about 3 months.

      Perhaps some of you remember the hype around Easter when the new iPad was released.  For months it seemed just about the only thing my Geek friends talked about.  Being fairly Geeky myself, I was intrigued, but not convinced that we needed this new technology.  After all, I have an iPhone, I have a desktop, I have a laptop...why would I need an iPad?  What purpose would an oversized iPhone-without-a-phone serve? Everyone was in the pre-order craze.  People were following every move Steve Jobs made,  reading blogs, following techie news sources and salivating at any mention of the iPad.  I still remained skeptical.

      I mentioned earlier that Tripp's paternal Grandpa is also a Geek. He was one of the people who pre-ordered an iPad.  (Believe it or not, my husband was not a pre-orderer.  He wasn't convinced we needed one either.) We were visiting Rick's parents on Easter and happened to be there when UPS delivered his Dad's new toy.  I thought it seemed pretty cool, but still just a large iPhone without the phone part. Sure, it was easier to read web pages on the larger screen, and the games looked great, but you can't put it in your pocket, and it doesn't even have a camera.  What's the point?

      Everyone had a turn playing with the iPad.  Even Great Grandma was playing Solitaire on it.  Of course,  Grandpa had to show the new toy to his first grandson.  Tripp was mesmerized.  Here were all of the lights and sounds of his dad's computer, but in a more accessible package! All he had to do was reach out his chubby little fingers and touch the screen and look at what happened!  He could turn pages in digital books!  He could draw on virtual chalkboards!  He could play a virtual piano!

      He had to have one.

      So, a few weeks later Tripp, our 4 month old son, got his very own iPad.

      Of course he isn't spoiled. This is a learning aid.

      Tripp has his own games on the iPad.  He loves Smiles, Learning Pad, Chalkboard and Air Hockey, but by far his favorite is Magic Piano.  Ironic note- this video requires FLASH so you can't watch it on your iPad. Who knew that my little dude was a piano virtuoso?  He's never even had one lesson.  Clearly he's a natural.

      Now, in the months that we have had the iPad Tripp has allowed me to use it as well.  I have to say, I am an iPad convert.  I love this thing!  I can't live without it! I really think that every new mom should have one.  I wish I could have had one when Tripp was a newborn.  All of those middle of the night feedings would have been much more bearable with an iPad at my side.  With a baby on one arm and an iPad in my other hand I could have easily kept myself awake and occupied by checking my email, playing a game or even watching an episode of Firefly on Netflix (yeah, yet another plus to owning an iPad:  Streaming video from Netflix looks incredible!) I know these are things you can do with a laptop, but seriously, this is much easier.  Not only is the iPad super lightweight and conveniently sized, it also has an incredible battery life. It took me a little while to get used to the touch screen, but now I love it.  I actually have accidentally tried to touch the screen on my laptop several times now.  You laugh, but you'll do it too.

      When I'm home with Tripp the iPad is never far from my side.  As I mentioned earlier, I can nurse the baby while I check my email- unless he realizes I have his toy and he tries to reclaim it.  Besides keeping up with all of my cloth diaper blogs and Facebook, it's great for recipes.  When I'm making dinner of baking cookies I just have the FoodNetwork website up on the iPad and bring it into the kitchen with me.  If I accidentally get a little spaghetti sauce on the screen (not that it has ever happened, in case Rick is reading this) it just wipes right off.  Try doing that with your fancy Logitech G15 gaming keyboard.  You're never getting that Prego out from between your "Alt" and "Z" keys.

      The iPad has a nice reader called iBooks.  If you need to read the latest Terry Brooks novel you don't have to run to Borders, you can just download it and read it on the iPad.  Of course, you can also read children's books with it.  Tripp likes to help turn the pages. I also like to have it handy when we are watching a movie and you have to know what other movie you have seen that actor in.  IMDB is just a couple of taps away.  I also tend to use Shazam quite a bit.  If you haven't ever used this app, you must get it.  Let's say you hear a song on the radio and you have to buy it but don't know what it is.  Shazam will "listen" to several seconds of a song and then report back who the artist is, what the song is and what album it is off of.  It's an amazing thing!  Rick and I have tried to stump Shazam on several occasions with bizarre or obscure songs and it always knows what they are.  Incredible.

      My iPad even fits in the diaper bag!  So if Tripp and I are out and about and he gets fussy I can just entertain him (and impress strangers) with his Magic Piano expertise.  Or I can read him a story without having to actually carry a bunch of books with me.

      I recently got the new iPhone 4 for my birthday.  Another incredible toy but Tripp can't be trusted with phones, so he doesn't get to play with this one.  The screen resolution is fantastic on this new phone.  The camera is better quality and has a flash and it takes really nice video.  All necessary when you want to post tons of photos and videos of your future concert pianist on Facebook for your friends and family who don't live in the state.  It also has a video phone feature called Face Time that I haven't tried yet since none of my "phone friends" have an iPhone 4 yet- not even Rick because he is waiting to get a white phone.  So, for now, I am slightly more geeky than he is.

      Now that Tripp is a bit older and sleeping through the night I am thinking about going back to playing WoW.  After all, there is an expansion coming out soon and I miss the long discussions with Rick about talent trees and 1337 DPS.  I'm not sure if I want to give up any of my much-loved sleep in order to get back on a raiding schedule, but I do miss playing with my gamer friends. We have even joked about setting up a WoW account for Tripp.  Yeah, he's only 6 months old, but surely he could successfully level a hunter.  Go n00b!

      Tuesday, June 22, 2010

      Cloth Diapers: What The Heck Am I Doing?

      My son was born when I was 36 years old. Believe it or not, after all of those years, 5 nieces and nephews and numerous babysitting jobs over the years I had never changed a diaper. Actually, the first diaper I ever changed was the dreaded meconium diaper in the hospital when my son was a new baby (my hospital used cloth diapers). It's safe to say that I went into motherhood (and the part-time job that is diapering a baby) with no clue about diapers.

      I know that my mom used cloth diapers on my brother and me, but I don't know if that had any bearing on my decision to use cloth either. After all, Mom told me that her mother in law couldn't believe that she would choose to use cloth diapers when the new disposable ones were available. I don't think her decision was based on any great concern for the environment. My mom says she couldn't afford to buy diapers just to throw them away. I can see that reasoning.

      When I found out I was pregnant I knew that I would be using cloth diapers. It didn't even require any thought. I was going to use cloth and my poor husband (who had never changed a diaper either) was going to be dragged along for the ride.

      I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.

      Now, I consider myself a fairly "green" person. I try to be environmentally responsible, I recycle, I drive a hybrid; but I am not perfect. I still use plastic grocery bags and I don't always buy recycled. Why? Well, I re-use those shopping bags and I prefer the really soft toilet paper. I'll admit, sometimes convenience wins out over environmental responsibility. So why would I choose to go the route of washing and folding cloth diapers instead of just tossing paper ones in the garbage?

      As I mentioned earlier, I had never changed a diaper before. I knew nothing about them, but it seemed to me that if there was a more environmentally responsible option available, and a chance to save some money, then why not go that route? So, I decided to add cloth diapers to my baby registry.

      Again, I had no idea what I was getting into. has a nice online baby registry. As does Babies'R'Us. I had no idea what I needed. I went to the registry and entered "Cloth Diapers". What came back was a page of Gerber prefolds, Gerber flatfolds, Kushies diaper wraps, Bumkins all in ones and inserts and a lot of other things that left me completely in the dark. I just needed cloth diapers. Don't you just get diapers, rubber pants and some pins? How did this get so confusing?

      I decided to ask a friend. One of my friends was a mom-to-be and was planning on using cloth diapers. She was registered at a local baby boutique called Happy Bambino. I decided to go to their online registry and see what I could find out about cloth diapers. (Yes, I could have asked her some important cloth diapering questions, but I really thought that this was something simple enough that I could figure out on my own. I didn't want to be embarrassed by my lack of knowledge on what should be such a simple subject as putting a diaper on a baby!).

      Happy Bambino has a nice online registry as well. I went to their site and clicked on "Diapers". Prefolds, inserts, pockets, liners, all in ones...still all Greek to me. However, they also offered Diaper Packages! Everything you need to get started in one convenient package! Finally, everything I need without admitting I knew nothing about wrapping a baby's butt! All for the low price of $600!



      I thought cloth was supposed to be a money saving option. This was a lot of money to spend, and I really had no idea what I was even getting. Prefolds, Proraps, Bummis, Snappis, Stuffers...what the heck is all this stuff?
      I was just as lost as ever.

      But then, salvation.

      When I was about 6 months pregnant I saw an article about a new diaper store opening in Madison. It was called Nicki's Diapers. Of course I had to check it out. I went to their website.

      This is what I had been looking for! At first it seemed just as overwhelming as everything else but Nicki's had something else: descriptions of what all of the different kinds of diapers were and how they were used. Prefolds, Pockets, AIOs, Fitted, One Size, Inserts, Doublers, Liners, Snappis, Minkies! All the info I needed was RIGHT THERE! I bookmarked the site. I read everything I could. I watched tutorials on how to fold diapers. I started a registry and chose one of everything! Thirsties, Prorap, Bumkins, Happy Heinys, FuzziBunz. The colors! The prints! Cloth wipes! Special Diaper Detergent! Wet/Dry Bags!

      OK, so, I went a little crazy.

      In reality, I didn't need all of the items that I registered for. In the next few weeks I probably re-did my registry 20 times as I learned more and more about cloth diapering a newborn. In the end I settled on one of Nicki's Newborn Package Deals. It ended up being exactly what I needed. Nicki's put together a nice mix of prefolds, covers and all in ones. It was perfect for someone new to cloth diapering who wasn't really sure what she needed. I won't even get into all the research I did just on folding prefolds: angel wings, jelly roll, bikini twist, newspaper fold...

      My little guy is 6 months old now and I am proud to say he has only gone through 2 small packages of disposable diapers. Mostly these were used when we were on vacation, but a few were used for trips to the gym childcare and the rest by my husband. The reason? Well, there are a couple. When traveling it's just a lot more convenient for us to use disposables than it is to worry about diaper laundry. Particularly if we are gone for several days. Also, until recently I have mostly used prefolds with covers. I love them, but it's a little more work for my husband to fold and cover than it is to just throw on a disposable. I have now expanded my Fluff Stash to include some All in Ones (AIOs) and Pockets and it's a lot easier for my hubby. I also put the little dude in an AIO when I take him to the childcare at the gym. So far they haven't needed to change him, since he's usually only there an hour or 2, but I want it to be simple in the event he needs a fresh nappy at the gym.

      Cloth diapers are not only easy and environmentally responsible, they are FUN! Ask any modern day cloth diapering momma and you will hear about how addictive cloth diapers are. Which is also the drawback.
      Any time you read about the benefits of cloth diapers you will see the statistics stating how much money you will save over disposables. This is only partly true. Why? Because they are SO DAMNED CUTE!!! It's nearly impossible to keep yourself from buying tons of diapers to go with all of your baby's outfits, or just because you couldn't resist the diaper with the Space Invaders print.

      When I started out with my Chinese prefolds and solid color Thirsties covers I was all geared up to save money. After all, I just needed a couple dozen prefolds (cheap) and half a dozen pul (polyurethane laminated fabric) covers. These would get me through a few months and then I would buy then next largest size. The smaller ones go into storage for the next baby to use. So we were looking at only having to spend money on diapers every 3 months. Maybe $50 for some covers and another $50 for some new prefolds. No problem. Think of the savings!

      And then, out of nowhere, I was blindsided by the infinite cuteness that is the Blueberry Coveralls Cow Print Diaper Cover.

      It seemed innocent enough. Tripp was outgrowing his diaper covers and I needed the next size up. I also needed to get some AIOs and Pockets for the above reasons. I went back online and started looking for new diapers and planned a shopping trip to Nicki's. I am always looking to try new things, and I hadn't tried the Blueberry Coveralls yet. I clicked on the link and saw the cow print cover. I had to have it! So Cute! My little dude would look so awesome in that! I mean, we live in Wisconsin, he has to have a cow print diaper, right?

      Well, it turns out that THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF CUTE PRINT DIAPERS OUT THERE!!! Cows, hearts, guitars, trains, skulls, camo, flowers, plaid, animals (giraffes!), name it, someone puts it on a diaper. And don't even get me started on Minkies!

      Soon I was completely obsessed. I spent hours on my beloved iPad surfing online diaper shops and bookmarking the good sites so I could go back and buy some new, super cute diapers as soon as I had a little extra cash. Side note: iPads are awesome for new moms. Get one!

      I have found a lot of great sites and tons of awesome new diapers. (Most of them I haven't had a chance to try yet, but when I do I will post reviews here. ) Diapers for every occasion. Diapers in every style and color imaginable, to match any outfit or to just look awesome by themselves. Who cares if most people will never see them, right?

      So, that is the drawback of cloth diapers. Yes, they can be a very inexpensive, frugal way to diaper your baby. Unless you decide you need to "feed your stash" every other week with a dozen or so new, cute diapers. Some can cost up to $35, so it can be very pricey. I'm doing OK though. I have a diaper budget and I'm limiting myself to only buying a couple new diapers a month. I am, however, entering every online diaper giveaway contest I find (there are tons out there) so I can try some new stuff too.

      6 months into The Great Cloth Diapering Adventure I have become cloth savvy. I know the lingo, I know the folds, I know the tricks, thanks to some great online resources and a bit of trial and error. I'm feeling good about my choice to use cloth not just because of the environmental impact, but also because Tripp never has diaper rash. Plus, believe it or not, I think cloth diapering is fun. Are we saving any money by using cloth? Well, maybe not as much as we would be if I could stick to the basics and not have to have every cute diaper out there, but at least these diapers will be re-used by any future babies. There are also great places like DiaperSwappers where you can sell your gently used cloth diapers.

      I've come a long way from the uninformed, naive mom-to-be who thought it would be neat to use cloth diapers that I was a year ago. I've learned a lot and despite all of the infinitely cute, hi tech or just neat diapers I have found so far, I still prefer my old standby of a good, DSQ Chinese prefold in a Thirsties cover; double angel wing fold with jelly roll and a Snappi.

      If you want to learn more about cloth diapering, both Nicki's Diapers and Happy Bambino offer classes in cloth diapering which, of course, I never took.