Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Baby class 1: Baby-ready dogs

I recently alluded to the fact that we've been busy taking some classes to get ready for Baby Awesomerod's arrival. Specifically, we've attended a baby-ready pet class, a newborn care class, and this weekend we'll be attending our childbirth class extravaganza. So, as a service to you, but also as a way for me to keep all the information straight, I thought I would share with you the highlights, Cliffs-Notes style (or Spark-Notes style, if you were born after 1990).

We found out about this free pet class through our friend Mimi who was one trimester ahead of me and therefore a great source of information. We attended the class offered for free through the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, which offers one two-hour class per month. The group's intention is to provide the services soon-to-be parents can use in advance to help reduce the number of animals brought to shelters as a result of the birth or adoption of a baby. If you're local, I can recommend this class as a reassuring way to spend two hours of your life while picking up a few hints along the way. If you're not local, check to see if you local shelters, rescues or ASPCAs offer similar services.

Going into this class, I had two main apprehensions surrounding our dogs and babies:

1) Maxwell is perfectly comfortable around people of all sizes...except babies. Of course, his actual interactions with babies have been fairly limited, seeing as we're not going to approach a random baby on the street with our 85-pound dog, nor have there been a lot of babies in our home. Specifically, I've watched Maxwell's baby interactions through his responses to my little niece, and that has only occurred twice. Overall I would say he was too interested in her when she visited, to the point that he almost seemed obsessive.

2) Doc barks (in a really annoying way) if he is not fed the second we arrive home from work, regardless of the actual time. I can barely keep it together when I hear his incredible bark right now, and I don't have a baby. I am sure that when you add screaming baby and barking dog together I could easily lose my mind.

After our brief introductions among the dozen other yuppie couples in attendance at the November class, the two instructions raised their eyebrows (slightly) at Matt and me and said, "Wow, looks like you two have your work cut out for you." Not exactly reassuring words from the people whose job is to try to keep your dogs out of their shelters.

Fortunately, as the evening continued I did take away many practical points.

Before baby arrives
Have lots of high-value treats on hand -- not your typical kibble -- so that the dogs know you mean business when you practice some of the techniques below.  Cheese or bacon divided into small pieces could also work.

Perhaps the most helpful command you can teach your dogs to master (or the one our dogs especially need the most) is "leave it." This command applies to just about everything -- people, objects, food...most importantly, the future baby. One way to do this is to put a high-value treat in your hand, put your hand close enough to the dog that he could take the treat out of your hand, but keep repeating "leave it" while you open and close your hand. Only give the dog the treat when he is relaxed and not lunging for the treat.

Start playing with any baby toys or baby gear that moves or makes noises. Praise the dogs when they are able to ignore the noises and movement.

Play a CD or Internet clips of crying babies. Gradually increase the amount of time you play these at once as well as the volume, and praise the dogs when they ignore the noises and exhibit calm behaviors. Our class came with a free baby noises CD that we need to start playing for our dogs.

If your dogs are afraid of moving objects, such as bikes, skateboards, strollers, take your dogs on walks with your stroller to help desensitize them to the object and the movement.

Start slowly adjusting your dogs' routines so they do not undergo one large, immediate change when the baby arrives.

Avoid aimlessly petting your dogs when, for example, you're sitting on the sofa. The more they expect to get constant attention, the harder it will be for them to adapt when the baby arrives.

Help your dogs find mental stimulation through activities or toys that provide exercise and lots of entertainment. Our instructors recommended the Kong Wobbler (a kibble dispenser) as one way to change up the feeding routine to help dogs keep themselves busy, stimulated and obtaining rewards.
Do not allow your dogs to go into the baby's room without your permission. It's best to make the room off limits (and I'll admit I have not done this...the dogs enjoy sitting on the floor of the nursery while I'm folding baby clothes or organizing the closet or tackling a little DIY project. Oh well.)

After the baby's birth
Here's one that you've probably heard of even if you're not a pet owner: before you introduce your dogs to your baby, introduce your dogs to an object that contains your baby's scent, such as a hat, a blanket, a onesie. Here's the part that I didn't realize: the dogs should smell the item and receive praise and rewards during this time, but the dogs SHOULD NOT tug on the item or try to lay on it.

Before you return home from the hospital, have a family member or friend take your dogs on a nice long walk to get out their energy. Then when you pull up in the driveway, hand your baby off to that person while you greet your dogs. Then hold your baby while you introduce your dogs to your baby.

Always keep your baby positioned above your dogs so that your dogs know your baby is above them in the hierarchy of the family (sorry Max and Doc! You're about to be demoted.)

One concern I raised during the question and answer portion of the evening is what to do if our dogs try to jump on us while we're seated and holding the baby. One suggestion is to train the dogs to sit at a distance from us -- for example, have the dogs sit on a special bed or pillow placed away from the couch. In an ideal situation, the answer is that I should stand and turn away from the dog (though I could see myself breastfeeding and not being able to stand up and turn away that second). Standing up and turning away is the same way to respond if our dogs jump on guests when they arrive (though I realize it's harder for guests to do this than it is for us to do so).

Speaking of guests, guests should greet the dogs first before greeting the baby so that the dogs do not view the baby as something that only takes away attention. Another good idea is for guests to give the dogs treats when they arrive. I think we'll be keeping some high-value treats downstairs so guests can do this as they walk in the door.

The biggest point the instructors wanted to emphasize that is hopefully obvious to you is this one: never leave your baby alone with your pet.

What else would you recommend doing before or after your baby arrives to help encourage positive interactions between pets and babies?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My ultimate baby to-do list

There are lots of baby to-do lists out there, and you'll get advice from plenty of people (solicited and unsolicited) regarding what exactly you need to do when before having a baby. There's the popular baby to-do list on The Bump, which is quite similar in style to the list you may have gone through on The Knot before you got married, but it's filled with things I felt didn't apply to me. Plus, The Bump's list puts an icon of a crying baby next to any "overdue" items (I kid you not) which has the added benefit of making you feel like an unfit parent long before you've even given birth.

I realize I haven't shared the stories behind some of the items on the checklist below, so this is also a type of preview of some of the posts I've got planned in the coming weeks before the baby's arrival.

So, without further ado, here's my personal list I've been following:

Before getting pregnant

  • Know your work leave policies and aim to plan accordingly. Do you qualify for FMLA? Is there a "better time" to have a baby based on your work situation?
  • Quadruple check your finances. Do you plan to take extended maternity leave? Is this realistic? How will you pay for childcare and other baby expenses?
  • Look closely at your health and lifestyle. Do you need to lose weight, cut down on alcohol/caffeine, eat healthier foods, exercise, get more sleep, address your mental health, etc.?
  • Start taking a prenatal vitamin (or multivitamin with plenty of folic acid) at least three months before trying to conceive. (I've read some news of more recent studies that suggest that taking a prenatal vitamin at least six months before trying to conceive might provide the optimal benefits, but I'm clearly no expert.)
  • Get any blood work you can for genetic screenings, such as cystic fibrosis. See what you could be a carrier for based on your ethnicity.
  • Read some pregnancy books/websites so you get a small sense of what you're in for.
  • If you're using hormonal birth control, consider going off birth control three months before trying to conceive so you can see what's "normal" for your body. Also consider using a free site or app, such as Fertility Friend, to chart your basal body temperature. (These are the two things I did not do in the very beginning that I wish I had.)

First trimester
Honestly, I was so worried about having a miscarriage/in such disbelief about actually being pregnant that I spent most of the first trimester trying to simply eat as much healthy food as I could stomach and hold my breath between doctor's appointments as we waited for the heartbeat, blood work and ultrasounds. But, I did sort of get started with two things:
  • Look into major nursery purchases, such as a crib, dresser/changing table and chair.
  • Start investigating major baby gear purchases by talking to experienced friends and family and picking up a book such as Baby Bargains.
There are also a couple decisions you can make early on:
  • Will you have any genetic testing conducted, such as an NT scan?
  • Will you find out the baby's sex?
  • Will you share your baby's name with anyone, if you decide to choose it before the baby's arrival?

Second trimester
I recommend trying to get as much of the serious physical preparation done as possible during this time. (This was great advice I received from veteran moms, and it worked out perfectly in my case that my second trimester coincided with my summer vacation. Well played, Baby Awesomerod.)

Nursery/baby gear
  • Start a registry! Figure out what store's policies, physical locations, websites, etc. best fit your lifestyle and those of your friends and family.
  • Clean out a space in your home for your future nursery, whether it's an entire room, a part of a room (such as your master bedroom) or even a walk-in closet (looks like lots of people in New York do this). In retrospect, cleaning out our office and reassigning its contents to many other parts of our house took a lot longer than I anticipated (read about it here, here, here and here). In fact, assembling the nursery felt small by comparison.
  • Decide on the look you want in your nursery. Gender neutral? Something super girly or super boy-y? (is there no equivalent of girly for boys?) Will you DIY anything, add items to your registry, etc.?
  • Before you do anything else, paint the nursery, if needed. It's much easier to do it before any furniture or gear arrives. I'm of the personal belief that if you're using low or no-VOC paint in a well-ventilated area, the pregnant lady can assist in the painting, but be prepared to get tired much more easily than you did when you painted your whole house.
  • Order/purchase nursery furniture if you haven't done so. Some cribs are considered special-order items and could take weeks to arrive. Don't forget a crib mattress! It likely does not come with your crib.
  • Get started on any DIY projects you might have up your sleeve. (Ours included making curtains, refinishing the dresser, making the crib skirt, lining the bookcase and dresser drawers...and a couple more I still have up my sleeve.)

Work/finances/legal matters
  • If your maternity leave policy is unclear (as I feel mine is) contact your Human Resources department. I also recommend following up with an email to someone with authority in HR clarifying more complicated questions so you have the responses in writing.
  • Write a will. (I will admit we need to get this finalized.)
  • Get life insurance beyond whatever is offered through your work. (I will also admit we need to do this one still. We should have done this forever ago.)
  • Fill out a medical directive/living will. (Sense a pattern here? I still need to fill this out and give it to my hospital. I think I'm dragging my feet on this one because it's pretty hard to figure out how long you'd like to be kept alive through life support, you know? Big stuff.)
  • Put all account information and passwords in writing. I am the handler of everyday financial matters in our house, while Matt is responsible for taking the lead on big, life-altering decisions (see will and life insurance above). We pay everything online, so, in the event that I'm in the hospital, dead, or simply overwhelmed with early motherhood, I thought I should put all our account login and password info in writing (and literally in writing, not stored electronically for security purposes) so that Matt could have access to everything in one place. My biggest discovery? We have a lot of accounts. Wow, so many logins and passwords to track.

  • Get your flu shot if you're pregnant during flu season! Remember that your partner should also get a flu shot to protect the baby for its first six months of life.
  • Register for childbirth classes or other related classes. We are fortunate that Kaiser Permanente offers several free prenatal classes, but we also registered for a one-day six-hour Childbirth Express class that we'll be attending in early December.
  • Register for a hospital tour.
  • Register for any other special tours/classes/appointments, such as a pet readiness class, if one is offered in your area.
  • Interview/decide on a pediatrician.
  • Interview/decide on a daycare provider, if necessary.
  • If you're having a boy, look into the pros and cons of circumcision and decide on with your partner on which route you'll take.
Mom readiness
  • Buy maternity clothes. Decide on what you truly need and how, if at all, you'd like to extend the life of your non-maternity clothing (through items such as a BeBand or bra extender). In terms of designated maternity clothes, I purchased (or received as gifts) the following that got me through my entire pregnancy: three pairs of work pants (black, gray and khaki), one pair of nice jeans, two pairs of maternity leggings (black and gray), two maternity dresses, one jean skirt (specifically this one from Old Navy that I highly recommend, but remember to order it one or two sizes smaller than your normal size), one nicer skirt, four long-sleeve maternity shirts, eight short-sleeve maternity shirts (tip: scour the sale rack of Target's maternity section as well as Gap Maternity [located inside some Baby Gap stores]). Of course, I wore a lot more than this during pregnancy because I had plenty of non-maternity dresses, tops (of the tunic variety) and cardigans that could work (though I did not have as many of any of these items that wound up working as I had hoped they would pre-pregnancy).

Third trimester
This is the trimester of the nitty-gritty, with lots of items that can't really be accomplished until you've acquired the majority of your baby gear and until you're closer to your due date.

Nursery/baby gear
  • Put finishing touches on nursery decor, including items such as wall art, decals, mobiles, shelving, etc.
  • Keep track of baby gifts. I recommend making a spreadsheet where you also add a column indicating whether you've sent a thank you note.
  • Write all thank you notes for baby gifts.
  • Assemble/test all baby gear to make sure it's in working order.
  • Return/exchange non-functioning items, duplicate gifts, etc.
  • Purchase whatever baby gear essentials you still need for the early days. In our case we needed changing pad covers, some more basic baby clothes (in the newborn and 0-3 month sizes), crib sheets, bottles, baby rectal thermometer, baby nail clippers.
  • Fill out all product safety recall information. Most of this can now be done online through the manufacturers' websites. Keep all baby gear receipts and manuals organized together in your filing system (we've added a Baby folder to our filing system, and it's already bursting at the seams).
  • Purchase the necessary baby health/toiletries to get you started, including newborn diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, saline spray.
  • Wash all baby clothes and baby gear (receiving blankets, swaddlers, burp cloths, bibs, bedding, towels and wash cloths, changing pad covers, blankets).
  • Determine and institute an organizational system for all baby clothes and gear. Purchase containers or storage solutions for closets and dressers.
  • Install your car seat. Then contact your local fire department's non-emergency line and see if you can bring your car by to have the car seat installation inspected. (Many jurisdictions, ours included, have stopped doing this as a routine, organized event, but according to nurses at my doctor's office, the fire department still tells them they're happy to check car seat installation of anyone who comes in because they'd rather help you now than later.)

Work/finances/legal matters
  • If your employer handles initiation of maternity leave through a third-party company, contact them according to the company's policies. In my case, I have to contact Liberty Mutual at least 30 days before my expected due date.
  • Start kick counts at 28 weeks according to your doctor's instructions.
  • Pre-register with your hospital.
  • Prepare a "birth plan."

Mom readiness
  • Buy nursing-friendly clothing, such as pajama tops that button and nursing tanks. Invest in a couple nursing bars when you're pretty close to going into labor so you have a better sense of what size you'll need as your boobs will continue to grow up to and following labor.
  • Buy nursing accessories, such as nipple cream, gel soothies, nursing pads, pumping supplies.
  • Buy postpartum toiletries, such as sanitary pads, Tucks.
  • Schedule any personal maintenance appointments, such as a hair cut.
  • Pack hospital bag.
 Home readiness
  • Check all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Consider minimal baby proofing. In our case this involved putting outlet covers in the nursery (right next to the crib, lest she should be a hyper-advanced newborn) and installing a permanent baby gate where we had a temporary and unsafe baby gate that has served for years as our dog gate (we did not install this new gate for the baby's sake right now but rather for the dogs and for ease of navigating our house with fewer free hands).
  • Stock up on batteries in various sizes to fit all your battery-operated baby gear. Although we're fans of rechargeable batteries, baby gear can require so many batteries that it seemed impractical to wait for batteries to charge when you're dealing with a crying baby.
  • Stock up on household goods such as toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies (especially a mild detergent for cleaning baby clothes and stain removal) and toiletries for mom and dad.
  • Stock up on pantry essentials.
  • Cook and freeze some meals for the early days of parenthood.

  • Make sure pets are up to date on appointments and shots.
  • Get animals groomed, as necessary (we need to get our dogs' nails clipped asap!)
  • Stock up on pet food and medications.
  • Train your animals as much as possible to adjust to having a little one in the house.
  • Have a plan for who will take care of the animals when you go into labor, when you're in the hospital, or even in the early days home from the hospital.
Sentimental items
  • Decide on a baby name if you haven't already. (This, I realize, isn't exactly a sentimental item, but I didn't know where else to put it!)
  • Purchase and begin a baby book, or DIY your own.
  • Prepare a baby's arrival mass email and/or text message list (with all recipients bbc'ed so no one can mistakenly reply all) so you fill in the information and hit send after the little one arrives.
  • Decide on a birth announcement.
  • Make a mailing address list of birth announcement recipients and make labels or address envelopes, if possible.
That's all I've got! What did I forget?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I did it...I organized my socks

Put this on the list of "things that I must accomplish before the baby arrives" not because it really changes my life on any level, but because I have a weird perhaps nesting-type compulsion to get this done. During my Container Store run last weekend I picked up this $7.99 32-compartment drawer organizer. I decided against buying another set of the Real Simple clear organizers I picked up for $4 at Bed Bath and Beyond for my hosiery drawer because I felt like my socks are bulkier and need to be more compartmentalized.

Now, these before and after shots are not really fair because I took the before photo at night and the after photos during the day, so it's sort of like those bad plastic surgery photos where, if the person was only smiling in the original photo, the transformation would not be nearly as significant. Oh well.

Before -- pajamas and socks intermingle in the wild.

After -- even Matt admits that he would like a sock drawer organizer. (He says something along the lines of, "I don't need it, but I wouldn't be upset if you decided to do that for me." This will likely be a maternity leave mini-project.)

This is on my ever-growing list of tiny things that make my life a little easier and give me a little more order over my space on this planet.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Discounted cloth diapers

As you might remember from my baby registry post, one of the items I was most hoping to receive from my registry was cloth diapers. Ask and you shall receive. Several friends gifted me with them at my baby shower, and my friend Katy even demonstrated, much to the intrigue of all present, how these Bum Genius 4.0 diapers work. (People like my mother, who cloth diapered us old-school style, giant diaper pins and all, were especially amazed -- these are not your mom's cloth diapers.)

So, I was really happy when Katy told me the other day about her friend's shop that specializes in cloth diapers and related accessories (in addition to other green-baby products). Right now we have 10 cloth diapers to work with, and I feel like we should at least double that amount so we only have to launder the diapers every other day, as opposed to having the washing machine running non-stop in our house.

The store is called The Cloth Nook, and right now you can get 20% off all orders as well as free shipping. I guess this comes in perfect time, in case you were planning to buy someone you love this highly practical gift for the holidays (but probably the only person in the world who would appreciate such a gesture would be yours truly).

Because I believe the owner is (sadly) closing her store, not all diaper colors and closures are available, but I was able to snag five Bum Genius 4.0 snap closure diapers each at 20% off, and I basically never see these diapers on sale. Now we'll have on hand 15 cloth diapers in a variety of colors (2 clementine, 2 twilight, 1 moonbeam, 1 zinnia, 3 blossom, 3 butternut, 2 sweet, 1 bubble). I still want to get 5 more diapers, the ribbit and the grasshopper ones, because they seem ideal for our daughter's future wardrobe as I am partial to green in all things in general (including Kermit the Frog, whom I am excited to see in his new movie).

Now, back to baking. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Desk organization: Making the most of (new) limited storage

In our attempts to get our house ready for Baby Awesomerod's arrival (in six weeks!) one truth has become increasingly apparent: we have less space. Specifically, at this moment, we have less storage. When one of your bedrooms is taken over by baby stuff and you basically have to figure out how to lose a room in your house without cluttering up the rest of the house, it's time to start getting creative.

You might recall that our desk underwent a major downsizing this summer when we switched from a large, old IKEA desk to a very small but quite functional Target desk. This also means the original desk of four drawers and a large attached filing cabinet area has been narrowed down to a desk of one narrow drawer. I've had to store paper products in the guest room's nightstand, which is fine considering that piece of furniture was completely empty before. I've also abandoned my long-standing cord organization system and reduced it down to the bare essentials inside our new small desk.

Until this weekend, the inside of the new desk looked like this:

Not bad, right? I've taken the items I use most often and kept them within easy reach.

But the new cord/charger system was still getting on my nerves.

And my mismatched mini containers inside the drawer were all different heights, and one in particular kept scraping against the inside of the top of the drawer every time I'd open it.

So over the weekend I took a trip to the happiest place on earth -- aka The Container Store -- and used a gift certificate my fantastic senior students from last year gifted me (thanks again, guys!). Among many other things, mostly for the baby, that I picked up there is this 6-piece acrylic desk organizer that is absolutely perfect for the width and height of my drawer. I had no idea if it would fit or not while I was in the store (I forgot to write down the dimensions in my handy little notebook) but I took a quick estimate and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I'd found perfection. (Fun fact, speaking of my notebook: I was looking inside my notebook at my list of items to pick up and dimensions to keep in mind when a Container Store employee stopped me and said, "Wow, a whole notebook, I am really impressed with your organization!" You know you've made it when a Container Store employee makes that comment.)

Although it's not a major change, having a better cord solution is already making finding my camera accessories a little easier. I'll share more of my Container Store acquisitions soon. All I can say is it's a good thing that store is not particularly convenient to my house.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nursery progress: Art!

I realize I've been absent from the blog for over a week. We've had one intense week, mostly filled with activities that involve getting ready for the baby. It all started last Saturday with my fantastic baby shower thrown by two of my closest and dearest friends, and it's been followed by two different baby-preparation classes as well as lots of baby-gear assembling and baby shopping and baby list-making and baby organizing. More on all that soon. In case you can't tell by the timing of this post, now I'm back to experiencing some of my first and early second trimester trouble sleeping (despite being tired), so I'm going to stay away from complex posting for now. As I collect my thoughts, here's something quick I can share as we put the finishing touches on the nursery.

Long before I got pregnant, I had been starring in Google Reader (for the last two years, apparently) artwork I would like for a potential nursery inspired by different blogs I read. After lots of filtering, I narrowed down my choices to my top three options.

There's this great round-up for reading-related art at Ohdeedoh. I was contemplating a few of them.

Then there's these and these posters with strong messages for strong girls at Switcheroo.
I'm thinking when Baby Awesomerod is older that I'll probably get her a couple of these to inspire some of the qualities I hope she'll possess, like independence and confidence.

But I ultimately went with this print from Sycamore Street Press. I find the text beautiful, the colors ideal for the nursery (and at 11" by 14" the print is the right size for the space I've got), and to top it off I'm a sucker for letterpress, so I hope it's something our little girl will treasure until she's old and gray.

It makes me tear up just reading it, so I hope that in a few short weeks when I'm changing diapers at 3 a.m. I can look up at this print hanging above the changing table and be reminded of the big picture.

There are a couple other works of art we already owned (one from my childhood, one from Matt's family) getting ready for the nursery walls, and once everything is up I'll show you the finished product.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What no one told me to expect (a third round of pregnancy observations)

Here's my third trimester installment of pregnancy observations (click here and here to see my first and second trimester observations.), this time accompanied by some baby/toddler/little kid photos for fun.

Even though I may have read more about pregnancy than the average woman before I got pregnant, most of what I was prepared to expect was fairly obvious. I "knew":

1) I would gain weight. (True: as of today's appointment I've gained 20 {!} pounds at 32 weeks. I'm actually surprised by how much I've gained, seeing as I went through almost half my pregnancy without gaining any weight. It has really picked up, but it's still {thankfully} mostly just noticeable in my stomach. I don't know how much longer that luck will last. I will say that in the past two days no fewer than seven people have asked if I am within a week or two of my due date, and a couple asked if I'm having twins. I'm not offended, mostly amused.)

2) I would have trouble sleeping. (Partly true: I wake up at least once, sometimes twice, every night to pee, but neither baby kicking nor general discomfort so far has kept me from getting a solid eight hours of sleep each night.)

3) I would be more tired than I am normally. (False: I have taken far fewer naps in pregnancy than I took before being pregnant. Perhaps it's because I'm running on adrenaline. Perhaps it's because I was a little down-in-the-dumps about my prospects of getting pregnant while trying to conceive and therefore my tiredness was more psychosomatic. Either way, I marvel at Matt who seems to take more naps now than he did before we conceived.)

First day home from the hospital...how does my mom look so well-rested?

4) I would have nausea, morning sickness, or both. (Partly true: I never had what I'd call true morning sickness, though I did have my period of intense food aversions from weeks 6 to 12.)

5) I would be emotional. (Partly true: I still get weepy when I think about my little girl's future, or when I see a sappy commercial, etc., but I've only had about one totally irrational emotional moment when I got really, really upset about the wrong color of white that a contractor painted on our house as he fixed our bay window after our latest round of HOA inspections. And I got really upset with Matt after I hiked the black diamond at 24 weeks pregnant, but that, my friends, was totally justified.)

Just a wee one, about two months old.

6) My boobs would grow. (True: Fact: And all my girlfriends have admired my new girlfriends.)

7) I would have cravings. (False: Yes, I faced food aversions, but I haven't had true cravings. Sure, I've wanted some blue cheese and some salt and vinegar chips, but I always want those things.)

8) I would be forgetful. (False: I still find the term "pregnancy brain" offensive in the same way that I find men saying that women should not go into politics because of PMS offensive. Of course, you might experience "pregnancy brain," but I will proudly shout out that I have not.)

Someone must have mastered tummy time...

9) I would get really swollen. (Not yet: Jury's still out on this one. I can easily see this happening by the bitter end, but so far, so good.)

10) I would get stretch marks. (Not yet: Chalk this up to being fortunate to have relatively good genes, or gaining weight slowly. Or perhaps next week I'll suddenly be plagued by stretch marks.)

But then there are all those little things that I either read about in passing or never heard about at all that have come true. This is where it gets real. You might accuse me of oversharing here, and that's fine, so if you'd rather not know the nitty-gritty, you should stop here (but the act of reading a blog is in essence an act of voyeurism, so I figure you're along for the ride. After all, what's the point of sharing if you're not honest?)

Here are my two disclaimers:
1) I am sure your pregnancy was/is/will be different from mine, but the following is a collection of what I've found (and other friends have found) surprising. Everyone's different, blah blah blah.

2) Please don't take this list as me complaining. I am still loving being pregnant and feel so lucky to have this chance to be an almost-mom. I really can't wait.

So here's my list of What I Wish Someone Had Told Me to Expect:

1) How little of my wardrobe would actually fit me in late pregnancy. In the two or three years leading up to getting pregnant, whenever I'd buy new clothes somewhere in the back of my mind I'd think, "Could I wear this when I'm pregnant?" We're blessed to be living at a moment in fashion history when styles are basically made for pregnant women. Or so I thought. And then I hit about 26 weeks pregnant. And then even those non-maternity-yet-should-be-pregnancy-friendly items stopped working. Flow-y tops? They don't necessarily work. In fact, in my experience, most of them don't work. If there are any buttons or zippers involved, count it out for me. This has more to do with rib-cage expansion than anything else. So, if you're planning to have a baby in the next year or two and think stocking up on pregnancy-friendly wear is a good plan, you might reconsider, just because by your third trimester you'll have to suck it up and buy some true maternity wear anyways, so what's the point? Show off your hot bod now.

2) How uncomfortable it is to sit for longer periods of time. Most pregnant women are forbidden from flying at 34 weeks or thereabouts. I took my last flight of my pregnancy at 24 weeks, and it was five of the most uncomfortable hours of my life. I could not imagine flying now at 32 weeks. Yikes. I can't even sit still for more than about 30 minutes at a time. I've also developed a case of restless legs syndrome many nights in bed. My body is tired but my legs keep moving.

3) How I would have to sit completely upright. I've now reached the point where everything in my torso is squashed together. I didn't fully understand this phenomenon until the last few weeks. Now if I sit hunched over at all it really feels like my lungs are compressed and I'm losing oxygen. So, being pregnant is now an exercise in improving my posture, which isn't a bad thing, seeing as my posture is less than stellar.

4) How I would lose my breath after talking for too long. I talk constantly as a teacher, but lately I've found that I can't keep going like I used to without taking deep breaths. I am also trying not to waste my breath, which is why I'd rather scowl at those annoying 16-year-olds who insist on making farting noises during class (yes, you read that correctly) rather than spend my energy telling them it's unacceptable. So far scowling is working out fine.

5) How much my skin would itch. Although I have not gotten stretch marks (yet) my skin around my abdomen is clearly being stretched to the max and it will only get worse. On certain days my skin is totally itchy; on other days it's not noticeable at all, so I'm guessing I'm itching the worst during a Baby Awesomerod growth spurt. She's been having a lot recently.

6) How you can develop a hernia during pregnancy. My doctor thought I had a hernia in my upper right thigh. Good news from yesterday's appointment is that I do not appear to have a hernia, just a really uncomfortable vein. Of everything I've experienced so far in pregnancy, aside from my 6-12 week food aversions, I'd say this troublesome vein has given me the most discomfort. It's best at night when my leg has had time to decompress.

7) How much constipation sucks. OK, so TMI, perhaps, but this is one thing I'd heard about that I still found surprising. I've heard some horror stories, and, well, they're for real. Pregnant women are more likely to get constipated because 1) your body is trying to hold onto every last nutrient possible for the baby and 2) everything is compressed in your body. There are ways to combat, this, but in my experience no way to make it go away 100 percent. Among other things, try: 1) drinking lots of water, 2) walking/staying active, 3) stool softeners (add this to the Pregnancy Essentials Shopping List, under the "This is For Real" category), 4) Fiber One bars, 5) fiber supplements. I've done everything but the fiber supplements, but I'll be picking those up soon.

For those of you women who've given birth or you pregnant ladies out there, what has surprised you most?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Simple travel art

Whenever we return from a trip abroad, we always bring back with us some small change (after doing a very good job spending our last equivalent of $5 U.S. on things like chocolate and Gatorade at the airport). So I throw the small foreign change with all our American small change, which I take to Coinstar about twice a year and convert to an Amazon giftcard, inevitably annoyed to realize that I forgot once again not to mix the American and foreign currency when Coinstar gets mad at me.

When we got back from Argentina this summer (I realize I still have not written about that trip -- whoops!) I rounded up all the small foreign change in the house and turned it into this simple art project.
I bought this basic black frame at Michael's. It's not exactly a shadowbox, but it's much deeper than your typical frame. Then I covered the backing in white paper and glued each coin down with craft glue. One or two coins, because of their shape and size, did not want to stick at first, so I did have to reapply some glue, but giving the glue ample time to dry solved that problem.

I used state quarters to signify our domestic travels to places like Hawaii for our honeymoon and the eight states we visited during our cross-country trip (as you can see, I'm still waiting to find a bunch of quarters of western states such as Colorado, Utah, and California to join our lonely New Mexico and Arizona quarters).

This easy art is a sentimental reminder of some of our most memorable travels together and a great way to turn loose change collecting dust into something more meaningful.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kitchen line up: Repurposing place mats

When we ventured to IKEA in September to pick up the Billy bookcase for the nursery, I also bought two sets of these Klistrig place mats, figuring that at $2.99 for a pack of 4 I could find plenty of uses for them either as just simply place mats or I could repurpose them to other areas of the house.

It took me about three hours to decide that I wanted to protect the shelves of our pantry with these, but then I quickly ran out of extras, and by that point I was determined to line all the drawers and a few cabinet shelves in our kitchen with these. So, over this past weekend I picked up six more packs from IKEA and got to work lining the most offensive cabinets and drawers.

With white cabinets and two giant dogs, the insides of our drawers and cabinets reveal wear faster than they would if they were traditional wooden cabinets. So, in order to attempt to semi-win my constant battle against dog hair, I figured these are a start. They're not exactly contact paper, but they're thin enough that they are easily cut down to size and they can be easily lifted out of the cabinets for quick cleaning, too. And they're super cute.

So, after emptying out the drawers...

...and giving them a much-needed wipe down...I created a template for each drawer or cabinet and pieced the place mats together like a puzzle.

I did not buy enough place mats to line every single cabinet in our kitchen, but instead I focused on the highly trafficked parts of the kitchen, the lowest-lying drawers (which are therefore most likely to collect dog hair and catch crumbs from the counters), and cabinets containing items that are likely to make the shelves dirty, like our baking supply mini-pantry.

It took me about two hours to complete this project, and it's now amazing to not have to look at scuff marks or sticky residue at the bottoms of our cabinets and drawers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nursery progress: Crib skirt done

After making my first set of DIY no-sew curtains for the nursery, I thought I would try my hand at making a no-sew crib skirt. Once again I followed the advice of the Young House Love folks and pretty much identically copied their crib skirt post. So, I don't have much to add to that dialogue, though I can say that:

1) It took me much longer to find the right fabric for the crib skirt. I already have two other patterns in the nursery between the curtains and the Modge Podged gift wrap coating the back of the bookcase, so I don't want to add too much else. But, I'm also comfortable with things not matching perfectly, so I finally pulled the trigger and got a black-and-white modern patterned fabric.

2) I bought twice as much fabric as I needed. For the four panels of the crib skirt I needed two yards, not four. Whoops. I'm a newbie at this whole fabric purchasing experience.

3) I couldn't (and still have not) figured out how to work around the edges of the crib's metal frame, the portion that holds up the mattress. So, that section is not perfect, but it will do, and I'm probably its worst critic. (Something tells me the baby won't notice.)

4) Spending about $40 total to make a crib skirt (supplies = fabric, hem tape, and Velcro) is a way better deal than buying an entire crib bedding set that can run you in the hundreds of dollars. I have started to see some stores and some bedding lines carry crib skirts separate from an entire bedding set, but so far the options I've seen are pretty limited. Now that crib bumpers are a supposed no-no, maybe more companies will start selling crib skirts and all other nursery bedding items a la carte.

Despite a couple tiny setbacks along the way, making the crib skirt was an easy afternoon project, and I think it makes the crib appear less naked, especially now that the crib is adjusted to the highest setting in anticipation of Baby Awesomerod's arrival. Before I attached the crib skirt there was a lot of empty space exposed underneath the mattress frame.

Right now we have a patterned crib sheet on the mattress. It's only there because we bought it for our sweet niece's visit several weeks ago. We tasked her with breaking in our crib, and she was up for the challenge, but we needed a sheet. So, while this sheet isn't my first choice (we registered for these bright green sheets at Buy Buy Baby) it will do.

Now with the crib skirt, the crib's a little more jazzed up.

Matt also took a few minutes over the weekend to attach the IKEA Billy bookcase to the wall, and I took a few minutes to see what it looks like with a few items added in. You might recognize a few of the items as toys I preserved from my childhood (and rediscovered in our crawl-space clean out). I'm sure everything will get reshuffled as Baby Awesomerod accumulates her own loot, but for now we've added a little more life to our little nursery space.

Now that all the furniture is in place and the more significant DIY jobs are complete, all we have left to do in the nursery is:

1) Buy an ottoman for the chair.
2) Find and install floating shelves next to the window.
3) Decide on and purchase/make/arrange nursery art.
4) Figure out if we're going to have a mobile over the crib and/or changing table; if so, will I make it or buy it, and how will we hang it from our really high ceilings?
5) Organize items in closet and determine an organizational system for all baby supplies.

So, at this point I view the remaining items as gravy. Nothing is a necessity (well, I guess most of our nursery tasks have been non-necessities as babies don't truly require much in terms of physical possessions). There's no rush, but hopefully the final items can get settled before January, and hopefully she won't arrive early.