Monday, September 5, 2011

Are you a lazy charter?

We're not trying to get pregnant at the moment (and have no plans to any time soon) so my "charting" nowadays is simply making a note once a week or so on my pocket calendar. I WANT to know what's going on with my body and whether certain symptoms or issues are hormone-related but I definitely don't need to be taking my temperature and checking my cervix every day to do that.

So unless you are using FA for contraception, are trying to get pregnant or are trouble-shooting something to do with your cycle, you can be a "lazy charter" and still have a good idea of what is happening.

Why, you ask? Besides simply knowing what is going on with your body, "lazy charting" can be useful if you need to undergo a medical procedure, suspect an accidental pregnancy or are prone to being a hypochondriac.

Here's what I recommend as a bare minimum:

1. Record day 1, the first day of your period. It's good to know when your cycle started and how many days it lasts.

I was shocked to discover that my last two cycles were both 31 days in length. I NEVER normally have cycles that short, nor that consistent in length. Hooray for me! This was during two VERY stressful months (moving across town and my oldest son starting kindergarten), which would have given my body EVERY reason to ovulate LATE and for my cycle to drag on. My cycles are regulating and normalizing! I would've never known that if I hadn't been keeping track.

2. Record any spotting, whether pre-period or mid-cycle. It's just good to know. Spotting can mean a lot of different things, depending on what type it is and when it occurs during your cycle.

I didn't spot before my current cycle which is also very unusual for me. This is good information to have!

3. Make a note of when you think you are your most fertile. You could also record your first dry day, too. This will help you predict when you will start your next cycle and whether a pregnancy could have actually occured.

4. Record having unprotected sex, even if it's early or late in your cycle. Need I say more?

5. Write down any unusual symptoms or ailments throughout the month. Could be that the headaches, strange shooting sensations in your abdomen or mood swings are hormonal and consistent month to month.

I get an upset stomach toward the end of most of my cycles so it's nice to know that I'm most likely NOT "coming down with something." I also tend to get a few high-energy days in the middle of my cycle. I have come to expect these and make my plans accordingly.

I hope this helps for any of you who don't want to do hard-core charting but still want to keep track of what's going on with your body.

Tell me...are YOU a lazy charter? What do you keep track of? How?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Baby's First Year Necessities

A dear friend who is pregnant with her first baby recently asked me, "What were the things you couldn't live without with your babies?"

I remember being newly pregnant and seeing the gazillions of "new baby essentials" listed on websites and in magazines and hoping I'd register for and get what I really wanted and not just a bunch of STUFF that I'd wish I could exchange for more diapers. So what do you really NEED for the baby's first year?

My real advice, by the way, would be more like, "Put your money toward a second honeymoon before the baby arrives," or "Start a college fund instead," or even "Tell people to save their money and babysit for free later on." the top of my head, and based on going back over pictures of Ethan's first year, here (in no particular order) are my TOP TWENTY BABY'S FIRST YEAR NECESSITIES {a.k.a. "My favorite STUFF people gave us for our babies."}

1. Robeez shoes in a 6-12 months and/or 12-18 months size. They're best for the cruising and early walking phase. There are plenty of knock-offs around (just look for leather-like material and a stretchy opening) but I have found Robeez at Ross cheap.

2. A play mat, preferably with fun stuff to explore on the mat itself and overhead, so they can use it on their tummy (supervised, of course) or their back.

3. A bouncy seat. These are perfect to give mom's arms a break. I'm an attached mama who loves to hold my babies but I still had to eat or type an e-mail occasionally! My boys also liked to be rocked (usually with my foot) to sleep in them, too. Some vibrate, play music, etc. Options are fun!

4. A Bumbo seat is super-fun for "helping" baby sit up and for supporting them as they learn. Babies feel so big in it! I used mine as a booster seat when Ethan started solid foods, too. They're about $30 new and are best for babies from the time they can hold their head up well to when they become mobile, so I recommend borrowing one of these or getting one second hand.

5. Boppies are great! They make a good nursing pillow for mom and a nice pillow for Baby, too, for tummy time or on the play mat.

Ethan slept on his, too, but only when I was right next to him, of course. They're so comfy-cozy, who could resist??

6. Books are fantastic, of course, and the more graphic, the better! Babies love to be read it and love to look at the pictures. It's never too early to start building their vocabulary! Look for ones that have different textures they can feel, too.

Soft books they can chew and hold are also a great idea.

7. I thought (being an attached, baby-wearing Mom) that I wouldn't need a travel system. HA! I lasted a month before I BEGGED for one! This Graco version was just over $100 and worth every penny! The "system" involves an infant seat...

...a base for your car and the stroller itself, so that the carrier can be clipped into the car then into the stroller (hopefully while baby stays asleep). Most babies outgrow the infant seat (and/or become too heavy) at about 6 months, but the stroller can be used for years.

8. ALSO, a light, easily portable stroller comes in handy, too. These are for later in the first year but come in handy for short excursions or navigating small spaces. This "Jeep" stroller was great over rough terrain, including gravel parking lots and even dirt trails.

9. Baby toys. Ones they can hold (like this rattle) and ones that are crinkly, have ribbons to chew on, are bold in color, etc. There are oodles out there and it's fun to have a few tucked away in the car and diaper bag when you need to "change things up."

Ones with wheels are fun for encouraging crawling, too.

And...babies DO love looking at themselves!

10. Burp cloths. These can be as simple as a plain cloth diaper or embroidered, be-ribboned, etc. It's fun to have a few cute ones for when you're out and about. Obviously they're great to place over your shoulder or on your lap when you're burping your baby but they're great for wiping up all sorts of messes. They have a lot of other uses, too. You really can't have too many.

11. A stretchy blanket for swaddling. This one (above and below) had a "thermal" feel and was stretchy and oh-so soft. And it was made from organic cotton! It was great for nursing under, swaddling and just for Ethan to chew on. Get half a dozen, some fancy, some simple.

12. Somewhere for the baby to sleep near you in the early days. I had a mini Arm's Reach co-sleeper (as pictured above)....

...and bassinets are good, too, of course.

13. Somewhere for the baby to eat. High chairs are cute and may be convenient for some lifestyles but a simple booster seat works just as well, and typically young eaters like being "in the action" at the table, anyway.

14. While we're on it, I loved these soft-tipped spoons for Baby's first meals, the ones below are made by Gerber.

Along the same vein, these (Munchkin brand) mesh feeders were cool, too, for letting them try "big" food without the choking worry. Ethan's love of strawberries started here. I just let him go to town on them!

15. Diapers and wipes. I happen to love the Costco/Kirkland brand diapers AND wipes are top-of-the-line and a great value.

I do love the Pampers Swaddlers for the first few weeks. They have a line that changes color when the baby pees, which comes in handy in the early days when you're wondering if they're wet.

16. Lots of simple sleepers, onesies, creepers and rompers to go with the seasons. You can look through this post to see what MY baby wore day in and day out! :) Most of the time, comfort is your one and only priority but certainly have a few "cute" outfits for church, pictures, visits to Grandma's, etc.

A few pairs of light cotton pants for covering their legs if you'll be in air conditioning or cool weather. Think COMFY!

17. A baby bathtub. I can't recommend one because the one we had with Andrew didn't work very well (it was convertible = complicated) and Ethan took baths in the sink. I'd say, the simpler the better. You'll get 862 washcloths, too. You probably only need a half-dozen at the most. I usually just cleaned their faces with a washcloth and used my hands for the rest.

18. Burt's Bees (or some other type of body care/bath products). My vote is the more natural, the better. The Burt's Bees hair and body wash and lotion are wonderful and smell amazing. There are many other natural products available, Burt's Bees is just my favorite, and easy to buy from most big-box retailers.

19. Medicine chest items. I love these baby safety scissors. I would NEVER recommend trying to clip a baby's fingernails. Scary!!

A nasal aspirator. HATE using them, but gotta have them. GET THREE. Somehow they're always missing when you need one most.

These homeopathic teething tablets seemed to help when our boys were teething.

You need plenty of other items (thermometer, medicine dispenser, diaper rash cream, etc....these were just ones I had strong recommendations for.

20. A nursing cover (like the Hooter Hider, shown above). ANY nursing cover will give you the privacy and confidence you need to nurse whenever and wherever you need to.

THIS IS NOT AN ALL-INCLUSIVE LIST!! I didn't use pacifiers or bottles, I didn't have a crib, my boys hated wearing bibs, I didn't decorate a nursery, my kids were almost never there are some items missing. These are what I used and loved. If you see something missing, FEEL FREE TO ASK and I'll be happy to help!

And here are a few "would-be-nices" that come to mind:

1. A swing. Nice to keep baby happy (some nap in them, too) but expensive. Best to borrow or get second hand.

2. Hooded towels. You'll get 15 of them but you really only need one or two. Can you dry your baby off in a regular towel? Yeeessss, but these are so cute for pictures!

3. A jumperoo. This is great when they're getting tired of playing on the floor all day and are itching to be upright and can be used until they get too heavy/big for it. Expensive, so again, borrowed or second-hand is nice.

I HOPE THIS HELPS! Again, let me know if I've forgotten something or you want or need a recommendation for a specific item--I'm sure I'll be updating this list as more items come to mind!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Pregnancy: A Pictorial

I love pregnant bellies of all shapes and sizes so naturally, I assumed everyone wanted to see MY belly at every phase! My pregnancy with Ethan was well documented! For those of you who love to compare to YOUR growth or who just like ogling pregnant bellies like I do...ENJOY.

It all starts with THIS:

And reality sinks in. We're having a baby! I snuck this picture in with a set of other pictures and sent them to my grandmother in Florida to announce our news. She was ecstatic!

10 weeks. This is definitely still when you can easily hide your belly. I chose not to (although this isn't a maternity top).

13 weeks (there's a shadow on the wall, there really wasn't much to see)

15 weeks (just a little bump!)

15 weeks, after cake and coffee at my 31st birthday party.

16 weeks

17 weeks (I loved my May baby shirt!)

17.5 weeks (Thanksgiving weekend). Still just kinda "mushy."

19 weeks. I was so happy to fill out maternity clothes for Christmas!

19 weeks, dolled up for a Christmas party.

19 weeks full length (in a non-maternity top), dressed up for my hubby's Christmas party.

HALF WAY MARK! I always think the fun really starts after twenty weeks. You know the gender, the baby is moving a lot and you look definitively pregnant. Love it!

22 weeks, finally getting round.

23 weeks (HA! Compare to the same top at 10 weeks!)

25 weeks (feeling and looking quite pregnant!)

26-ish weeks, Valentine's Day. This is one of my favorite phases: definitely pregnant but not yet huge.

26 weeks (without the shadow--well, except the shadow of Big Brother)

27 weeks. The last of the "small phase."

29 weeks. Definitely getting "out there!"

30 full length. Thirty weeks is, to me, when you start feeling really pregnant and getting uncomfortable.

30 weeks. Nice n' big!

30.5 weeks. When you can fill out ANY maternity top. Fun!

32 weeks. Large and in charge! Belly is nice and high.

34 weeks. Gotta love the classic, big preggo belly! This is a great phase of pregnancy for a baby shower!

Full term!! 37 weeks. Hooray!! Relieved to have "made it."

37 weeks, Easter Sunday. This is when finding clothes that fit becomes challenging.


38 weeks, 3 days. I took this picture because my belly seemed to have flattened out.

39 weeks. One word: HUGE! I got a lot of sideways looks at Target that day. No wonder!! Talk about looking like you're about to POP!

39 weeks bare. That's one ripe baby.

Four days past-due, Mother's Day weekend. Don't I look tiny?? He had definitely dropped already! And in case you're wondering, when I checked into the hospital two days later, I'd only gained a total of 12 pounds!

At the hospital, probably an hour before he was born.

My baby boy, born at 40 weeks and 6 days on May 12, 2009 weighing 8 lbs. 6 oz. and measuring 21".

For anyone who's curious, this is me, two weeks postpartum. I ain't gonna lie: it's easy to snap back when you only gain 12 pounds! BUT, it was a trade-off for having no appetite and feeling nauseated for the last several weeks of my pregnancy. I call it a "happy side effect."

Thanks for taking this pictoral journey with me!