Happy Birthday, Son – A Year in Baby Consumerism

Fisher-Price Newborn Rock and Play SleeperSeriously, people. There is an entire industry that is waiting for you to have children so you will spend stupid amounts of money to help you sleep longer and make the transition to parenthood easier in our foolishly independent-focused society. My family has spent some of this ridiculous money. Here’s a list of my favorite things, which worked well for us. Amazon Prime has been a huge help, especially for midnight shopping frenzies while the kid is up and you don’t know how you’re going to be safe to drive the next day. When you can, buy used or borrow from a friend – but always check to see if the item has been recalled. For instance, a bassinet we borrowed had been recalled in 2009, and a stroller I nearly purchased from Craigslist was a recalled version (but they had been shipped the repair, though not installed.)

Also, my best advice to new moms: ignore all mom forums and stay away from baby focused websites. They will make you crazy. Seek real-time, real-mom support in your communities.

Here’s my Top Ten Consumer Choices for the First Year:

The Happiest Baby on the Block – The basics in this book are a lifesaver for the first three months. Read this book, if you can, before the baby is born. It’s seriously one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. Which brings me to one of the keys of the Happiest Baby…
SwaddleMe velcro-enhanced swaddles – These are key for those times you’re too tired to re-swaddle using the swaddling techniques in Happiest Baby on the Block
Swaddle Cloths by aden + anais – you (or someone else!) can make swaddle cloths using a 4’x4′ piece of muslin or flannel, but if you just need to buy some to start, this is a great way to do it.
Fisher-Price Newborn Rock ‘N Play Sleeper, Yellow
– We used the older version of this as a bassinet for the first six months, especially useful for reflux. It was crucial to getting more sleep for us and our baby. Please note that there was a recent advisory regarding the older model, as some caregivers experienced mold growth after some use, as that the old version was harder to clean. More information here.
Medela Freestyle Breast Pump – I borrowed a Medela bump from a friend, and also rented a hospital grade pump. This was spendy, but wonderful to have if I needed to move around while pumping.
Maclaren Quest (and Raincover) – People laugh about how much you can spend on strollers, but the Maclaren is worth it, if you compare it to other strollers in its class. This folds easy, is light enough to carry and has a carrying strap. The rain cover is the easiest to deploy of all stroller covers I’ve tried. Skip the City Mini and pretty much any other stroller, and if you just buy one stroller, buy the Maclaren Quest.
Bugaboo Bee Stroller and Canopy and Bugaboo Baby Cocoon Light – This is an excessively expensive stroller. It’s great for around the neighborhood if you’re in a more urban center. I like the cocoon for making it into a mini-pram, but it’s still super compact, unlike other strollers.
Dr. Brown’s Formula Mixing Pitcher – We wanted to breast feed, but ran into supply issues. This was crucial, especially when traveling.
Ergo Carrier – This is a great carrier that works for the long haul. Definitely not for the totally new-born, but great once they hit 12 lbs.
Moby Wrap Original 100% Cotton Baby Carrier, Black – I loved my super-snuggly Moby for the first few months. I highly recommend it as a first carrier.

Calgon, take me away!

I don’t think I understood what “Calgon, take me away!” meant before becoming a mother. The first three months have been hard. There were the breastfeeding issues, the continuing acid reflux issues, the screaming, the postpartum depression, and being an extrovert all cooped up in a house with a nonverbal being.

Motherhood is a kind of insanity. Yesterday, I went out for an afternoon and engaged, for the first time, in the kind of stereotypical retail therapy I never thought to engage in. I drove my luxury SUV to a high-end downtown mall, bought an absurdly expensive stroller and other pampering goods (without batting an eyelash), and came home with the spoils. This, along with my odd craving and comfort found in Starbucks has me not only feeling guilty, but also like I understand what I never understood before.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have preferred deliberate consumption, and ignoring the baby industrial complex, and corporate everything. Then there’s the fact that until very recently, I have been a part of the 99%, fighting with the proletariat, as the proletariat. The years have been good to my small family unit, and while some in the 1% say it’s hard work that got them there (and that’s not totally untrue), the larger influence is luck. There’s no rhyme or reason, or even deservingness. For this, I make sure to contribute charitably, and often. I helps me sleep better, with the luck we have.

Motherhood is a type of insanity, and there is no limit to how much you can spend to make your life seem easier. I somehow believe it must have been simpler when you went to your girlfriends’ houses and painted each other’s nails and bought Calgon to soak in your own bath instead of buying Groupons for spa deals. When Pantene was a luxury, and you bought a new shade of Revlon lipstick to perk up your exhausted visage.

Maybe it was never that simple, but Starbucks seems to be the simplest part of the post-baby consumerism. It’s wherever you are, and always the same. It’s not the best, but it’s known.

Yup, motherhood is a type of insanity.


I’ve been pregnant for 9 months. Well, 40 weeks. In other words, this is my due date.

One of the things I’ve had to give up during this time is caffeine, specifically, caffeinated coffee. This is not because anyone told me to, but because I realized about 4-5 months in (after finally getting over coffee smelling disgusting) that coffee seriously increased my anxiety level to the point where panic attacks were sometimes an issue. I’ve never been fond of medication to counter uncomfortable emotional states, and over the years, I’ve found that if you can cut something out, and make your life better (or add something, like exercise and sleep), then I’m much better off in the end. Pregnancy seriously limits your medication options (even with pain relief) so decaf was the option.

There is a shortage of quality, delicious, freshly roasted decaf available. I like Stumptown Coffee, for instance, but the bag of beans last purchased from a local business was stale before I brewed them. I have a history of working at Starbucks a decade ago, and while their decaf options are more limited now, I picked up a bag of Decaf Verona (a guilty favorite of the Starbucks blends). This was about 5-6 weeks ago, and I still have some beans left.

Here’s the miracle – they really don’t taste that stale, though they definitely are old (and definitely a bit on the stale side). They’re drinkable in the way the Stumptown stale decaf was not.

I don’t know much about coffee. I leave that expertise to Tonx and his coffee roasting genius. If memory serves, the reason that the Starbucks beans have miraculously stayed drinkable (yet stale, and who knows when they were originally roasted) is due to their over-roasting for consistency.

Meanwhile, my husband has been receiving his 2x/month shipments of Tonx Coffee, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a smell and a sip when it first comes to my house. We’ve given away a few extra bags (since he can’t drink it all himself) and friends have come back saying it’s the best coffee they’ve ever had. One friend said she and her husband couldn’t stop smelling the bag.

There was a great write-up of what Tonx is doing in LA Weekly (seen here). I’m hoping one day I’ll get a bag of decaf from Tonx OR that my tolerance for caffeine will come back. Either way, Tonx Coffee is the coffee I want to drink.

Picasso, SAM, and Passive Art

One of my big things, still, is deliberate consumption. Us humans are great consumers. We do it so effectively, and we do it so unconsciously. I really want both myself and others to be conscious of what they consume – because if you’re not conscious of it, why are you doing it? If you’re not putting food in your mouth for nourishment or pleasure, what are you doing it for? I ask this, yet I and others know the distraction from watching TV, or interacting with someone else, and having a once full bowl of food dwindle to nothing in no time.

This post is not about food, though, but about art.

Last night, Jon and I went to see the world-class Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. It was a members-only night, which meant the crowds were less thick, but it was pretty crowded anyway. I noted what another blogger had noted, which was that people were hesitant to get close to the art work. What I noticed more than that, though, were WHY people were not getting close. Many people were standing back about 10-15 feet from a painting, listening to a large cell phone-sized device telling them how to feel about the art. This caused a few alarming problems, as far as I could see.

1. People stood back, away from the art for long periods of time, blocking the flow of other viewers. This means that it was hard to get close to the painting, to move around the space, and to interact with the painting on my own terms.

2. People listening to the devices were not interacting with each other, though they were there with at least one other person. This meant that there wasn’t a discussion between individuals over the paintings, like “How do you feel about all these phalluses that are to make up a woman’s face?”

3. People were not interacting with the art.

I’m going to go off on this third one. My cousin and I had a discussion this past summer when I visited an art gallery in Houston. He has problems controlling himself in public, and has problems minding the signs of not touching the art. He said that he wanted to interact with the art – something that I agree is important – but our fundamental disagreement was how to interact with the art without touching it.

It’s hard for me to describe in words how I interact with art. I do a lot of thinking non-verbally, and my discussions with art often happen in colors and shapes, vs. words and sentences. Some art, like some people, I can have a conversation with (again, not verbal), where some art I’m more than happy to just walk by in a crowd.

Maybe that’s the thing about Picasso. I don’t feel like his art is something you can just stand back and view passively. While there might have been interesting factoids within the audio, I doubt that it did anything to enrich the personal experiences of the novice viewer. I believe that art has to be experienced on its own terms. While there is definitely something great about understanding the history and creation of a work of art, as well as the artist, there is the final experience, the viewer and the work itself, that is also vitally important. I could try to paint out my feelings on a work of art, and that might end up an interesting work in itself. It is part of the conversation. Another person, more gifted with words, could write an essay on their experience of the work. Yet another could compose music, or dance, or argue, or have a long talk over cocktails into the night.

We know the dangers of talking on our cell phones while driving. Our attention is so split, it’s as if we’re driving drunk.

Do we know the dangers of individual audio devices and viewing art? After last night, I’d prefer them to be thrown in a recycled technology heap never tobe seen again. I believe they’re fundamentally bad for art, and bad for humanity.

Chasing Away Chase

If you haven’t heard yet, Chase, and other banks, have started on their plans to charge their customers yet more fees. (One of many articles on that here.)

I’ve been chased by Chase most of my money-earning life. My first bank – BankOne. I moved to Chicago, got a local Chicago account, ultimately at First Chicago. First Chicago was bought by BankOne, and I hated it. They raised fees, made me have to pay to use the human teller, and so when WaMu came to town, I jumped on board. BankOne then was consumed by Chase. I moved to Seattle, and was happy to be in the home of WaMu! Then WaMu faltered, and ultimately was picked up by Chase. I’ve been grumbly about it ever since, though now I have more financial stability, their fees hit me less.

That being said, they make money off of my money. Then there’s the fact that I have options, and many of their other customers don’t. I remember being that person, who goes just a few bucks overdrawn to more than $30 in the hole because of the overdraft fees. I’ve had rent checks bounce, because my school loan direct deposit was overdue to my account. My account was usually teetering just above $5 more than I’d like to admit. It’s tough, and I do not support them making money off of my money, and threatening people with the least means, with more fees.

Maybe they’re well within their rights, and as a person who can see the good in capitalism, I see that they are. But as a consumer, I’m within my right to try to make my voice heard by where I choose to take my business. Today, I chose the step of opening an account with a local credit union. It was stupidly easy, and I did it all online. I look forward to my freedom from Chase, once again.