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.

Pajamas on the Go: Ex Officio

Last night a generous friend of mine gave me the opportunity to be her guest at a Google holiday party in Mountain View, CA. I ran to the airport, and just as I got there, realized I forgot my pajamas.

Pajamas are important to a traveler, especially when staying at another person’s house (of course, exceptions being when you and the other person are a-ok to sleep in the buff, or pass out in the party clothes you were wearing!) The choices for pajamas at Sea-Tac were dismal. I could have bought the ubiquitous Sleepless in Seattle sleep shirt (do people still watch this movie?) I could have bought the syrup-sweet “Life is Good” pajamas. Or, I could buy the questionably attractive, technologically interesting and always functional Ex Officio Give-N-Go Sleep Capri. Thank goodness Sea-Tac has a Ex Officio store! They weren’t much to look at, and at the particular store, had the choices of black or a bamboo print. I went for the black, and paired them with the Ex Officio Give-N-Go Moisture-Wick Tank Top, also in black.

Both the capri and tank were true to size, so keep that in mind if you want a bit of room. The fabric is supportive, with a bit of give, which I find quite comfortable. After one night sleeping in these pajamas, I can only say I wish I had these to sleep in all the time. They’re just that comfortable!

The packaging promises that these pajamas will be moisture wicking, odor-resistant, quick drying and light weight. They promise the same for their more under-underwear, which I’ve always been skeptical of. I can only tell you that I’m willing to give them a try!

Skinny Jeans

Shopping continues to be an annoyance. I blame the down economy first, and then I blame my own lack of riches. I can, however, console myself that the fact that I’m a non-profit volunteering, art class enrolled, unemployed social worker means that really, I’m doing about as well as I would if I were employed in social work. I think in my last job that half my pay, if not more, was going to paying for an appropriate wardrobe (while I was losing weight.) Now I’m surfing in the twilight purgatory between plus sized and misses, between vanity and contemporary sizing. This makes me a hard woman to please.

I’ll start with the sizing. I just bought a pair of skinny jeans from Torrid. Torrid, once a plus-sized (corporate) sister to Hot Topic, is now like the hip, youthful and saucy (spirit) cousin of Lane Bryant. Once they catered to the more goth/punk look (earning the nickname by some, Fat Topic), and now they bring in a little bit of fashionista casual that isn’t afraid to be skin tight. I tried on the smallest size available (size 12), and they fit magnificently. Despite the less than 85% cotton denim, I was sold, and with much grumbling, paid around $60 for the pair. What can I say, though, they looked marvelous.

I’m going to repeat the size for you. Size 12. TWELVE. Really. What’s stunning, though, is that what sounds like not-a-plus-size really is. TJ Maxx allowed me to try on some DKNY and Calvin Klein jeans, both in a size 14 petite. The DKNY’s fit me almost perfectly, while the Calvin Klein’s felt like the next size up. Vanity sizing, indeed! Also, during this trip, at Nordstrom Rack I tried on Justin Timberlake’s brand, William Rast, in a size 32 (size 14). These super-premium jeans could be buttoned and zipped, but not without the ever-shameful muffin-top. Lucky Jeans fit me like a glove in a size 33 (size 16). Let’s add in the fun of UK retailer Top Shop‘s size chart, which equates UK size 16 with US size 12, with the measurements equaling US size 14 (in many cases). Torrid’s size chart, in fact, claims that a UK 16 is equal to a US 14. UGH!

All I want is reasonably priced, reasonable quality clothing that is fashionable for at least two if not more seasons, functional for the same, that fits me. For this time of year, however, this means I’m wanting denim that has a bit of weight to it, and while I don’t believe that Spandex is the greatest sin on earth, I believe that it should be used thoughtfully, and kept to a minimum. My fantastic Torrid jeans were a compromise (and purchased out of exhaustion), and leave me in the bind that when my next size drop comes, I’m still going to be surfing in this weird realm of three different sizes, between plus and misses, that I don’t know where I fit.

I can only hope, however, that when the times up I’ll be able to afford some of the fine designers available at discount prices. One day, I’ll be a fashionista.

Failed Shopping

I’ve been having a rough time lately. While I’ve been trying to emotionally get back on my feet, I find that I look in the mirror and I just think, “Yuck!” It’s not the way I look, it’s more my lack of style. I’ve reverted to junk-t-shirts (not hip ones) and jeans (old, not svelte). My shoes are orthopedically comfy. My hair is, well, victim of my telling my stylist to cut it supershort. I got what I asked for, I wanted it, I think it was the right thing to do at the time, but – now I want my long hair back. Yesterday I decided that a little bit of overhaul wouldn’t be a bad thing, and may be worth bringing out the credit card that I’m trying not to use.

I was ready and willing to drop a couple hundred dollars in the name of inexpensive, tasteful fashion. You know what I wanted? Something simple: dark blue jeans, well fit, black knit or button down top, comfortable and stylish black shoes, stylish and functional fall jacket and an eyeliner. If I wanted to *really* go for it, I might have plunked down some money for some foundation garments as well. I figured this was a simple task. Not so simple, though.

1. Dark blue jeans – I could find dark blue jeans, but I couldn’t find ones that did not have that cheap look of too-much spandex.
2. Black or dark neutral button-down shirt – this is simple stuff, right? Go into a men’s department, and there’s tons of button-down shirts, different colors, styles, fits… is this too much to ask for women? I find myself longing for a Thomas Pink boutique, even if it is spendy. You’d think that a low-maintenance knit shirt with some nice details, neckline, etc might be easier, but it’s NOT.
3. Fall jacket – all I want is a tailored, light fall jacket in a dark or neutral color that will work well with a skirt as well as jeans. I don’t want a glorified hoodie or a jacket that belongs at REI.
4. Shoes – form and function. Comfortable for everyday, stylish enough for going out (if I had a social life.) Should be simple, right? Well, I’m tired of Mary Janes and I’ve got bunions that are sensitive. This makes plunking down the cash difficult.
5. Perhaps what should be the easiest item, EYELINER. I’m considering that maybe my current make-up style makes me look too impenetrable, so maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree by wanting a felt tip marker liquid liner. I love Lancome’s Artliner in blueberry, and after scouring online and Sephora, I can’t find the color and type of liner that comes close! At $28, and lasting only 2 months, it’s not quite what I want to spend. There’s great liquid colors ranging from $6.99-$30+, but I don’t have the patients or dexterity in the morning to deal with it.

So I came home, having not purchased anything! The thing I notice the most, shopping in Seattle, is that the mid-line goods are gone. Everything that I would consider work-appropriate seems to have vanished from all but the most expensive brands, and what’s left are chintzy, inexpensive (or inexpensive looking) goods. I’ll keep trying, but I miss the days of fashionable basics. Maybe I don’t know how to shop for my size? Or, maybe I’m just not willing to spend the cash?

Lifestyle Fashion

In the past year or so, I’ve gotten into some activities that require “active wear.” First off, I started scuba diving – so I ended up getting the full scuba outfitting gear, thanks to GirlDiver being a Mares representative. Granted, this is mainly only fashionable on my way in or out of the water – but the SheDives line of gear is nicely fitted and smartly fashionable in a world where there’s not enough girl-friendly gear.

Then there was running. This had a whole separate gear requirement. The basics are simple, sports bra, shorts, shirt. If you want to get fancy, you want to get stuff that reduces chafing, like moisture wicking, form-fitting socks and tops. Nice breezy shorts help too. Thanks to a few clearance sales (REI and Title Nine) I was outfitted in no time.

Finally, there was yoga. I’m happy to do yoga at home in my pajamas, however, that doesn’t work so well when going to a studio. So, I bought a couple of outfits (one on clearance) at Lucy, which has cute, yet overpriced yoga wear.

The thing is about running and yoga – or at least, when I was doing them more often – is that the clothing I used for those activities were used solely for those activities. I just don’t get people wearing the fashion of active lifestyles (or things that look like they’re great for such activities, but really aren’t) when they don’t do those activities, or aren’t on their way to do so.

The New York Times has an article here that looks at Lululemon, the yoga lifestyle apparel company, and how they’re selling a feeling. It’s not unlike what I experienced at the vendor tables when I went to see Pema Chodron a few weeks ago. People will buy the books, the CDs, the inspirational cards and purses hand made by whoever … but owning those things won’t do the meditation for you. Your yoga clothes won’t make you more limber any more than your Nike running shorts will make you fit to run a marathon all by themselves.

I admit, the pretty active fashions are captivating, but do I really need a t-shirt to prove that I’m more enlightened than you?