Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My favorite cookies, my favorite cause.

Now that my blog has some traffic, I want to do a post raising awareness for what I believe to be the most important cause of our time:  Slavery.  We tend to think of slavery as a demon of the past, but it's anything but.  Literally millions of people - many of whom are children - are being trafficked as we speak - as you're reading this.  It's impossible for me to enjoy the childhood I'm working so hard to give my own children when I know that thousands of children just like them - just as innocent and sweet as they are - are being horrifically victimized every single day.

We have to do something to stop this.  Anything we possibly can.  This holiday season (Christmas for our family) I have set out to raise $200 for International Justice Mission.  One of the ways I'm doing this is by having baked 7 batches of my top 5 all-time favorite cookies, dividing it all by ten, and selling ten boxes of about a half-batch's worth of cookies.  My boxes are going out today and my local list serve doesn't allow photographs in posts, so this will also help me advertise these boxes (by posting the link to this entry).  But if you're elsewhere and reading this and you feel inspired to give more this holiday season, to those who need it the most, please consider contributing to my fundraising campaign here:

My campaign page also has a video explaining what IJM is all about and how it works.  Please, please watch it!  And be sure to also "like" their Facebook page for updates on what they're accomplishing!

As for the cookies, here are my favorites with links to the recipes (except chocolate chip, which is a matter of personal preference).  Enjoy!
  1. Korova (Parisian dark chocolate sea-salt cookies)
  2. Peanut Butter Cup Cookies (these are actually quite easy, you just need a mini muffin tin and they pop right out!  Also, I use Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups - WAY easier to unwrap and tastier too)
  3. Almond Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs with Cream Cheese Frosting
  4. Chewy Spicy Christmas Cookies; and
  5. "Life-Changing" Chocolate Chip Cookies

Final product!

Each box actually has two of the tree cookies :)
If you want a tasty, easy recipe for thicker softer sugar-cookies, try this one.

Simply the BEST!
These are so good and SO easy, really!  You just push the PB cups into the hot cookies, let it cool, and they lift right out!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The ULTIMATE Baby Gear Cheat Sheet

A few years back, I spent my first pregnancy lucky enough to work only about 27 hours per week, as a nanny to a single baby (we'd just moved here).  The combination of free time, experience (with the baby), and my O.C.D. culminated in probably well over 100 hours of baby gear research.  As friends of mine later became pregnant and wanted advice, I created this list for them.  I know it's been passed around a great deal, so I thought I'd include it on my blog!

This list isn't for the wealthy; we were (and still are) often on our last dime during my husband's medical training.  So there are ultra-high end products (like Stokke) that I never considered.  But if you want the best bang for your buck, and an easier transition to "mom," here's what I recommend.

Photo Credit

Photo Credit

For Mom
  • Boppy Wedge Pillow.  I tried the "snoogle" and found it really awkward.  This, I loved.  A few friends of mine passed one around to whoever was pregnant at the time.  I did find that when my second pregnancy involved a smaller baby and a softer mattress, I didn't need it.  But I couldn't have lived without it the first time around.
  • Diaper Bag.  As depressing as it is, you might want to consider a backpack diaper bag.  When you have a baby on one hip, it's annoying to be balancing something else on your other side - you can't lean both ways at the same time.  I have the Columbia Trekster but unfortunately the newest design of it gets bad reviews for durability.  Too bad... I think it's absolutely the most convenient thing.  It has a thermal pocket for a bottle, and special pouches for pacifiers, keys, cell phone etc.  Easy access zipper down the side.  Works great stuck under your arm for breast-feeding on the go.  Has two straps with snaps that fit easily over stroller handlebar.
  • Lansinoh Nursing Pads.  If you plan to nurse, plan to leak.  These are the best-rated nursing pads (bra inserts) in Baby Bargains.  You won’t want to deal with washables (though I'll give you MAJOR environmental points if you do) and these stick really well in your bra and hold in place.
  • Medela Sleep Nursing Bra.  A necessity if nursing.  Super comfy to sleep in; enough room for soothies or nursing pads, easy access for nursing.  Get 2 because it will get thrown up on in the middle of the night.  Get one size up because your rib cage expands during pregnancy and doesn’t go back down until 6 weeks out (plus your boobs are huge).  You do sort of need 2 sizes of each bra for this reason … or you can wait on getting an actual nursing bra until you’re 6 weeks out, and in the mean time just wear a Target nursing tank under your clothes.
  • Target's Gilligan O'Malley Nursing Tanks.  The best bang for your buck in nursing tanks, at least for B-cup types.  Great for public nursing so your tummy isn’t exposed.  All I wore for the first 6 months. 
  • Bravado Bliss Nursing Bra.  Absolutely the best nursing bra and I tried them all.  Gives a ton of support.  However, very expensive.  I only wear on special occasions.  
  • Medela Breastmilk Pump.  Medela is the best, but Baby Bargains rates Ameda just as high and Ameda is way cheaper ($110 cheaper), especially if you buy through  I can’t compare it to Medela since I only have Ameda, but Ameda works fine for me.  If I were going back to work I would probably fork over the money for Medela though. 
  • Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover.  You need one if you plan to nurse.  And these ones are So. Nice. 
  • Miralax.  Best laxative – it's not really a laxative at all, but an all-natural stool softener - so no side-effects and it's safe for nursing.  They will give you laxatives in the hospital, but they didn’t give me any to take at home; just Colace, which basically doesn't work (according to me, and my husband's colleagues).  Start taking Miralax as soon as you get home if you had any tearing, and especially if you're still on pain medication.   I actually downed some on my way to the hospital with my second baby.  My constipation was so severe after my first (due in largest part to the pain medication I was on - and that was a vaginal delivery) that I would have had to go to the hospital if my husband wasn't himself a doctor.
  • All The Food You Can Get Your Hands On.  
You'll need an epic feast.  Or fifty.  You'll be starving but have little time to cook.

  • I have the utmost respect for cloth diaperers but because our laundry is two floors down, and my husband was working 100 hour weeks, I did disposables.  I also fell in love with Pampers for their quality, although it seems anecdotally that different brands work better on different babies.  Whatever brand you choose, the cheapest and easiest way to get diapers is to go on Amazon and register as an "Amazon Mom."  I also HIGHLY recommend joining Amazon Prime - it pays for itself in gas, wear & tear, and TIME saved from NO MORE trips to Target or other errands - which are otherwise truly endless with babies and young toddlers.  This way, everything you could possibly need ships free and you get a great price, delivered to your doorstep.  
  • Best Wipes:  Costco's Kirkland (strong enough to grip; thin enough to get crevices).  If you don't belong to a Costco, you can order your wipes like you do diapers on Amazon.
  • Best hint:  When you first come home from the hospital, wash the wipes out in the sink to get the soap and chemicals out - your baby's ultra-sensitive newborn bottom will thank you.
  • Best Ointment:  This saved us when my firstborn had a really awful rash just home from the hospital:  Use Aquaphor first, and then put a big blob of Desitin.  Don’t rub the Desitin in; just stick a huge glob in there so it’s chalk full of Desitin.  
  • Diaper disposal:  If you breastfeed, their poop won’t smell until you start solids so you don’t need anything fancy right away.  I never did need anything for my firstborn but my second born could clear out a building.  The new thing is the Dekor – it’s hands free.
Baby Clothes
  • If you're going practical, Carter's is the cutest and best-quality for your dollar.  Gymboree is great too, just be sure you use coupons and Gymbucks; their quality has declined recently as they're now marketing to the masses with excessive sales, so be sure you buy on sale.
Claire in Gymboree.  TDF!
  • If you're going obsessive, I find that Ebay and Zulily are amazing for high-end outfits.  Check out my blog post, "Designer Baby on a Budget."  If you're on slightly less of a budget and you want to find deals on ultra-high end stuff, sign up with GILT (it's free - just like Zulily).  
Lei dress from Zulily, paid around $20.

Twirls & Twigs dress from Zulily, paid around $30.
These resell really well on Ebay, check out my Ten Tips for Reselling Baby Clothes on Ebay.

ELK brand (Australia) shoes from Zulily.
Reviews say they're as amazing as See Kai Run and Stride Rite, but way cheaper because they're not as well known yet.

Petticoat Dress by Llum, got it half off on GILT, will resell on Ebay for $20+.
  • If you haven't already, you should also sign up with MyHabit.  MyHabit is Amazon's version of Zulily.  It doesn't have quite the daily selection but it does have some super high-end brands (think Oilily, See Kai Run, Stride Rite, and Sophie Catalou) and shipping is only $4 flat.  They discount everything until it's all gone so you can score ridiculous deals on designer babes shoes end-of-season.
$200 boots by Italian Designer Ciao Bimbi.  $53 on MyHabit, free shipping.

  • If you have a winter baby, and especially if it's a boy, consider that you might want to just keep him in footed pj's ("sleep and plays") most days, since dressing him up is going to be a hassle and socks get pulled off.  That's all I did for my son other than a few treasured outfits.  With my daughter I went crazy and dressed her every day... I was less overwhelmed since I'd already done it before, and I was pretty sure she'd be our last baby.  Zippers are easier than snaps.
  • Sleep Sacks with sleeves (Carter's has these) are a great substitute for pj's for easy night time access.  Halo sleep sacks (without sleeves) also great to layer with jammies in the winter, to keep your baby warm.  The cotton ones are lighter and I use them all year 'round - especially once Matthew started climbing out of his crib.  I use microfleece in the winter.
  • Swaddles:  I recommend holding off on these, as neither of my babies liked them.  Get a cheap one like Kiddopotamus to have on hand in case you want to try it.  In my case, the cradle swing got rid of the need for a swaddle - with my first I sometimes took a very thin, stretchy blankie (not a hazard) and swaddled him by stretching it tight and tucking it under in the swing.  It was so easy to do and it became his "blankie."  If you do that, get two of whatever blankie you use.  My second wanted nothing to do with swaddles or pacifiers.  
Claire in Carter's, with See Kai Run "Smaller" shoes purchased off Ebay
Check out my blog post "Designer Baby on a Budget"!
Important Toys
  • Oball Rattles and Winkles are great for really young babies.
  • Sassy's "Wonder Wheel" was great to suction to the high chair to keep my son entertained while I prepared more food.
  • The Leapfrog Musical Table is a lot of fun for toddlers, and you can start using it at a pretty young age by removing two legs and leaning it on the floor.
  • The Fisher-Price Rumble and Learn Driver was my son's favorite thing ever and it really helped teach him to sit up.
  • The Fisher-Price Rainforest Play Mat (or similar) is an absolute necessity.  I even made my mom buy one off Craigslist to have when I visited once.  
  • The Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Home has gotten lots of mileage around here, where not much else has.
  • The "Baby Einstein Takealong Tunes" got us through many, many, many grocery trips - and saved many a nap when my babies otherwise would have passed out in the car before we could get home for a "real" nap.
  • When they get older, Magnatiles are worth every penny.  They get more mileage than anything else we own.  Other than...
  • Thomas Trains (the tracks and engines) are my son's absolute favorite.  I like not having a train table - it's fun to get them out and build, and I LOVE being able to put them away.
  • Radio Flyer Classic Tiny Trike:  Kids are obsessed, and can keep indoors. 
  • Radio Flyer Walker Wagon:  Loved this.  So many uses.  See photo below.
  • Advice:  Being able to put toys away is key.  Any toy left sitting out won't ever get played with.  If you can even put stuff in a bag up on a shelf, and get it out periodically when you're spending time at home, you will get SO much more mileage out of it.
The Radio Flyer Walker Wagon has many uses!

  • I really believe the more stations, the merrier.   Your baby is entertained all over again in a new “station,” plus this way you always have somewhere to set the baby down in each room.
  • The Fisher-Price Rainforest Play Mat described above is a great station.
  • The Rock and Play sleeper is also a great station - it weighs next to nothing so is super portable room to room, and keeps your baby up close to you.  LOVE.
  • We also have the Bright Starts Comfort & Harmony Swing.  I could not have lived without this.  The music is really soothing and it calmed my babies right down.
  • Their feeding chair becomes a station with the Sassy toy described above.  
  • A "cradle" or "papasan" swing is also a great station, but is discussed under cribs, below.
  • The Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo (or similar) is fantastic when they outgrow the play mat. 
  • The Bumbo seat I found not necessary for my first.  It's not entertaining at all.  I did use it with my second, because she liked to watch her brother play - he was the entertainment.
  • On pack-and-plays:  We hardly used ours but it was, occasionally, a necessity.  There is a great one on Amazon for just $44.  If you fly anywhere annually, you should consider ordering it through Amazon for the $50 and just leaving it there, since you'd otherwise have to pay to check it as luggage.
No sister left behind!  Even my toddler can transport the Rock and Play Sleeper.

According to my toddler, the Bright Starts Harmony Swing was built for two!
 On Cribs
  • We were given a crib used, free, so this is the one area I did not research.   
  • But BEFORE you transition to a crib, I strongly encourage you to consider purchasing a papasan or cradle swing.  They may not be the magic bullet for all babies, but based on reviews they're the best thing ever for about 85%.  A papasan/cradle swing is a swing that swing side-to-side rather than back and forth (more similar to the womb), and sort of cocoons the baby in a "cup" shape - and at a slight angle, which aids digestion.  With my first, I was literally never once up rocking him after a feeding - we kept the swing right by our bed and I'd plop him in.  If he didn't pass out right away, I'd turn the motion on for a little while.  I did try to avoid the motion so he wouldn't get accustomed to it, but it was a godsend on many nights.  After a few months we transitioned him to his regular crib for naps and then for night time sleep.  Very smooth transition.  We had the Fisher-Price Papasan Cradle Swing in Starlight.   
Fisher-Price Starlight Papasan Cradle Swing
  • Pacifiers.  At the time I had my first, the best orthodontic pacifier was supposed to be the MAM.  I also appreciated that they had a glow-in-the-dark version.  But in reality, you'll probaby try fifty different kinds of pacifiers before finding the one your baby likes.  Pacifier clips (they can clip to the car seat straps or the baby's outfit) are great too - so they don't get lost.
  • White Noise.  According to Baby Bargains, some studies have shown that noisemakers can cause long-term hearing damage.  While I don't necessarily believe that, we went with a fan because I read somewhere else that fans reduce the risk of SIDS.  I've found that hotels will generally provide fans if you ask for one.
  • Bottles.  I read a ton of reviews on these and at least as of last year, Born Free were overall the best.  But the lactation consultant at our local baby store said that Avent was most compatible with nursing, so that's what I got.  Pretty sure it doesn't matter in the least.  In any case, know that you'll start your baby with the 4 ounce bottle and later move to 8.  There are also different nipple grades for different flows, so be sure your starter pack either has all of them or that you supplement.  You want a smaller flow for a newborn and then you graduate up.
  • Milk Storage.  Lansinoh bags.  Leave some room when you close it because milk expands a little when it freezes.
  • Glider/Rocking Chair.  We got along fine without one, because I used the cradle swing for motion.  For nursing, I used a Boppy pillow and a nursing stool (the stool is VERY important).  It happened that the Boppy worked perfectly with the chair I used - the baby's head was at the perfect height when the Boppy rested on the arm of the chair.  But for all other chairs I preferred a My Breast Friend, since it buckles around you and holds itself at the right height.  You might want to get both because the Boppy is really useful for tummy time anyway.
  • Closet Storage:  I loved this "closet doubler" that enabled me to double the hanging space in my closet.  I also love using this Munckin organizer.  If you can afford it, baby armoires are SO cute.
  • Monitors.  If you need to go really cheap, Angelcare makes a great traditional monitor.  But you can get a video monitor for about $100 - or less, if you find one on Ebay or Craigslist.  We got a used one free and I'm an addict.  Here's a good, cheap one by Infant Optics if you're in the market.
  • High Chairs.  If space is an issue (like it is for us) and the kitchen chairs you already have don't have arms, don't get one.  Get a feeding chair instead.  Bonus: You can take them on any trips that involve a car instead of an airplane, super useful for eating dinner at the home of childless friends!  There's a range and different stylistic options - pay close attention to how close you can get the tray to the belly and whether it sort of wraps around the sides when it's pushed all the way in, you'll save a lot of mess that way.   
  • Bath Time.  For towels, I think it's worth it to get a higher-end bath towel like the Pottery Barn Kids "Nursery Critter Bath Wraps."  You'll use it all the time and it's so nice to have it be thick and soft and cute.  Makes a great gift too.
  • Tub.  We got the First Years tub based on reviews and price.  Just make sure you get one that fits in the sink, to save your back.  The AAP book (mentioned below) has a good section on how to do your first bath.
  • Sippy Cups.  I've pretty much tried them all and the Gerber Graduates are the only ones that never leaked, even over time.  Unfortunately they're not very cute, but they're so great - love filling them with a Stoneyfield Drinkable Yogurt for a snack or meal on the go.  But when you're first transitioning, check out the Zoli - my kids found the straw very easy and very enticing, probably because they'd seen Mommy with one too many iced Starbucks beverages.
  •  Baby Carriers and Slings.  I recommend the Becco Butterfly II over several others, for all the reasons I state in my Amazon review.  Even if you don't plan on "wearing" your baby, you'll probably still want a carrier.  Your stroller can't quite go everywhere, and they come in handy big time when you have your second baby, or when you do a big grocery trip before your baby can sit up in the baby seat.
PBK Owl Bath Wrap:  LOVE.
Car Seats and Strollers
  • Depends on your needs.
  • The Graco car seats are the most versatile, meaning they work best with the specialty strollers. 
  • If you're willing to spend more on your stroller, I recommend the Britax B-Ready.  I recommend it over the UppaBaby Vista, if you have any plans of having a second child and spacing them fewer than three years apart; both convert to a double, but the B-Ready's "second seat" gets significantly better reviews than the Vista's "rumble seat," and that includes reviews of people who have tried both.  If you do that, get the Britax B-Safe car seat; it's compatible with the B-Ready, and get a snap-and-go that also works with it.
  • The other matching "sets" like Graco's are all terrible.  I'm not even sure they make them anymore; I don't see them on Amazon but maybe Babies R Us still has them.  By the way, Babies R Us is almost always a complete ripoff.  
  • If you want to be able to jog with your stroller, a BOB Revolution is really a must.  I hardly ever see any joggers with any other stroller.  They hold up really well so check Craigslist and consider buying new and reselling later. 
  • If jogging is not a concern but you might do long walks and you want a stroller that pushes well, you might want to consider a City Mini - they have the easiest fold of all the all-terrain strollers and they're slightly lighter weight.
  • There are two strollers that I couldn't live without, in ADDITION to my "all-terrain" walking stroller.  The first is a "snap-and-go."  It's just a cheap frame with a basket that you can pop your Graco car seat right into (be sure to check compatibility if you go with another car seat).  It's the best thing ever because for as long as your baby fits in the infant car seat (about a year or so) you don't have to unbuckle and rebuckle into a stroller - you just pop the car seat out, snap it in, and go.  It's PERFECT for air travel because it fits through the x-ray scanner and makes it easy to bring your car seat to the gate for checking it.  
  • The second is the UppaBaby G-Luxe.  You might want to just start with these two strollers and never get anything else, because unless you do LONG walks you won't need anything.  The G-Luxe is AMAZING.  It's an ultra-lightweight "umbrella" (light as an umbrella) stroller unlike the others, it has quality wheels, a one-handed push and turn, a fantastic basket underneath and weather canopy, AND a CUPHOLDER!  It *does* have the edge over the Maclarens even though those are more widely known.  The cupholder is key, but reviews also say that the incline of the G-Luxe is slightly greater, such that your feet don't ever hit the back when you walk.  The G-Lite is the cheaper version - it doesn't recline (meaning, you can't lower the back of your baby's seat for a nap) and the wheels aren't as great.  It's still quite good though.  We got our G-Luxe on Zulily (a flash-sale site).  It was a great deal.  If you're not yet signed up for Zulily, you'll definitely want to be as a parent.  It's free, and they have great deals on all sorts of baby gear and high-end toys, as well as my personal favorite:  designer baby clothes.
  • Keep in mind that all of these strollers have a resale value.  You can either buy them used or buy them new and resell.  Either way it's a good deal.
Our B-Ready with Second Seat turns on a dime, pushes like a dream, and can even go forward over curbs.  It gets better reviews than the Uppababy Vista with Rumble, and it pushes much MUCH better than the City Select, which felt SO heavy in comparison and so hard to turn.  My kids never fight about who sits where (1) my daughter is too young to care; and (2) my son likes to ride in the bottom about half the time, apparently it's fun in its own way.  The only caveat with this stroller is that if you have a sedan, it's hard to get it in the trunk.  That's why if you don't do long walks, I would just get the G-Luxe.  
  • Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is a must-have in my opinion.  It takes you through what to expect at each stage based on biorhythms (meaning, they've studied what times of the day kids get tired and how much sleep they actually need).  Two key highlights are (1) Sleep is a incredibly important to infant brain development; you wouldn't let your baby go hungry, so do your best to make sure your baby gets enough and *quality* sleep and isn't over-tired; and (2) Babies need more sleep than you think; don't feed your baby every time he's cranky, because a LOT of the time he's actually just tired even though he'll still nurse comfort.  One of the most common mistakes new parents make is thinking their fussy baby is hungry when he's actually tired.  This is partially because the baby will still nurse for comfort, and partially because cranky babies have a hard time falling asleep and don't stay asleep very well.  Cranky babies aren't tired - they're overtired.  Their bodies have started producing adrenaline to keep them awake, and that makes them cranky ("wired") and it also makes it hard for them to fall asleep.  If you think about it, it's true for adults too.  The key is to catch your baby when he's just getting drowsy and put him right down for a nap.  When he stops babbling as much, stops interacting as much, etc.
  • The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) reference books.  Rather than being written by just one standalone physician, these books compile information on which leading experts agree, or largely agree. 
  • Our favorite kid books include:  Snowmen at Christmas, Snowmen at Night, Pop Up Haunted House, Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, Goodnight Moon, Big Red Barn, The Snowy Day, I Took The Moon For a Walk, Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night, Hooray for You, and Dear Zoo.
  • I limit screen time but I'm not obsessive about it; I realize they don't learn anything from it until they're older but they don't learn much from crying while I make dinner either; I don't expect them to constantly learn, and we get out of the house every single day for an activity.  Plus, I've found the bigger issue is finding something that actually holds their attention long enough to even potentially jeopardize their non-screen learning ;)  Our favorite DVDs are "Baby Signing Time," the old cartoon version of "The Grinch," "Polar Express," and the Toy Story series, and our favorite Netflix shows (we don't get television service) are Curious George, Daniel Tiger, Justin Time, and Super Why.  Right now anyway.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The "SAHM": Time For An Upgrade

As I sit here on day seven of The Worst Cold I Have EVER Had, it's hard to appreciate that I have the "luxury" of being a Stay At Home Mom.  I haven't stayed home a single day in years - whether I was sick, pregnant, postpartum, snowed in, or anything else.  And I don't just mean that my childcare duties continue without respite.  What I mean is that my "job" as a "stay at home" mom doesn't permit me to stay at home.  I have a wildly active toddler and we live in a two-bedroom apartment; you can do the math.  Barring complete physical incapacitation, which thankfully hasn't happened, getting him out of the house has always been the lesser of all evils.  The "Stay At Home Mom" title really seems to me to be the antithesis of my daily goals, almost all of which revolve around getting the hell out of the house!

And yes, staying home is a luxury, but it's far from luxurious.  It's also far from passive so it's really unfortunate that we've chosen an acronym starting with the word "stay."  The first two definitions listed for the verb "stay" in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary are "To stop going forward" and "To stop doing something."  I can't think of a less accurate way to describe what I do with my time.  And while it's true that I did "stop" practicing law, I hardly think my current vocation should be defined as not doing whatever I used to do.

The passivity of the word "stay" also contributes - in no small part - to the dreaded Mommy Wars.  There's an ongoing, ludicrous debate about whether kids who "stay home" lack socialization; again, as if anybody is actually literally staying in the house!  And take this meme that popped up a few times in my Facebook feed awhile back:

Fifty Shades of Hell were raised over that.  Maybe even sixty.

But even working moms and the staunchest of feminists can get behind a remake of my least favorite acronym.  Why?  Because of the gender exclusivity.  Our language shouldn't imply that whether one works outside of the home makes them a definitive type of "mom."  It's needlessly polarizing.  And we're not doing our daughters any favors either.  My brother plans to be a SAH*D* - his wife's career is really taking off in amazing ways, but as with so many such careers it promises to be incredibly demanding.  In my humble opinion, we're not going to see equal numbers of women "breaking the glass ceiling" until we see equal numbers of women with spouses who enable them to go all the extra miles at work.  Continuing to linguistically reinforce the idea that mainly "moms" are the parents who occasionally choose to take on all of the domestic work is simple sexism.  As the "feminist housewives" that so many of us are, we should demand a better title.

I'm not the first to call for an upgrade here.  Slate ran a piece back in March that followed the evolution of "SAHM" from its original "housewife" roots, and suggested "primary caretaker" as a potential replacement.  Others have suggested "full-time parent."  I would reject both of those as rightfully offensive to working parents, though.  Nobody forfeits their status as their child's primary caretaker simply by working outside of the home.  And parents who do work outside of the home are still parents - not part-time parents.

I'll offer up as our next iteration either At-Home Parent (AHP) or Full-Time Caretaker (FTC).  Either of those would alleviate the passivity, borderline-cutesyness, and "This Is The Kind of Mom I Am" statement I feel forced to make when I tell people I'm a SAHM.  And just imagine if the next generation of boys could grow up hearing about FTCs or AHPs instead of SAHMs... it might sound trite, but we could really change the world.

UPDATE:  Two days after I posted this entry, check out this NYT article:  "Wall Street Mothers, Stay Home Fathers:  For growing numbers of women on Wall Street, stay-at-home husbands are enabling them to compete at work with new intensity."  LOVE!!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Top Six LEAST Logical Anti-Vaxx Arguments

After a little rant I wrote went viral, I found myself mired in the black hole of vaccine "debates."  And I'm putting "debates" in quotations because it pains me to even elevate much of what is being said to "debate" where so many "points" and "counterpoints" make no sense whatsoever.  It was hard to narrow it down but I think I've found the six least-logical anti-vaccination points of all.  Here they are, in no particular order.

1.  We can't trust the researchers or the doctors because they're all part of a vast "Big Pharma" conspiracy to make money off of vaccines.

There are at least five good and obvious reasons why this is clearly not true, but I'll make room here for just one:  The "naive" parent who didn't "do her homework" by running a google search or listening to her friends is not, in fact, the one paying for her child's vaccines.  Vaccinations are paid for largely by private health insurance companies and, for uninsured children, the government.  Hopefully we can all agree that health insurance companies are not an innocent, naive, duped party in this or any other equation.  Not only is the health insurance industry a major political powerhouse, but health insurance companies employ hundreds of physicians whose sole jobs are to find ways to deny coverage for any medical care that is even arguably not "medically necessary."  If you must have a conspiracy theory, and you really don't believe vaccines work, maybe you should consider the idea that the "Big Health Insura" put out all the anti-vaxx internet quackery so that fewer people would vaccinate.  *I* know that's not true, because *I* know that health insurance companies don't want to pay for babies hospitalized with pertussis.  But if you're a vaccine-denier, then I have to tell you that my conspiracy theory is far more likely than yours.

2.  They've never done a study of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children and autism rates.

They have, in fact, plenty of them!  Can you imagine if we'd been debating this for as long as we have been and nobody had ever bothered to check?!  Here's one out of Denmark, published in the #1 leading medical journal NEJM.  It used data from all children born in the country of Denmark from 1991-1998.  Spoiler:  There is no difference in the rates of autism when comparing vaccinated to unvaccinated children.  Update:  Here's another such study, this one a massive new study this year, out of the U.S.!  What they haven't done is a double-blind study.  And that's not because Big Pharma is preventing one - it's because it would be considered unethical to randomly assign babies to not be vaccinated.

3.  It's actually the vaccinated children who are dangerous - they are the ones most commonly infecting other people.

One good argument against that is that it's factually not true.  See also this, thisthis, and this:

Most of the 288 measles cases reported this year have been in persons who were unvaccinated (200 [69%]) or who had an unknown vaccination status (58 [20%]); 30 (10%) were in persons who were vaccinated. Among the 195 U.S. residents who had measles and were unvaccinated, 165 (85%) declined vaccination because of religious, philosophical, or personal objections, 11 (6%) were missed opportunities for vaccination, and10 (5%) were too young to receive vaccination (Figure).

But let's imagine it were true, and vaccines were only ("only"), say, 85% effective.  Now imagine a town of 100 people.  Ninety of them are vaccinated and ten are not.  Everyone is exposed.  If this were to happen, in theory, 10 unvaccinated people would contract the illness, but thirteen vaccinated people would.  It's simple math.

Oh yeah, the pertussis vaccine.  That one has its own ironic twist.  In 1997 we switched over to an acellular vaccine formula in order to appease vaccination fears.  The cellular formula was more effective but it had more side-effects - more fevers, and thus more febrile seizures.  But febrile seizures are not actually dangerous and if you're prone to them, you're not going to avoid them by not getting vaccinated.  My 13-month old inherited them from her father and while she never experienced one after a vaccination, she had one anyway when she caught a simple passing illness that spiked her fever.  She's perfectly fine and was never in any danger.  So now to avoid a false danger we've increased the real danger:  a less effective vaccine where vaccination rates are declining.

**Even at that, though, studies show that even in populations including non-infants (so people far removed from their infant pertussis vaccines), the unvaccinated are 2.5 times as likely to catch (and potentially spread) the disease.  And as for infants - the people most likely to die from a pertussis infection - our current vaccine is still 90+% effective.

4.  If vaccines are actually effective, vaccinated people shouldn't care whether some people don't vaccinate.

Is this how you feel about hand-washing?

5.  It's better to be "naturally" infected than to receive a vaccine.  

This reasoning is so circular it makes my head hurt:  It's better to risk death, brain damage, paralysis, birth defects, and various kinds of cancer by getting a full-blown "natural" case of one or more of these diseases because... because it's a more effective way of making sure you don't ever get the disease you already had.

And if you do subscribe to this theory, I certainly hope you're formula-feeding.  Antibodies passed to your infant through your breast milk won't be quite as effective or long-term as the antibodies your baby's own body would produce in response to full-on "natural" infections of various illnesses.  You wouldn't want to jeopardize his developing immune system by nursing, would you?  (Disclaimer:  This is sarcasm; I'm nursing my 13 month old through this winter JUST to - maaaaybe - give her any antibodies I happen to acquire).

Photo Credit

6.  We shouldn't blindly trust our doctors.

Agreed.  Physicians make mistakes, and we as patients can optimize our medical care by staying informed and by self-advocating where appropriate.  Thankfully, though, we have very little such work to do when it comes to vaccination.  Contrary to what anti-vaxxers would have you believe, vaccines are some of the most thoroughly studied medications out there and there is not just a national but a global consensus on their safety and efficacy.  Really, people, you might find my vaccination posts a little too snarky for your tastes.  But at least admit that it's not exactly humble to ignore the consensus of every legitimate medical and public health group in the world.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Zulily: How To Shop It + Review of Brands (KIDS)

I love shopping on Zulily, but it helps to strategize.  In this post I want to tell you how best to use the site and I also want to have a review of some of the lesser-known brands.  This post is limited to children's clothing but Zulily also carries adult and home items plus toys (KidKraft kitchens, Melissa & Doug, etc), strollers (Phil & Ted), and much more.

How To Shop It

Zulily can either be a decent deal or an amazing deal, depending on how it's done, because shipping charges cut into your savings.  Here are a few tips on how get the biggest bang for your buck:
  1. Purchase "staple" items on Zulily so that you can get free shipping on other purchases.  If you know you need a Halo Sleepsack, or Stride Rites or Crocs or Keens, wait and purchase them on Zulily.  On those items, you'll fare slightly better than you would Amazon, even with shipping charges.  Then you'll get free shipping on any other Zulily purchase for the rest of that day (or weekend, if it's Friday).  And those purchases are the ones you'll really score savings on.
  2. Purchase one item at a time, and purchase your lightest weight item first.  This will minimize your shipping charges.  So if you know you need a Halo Sleepsack and you're also getting some sort of Thomas Train set, purchase the sleepsack first, pay the shipping on it, and then get free shipping on the heavier item.
  3. Know the brands.  It's hard to take advantage of your free shipping if you're totally unfamiliar with the other brands on sale that day.  Some of them are absolutely amazing and others are not worth your money.  I've polled my two local list serves for feedback on lesser-known brands and this is what I've come up with.  I'll cover the known brands first just in case you're really a newbie.  If you're reading and you've tried out a brand not mentioned here, please post a comment and let us know!
  4. "Heart" your favorite brands so that you're notified when they're on.  You probably don't have time to look over everything in your daily Zulily email.  If you "heart" a brand, Zulily will send you a reminder email the day before it's on so that you don't miss it (if it's something like MiniBoden, be sure to check Zulily right at 9 am because stuff sells out quickly).  To "heart" a brand, search Zulily for that brand.  If they carry it, it will come up with a little heart outline icon.  Click the icon to "fill in" the heart and it will be on your "favorites" list.  You might want to start by "hearting" Mini-Boden, UGG Australia, Stride Rite, Tea Collection, Hanna Andersson, See Kai Run, and Keen, to name a few.
  5. Join my Facebook group (click here) and set notifications to "receive all."  I constantly scour for sales and I only post the best ones on the best brands (and not just Zulily!).  
  6. RESELL!  I can't say it enough.  Any time you purchase a high-end clothing item, keep it nice and recoup what you can on ebay.  Check out my other blog entries "Designer Baby on a Budget:  10 Steps" and "Ten Tips for Reselling Children's Clothing on Ebay."
The Brands - Known Brands
  • Hanna Andersson.  Oh boy, it doesn't get much better than this.  Heirloom quality knits by a Swedish-American designer.  These are soft and gorgeous, they last forever (fantastic resale value if you keep them nice), and they're actually pretty practical for playing in.  Hanna Andersson really shines in fall and winter - you just can't beat their sweaters and sweater dresses.
Hanna Andersson outfit with See Kai Run shoes.   To die for.
  • Halo.  Not sure what people did before sleepsacks.  They come in two types - 100% cotton and "mircro-fleece."  I always do the micro-fleece in the winter for warmth.  And we used extra-large cotton ones the year my son figured out how to climb out of his crib but wasn't yet ready for a "big boy bed" - bought us some time.
Love this Halo sleepsack for my little ladybug.  
  • Mini Boden.  Ultra high quality duds by British designer Johnnie Boden.  These are gorgeous and all the rage.  I have to be honest and tell you that I don't find every last Boden item to be drool-worthy.  But when they do hit the mark, it's ahhhh-mazing.  And they recently used a child with cerebral palsy as a model - how fantastic is that?
Boden:  T. D. F.
Click here for 20% off your first order if you order direct from Boden's website.
  • Tea Collection.  Super soft "globally inspired" Earthy-but-modern clothing.  The designers actually travel the world twice annually to find inspiration.
Tea is also often featured on GILT, and you can get free shipping on GILT if you pay with a Master Card.
  • Oilily.  If you like bright colors and lots of patterns, this is the designer for you.  
  • Carter's.  Carter's is not that exciting but it's high-quality stuff for the price.
  • UGG Australia.  Need I say more?
  • Stride Rite.  The go-to for high-quality kids' shoes.  
  • See Kai Run.  Stride Rite quality but with a more "modern" look.  Less "sneaker-y."
See Kai Run is also often on GILT and RueLaLa.
GILT gives you free shipping any time you pay with a Master Card.
  • Crocs and Keens.  The summer shoes.  Crocs are easier to keep clean and sometimes Keens get stinky and need to be run through the wash.  But Keens are more attractive and they seem like they'd be more comfortable too.
  • Pediped.  Kind of a cross between Stride Rite and See Kai Run.  They pride themselves on comfort.
  • Primigi.  The luxury version of children's shoes.  Simply to die for.

Primigi shoes are also often on GILT and RueLaLa.

The Brands - Lesser-Known Brands

This, I really think, is where it's at with Zulily.  The truly "boutique" brands are often the very best deals because they don't quite have the name power to drive the world's hardest bargain, but their quality is out of this world.  However, it's hit or miss if you're unfamiliar with a brand and sometimes the sizing is off (if it is, by the way, I've found that Zulily will take it back in spite of their stated no-return policy).  So in the name of more "hits" and fewer "misses," here's what I've found and what I've been told:

*** lesser-known brands are harder to resell.  Make sure you include the words "boutique" and "designer" in your subject title on Ebay.  Plan to relist several times.

Toffee Moon (0-24 months, boy and girl)
This is an absolutely fabulous brand out of the U.K.  I got the sweetest EVER romper for my daughter, one of my all-time favorite pieces.  Super soft material and I used the heck out of it with no pilling whatsoever.  Consider ordering a size up for the rompers; the dress and cardigan ran true to size.

Best Romper Ever.
Toffee Moon romper.  Wish these pics were better.

Our latest addition.  SO IN LOVE. 

Cloud Mine 
Downright divine.  Ethically made in the U.S.A.

She's 18 months here, wearing 9 month leggings and a 12 month dress - that's all they had, but it worked.

P'tit Mom
I got this dress and I'm just kind of "meh" about it.  I was really hoping the material would be softer and have better movement :(

ELK Shoes
These shoes are gorgeous, and the top ones go perfectly with so many of our outfits.  So far they are holding up really well - LOVE.

Petite Amie
Just gorgeous.  Here's the mint "lei" dress I got for Claire.

Twirls and Twigs 
I am IN LOVE with this whimsical but still practical brand that is ethically made in the U.S.!  And I see some Ebay listings that appear to be holding their value VERY well - maybe because it's also found at Nordstrom's?

We have this dress and I am IN LOVE.
Fabric is soft and quality, dress is lined and divine in every way.  Runs small if anything.
Me Too
I loved this dress by them.  But I haven't really seen anything as cute as this in awhile.  Boo :(

Summer dress by Me Too.

Nanette Baby
Hit or miss, but a hit is a great one.  I absolutely adored this outfit.  Delicate, vintagey, a change from the pink, flattering, easy to wash, soft, and easy to wear anywhere.  Lots of compliments.

Nannette Baby outfit worn for professional photoshoot.
Photo Credit:  Kelly Fitzsimmons Photography (Boston-area) - "like" her on Facebook!
By the way, my son is wearing a Janie & Jack sweater from Ebay and Talbots Kids pants from my local friend Sarah...
I love dressing him too, but we just buy all Sarah's old stuff since her stuff is so good.

Another great outfit by Nannette Baby
Heaven on Earth.  This is the softest fabric I have ever felt in my life.  LOVE them for infant rompers.  I got no end of compliments on the footless romper my friend gave me for my daughter.  I'm actually not sure if Zulily features these anymore, but GILT definitely does, and shipping is always free on GILT if you pay with a Master Card.

FeatherBaby romper I cannot bring myself to resell.  LOVE.
Ciao Bimbi Shoes 
Okay this brand I've only seen on MyHabit (a site just like Zulily - but owned by Amazon!) but I had to update this entry and include it because I just got these boots for Claire and they are to DIE for.  They were $53 … not that much more than Stride Rite and these are $200 dream boots!  Going to try to get them in the charcoal color next time this brand is featured.

Ciao Bimbi boots - this brand is on MyHabit (just like Zulily but owned by Amazon).
Now I'm just sort of adding in my favorite brands from MyHabit and GILT.  Luum is an ultra-high end brand often featured on GILT and these are their "petticoat" dresses.  They retail for something like $90 but are just $43 (or less) when they're on GILT.

I cannot exaggerate the amazingness of these dresses.  The sash is super long, making for a gorgeous bow in the back.  The petticoat underlay adds not only a new fabric but also a bit of texture to the bottom, for a hint of poof - but not so much that you couldn't wear it to the park or on a playdate.  It's a throwback to the 1800s, but with modern patterns, and soft easy-to-wash cotton … simply, *simply* divine.  

Petit Lem
Ultra high-end French designer clothing.  Makes my heart flutter just thinking about it.  I don't own any of their girl stuff but even their little jammies and baby outfits are to die for!  (Lately I'm finding this brand more frequently featured on GILT - not sure if they still do Zulily).

Petit Lem lounging outfit - check out the tiny little cuffs, it's all in the detail.
Worn with See Kai Run "Smaller" shoes.  LOVE.
Lucky Top
I got these boots, size 4 for my daughter ... fantastic price and they make adorable fashion boots!  My daughter can walk with them easily.  Not sure they'd hold up in inclement weather but they are just too cute with dresses and leggings.

Pink Vanilla
Quality seems excellent, I'm loving this dress.  Runs VERY small (at least this dress does) - this is a 24 months and fits perfectly right as she's turning 18 months.

Sweet Potatoes
Excellent quality and super cute but this brand also runs extremely small.  And I've heard from others so I know it's not just this particular outfit - it runs 1-2 sizes small.

Size 24 months fits my daughter at 18 months.
These sandals are to DIE for and they go well with so many things!  Quality seems excellent.  BUT BUT BUT be very careful when you order.  I ordered a "Toddler 5" and it was huge.  It measured 6 inches and had a Euro 23 marked on the bottom - making it really a 7.5 in US sizes.  I complained and Zulily made it right - LOVE their customer service.  If you're going to order this brand, I guess be sure you look at the actual measurements box.  Apparently that box would have told me that a "5" was 6 inches.  Even though every other such box I've seen, including others on Zulily, measure a toddler 5 as 4.75 inches.

P'tit Mom
I've only tried one dress by them, and it's very pretty and fits nicely but the material isn't as soft as I was hoping for.  It's fine... not excessively stiff or anything, but I was hoping for soft with some degree of stretch.

Rachel Shoes
LOVING these.  Got a pair of white sandals with bright flourishes on consignment and they are holding up spectacularly well.  Super cute stuff - some of it is very "Livie & Luca" but WAY cheaper - these were $16 on Zulily.

Like Livie & Luca but WAY cheaper - $16 for these on Zulily!
Classy Couture
This romper is super cute in real life and so far washes very well.  I love the ribbons.  I'm not a big fan of this fabric, but this is whatever the classic fabric is for all those smocked outfits.  Runs true to size.

Mole Little Norway
I'm OBSESSED.  I love nordic stuff and this is just divine.  This sweater is smooth and soft with amazing detail.  I definitely want to try more of their stuff this fall/winter.

The Silly Sissy
They have some cute stuff but I've tried two dresses and neither was my absolute favorite.  Fabric on the dress pictured here is simple cotton, wrinkles easily, no stretch or give.  Runs true to size.

Sweet Charlotte
I purchased this dress for my daughter.  I *love* the design (retro and Parisian) and it's lined so that's nice, but the fabric feels like very cheap cotton.  Not soft at all, and seems like it would be very difficult to get a stain out of.  Still, it's very cute.

Leveret French 
A friend loves their fleece, footed pajamas.  Reports that they are super soft and have a very nice fit and weight.

Nohi by Nktoo
A friend loves the material of this loungewear - reports it's soft, stretchy, and holds it shape.  She also appreciates the cute, modern, different designs.

Truffles Ruffles
A lister tried this brand but it was a bust, which is good to know since it appears SO adorable in Zulily's pics.  She ordered black and white striped pants only to discover that the stripe was printed on rather than being part of the fabric.  Thus it wore horribly in all the places where the fabric needed to stretch.

Sage Creek Organics
A lister tried this brand and got a pair of leggings that were fantastic.

A lister loves this brand for swimming gear and hats.  She reports that the swimming attire is soft, true to size, and has simpler and classier designs than a lot of other brands.  She says their hats are "the best" - thin enough that they're not at all hot, and they dry quickly so they work great in a pool, and the only hat her son doesn't try to pull off (possibly because it has a little elastic around it).

Nui Organics
Very soft and comfortable, runs a little small.  Watch for lots of buttons during diaper changes.

Kickee Pants
A fantastically soft brand using fabric made from bamboo viscose.  Super silky, especially great for summer, and lovely mod prints.

Sweet Peanut (babies) and Peanut Buttons (toddlers)
Another favorite.  Well made, cute patterns.  Runs small.

Lazy One
Very cute but sizing seems erratic.  Jammies seem very tall and skinny, hoping that they will stretch some.

Vitamins Baby
In my humble opinion... don't waste your money.  Quality is lacking and sizing seems completely erratic.

Silkberry Baby
Amazing thin fabric, awesome for summer, and very soft and smooth.  "I just want to hug my baby non-stop when he's wearing the romper."  Be sure to wash on gentle cycle though - fabric is so thin it did start ripping around the snaps.  Runs true to size.

Petite Pomme
Runs small but is super cute, durable, and comfortable.

Frangipangi Kids
Adorable and great quality.

Parade Organics
Runs slightly big, if anything.  Quality seems all right.

City Threads
One lister's all-time favorite brand.  Adorable and the knit pants fit over cloth diapers.  Be sure to price check on before ordering on Zulily.

Awesome footed pants for infants - the 0-3 months size fit a newborn and still fit well at 4+ months, somehow.

Bambino Land
Fabric was not soft - felt like slightly-scratchy muslin.  Disappointment.

John Deere
Cute, durable, runs small.

Little Traveler
"One of my favorite boy brands, the quality and fit are great and it runs true to size."  Machine and vehicle themes for boys.

Jelly the Pug
I've heard mixed things about this brand.  One friend got a dress she is head over heels for, the other said that her outfit was cute but fell apart in the wash.

Max & Ella
I haven't tried them myself but a lister responded that this is her all-time favorite stuff she's ever gotten from Zulily.  She reports that it wears extremely well and that it runs slightly small.

Excellent quality, true to size, very attractive attire.  More of a solid-colors type theme.

And there you have it.  All the information I could compile about Zulily.  If you have additional knowledge or brand reviews, please share it with me and I can add it to this blog entry!  I can be reached at lisa dot murakami at gmail dot com.