March McDonalds Madness

Kurt’s mom came to visit back in March. Sophia, nearly eighteen months old at the time, was only tolerant of the visit. There were no hugs for Grandma. I think the closest they got to a sweet picture moment was when Grandma sat on the floor playing with Sophia’s mega blocks and Sophia got in the action by handing Grandma the next block slated for use. I wish I had captured the moment but that would mean leaving the room to grab the camera and risking a change in focus from Sophia. I think Grandma enjoyed seeing Sophia play and have fun around her even if she couldn’t hold her, but hopefully she’ll be more social at Christmas time.

We are fast approaching the time of year where activities are best done indoors. Until recently I worried about that because the majority of indoor social activities require either, a long drive, a lot of money, or both. I now have a long list of activities and services to keep us occupied through the winter. The only thing we could think to do back in March when Kurt’s mom was visiting was to go to the McDonalds play land. It was fun to watch Sophia, climb up and up and up, but then it became a problem because when she wanted out she would look down and know that was the way, but continued up.

Let me give the mother’s of newly mobile children a bit of assvice for a moment… You don’t want to send your kid up in the McDonalds gerbil trail unless you’re sure they know how to climb back down again because you’ll NEVER want to go back there EVER again if you have to go through those sewers to retrieve your darling. It’s really fuckin’ gross in there and we were at a rather new McDonalds.

Up the ladder
Down the rabbit hole

The other free place to visit and play is the mall. Sophia loved playing with the shopping cart. We wanted to rent one but couldn’t figure out how much is cost or where to go to rent it. I later learned that it cost five dollars and they keep your credit card until you return the cart. I guess that’ll keep people from spending too much. ;-)

Car shopping, kid style

55 Flash non-Fiction Friday: Political Enhancer

In trying to help a friend with her problem I boldly asked, “Has he ever considered sperm donation?”
“He would if he could. He’s had a vasectomy.”
“They can reverse those you know. If he donated sperm it would help his political career…When asked how much he donates to charitable causes he can say, ‘billions’.”

55 Flash Fiction Friday

Sunscreen Safety

Last year the when I viewed the environmental working group’s sunblock list their picks were based on the assumption that sun rays are worse than exposure to chemicals. (I may have been looking at their 2007 list last year since even in May their 2009 list isn’t out yet this year.) For people in sunny southern states this may be true, but for those of us in the rainy grey states, not so much. Last year there were news reports about not getting enough vitamin D, specifically breast fed babies.

In our baby swimming class some moms talked about letting their kids play in the sun for ten or fifteen minutes before applying sunblock. That sounds like a great solution except that the child then needs to avoid the sun for half an hour after the sunblock is applied so that it can be absorbed. The other shortcut that comes to mind is to just apply the sunblock and send them out before it’s absorbed, but with the highly reflective glistening oily sunscreens this can actually cause sunburn. It’s happened to me before.

My approach is to not use sunscreen if we’re going to be in and out of the sun for less than an hour and before 11am otherwise I just apply it. I’ve heard some promotions for wearing sunscreen everyday but I just don’t see it as a necessity here in grey-ville. Unless we’re out on a lake, river, or other highly reflective surface I think sunscreen on a grey day is overkill.

Last year I just grabbed a bottle of Aveeno Baby sunblock. It works as a sunscreen, however even if I don’t get any around my eyes by the end of the day they’re BURNING and it HURTS like HELL. I have super sensitive skin when it comes to cosmetics. I can’t wear makeup because I’m allergic to it. Eye shadow and many lotions burn my eyes the same way the Aveeno sunblock did.

This year I checked the environmental working group’s list again. (currently showing the 2008 lists) They’ve reworked their ratings to show which brands are effective against the sun and which have the lowest chemical hazard. They have a list of 140 recommended products and their top recommended brands. One of the top contenders is my favorite California Baby. I’ve had a chance to try it out a few times this year and it’s fabulous. It’s expensive as hell $17.99 at Target for a 2.9 ounce bottle but it works and it doesn’t burn my eyes.

Other links on sunscreen from the Environmental Working Group

Blueberry Growth Spurt

I love growth spurt days. Sophia slept in until 9:30 and she ate A LOT of Muesli this morning, probably half a cup or maybe more.

Yesterday I finished the last of our blueberries. I added them to just about every breakfast and even made blueberry pancakes myself for the first time ever. Usually pancakes are a Kurt made breakfast from a box of Bisquick which contains trans fats, the latest mad made no-no food ingredient. I was going to use Bisquick for my first attempt at pancakes, but we were down to a quarter cup. Not many pancakes to be made from that, so I tossed it and looked up some recipes.

Old Fashioned Pancakes

  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 3 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter

I actually use a lot less butter, more like one tablespoon but three is what the original recipe called for. Mix your dry ingredients together and in a separate bowl mix up the wet ingredients. Then mix it all together. After it’s all mixed add about a ½ cup (or a little more) blueberries or other small sliced/chopped fruit.

These turned out AWESOME, very fluffy and moist. They’re so much better than Bisquick pancakes (no offense to Kurtie) and really, just as easy to make.

Breast Pumps and Bottles

Aside from noticing that an eBay search would turn up mostly Medela models and the hospital rents out that same brand, I didn’t do any research on breast pumps before purchasing one. I had a couple people caution me about the pumps that hospitals rent out but suggest I rent one first to see if what features I might like. I listened but didn’t follow the suggestion. They said that some women find the pumps to be too industrialized with suction that would pull your eyeballs out through your nipples. I went ahead and purchased a used Medela pump from eBay. I didn’t find any problems with the amount of suction or the speed at which the pump works.

Some women find it difficult to relax and not think of the electric breast pump as a medieval dairy farm device. They may have problems with the letdown reflex when a plastic funnel is suckling the bosom instead of their baby. Those people may prefer a manual pump. They’re cheaper and if there are any difficulties pumping, at least there wasn’t much money wasted. I however, didn’t have a problem and don’t care for my forearms to be supper pumped. I also like the speed at which the electric pump works vs. the manual one I also received with mine. I still had images of cows being milked in a barn every time I used it, but then again when I nursed Sophia I would often get images of the big sow pig laying her side with six or more piglets pulling one her teats at the state fair. I just hope I didn’t smell as bad.

In the classes I took at the hospital the facilitator emphasized that the best breast pumps are those made by manufacturers that don’t also make formula. Medela is one that puts all it’s focus on breastfeeding moms. Medela is also very popular and replacement parts are easily found at many stores. Both of those qualities make buying a used Medela pump a great choice for the frugal mom. All Medela parts, bottles, and breast milk storage bags are BPA free, a hidden bonus I learned after I made my purchase.

When purchasing new parts for a used machine or using a pump for the first time, it’s important to know that there are different sized breastshilds. 24mm is the average size for breastshields. The way to know which size is needed is to visit a lactation consultant or go to the hospital store to be fitted (I’m assuming all hospital stores have this service). It isn’t based on boob size it’s based on the circumference of the areola. When the pump sucks in the nipple, ¾ of the areola should fit into the funnel part of the breastshield. If we milked humans that would be the part the farmer squeezes and pulls down from. Oh, does that make you feel like you belong in a dairy farm? So sorry (not really). :P So if the circumference of the areola is about average then the average size should fit.

One thing I never thought to consider was the possible benefits of a single pump over a duel pump. I bought a duel pump because, well, I have two boobies and pumping both at the same time is faster. What I never considered is that I might want to have a free hand in order to entertain my kid when I pump in front of her or to be able to cover up if I have to pump in a multi stalled busy bathroom at work. There are bands that can be purchased in order to pump hands free, but then I don’t think even I could get over the whole dairy cow image. On the other hand, if I had bought a single pump the problem I could see aside from it taking longer would be that while one side is being pumped the other would probably leak. I know I know that’s what the nursing pads are for. It’s still something to think about especially if you’re bursting at the seams and there is any tendency to gush. I’m just sayin’. Be ready.

Though I bought the Medela pump I didn’t go with Medela brand bottles, at least not at first. Avent was the bottle brand being pushed at the hospital because of the more natural shape of the nipples. However, I tossed those aside once I learned about BPA and went for Evenflo. I’m lucky that after the daycare Sophia briefly attended discovered her bottle nipple preference it was the “classic” style because I didn’t want anything to do with plastic after knowing about BPA. Evenflo sells the classic glass bottles for the most reasonable price and can be found at many stores. No other brand that I’ve seen beats three bottles (either 4oz or 8oz) for $5.50. I’ve seen some mom’s comment on message boards about the fragility of glass and their concerns for glass breaking. Sophia throws her bottles onto the our hardwood floors all the time. I even take the bottles from the refrigerator to a bowl or boiling water. We haven’t had a problem. Just don’t take them from the freezer to the oven. They aren’t meant for either of those. Aside from being inexpensive, one cool feature of these bottles is that the can fit directly onto the end of the Medela breastshield without a converter so that breast milk can be pumped directly into the bottle.

There are a TON of bottles claiming to help prevent colic and ear infections. I call bullshit on them all. I can’t see how all the internal contraptions and bottle ergonomics, which make it impossible to easily clean, help prevent either of those conditions better than a nipple with the appropriate flow for the age of the baby and properly holding the baby with the head raised. Sophia was colicky her first few months but at the time no bottles were being used with her, and she has yet to have an ear infection. *quickly finding a piece of wood to knock on*

Holiday Cheese and Corn

We returned from our holiday jaunt to the Midwest on Saturday night and for the first time in two weeks, I checked our mail today. I had no idea postal workers were so crafty at filling every fuckin’ inch of a tiny mailbox. If there were any room, I may have been inclined to leave them a gift. It’s the thought that counts, right? Now you know how silly it sounds. Maybe next time you’ll pay attention to the stop mail notice.

In the middle of our mail pile, I picked out a card nearly torn completely open from all the cramming of mail that came after it. The card was from my very pregnant friend and in it; she asked what she probably believed to be a rhetorical question. She should know by now that there is no such thing as a rhetorical question with me.

If a snowman sticks his tongue out to catch snow, does that make him a cannibal?

Only if the snowman actually ingests the snow, and the same goes for you when cheese or corn are involved you cannibal! *toothy grin* Oh the humanity!

I hope everyone had Merry Holidays and a Happy Festivus.

Blogging my life away, Traffic Building

I received an email from Aaron of Utah Outings asking me for advice on promoting his site.

I am looking for advice to promote my site. Any and all information would be much appreciated as I am not as geeky as you. I bow to your geekness and look forward to your response.

I’m sorry it took a while for me to answer but I’m so flattered I thought it deserved a blog post in my ass-vice category even though it’s actually solicited advice, so here goes:

  1. Attention grabbing titles and Content – Not every post needs an exciting title, but if you had a choice between “my boring day” or “George Carlin turned us into necrophiliacs” which would you choose? Whether your posts are funny, informative or a combination it’s up to you and the boundaries of your blog scope, the important thing is consistency and keeping the interest. Some people don’t want to offend so they stay away from dicey topics others love a good debate and jump in the fire with both feet. If you’re trying to sell a product or service, I’d really recommend staying away from politics and religion. Get more tips on blog writing from Blog Bloke.
  2. Timing is everything – Obviously if you blog about the news the ideal would be to be right on top of it when the news breaks. What many people don’t know is that Monday and Tuesday are the best bloggy days and it’s best to get your more important posts out in time for the lunch crowd readers. If you’re on the west coast keep in mind that the east coast lunch crowd is three hours ahead. Also somethings are seasonal. I wrote a post in September about my experience with Sears Portrait Studio and the hots for that post spiked in mid November / early December. I’m guessing from people that get family Christmas pictures done.
  3. Links and Comments – If you’re getting information from other bloggers link to them in your posts! Leave post-appropriate comments on various blogs whether they’re competitors or possible customers. It’s fine to add your url in the appropriate url space on the comment form and it’s even ok if the url you leave is to a specific post but don’t use the comment space to advertise your product or your blog it’s rude and tacky. Also make sure to remove “nofollow” from your blog so that you may spread link luv to your commenters. To spread even more link luv wordpress users can use the commentluv plugin.
  4. Bloggy and Social networking sites – Examples of these would be Entrecard, MyBlogLog, Technorati, Twitter, and StumbleUpon.I tried Entrecard and got a ton of hits but it was time consuming to stop by enough blogs and dropping cards to buy points in order to advertise my blog. Also, the hits I got were just drive by card droppings. No one lingered long enough to comment, or even read the first post. Sure, I may have picked up a reader or two out of the thousands that did the equivalent of a drive by shooting.  I wanted a little more meaning in the relationship than pure numbers so I moved on.Mybloglog was great until Yahoo bought it up. It was nice to see the faces and pictures of people that stopped by on the widget they provide and it was easy to select other blogs to follow, but Yahoo ruined it for me. I started getting spam on mybloglog profile page and I have an unreasonable general hatred towards Yahoo.

    Technorati is another site that I quit. It’s wildly popular but anytime I wanted to make changes their site took forever to load and I kept getting error pages. It was incredible annoying and the only time I received traffic from them was when I closed my account, not terribly useful.

    I now use StubleUpon and finally broke down and joined the Twitter crowd. StubleUpon can drive crazy amounts of traffic to you if you know how to use it. The important thing to know about StumbleUpon is that you must be very liberal with your thumbs up and thumbs down and that your ratings will carry much more weight if you also review the page. When reviewing a blog click on the individual post not the site itself that way if the blogger creates another review worthy post you can give them another thumbs up. You can use Stumbleupon to review your own posts too, but don’t do it to every post and make sure to review many other sites in between touting your own stuff.

    Twitter isn’t a big traffic driver but I suspect that will change if I can drive up my number of followers. I’m very new to twitter. One thing that helps for WordPress users is a Twitter plugin called Twitter Tools.

  5. Memes – These are a lot of fun. Most of them are weekly games, but you don’t have to play every week. Don’t make it a chore, and if you participate, try to keep the meme within the scope of your blog.

Blog Bloke gives a great overview for building blog traffic. In the middle of that post is a heading, “How TO Drive More Traffic to Your Site”. “Bloke’s Tips for a Successful Blog” Part I and Part II are also very useful and I highly recommend them. ;-)