Friday, May 27, 2005

Pregnancy Questions and Answers.

You've got questions? I've got answers. Q: Should I have a baby after 35? A: No, 35 children is enough. Q: I'm two months pregnant now. When will my baby move? A: With any luck, right after he finishes college. Q: What is the most reliable method to determine a baby's sex? A: Childbirth. Q: My childbirth instructor says it's not pain I'll feel during labor, but pressure. Is she right? A: Yes, in the same way that a tornado might be called an air current. Q: When is the best time to get an epidural?A: Right after you find out you're pregnant. Q: Is there any reason I have to be in the delivery room while my wife is in labor? A: Not unless the word "alimony" means anything to you. Q: Is there anything I should avoid while recovering from childbirth? A: Yes, pregnancy. Q: Do I have to have a baby shower? A: Not if you change the baby's diaper very quickly. Q: Our baby was born last week. When will my wife begin to feel and act normal again? A: When the kids are in college.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

How Much Does it Cost to Raise a Baby?

Funny how good timing can work. Last night Dh and I were discussing family finances. With a new baby on the way, it will greatly impact our living situation. We want the best for our families, of course but it isn't always easy. This morning I read an article about "Raising your quarter-million dollar baby." Here are some of the interesting facts I read. -For 2004, the newest data available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that families making $70,200 a year or more will spend a whopping $269,520 to raise a child from birth through age 17. Higher-income families in urban areas in the West spend the most, $284,460. -As your child ages, he or she gets even more expensive, topping out at $15,810 from ages 15 to 17. This is no back-of-the-envelope guesstimate. The survey involves visits to, and interviews with, about 5,000 households, four times a year. - Nor is there much in the way of cost-effectiveness for larger families. With an older child of 16, the USDA study says, a family with a second child under 2 lays out $20,740 for the both of them each year, with the numbers growing progressively as the children get older. With three children -- the two older ones being 16 and 13 -- a third child aged 2 years or less rings up an annual bill of $24,160. Pretty daunting isn't it? These numbers don't factor in college costs which of course is another whopping check. So what are some tips when it comes to saving money and watching your finances? -If you've had your mortgage for a while and plan to stay in your home, keep track of mortgage rates and consider refinancing when the rate is more than a percentage point below your current mortgage. It can save hundreds to thousands of dollars on the loan. You can get an idea about current rates and offers by starting here. -Challenge your property tax bill if you think it's too high. Estimates hold that as many as half of American homeowners pay more in property taxes than they have to. -Additionally, make your home as energy efficient as you can. That means everything from replacing old and inefficient furnaces and water heaters to bolstering insulation. -Finally, give some thought to moving to a less-expensive place to live. Not only does that mean a smaller house across town, but it could be a completely different part of the country. What with median home prices in some areas topping $400,000, look into parts of the country where housing prices (and property taxes) may be a bit more manageable. -Consider a home office. Now, you can qualify for a home office even if you only do managerial duties or simple record-keeping there. Prior to 1999, it had to be where you actually performed the activities of your job.If you have a home office, you can deduct the percentage you use for business of all your housing costs. These include interest, taxes, insurance, utilities, landscaping, depreciation and the cost of any furniture or equipment you use in your home office. -Use the Web to shop for bargains. There are -- literally -- thousands of shopping-related Web sites and many of them now allow you to compare costs among similar items. Here's a simple trick that really works: When you're searching for a specific item, go to one of the search engines and type in that item and the word "discount." You'll be amazed at what you'll find. -Consider joining a warehouse club such as Costco, BJs or Sam's Club. While they're not suited to everyday shopping, they let you stock up on certain items in quantity, often at substantial savings. Look to these places for things such as soda, canned and dried goods and other sorts of non-perishables. If you lack adequate storage space, divide your bulk goodies among neighbors and friends. - Avoid buying a new car. Estimates hold the value of a new car drops by as much as 40% in the first two years of ownership. Instead, look into a used car such as a relatively new model that's coming off a one- or two-year lease. It's likely to be in good shape, may have some of its original warranty in place and, best of all, will probably be available at a huge discount off its original price. There's detailed advice here. -New parents quickly discover the cottage industry of saving and sharing newborn and toddler clothes, so take full advantage to skirt the outlandish expense of buying clothes for your little one(s). Also, seek out some of the thousands of manufacturer outlets across the country where you can buy perfectly good clothes at upwards of 50% off their original price. The Internet also offers outlet-shopping opportunities -- at Bluefly, for example, shoppers can choose from dozens of designer labels at discounts as large as 75%. - If you and your spouse both work (or one is disabled or a full-time student), then you qualify for the child-care credit. That credit, a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax, ranges from a minimum of 20% to a maximum of 35% of the first $3,000 you pay for a child under age 13. For two or more children, the credit tops out at $6,000. That could mean, if you have two children in care, an additional $2,100 in your pocket. -Here's where it gets to be fun. Not only does the credit apply to child care and baby-sitting, but it counts any home care necessary for you both to work. Therefore, if you hire a maid to clean your house because you work, the cost of that maid counts toward the credit! The cost of a day camp can be deducted too, but not if it includes overnight stays. - Don't forget the child tax credit. For each child under age 17, (maximum three qualifying children), you will get a credit of $1,000 for 2005. The credit phases out as your income exceeds $110,000 ($75,000 if single, head of household, or a qualifying widow(er)). - Set up an education IRA or invest with various state prepaid tuition plans where the income is either tax deferred or completely excluded. - Instead of paying strangers to mow your lawn or clean your pool, pay your children. If you are self-employed, hire your children to work for you. The IRS has validated children as young as age 7 to work for their parents' unincorporated businesses. For 2002, you can employ and pay your children as much as $5,000 (plus another $2,000 if they opt for a deductible IRA) each, tax-free to them and deductible to you. If your business is not incorporated, and your children are under age 18, you don't have to pay Social Security/Medicare or state unemployment/disability, either! It's a lot to think about, but sitting down and going over your finances and figuring out ways to save and cut back can really benefit the entire family.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ensure Chocolate Shakes anyone?

I got this in my email yesterday from mariaATbridgeworldwide.com May I send you some chocolate? I'm writing you from Bridge Worldwide, a relationship marketing agency that's working with the makers of Ensure® to promote the launch of their new Ensure Healthy Mom™ snacks. These new shakes offer moms the flavors they crave and help provide some of the extra nutrition essential during pregnancy and while nursing. We Want to Hear From You!We're excited to offer this new, healthy option for pregnant women. But it's your opinion that really matters. We recognize that during your pregnancy you're actively sharing experiences, events, and insights on community message boards. Be Among the First to Try Ensure Healthy Mom!We'd like to send you free samples of Ensure Healthy Mom. All we ask in return is that you post an honest review on a Web site of your choosing. We hope, of course, that you like the product, but we're most interested in your opinion. And we would appreciate a link to your review after you have posted it online. First, reply to this e-mail with your mailing address and we'll send you your free samples. In the meantime, you can check out www.EnsureHealthyMom.com to learn more.We look forward to sending you Ensure Healthy Mom Creamy Milk Chocolate Shakes (and a 4-pack of Homemade Vanilla Shakes, as well). Give them a try. Then please post your review, and let us - and women everywhere - know what you think. So who knows how they got my email address but I have to say --- it's a pretty good advertising idea. Especially if they sent it out to many women with blogs. Now whether message boards will allow this somewhat spamming, it will be interesting to see how this product does! So if you're a preggers mom out there and interested -- sign up! And keep me posted as to how much you like them. (In no way does this blog or this woman writing the blog work for Ensure.)

Being a Celebrity and Being Pregnant

I don't know about you, but I have entertained the idea of being famous. I mean, what's not to love? Free stuff, people to fawn over you. But then there's the cameras and photos which capture every picture, every mishap, every bad hair day. And I would never want that. So I'm happy being a private person. Celebrities who are pregnant get a lot of press and it isn't always great press. There's a pressure to lose weight quickly post-birth. You all know how it feels to be pregnant. There are days when you don't feel pretty at all. You feel bloated, gassy and cranky and nothing feels right. You feel like a whale. Imagine that being broadcast around the world. No fun. I read an article today about Debra Messing's unhappiness with the press giving her a hard time about losing the baby weight. "It's obscene," Messing, who gave birth to her first child, son Roman, in April, 2004, told reporters in Los Angeles. "I think it's obscene and unfair to all women. It's not just actresses. I think a good rule of thumb is to keep in mind it takes nine months to go through that transformation and everyone should presume it will take another nine months to go and do another transformation of that magnitude. Anything less than that I think is unfair." Well said Debra! So give yourself nine months to enjoy the baby. Why do YOU think we feel this pressure to lose the baby weight so quickly?

What Color is the Rug?

When I was pregnant with my first, DH and I were very much the new expectant parents who thought we needed everything and then some. All baby essentials were purchased or put on the baby registry. And then Kiddo#1 arrived. And as birthdays and holidays and family visits came and went, we received even more stuff. Clothes. Books. Toys. Repeat. Not that I am not thankful for this abundance that was given to us by very generous family members and friends. But to be honest? Kiddo#1 has his favorite toys. And his favorite books. And he could really do without the rest. He grows through his clothes faster than Flash Gorden. If we were to place in one room, all the things that are essentially his, I would not be able to tell you what color the rug is. So for this next child we are having, we are hoping we don't receive as much in terms of material gifts. Our wish list is offers to babysit. Diapers. Prepared meals. Offers to babysit. Visitors who simply visit and spend time with us. That is what we are discovering is truly important and truly what matters. Having the fancy crib, stroller, sling, diaper bag, infant seat is all great...but we don't need fancy. I don't know whether it is my nesting instincts or something else but this week I have been weeding through our closets and storage boxes full of Kiddo#1's baby and toddler stuff that we don't use often or at all. And when the weather gets nicer, I full intend on having a garage sale that will be predominantly baby/kid stuff along with maternity items. Anything I don't sell will be donated and I'm thinking the proceeds will go toward saving for a family vacation. Sometimes you need to step back and reexamine what is important and what is not. And on a similar note, a little bit of letting go is always good for the soul.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Baby Facts and Stats

I logged on my computer this morning and skimmed over MSN. The words "mom" and "baby" jumped out at me. Their Family/Baby & Pregnancy page featured some interesting facts regarding moms today (the stats reflect the US, not internationally). Here are some of the more interesting ones. - Super Tuesday: The most popular day for babies to make their entrances? Tuesday, which boasted more than 12,500 births on average. That's 66 percent higher than on Sunday, the slowest day of the week for new babies (in part because doctors don't schedule c-sections and inductions on weekends). - Some (babies) like it hot: More newborns arrived in the late summer months of July, August, and September than any other time of the year. Paul Sutton, a demographer for the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, says it makes sense if you think about what happens nine months earlier in most of the country -- the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors with their sweeties. Also, some people plan births to coincide with summer vacations, especially teachers and other folks who get summers off. November had the fewest birthdays: about 320,000. - Go West: The country's population as a whole is shifting westward, so it's not surprising that the six states showing significant increases in births between 2001 and 2002 (Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Texas, and Wyoming) are all west of the Mississippi. Utah's birth rate beat every other state in the Union, with 21 babies born for every 1,000 people. Lowest birth-rate states were Vermont and Maine, with just ten babies born for every 1,000 folks. - Waiting longer: First-time moms were about 25 years old on average -- an all-time high in the United States. In 1970, the average age for first-time moms was about 21. - More unmarried moms: More than a third of all babies were born to unmarried women, a record high. - Midlife mothers: Birth rates for women ages 35 to 39 were higher than ever (moms in their mid to late 30s accounted for more than 450,000 babies). The number of moms in their 40s also increased -- the birth rate for women ages 40 to 44 has gone up 51 percent since 1990, mostly because of fertility treatments. - Double delight: The number of twins born in the United States continued to rise, increasing to 31 pairs of twins for every 1,000 babies. This rate's skyrocketed 65 percent since 1980. - Dip in triplets: The rate of triplets and higher multiple births dropped slightly to 184 for every 100,000 live births, continuing a three-year decline due in part to improvements in fertility treatments. Still, multiple births have increased by more than 400 percent in the past 20 years. - Boy power: Boys outnumbered girls among new babies, with 1,048 males for every 1,000 females. (That ratio's remained almost the same for the past 50 years.) So how do these stats compared to you? Are you having a boy? Do you live in the west? Are you having your baby "midlife?" Is your due date a Tuesday?

Eating a Rainbow

Here is one of the gems I have learned from my mother. This was often repeated to us when a sibling or myself would ask, "What is this?" when she dropped an unknown dish on the kitchen table. She would reply with: 1. Eat a rainbow. 2. The smarter kids will try new foods. 3. Variety in what you eat will make you a better person. Perhaps it was some mom psychology but the general idea is right on target. Eating an all-white meal is not going to be good for you or your baby if you do this everyday. Unfortunately she was never convinced by our insistence that jello in many colors were healthy and "eating the rainbow." What can I say, she's a smart mom. While pregnant, it's important to eat healthy. Follow your cravings but also watch what you eat. Many women think, "Oh now that I'm pregnant, I can just eat whatever I want!" That's not necessarily true. It's important to get all the right vitamins and get equal amounts of carbs, proteins, starches, meats, dairy, veggies. For more information about the new food pyramid, click here. So as my mom would say, eat a rainbow. RED: Strawberries, cherries, red cabbage, apple, red onions, cranberries, red peppers. ORANGE: Oranges, yams, sweet potatoes, carrots. YELLOW: Bananas, golden apples, curry. GREEN: broccoli, lettuce, edamame, green peppers, spinach, artichokes. BLUE: Blueberries, blue corn, blue tortilla chips, blue cheese dressing. PURPLE: Purple cabbage, purple corn, grapes, blackberries, prunes.

Monday, May 23, 2005

What Color Eyes Would Your Child Have?

Colleen sent over a very cool link. What color eyes would your child have? Based on the color of your eyes, your partner's, your family...it calculates what color eyes your child will have along with the percent probabillity. Pretty neat! Nice that it does it for you too since I remember doing these types of things back in high school biology! Both DH and I have brown eyes as do our family members so it is very likely that Belly will have brown eyes since her big brother does as well. What color eyes will your baby have?

Plant a Tree!

A tradition in Israel is to plant a tree to commemorate the birth of your baby. I love this idea. Although we are not Jewish, DH and I did this for Kiddo#1 and are discussing what we will plant for Belly. Now that Kiddo#1 is older, he loves the fact that he has "his" tree and that it is growing up with him. Every year on his birthday, we take a photo of him with his tree and I think the tree is winning the growing up race. You can tie this idea to the seasons. If your child is born in the Fall, plant a tree that will bring fall colors to your yard. Or if your child is born in the spring months, consider a flowering tree that will bloom in the spring. If you don't have the space, consider asking a neighbor or friend or relative if you can plant a tree on their property. My somewhat farfetched goal (and a true sign that I'm a romantic sucker) is that Kiddo#1 or Belly will be married under "their" tree. Just something to keep in mind... What are some of YOUR culture's customs or traditions or perhaps your own family traditions when it comes to babies and family?