Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Who Ya' Got?

The Semi-Finals are here, and I've broken them into two separate polls (conveniently located on the top, right-hand side of the blog (this way! --->)). So go ahead and pick your poison. Two underdogs (Jackson and Evan) against two battle-worn contenders (Scott and Beckett). The one you pick may end up being the middle name of my first born son. Or, you could just call him that when I'm not around. Your choice, punk. Who ya' got?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Monster Update: 35

The Tummy Monster doesn't have much room to maneuver now that he's over 18 inches long and tips the scales at 5.25 pounds (the heft of a honeydew (pictured)). Because it's so snug in Stef's womb, he isn't supposed to be doing somersaults anymore (although he hasn't gotten that memo, yet). He's still kicking a ton and hanging out on Stef's spleen. His kidneys are fully developed now, and his liver can process some waste products. Most of his basic monster development is now complete — he'll spend the next few weeks putting on weight. That extra helping of turkey and mashed potatoes? All him.

Text adapted from Baby Center.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Polls are open for the Elite Eight of Monster Middle Names. As always, you have a week to determine who goes to the Final Four. Right now I'm just jazzed that "Beckett" (pictured above, also jazzed) did so well against strong contender "Ryan".

Monday, November 19, 2007

Things We Learned

This weekend was a weekend of knowledge for us: we went stroller shopping, we borrowed a newborn for a night, and we took an all day child birthing class. I'll tackle each issue one at a time.

First, strollers. Clearly, we are no longer living in the era of "one umbrella stroller and you're set." Sure, we could spend $12 and be done, but that wouldn't be sporting. If you haven't seen a stroller store recently, trust me when I tell you that it can be daunting to look for a new stroller. I've probably spent as much time researching strollers as I did determining where I wanted to go to college. However, there's only so much wisdom you can gain from the printed page or website, sometimes you have to just test the product out. To that end, Stef and I traveled up to Wellesley, MA, where my old co-worker Sheri and her husband, Eli, were opening their second (of three) baby/toy store (check 'em out). Now on our stroller shortlist: the Phil & Ted's e3 and the Baby Jogger Urban Mini. Now off our list: the Mountain Buggy Urban Single (just too heavy and unwieldy for Stef), and about 15 other strollers we were considering. Overall, I think it was a successful trip, but we've yet to really settle on a stroller, so more work needs to be done. Insane? Yes, I know it is. hopefully, all our friends-with-children can help us through the morass.

Later on that night, we borrowed a baby from our friends Scott and Julie, who were in town for a classmate of Scott's wedding. Kelan is a cute little dude who is curious and lovely and he just did not enjoy his time with us at all. So from between 7:30 and 11 pm we were just trying to get him to calm down while his Mom and Dad enjoyed their wedding. Things we learned: (i) the vacuum/dust buster is a magic baby-shut-off-switch, (ii) he also likes the white noise section of the Happiest Baby on the Block DVD, and (iii) when getting a baby used to the bottle, multiple types of nipples should be tried. Also, I have a million dollar idea: baby rentals. Parents pay to leave their kid with the service, who also rents out the same babies to young couples nervous about parent-hood or someone looking to scare their significant other out of pregnancy. The insurance would be crazy ridiculous, but you'd probably make money hand over fist.

Third, we woke up early Sunday and spent all day in a birthing class at a hospital. This class was helpful, and Stef is happy because half the class was about massaging her back, hands and feet. Of course, the other half of the class was mind-numbingly terrifying giving-birth type information, so it balanced out. And, of course, some of the class was a bit repetitive from the previous two classes we already took, so tonight's class will be our last for a while, we hope.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Monster Update: 34

The Tummy Monster now weighs about 4.75 pounds (like your average cantaloupe (pictured)) and is almost 18 inches long. His fat layers — which he'll need to regulate his body temperature once he's out in the real world — are filling out, making the Monster rounder. His skin is also smoother than ever. The Monster's central nervous system is maturing and his lungs are continuing to mature as well. Although it is good to know that babies born between 34 and 37 weeks who have no other health problems generally do fine, we'd still like the Monster to stay cooking for a bit longer to avoid a stay in the neonatal nursery or any short-term health issues.

Text adapted from Baby Center.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another Monster Friend

CONGRATULATIONS to Jeremy and Sharona on the birth of their lovely baby girl, Lilia Katherine!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Polls Open

The first part of the Sweet Sixteen of Middle Names saw some upsets and some pretty strong contenders. Which middle names will make it out of Round 2.2? This is why we have the polls.

There's only one Monster. There's only one Middle Name. There's only one... September-to-December-period-in-which-we-select-via- majority-vote-the-Monster's-middle-name.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Monster Update: 33

This week the Monster weighs a little over 4 pounds (the heft of a pineapple, pictured) and he has likely passed the 17-inch benchmark that all fetuses aim for. He's rapidly losing that wrinkled, alien look and his tiny monster skeleton is hardening. The bones in the Monster's skull aren't fused together, though, but that's a good thing which will make it easier for him to squeeze the birth canal. These bones won't entirely fuse until early adulthood, so they can grow as his brain and other tissue expands during infancy and childhood.

Text adapted from Baby Center.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Doctor Visit: 10

Stef went to the Doctor last night for her now biweekly check-up. Things are well and progressing nicely. Both momma and the Monster are healthy and the Monster is growing pretty much as expected. Stef's belly is 32 inches across, which is some indicator of how many weeks pregnant she is (but we already knew she was 32 weeks pregnant, so that seems like a redundant and extremely coincidental indicator). This has really been a text-book pregnancy so far, and I, personally, could not be happier.

Schedule-wise, it was kind of a pain that Stef had to wait so long to see the Doctor, and that the appointment was so late to begin with. Particularly considering that all she had to do was pee in a cup, get her weight taken and her blood pressure checked, and especially since Monday night is our one night for TV shows. Which meant that after the appointment Stef was rushing to get home, and we couldn't get any chores done. It makes the night seem really short when you're only home and conscious for two hours. In the future, we're going to try and have morning appointments for her.

The Sweet Sixteen (Part One)

We have arrived, ladies and Gentlemen, at the second round of middle name selection, wherein you select your favorite middle name for Alexander "Xander" _____ Howell (a.k.a. the Tummy Monster). You will note that on the poll there are now eight, not four, names to choose from. Please select as many names as you like, or we're going to end up with numerous low-scoring ties.

Overall, I am liking the wisdom of the crowds thing going on here. You all really haven't picked a name I don't like. My only disappointments from the first round are (i) "Danger" did not move on to the second round (Stef thanks you!), and (ii) I never made "Trouble" an option. The Monster just got a onesie that says "Trouble is my Middle Name", which I thought was more than appropriate. Good thing I'm not stuck with the winner of the bracket! Ha ha ha ha ha!

In somewhat related news, Stef says I'm not allowed to go to the baby records room by myself anymore.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Prenatal Bonding

We have two female cats. One of them, Houdini (not pictured), is a bit skittish and disdainful of (most) human contact. The other, Jack Daniels (pictured above), is more of a lap cat. Er, scratch that... she's more of a Tummy Monster cat.

It used to be that Jackie loved me above all. I provided food, water and clean litter, and would pet her and play with her, so she would reward me with her presence. I'd sit down, she'd come sit on my lap. Lately, however, she's been ignoring me to hang with the Tummy Monster. Almost without fail, if Stef is sitting down, Jackie will run over and sit either on or near the Monster. It's a little sad but also super cute, so I'm okay with it.

But the best part is when we're sleeping, and Jackie cuddles with the Monster. A few nights ago, Stef says, when she did this he started kicking her, and she felt it, thought it was some kind of crazy shiatsu massage and cuddled closer, purring. So it's good that we're all getting along. I hope we can keep this up after the kid is born.


Dear friends and family members:

Saturday was Stef's baby shower. As you might imagine, we made off with quite a pile (a full car-load, in fact) of baby-loot from you, our more-than-generous friends and family. A special thanks to Stef's mom, Anne, for organizing and hosting the lovely event, and to Kate for helping out, too. Thanks to everyone who braved the Nor-easter to come down to Connecticut to share in the day, and thanks to those of you who couldn't make it but provided for the Monster in whatever way you could. Also, thanks to Katyland for telling me what a "dude" means and for helping me find out who the shortest adult is.

The Monster's room is now well-stocked and ready for his Monsterousness. He's got clothes and toys and books and everything he could want, and we, his parents, could not be more grateful. We could never have done this without all of you, and without our parents in particular. So, from the bottom of our heart: Thank you.*

Stefanie and Marcus

* Expect a card in the mail soon with identical sentiments.

Books Report: "What to Expect When Your Wife is Expanding: A Reassuring Month-by-Month Guide For The Father-to-Be, Whether He Wants Advice Or Not"

Thomas Hill and Cader Books, 2007

This book/pamphlet was a gift from Jim (father of Brenna and Delamie), who is a funny guy and pretty smart, too. Now, some people will say that this book has almost zero useful information in it, because it's meant to be humorous (it calls itself a "parody" right on the cover there). However, every once in a while, the book would surprise me with some actual knowledge cloaked in "humor". Stuff that it helped me to know, even if it didn't change my actions, simply because it tempered my expectations. For instance, I wasn't going to skip any of Stef's doctor visits that I could possibly make, but it was nice to know that a bunch of them are just (i) Stef peeing in a cup, (ii) the Doctor reassuring her that her horrible symptoms are normal, and (iii) setting up the next appointment.

As for the jokes? Some were funny, some were really not. I try and be really supportive of Stef, so it's hard for me to laugh at her misfortune, and a bunch of the "humor" in the book is in that vein. Every once in a while though, there would be something actually ha-ha funny, but for the most part, I laugh more at the conversations I have with Jim (or reading these blogs) than I did reading this book.

Book Report: "Belly Laughs: The Naked Truth About Pregnancy And Childbirth "

Jenny McCarthy, 2006

This book is not intended to be a reference book, but instead tells the story of one woman’s pregnancy. Ms. McCarthy is an excellent story teller. She has an excellent upbeat tone even though she did not have an easy pregnancy or childbirth. She is funny and sassy and still manages to convey some useful information and advice in the process. I recommend this to anyone looking for an easy, lighthearted read. Seriously, it is “laugh-out-loud” funny.

Report by Stefanie (note: for what it's worth, Marcus also read this book, but he has nothing new to add to Stef's report (although she found it funnier than he did)).

Book Report: "Easy Labor: Every Woman's Guide to Choosing Less Pain And More Joy During Childbirth"

William Camann and Kathryn Alexander, 2006

Overall I found this book to be interesting and useful. It describes each of the major pain management options available to women giving birth. It did strike me as being biased towards pain medications, but was still very informative on other options. I do wish they had provided more concrete information on some of the non-medicated methods rather than simply referring to various classes. Perhaps that would be too much to cover in one book. It was good to at least get an idea of what else I should be looking into. I just wish I had read it sooner because many of the non-medication methods requires months of preparation.

There is an interesting piece at the back that discusses the history of pain management, or lack thereof, which I thought would be great to have at the beginning of the book. In its current state, it just jumps right into the discussion of pain and kind of stressed me out at first. I just about broke into a sweat thinking about having to have an IV along with the epidural, but it’s not the author’s fault that I can’t stand needles.

I think the best advice this book gives is to be educated about your options and stay flexible.

Report by Stefanie

Book Report: "Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy: Or Everything Your Doctor Won't Tell You"

Vicki Iovine, 1995

I am not a big fan of this book. I found most of her advice/commentary to be shallow and narcissistic. She mentions various medical issues that can arise, but only glosses over them. Maybe it’s just because I was so sick during the first trimester, but I couldn’t get interested in her tough decisions on whether or not to dye her hair and paint her nails. The only part I found helpful and interesting was at the end where the author gives advice on what to pack in your hospital bag.

Report by Stefanie

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Monster Update: 32

By now, the Tummy Monster weighs 3.75 pounds (about the size of a large jicama, pictured) and is about 16.5 inches long (give or take), taking up a lot of space and moving around a ton. Stef has been healthily gaining about a pound a week and roughly half of that goes right to the Monster. In fact, he'll gain a third to half of his birth weight during the next 7 weeks as he fattens up for survival outside the womb.

Text adapted from Baby Center.