General Pregnancy Advice: First Trimester

There is obviously a huge conspiracy among women not to tell each other pre-pregnancy just what to expect, and what kind of ridiculous things you’ll have to endure. If people were honest, the human race would end abruptly. If my readership was larger, I’d be endangering our racial survival, so make sure and share my blog with your friends!

I don’t plan to turn this into a pregnancy blog by any means, but having a baby is obviously having a big impact on my life. To help all you non-breeder-readers endure me, I plan to intersperse pregnancy posts with regular blog posts. Keep in mind, I don’t have my head up my ass about making a baby. I am not Gaia the Earth Mother, I am not a unique and beautiful snowflake, and I know I have a giant parasite in me I’ll have to feed for the next 18 years and six months. I am going to have fun with the pregnancy, and try to not take myself too seriously, and this is the strategy I recommend everyone follow. It really helps reduce the stress related to pregnancy and creating a whole new person you’re in charge of not ruining.

You will be insanely sleepy: people and pregnancy books will mention”fatigue”, but this does not describe the depths of my sleepiness. I felt like I had chugged a half bottle of NyQuil constantly. I could barely hold my head up at work, or form cohesive sentences. This also led to my drastically reduced blogging during that time period. Making food was a chore, and I was often ready for bed by 6pm. This is totally normal, but horrible. Supposedly this gets better in the second trimester, but I’m a month in and only marginally better. I keep hoping some energy will manifest itself.

Pregnant brain: This is mentioned in baby books as well, usually under a euphemism like “forgetfulness”. I noticed this getting worse starting my second trimester, but that may also be because I’m slightly more awake now than I was then. I made several mistakes at work, mixing up cases being worked on, etc, but fortunately nothing serious. I forgot to feed the dogs a few times as well. Mine hasn’t been that bad, but I’ve had a terrible memory for years, so many of the methods I use to adapt to that, such as always having a notebook with me for calendar, grocery lists, and to do items, have prevented the worst disasters. I did leave watermelon in my office overnight and it was gross in the morning.

Start a journal: You’re going to have prego brain, so keep a notebook, or app or Word document available to write down the funny, weird, or interesting things that occur in your pregnancy as they occur. Hubby was singing the Star Wars theme song to our baby NachoNacho the other day, and I never want to forget that. If we decide to have another kid, this would be a great self-help resource for pregnancy info. I also know I have a million questions for Mi Madre about her pregnancy with me, and I would be amazed to remember half of this stuff 30 years down the road.

 Morning Sickness: The first trimester is famous for morning sickness. If you’ve read any baby books or websites, the first thing they’ll point out is that it isn’t really “morning” sickness, it can happen any time of day. This is true, and mine chose to appear the entire day, constantly. I never actually had to throw up, but I was consistently nauseous for at least a month. I figured out a few ways to reduce this:
1) Eat a little bit, constantly – nausea happens mostly when your stomach is empty, so by snacking on carrots, grapes, cherry tomatoes, or crackers all day long, you can prevent the worst of it.
2) Soda – Many people recommend ginger ale, but anything sweet made my throat feel gummy and disgusting, leading to more nausea. Mineral water helped me more than any other soda or bubbly water.
3) Tums – I don’t know why but having a couple Tums really helped with my nausea. If you find something like this that helps, keep it with you AT ALL TIMES. I have Tums in my desk, next to my bed, and in my purse. As you get further along in pregnancy, heartburn will become more common, so your little stashes of Tums will continue to come in handy.

Don’t read too many books: I’m enjoying What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and they also have a fantastic website chock-full of information. They do a good job of explaining the basics of pregnancy as well as common fears and why you shouldn’t be worried about them. Don’t read EVERY book though. I read Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy, and that book was much more focused on your appearance and other shallow (to me) concerns. I wouldn’t bother with it. Reading too much can overload your poor prego brain, and cause all kinds of unnecessary anxiety. Save yourself the time and energy. Ask your girlfriends for their favorites, or read reviews on Amazon. I have also found the Baby Bumps subreddit to be very helpful. You can ask questions from other women who are currently pregnant, and it is a very helpful, supportive community.

As I think of more advice, let’s hope I remember to write it down to share with you.

July 15, 2013. Tags: , , , . Baby Stuff. Leave a comment.

Money Basics: Save on Vacation

My sister, Beans, has a great blog of her own, but every once in awhile I can convince her to throw some text my way so I can take a nap. Here’s her guest post about saving money on vacation:

There are many ways to go on vacation, and there are many ways to save money.  For most people, these things cannot go hand-in-hand.  That is because many people think that a vacation isn’t a vacation unless you splurge on everything that you wouldn’t normally splurge on.  That is pure insanity to me, but…to each his own, I guess. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand if you are going to have a romantic get-away, and you plan on eating fancy food, drinking fancy wine, and getting massages every day.  But usually people do not do these things on every vacation.  Vacations don’t have to be a romantic get-away, because technically you should have romance all year long, not just in the jungles of South America, living in a bungalow for a week, getting waited on hand and foot.  But that’s a rant for another day.

No, vacations mean travel, seeing the world, and other cultures, and experiencing new things that you can’t experience by watching the Travel Channel (because let’s face it, the Travel Channel has just become a channel where you watch people eat weird food items now). There is a way to travel on the cheap and still have a great time, and I’m going to give you some tips on how to accomplish this!

The first thing Hubby and I do every year is pick where we are going to go.  That is probably the hardest part anyway, right?  I think the easiest thing to do when planning a vacation is deciding on the dates of travel, and putting it down on the calendar.  If you write something down on the calendar, you are much more likely to do it, rather than putting it off for something else.

The next thing we do is book the plane tickets.  And this is done MONTHS in advance.  Every year we book our vacations in December and plan to go on them in May, so by the time the trip actually arrives, it’s almost like you have a free trip planned, because the travel has already been paid for.  In fact, this year I had enough frequent flyer miles to get free flights to Key West, so it really was free to get where we were going!

Over the next month we book the hotel and the rental car, and pay for as much of it ahead of time as possible.  Rental cars can’t be paid for completely in advance, but if you get the Loss Damage Waiver (which we do every time we rent, no matter what) then you can pay for that before you get the car, and that is usually half the cost of the rental car in the first place.

Another tip is to go before tourist season, if possible.  Now, this has pros and cons, so this is mainly a personal decision.  One benefit is that hotels are usually not full, so you can ask for a free upgrade for your room, and you can easily get a room with a view of water for instance, instead of a view of the parking lot.  However, sometimes tours (such as SCUBA or Snorkeling tours) have a required number of people that need to be signed up for the tour before they can take the tour group out.  So, since it’s before tourist season, you are risking not being able to go on the Ghost Tour of Seattle or something because not enough people signed up the night you planned on doing it.

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Another great money saving trick is probably the simplest, but most people would never think of.  FIND THE GROCERY STORE.  Most hotel rooms have a mini fridge in them, right?  And you probably never use the mini fridge, do you?  This is the easiest, cheapest way to do several things: buy sandwich fixin’s and make a picnic on the beach.  We even brought a collapsible cooler with us on our trip, so we could keep food and drinks in the car.  Buy sodas, bottled water, and/or sports drinks to keep you hydrated while you explore the area and buy a small bottle of liquor to mix in with the previously mentioned beverages to relax by the pool. 

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Remember not to buy more than you will consume while you are on vacation.  True, you can check your leftover beverages in your luggage, but if your bottle of tequila starts leaking under the plane, I have a feeling that the other passengers will not be happy with you when you land.  It is easier just to go back to the store if you ran out of something.  Also, keep in mind that some cities, like Austin, have banned plastic grocery bags, so maybe you would want to bring some reusable green bags with you too.  Sometimes your hotel room will also have a microwave in the room.  If that’s the case you just scored big, because that means that when you DO go out for dinner, you can bring your leftovers back with you for another meal! Or midnight snack, whatever.  Either way, it saves a trip to the vending machines, right?  Or you could be like my Hubby, and not even require a microwave.  (He’s not a picky eater).

One of the most expensive parts of vacationing is the food and drinks.  I know that when I was leaving for our last trip to Florida, several people told me to “drink pretty drinks!”  I’m not saying I snuck away from the restaurant to mix a quick rum and Diet Dr. Pepper and then run back to the restaurant, but while we were relaxing by the pool or on our patio over-looking the bay (from our free room upgrade) I didn’t waste my time or money ordering drinks from the hotel bar, because I had my own adult beverages that I could mix as I pleased.  The price difference? At the hotel bar, the mango daiquiris that I was drinking were about $6 each.  The Kraken Rum and Diet Dr. Pepper that I mixed in the hotel room? About $1.50 each.  Big difference, right?

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We made a plan to eat most breakfasts and lunches in the hotel room, but dinners were usually spent out on the town.  That’s the key to a good vacation – you can’t be worried about how much it is costing the entire time, because then you won’t have any fun.  If you find cheaper alternatives, you can still indulge a bit, and save money at the same time.

Also, go to the Visitor’s Center for the city you will be staying in.  They always have flyers for nearby attractions, and they usually have discount rates, coupons, or Buy One Get One Free tickets that they hand out like it’s Halloween.  Trust me on this: the guy at the Key West Visitors Center really must have wanted me to get drunk, because he gave us about 15 Buy One Drink Get One Free tickets for various bars on Duval Street.

Be sure to check Trip Advisor too.  This can be a big help in knowing what is and what is not worth spending your money on.  My suggestion is to go through all the flyers in the Visitor’s Center and pick out some things that sound interesting.  Then go online to Trip Advisor and check out the reviews for those places.  Who knows, you could accidentally find a place that lets you hold orphaned sloth babies that is $300 a person to go to, but you may find out that it’s worth every penny, because with the purchase of an entrance pass, you get a free pet sloth baby.  Some things you can’t know until you find out other people’s experiences. 

Sometimes even free places aren’t worth the money it would take to drive there, so take other people’s opinions seriously, and consider your options.  That said, because Trip Advisor is so important to travelers, be sure that when you get back to your hotel that you review the places that you went on your adventures, too.  Whether they were good, great, or just plain awful experiences, people want to know what to expect.  I know I have written some awful reviews of companies in the past, but I have also written glowing ones.  YOU HAVE THE POWER.

Also there are Loyalty Programs – hotels, rental car companies, and airlines all do loyalty programs.  If you travel for work, you will rack up free car rentals, free hotel stays, and free flights in no time. 

If you are going to buy Souvenirs – I have quickly learned that most people don’t want a random crappy shot glass from a bar they have never heard of, from a city they have never been to.  You don’t necessarily need to buy gifts for everyone in the family, or everyone single person at work.  If you feel the need to buy something for work people, like if you are talking about your upcoming trip to a friend and the annoying guy in the office announces, “I hope you bring us something good, since we have to stay here and slave away!” then buy something small, consumable, and that everyone will like: CANDY.  I’m sure every little town is famous for one thing or another.  Key West is of course famous for Key Lime Pie.  I was not about to buy and ship actual pies home for everyone at work, but I did consider Key Lime Pie Salt Water Taffy.  I of course didn’t get my coworkers anything, but that’s beside the point. I still THOUGHT about doing it.

Many places are not cheap to visit, but if they were, then they wouldn’t be very good vacation destinations, because they would be packed with people all the time, right?  So if you take my advice, hopefully you can plan out your next great vacation, and people can be jealous of you while you are getting a tan in the Caribbean, riding elephants in India, or petting wild meerkats on the African savannah.  Who knows, maybe soon people at your office will start trying to predict your next adventure, like the people at my office do with me?

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Safe Travels.

Clever Chick Note: Saving money is about priorities; you’re saving to do the things you want rather than thoughtlessly letting money slip through your fingers. If you approach your vacation the same way you can take MORE vacations, or more expensive ones. Have fun!

July 11, 2013. Tags: , , . Thriftiness is Cool. 2 comments.

Cheap Pregnancy: First Trimester Part 2

My previous post about how to have a cheap pregnancy got too long, so here’s the part 2, covering clothes and things for both you and baby:

Clothes: For the first trimester, you won’t necessarily gain any weight, especially when combating morning sickness. You may still want to wear looser, flowy clothing rather than constricting items. Most ladies seem to have a collection of “fat” clothes, or “period” clothes for when you’re feeling bloated. Dig through this collection first before going shopping.

Towards the end of this trimester, and heading into your second, you may start needing something loose to give your bump room to breathe. As always, I recommend hitting the thrift store first. Hopefully you’re already a thrift afficiando, so this will be easy. If not, get started now! Kids are expensive!

Look for clothes you can still wear after you have the kid. I found several large, flowy, high-waisted dresses that aren’t techinically maternity, but have lots of bump room, and I can still wear after having the baby. Those are mostly for the office, but for home-wear I have sundresses and several loose skirts and tops to wear.

I also got a pair of black leggings that I hemmed into capris, and these have been magical. I can’t bear the thought of normal pants, even though I have some large jeans that will easily fit.

Keep in mind you don’t need to replace your entire warddrobe; this is a temporary situation, so if you wear the same thing more often than you used to, don’t worry about it. Also try not too buy too much too far in advance, since you don’t know what you might need; this goes for baby as well.

Baby clothes: You don’t need them yet, but the clothes you’ll need for the season your baby will be born might be on clearance right now! For instance, I’m due in the winter, so adorable, warm, gender-neutral outfits can be super-cheap right now. You could also stumble across something insanely adorable at the thrift shop when shopping for comfy clothes for yourself. Try not to go nuts, but picking up a few odds and ends isn’t a terrible idea.

Once you start telling people you’re pregnant (usually at the start of the 2nd trimester), make sure your friends know you’d love hand-me-downs, for either baby or yourself. We already have a crib, changing table/dresser, and breast pump because our friends and family had them, and are very giving people. You can also arrange to borrow things from friends. If they’re planning kid #2 a couple years from now, they’ll probably want to use the same crib they had for their first, but might be willing to loan it to you in the meantime.

You will also, most lkely, be able to have a baby shower and register for items you need. If you are lucky enough to be in this situation, don’t take advantage of your loved-ones’ generosity by registering for outrageously expensive, trendy items. Be practical, and register for things you’ll actually need and use, and consider prices when doing so.

If people are kind enough to make a contribution to your precious baby, be sure to show your appreciation, and don’t be a greedy, entitled bastard. Your baby is very special to you, but you don’t deserve special rewards just for breeding. People do it everyday, all over the planet, without even having clean water available, so keep your perspective. Enjoy your pregnancy 100%, but don’t put your head up your ass.

So far, just finishing my fourth month, I’ve spent about $200, including doctor’s office copays, vitamins, and clothes for both me and NachoNacho, the bun in the oven. Obviously, this is only going to increase, but being sensible along the way, doing research, and my natural cheapness should help me keep overall costs down.

PS. Just found this article that Austin is the most expensive city in the US to raise kids. Joy of joys. I will do my best to beat their cost averages!

July 9, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Thriftiness is Cool. Leave a comment.

How to have a Cheap Pregnancy: First Trimester Part 1

I’m just starting my second trimester, so I thought I would write an advice post before pregnancy brain robs me of all useful information. Here we go with how to have a cheap pregnancy and some pregnancy advice from a first-timer mixed in.

Food: You will obviously need to start eating healthy if you aren’t already, and that can be somewhat more expensive, if you aren’t careful. Before you run out to the store and buy a bunch of stuff, read up on what foods to avoid (sushi is widely known, but cold cuts was news to me). Also keep in mind that what sounds amazing right now might sound horrific tomorrow, so don’t buy a ton of any one thing. I wanted breaded fish filets, and at them for about 3 days straight, and now I can’t stand them. There’s still a bag in the freezer. 

You’re also probably going to be fighting nausea and possibly vomiting, so eating maybe a huge challenge. You don’t want to buy a bunch of stuff that will end up rotting because you can only swallow saltines. Seriously, don’t stock up on much.

Tip for throwing up: According to my dental hygenist, if you do throw up, don’t brush immediately. I know, it sounds horrific. The acid on your teeth can make the enamel weak, so if you start brushing you can damage your enamel. Instead, rinse very thoroughly with water, and then with mouth wash. You can obviously ask you own dentist about it.

Vitamins: You will need to start your prenatal vitamins immediately, if you aren’t already on them (FYI: some people start their prenatal vitamins when they start trying to conceive, so you might have this worked out already). According to my OB, there is no reason to get prescription prenatal vitamins instead of store-bought ones.

I also asked her about the new DHA supplements I saw with prenatal vitamins, and she said that until more studies are done, she won’t tell patients to purchase them. She’s very pragmatic, which is a big part of why I like her so much. In her opinion, there’s nothing wrong with taking them, but they could very easily just be a grab at mommies’ money by marketers. There are tons of schemes like this aimed at new parents, so by sure to think critically about purchases, and research claims before handing over your money. Of course, your doctor may have a different opinion, so follow their advice.

How to find an OB: I was very lucky to find an awesome gynecologist several years ago. She’s not an OB, but she was able to recommend a fantastic surgeon when I had to have a growth removed about a year ago, and she also sent me to my current obstetrician. If you’re not a fan of your gyno (why are you still going to them?), ask any friends or coworkers who’ve had kids for their recommendations.

Another important point is to ask friends what they did and didn’t like about their doctors. If they had a terrible experience, write down that doctor’s name on a To Be Avoided list. Even if the doctor just seemed inattentive, or ignored the husband or significant other can still be important issues. You can always research doctors on Yelp as well. You want someone you feel comfortable asking a million “dumb” questions, so keep that in mind. The time to search for a doctor is NOW, not when you’re having contractions. Also be sure to check your insurance (if you’re lucky enough to have it) for doctors in your plan. This will definitely help keep costs down.

This post got rather long, so I cut it into 2 parts. See part 2, regarding clothing and baby stuff very soon, and happy breeding!

July 5, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Baby Stuff, Thriftiness is Cool. 1 comment.

Look, Ma! No stove!

As you should know by now, I live in Texas, and at this point in the year, it’s hot enough to make ice cream spontaneously combust. Combine that with the 90% humidity, and suicide sounds tempting, if only to make the trip to hell to cool off. During times like these, cooking is a nightmare chore.

To deal with this, I generally try to cook one big meal every few days, then microwave leftovers to avoid heating up the house. You can also make two big dinners in one day, two casseroles for example, and use the same method. But if today is one of those days where you can’t even bear to look at your stove, I have a few recipes for you. These are no-cook or microwave-only foods to keep you cool.

Baked Potato – make it in the microwave quickly and easily, just don’t wrap it in foil! I like to top mine with cottage cheese, pepper, and diced green onions for a big dose of protein and flavor. I know it sound weird, but it’s good, I promise. You can use dill also or instead of green onions.

Asian veggie rolls – These are a great, easy substitute for sushi, and now that I saw the pictures I wish I had one to devour. I guess I better go to the store!

Not a “real meal” – You don’t have to eat an official “dinner” if you’re not up for it. There’s no Grown Ups council watching you that will take away your Grown Up Card. Hummus and veggies, smoothies, peanut butter and celery, cereal, crackers and cheese, fruit, or just a sandwich will all serve the purpose. When it’s hot you naturally want to eat less, so just take advantage of that. Eat a little something basic, and sit under a fan, trying not to generate body heat.

Crock pot meals – you have to plan ahead some for these, which can be hard when your brain is melting out of your skull. Split pea, and lentil soup can be made with a minimum of effort and heat generation, as can dozens of other recipes. The internet is teeming with them.

Salads – pretty obvious, but doesn’t make it a bad idea. You can make salads with a variety of toppings to prevent boredom.

Some people would add some kind of Bar B Que or grilling to this list, since it technically doesn’t heat up the kitchen, but you’re standing OUTSIDE next to a FIRE. I don’t want the house to get hot because I don’t want ME to get hot. Standing next to an open flame defeats the purpose. Grills also make me paranoid that I’ll burn down my whole neighborhood and be chased out of town with pitchforks by angry neighbors. It’s a weird fear, I know, but it troubles me more than the zombie apocalypse.

Well, on that tangent, I’ll end this post. Suffice it to say, you can acquire adequate nutrients without turning your home into a hell-sauna.

July 3, 2013. Tags: , , , , , . Cooking. Leave a comment.