Remind me why I shouldn’t let the TV raise my children…?

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I love television. In fact, I like it so much that I attempted to write for it for a while. Perhaps I can thank my years of watching television for inspiring me to start a writing career… perhaps it was in watching Laura and Mary Ingalls that I learned about the goodness of community… perhaps it was in watching “You Can’t Do that on Television” that I learned that I can fit inside a locker in Canada… perhaps it was in watching the Smurfs that I learned about the detriment of having an unbalanced gendered society. Perhaps if I let my kids watch two more hours of Doc McStuffins this morning that they might get a full ride to medical school? Perhaps.

Don’t Worry, You’re Damned Regardless

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An Open Letter to Gwyneth

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What to Buy for Baby

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As my friends keep getting wonderfully pregnant, I find myself writing recommendations on what they should register for, or buy, in preparation for Baby. Then I thought it might be helpful to some other mamas-to-be if I posted said list for everyone to see.

I used the registry checklist for BuyBuyBaby.com, which is very similar to that of Babies R Us and the like. I added my thoughts on what you need, what you don’t need, and what would be so-awesome-if-you-had-but-totally-not-necessary to get.

The links attached to specific items are not necessarily my suggestions for actual products to buy (unless I mentioned them by name.) The links are so that you can see what I’m talking about.

And please remember, I’m not a doctor, nor do I have anything close to an education in medicine. I got a BA from a liberal arts college, which means that my opinion on this stuff is just an opinion. My suggestions are based solely on my experience raising my two daughters and the fact that I haven’t put either of them in the hospital yet.

All that being said, here’s my take on what you need (and don’t need) for Baby:

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Clothing

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  • Onesies. For mid-winter, get full body suits. For summer, get more short sleeve, legless onesies. Don’t register for clothes other than the absolute necessities. People are going to buy you cute outfits anyway. Depending on whether or not you have an accessible washer/dryer (those trekking to a laundromat, register for more) my recommendation is to register for six onesies.
  • Hat. The hospital will probably send you home with at least one cap. (You can usually ask for an extra). Your baby has one head. Get two hats.
  • Sleeping attire. Baby may not like a blanket, or swaddle, or manage to kick one or both off every night. In this case, dress baby for no blanket. Unless it’s July and you don’t have air conditioning, that should be full-body, footie jammies.
  • No-scratch mittens. Here’s how I feel about these: God made babies with fingernails for a reason. And God didn’t make nail clippers. The worst that will happen, in my experience, is that Baby will give itself teeny nicks on the face. And most importantly, Baby will learn about the consequences of its own body. Don’t buy mittens. My girls didn’t have them and they’re still alive, and they don’t look like Edward Scissorhands.
  • Socks. Good, but they come off. For infants, footie jammies fulfill all your needs. But do register for about 6 pairs of socks anyway. (And do yourself a favor and don’t fall in love with any of these socks. You favorite pair will get horribly torn from one another when Baby kicks one of them off while you’re walking down a busy street, and you’ll never, ever see it again.)
  • Swaddling blankets. Sure, register for a couple. Or just use the hospital blankets and have them teach you how to swaddle.
  • Real clothes. When baby is a couple of months old, you may feel the desire to start dressing them up in adorable outfits. If you have a washer/dryer readily available, get outfits enough for at least 6 days (i.e. 6 pants and shirts, 6 dresses.) Baby will poop right out of their diaper and onto the lovely outfits. Baby may go through as many as 3 ensembles per day.

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Safety/Health

Anika safety

  • Baby monitor. If you have the money, get the video kind. If you’re paranoid of SIDS, get the one that senses movement.
  • Safety gates. You won’t need these until Baby is 4-8 months old, depending on when he begins crawling. If you’re putting the gate at the top of stairs, get the kind that screws into the wall. If you just want one to stop Baby from crawling into the kitchen, get the kind that uses pressure to stay between the walls (you don’t want the pressure ones for stairs because Baby may push on it, and if it falls, no good.)
  • Safety locks / Baby proofing. For the love of all things baby gear, do not go overboard on childproofing. You probably won’t need to put any latches on anything until Baby is walking. Granted, I have girls and I hear boys are worse, but we’ve done fine just wrapping some rubber bands around the handles of the cabinets in the kitchen. A lot of baby proofing is used depending on how much freedom you want. For example, we don’t have a latch on the toilet lid, but I stay on top of Baby to stop her from going into the bathroom. (And on that note, the toilet won’t kill your baby- it’s just a question of how often you want to be fishing your hairbrush out of the bowl.)
  • Cushions/bumpers. Once Baby starts walking, see if he is prone to falling into the table. If he is, and if your table has sharp corners, buy table cushions. Other than that, don’t sweat it.
  • Humidifier. What for? I’ve never heard of a baby needing one. Wait till your pediatrician says, “Damn, your baby needs a humidifier!”
  • Thermometer. Register for this first aid kit. It has everything you need, including the thermometer, nasal aspirator, nail scissors, and dropper.
  • Medicine. For fevers and bad pain, get Infant Tylenol. For teething, I used Boiron’s homeopathic Camilia. For gas, I used Boiron’s Cocyntal and Little Tummies.

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Cleaning Supplies

tucson, arizona, nature, family, sky, photo, njohnston photography, www.Njohnstonphotography.com

  • Chemical free cleaning supplies. Baby will not lick the floor. In my non-medically-educated opinion, 409 is fine.
  • Gentle laundry detergent. Please don’t do separate loads with separate soap. Please don’t make your life any more complicated (or expensive) than it’s already going to be. Buy All Free & Clear or Tide Free & Gentle and do all of your laundry with that. Or better yet, use regular detergent and wait to see if Baby’s skin is sensitive to it, and THEN change.
  • Furniture and television straps. Yes. If you have a tall bookcase with little surface area and a high chance of it falling over, by all means strap that thing to the wall.
  • Shopping cart/restaurant high chair cover. I had to look this thing up, as I didn’t know what it was talking about. This is something Baby can sit in when he/she is sitting in a shopping cart or restaurant high chair. Please don’t buy this. And please don’t carry it around with you. It looks about as big, and as heavy, as your baby. Baby will be fine sitting in the same dirty shopping cart and high chair that you did as a child.
  • Nightlight. Why? Is Baby going to be afraid of the dark after being trapped in your pitch black womb for 9 months? Oh, you think a little owl night light or a turtle that puts colored stars on the ceiling will look super cute in your adorable nursery? Then yes. I may poo-poo unnecessary baby gear, but I’m all for a cute nursery.

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Nursing & Feeding

Phoebe in her chair

  • Breast pump & accessories. Yes, yes, and yes. If you’re pumping at home for the occasional night out without Baby, then a simple one-valve system will do fine. But if you’re going to be pumping at work in the ladies room with your pump propped up and you wanting desperately to get out of there as soon as possible, then buy the 2-valve system, so you can pump both girls at the same time. And better yet, buy this bra so you can do it hands-free!
  • Breast milk storage containers. Yes. If you’re pumping at home, storage bags are great. If you’re pumping at work and then transporting the milk home, get the bottles.
  • Steam sterilizer bags. These are to clean your bottle parts by steaming them in the microwave. If you have a dishwasher, then don’t bother. Just buy this dishwasher caddy. If you don’t have a dishwasher, then either hand wash the bottle with this brush, or yes, buy the sterilizer bags.
  • Nursing bras, pads, soothing ointments. Let’s start with the bras. Lots of people use them. I find them annoying. Instead, I pulled the strap down on my regular bra and hiked down the bra to under my boob. I found the best luck wearing a spaghetti strap tank top underneath another shirt, so when I nursed in public, I only had to pull up the top shirt and down the undershirt, which left me pretty covered up. Easypeezy. Next: pads. I needed them with my first daughter, but not so much with my second. Weird. Anyway, the point of these is that your milk will “come in” a number of times a day. When it does this, it will come shooting/leaking out your boobs. This milk will manage to make its way through your bra and both shirts and leave two embarrassing wet spots right where your nipples are. Classy. Let’s prevent this from happening by stuffing a little maxi-pad thing inside our bras. Lansinoh makes good ones. Next: Soothing ointments. I didn’t need this with my first daughter, but did with my second. Just depends how they nurse. My suggestion is to wait and see if you need it before buying it.
  • Nursing pillow and cover. In my opinion, this is a lovely thing to have. It’s cozy and it frees up your hands somewhat so you can eat your cereal over Baby’s head (and occasionally drop wet pieces of granola on said forehead, but I digress.) Boppy pillow and Boppy cover. Done and done.
  • Nursing stool. What? Why? Oh, you live in a mansion with tons of space and money is no object? Then yes, definitely.
  • Burp cloths. Yes. Register for 3-6.
  • Bottles and nipples. Yes. Having 4 bottles was always enough for us. We use Born Free.
  • Bottle brush. As mentioned earlier, yes.
  • Bottle sterilizer. I guess… if you don’t have a dishwasher and don’t want to use the microwave steamer bags and have extra counter space in your kitchen… (please note: if I had extra counter space in my kitchen, and money weren’t an issue, I’d get one of these simply because they look so awesome and space-agey! But the dishwasher and/or microwave steamer bags work fine.)
  • Bottle drying rack. Much like the above, if you’ve got excess money and counter space, sure. But you could also just throw them in the dish drying rack and call it a day. (This is where I would like to develop some sort of code for products that have been designed solely for the purpose of unnecessarily taking your money and making you think it’s worth it. We’ll call it a UPOSPDSFTPOUTYM, or the “useless piece of shit product designed solely for the purpose of unnecessarily taking your money”.
  • Dishwasher basket. As mentioned earlier, if you have a dishwasher, you should totally get one of these. If you don’t have a dishwasher, then, well, it’s completely useless.
  • Bottle warmer. Not necessary, but certainly a decadent item to have. This is for when Dad feeds breastmilk you’ve already pumped and frozen or refrigerated and he wants to bring it back to boobie temperature. We’ve always used the microwave, and done fine with it. In olden times (you know, before us) people used pots on the stove. But again, if you have the space and the money, go for it.
  • Insulated bottle tote. A what? Oh, okay. I get it. Sure, if you need to transport pumped milk for long distances and a regular old lunch cooler isn’t cute enough (I mean, good enough) for you.
  • Pacifiers. My daughters never used them. Everyone says they’re a mixed blessing: they help Baby soothe itself, but then you have to wean Baby off their pacifier addiction later on. You’re not technically supposed to use pacifiers in the first month anyway, so I’d probably vote to not get any, but that’s just me. Maybe just register for a set of two and see how it goes?
  • Teethers. These would be classified as any type of teething chew toy. In my experience, people will buy you tons of these on their own- don’t bother registering for them. And I know people who have had just as much luck giving Baby a frozen wash cloth.
  • Infant bowls and spoons. Again, not necessary, but nice to have. You won’t need these until Baby is 4-6 months of age.
  • High chair. Here’s my heated opinion on a high chair. If you don’t live in a tiny apartment in NYC, then get one. If space is an issue, get this. It straps onto one of your existing chairs, so you won’t have this hulking piece of furniture in your teeny house. Much like infant bowls and spoons, you won’t need this until Baby is at least 4-6 months.
  • Booster seat. The link above satisfies this.
  • Bibs. Yup. Get’em.
  • Formula/snack dispenser. I really like having a little snack cup for my snacker. This way she can hold the bowl herself without spilling the contents everywhere. Baby won’t use one until probably at least 6 months of age. I like this one the best.
  • Make-­your-­own baby food gear. I made my own baby food. Here’s what you need: (1) blender; (2) ice cube tray; (3) zip-lock bags. (P.S. I’m a little jealous that I never had one of these adorable things!)
  • Baby food cookbooks. Meh. Go to Wholesome Baby Food online instead.
  • Splat mat. Food is going to get everywhere anyway. This just gives you one more thing you have to clean.
  • Disposable placemats. Isn’t this the same thing? No. Don’t.
  • Feeder for strained foods. I don’t know what this is. No.
  • To­-go and storage containers. Yes. Try to get ones that can go in the dishwasher as well as the microwave. Like these.
  • Sippy cups. Get 4-6 of them. Don’t buy any other kind than Playtex. I’m telling you. I’ve tried them all. They all leak except for these.

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Bath & Potty

 Anika in Bath

  • Diaper pail/refills. We love the Diaper Genie. When it was time for us to prepare for our first child, my husband said, “We are not buying a separate garbage can just for diapers.” Oh, how he now sings a different song! Diapers stink. Get a garbage can that locks that stink deep down inside. In addition to the Diaper Genie, which requires a specific type of bag that you have to continually buy separately, you can also get something like the Ubbi, which costs about twice as much as the Diaper Genie, and uses any type of bag. It also claims that it holds the stink in better because it’s not made of plastic, like the DG. I have no experience with the Ubbi, so I can’t speak anymore about it. But register for a diaper can. Just do it. And thank me later. With chocolates.
  • Diapers, wipes and ointment. What we love: Kirkland diapers and wipes. They’re from Costco, but you can buy them from other companies online. A lot of mothers say to use Diapers.com. Search for Kirkland. They’re great- fewest leaks yet. We also like Butt Paste for rashes, though some people say that’s just an expensive version of the same ingredients in any generic tube. But I brought home the generic once, and my husband said “Never again. Doesn’t work as well.” And he’s bigger than me, so I listen to him. Sometimes.
  • Baby shampoo/wash. Unless you have a lot of money and you’re worried about chemicals, just buy generic Johnson & Johnson. I only buy “tear free” products, because it’s hard enough to keep them from crying when you wash their hair. If you have disposable income, buy the fancy stuff. Go wild. I would, if I could. But remember, your kid is still gonna go to college with my kid. Or jail. Either way, they’ll be clean.
  • Baby bathtub. Doesn’t really matter which one you buy. We used the First Years Deluxe Comfort bath. Pretty inexpensive and does the job. It also comes with a netted basket thing for when Baby is an infant.
  • Bath support. This is an alternative to buying a baby bathtub. With this kind of thing, your baby gets cradled inside your own adult bathtub. To sum up, a “baby bathtub”, like the First Years Deluxe above, can sit on a counter top, while a “bath support” can just go in your big bathtub.
  • Baby toothbrush and teething gel. My experience is that it’s impossible to get teething gel on the kid’s gums, but that’s just my experience. I gave them Boiron Camilia homeopathic drops instead. You can buy them at most drug stores and Whole Foods and other health food stores. Also, some people swear by frozen wash cloths.
  • Nail clippers and emery boards. I don’t find that filing Baby’s nails is realistic. New rules are that you shouldn’t cut your baby’s nails with scissors. But I’ve always done it and haven’t had an accident yet (knock on wood.) With my first born, I would wait until she fell asleep and then I did it quite easily. My second born was such a light sleeper that I couldn’t do it. Sometimes I was able to if I put a good cartoon on for her to stare at. If you get a complete first aid kit, it probably comes with infant nail scissors, though The Man will probably take those away from us too, along with seesaws.
  • Brush and comb. I have never used a comb. Not on myself, and not on my children. I have no opinions on combs, though they look pretty fly stuck in a flat top. (Note: if you don’t know what I’m referring to by a comb in a flat top then you are too young to be having children. Give that baby up to the next infertile couple you meet.) As for brushes, my older daughter has very thin hair and it tangles easily. I always use the “bushiest” brush I can on her. That is, not a spokey one. Does that make sense? Here are examples: Good. Bad.
  • Bath toys. My experience is that this is the kind of thing people like to get for you, whether or not you register for it. It’s the kind of thing Auntie Shirley will bring with her when she comes to visit. Register for it, if you want, but I wouldn’t.
  • Bath toy storage. I have never had one of these, and frankly, I wish I did. Totally unnecessary, but useful. You’re gonna need something to put the toys in, unless no one else uses this bath tub and you can just leave the toys lying around in there all the time. Go ahead, register for it. If you don’t get it, you probably won’t die.
  • Bath kneeler. Never heard of one of these until now. Please, for the love of all things bathtub, don’t get one of these unless you have bad knees and a bad back. Seriously.
  • Bathtub bubble maker. This is a super-dooper unnecessary, though adorable, item. You don’t need this. You absolutely don’t need this. But cute and will your kid like it? Sh*t yeah.
  • 4-­6 hooded towels. Hooded towels are nice, but unnecessary. Adult sized towels work fine too. 4-6 sounds really excessive to me. If you have a washer/dryer, get 2. If you don’t, get 3-4.
  • 6­-8 baby washcloths. Again, cute, but unnecessary. Adult-sized ones work just as well. 6-8 sounds obscene. If you have a washer/dryer, get 3. If you don’t, get 4.
  • Shampoo rinse cup. This is what you use to pour bath water over Baby to rinse the soap off. A nice thing to have, but you can use a number of things from your kitchen too.
  • Bathtub spout cover. There are two reasons to get this: (1) they’re super cute; (2) they soften the blow in case Baby decides to butt heads with the spout. I never had one for the girls, and never had an accident. If you have a little bit of a helicopter parent in you, then get one. If you don’t, then still get one just cuz they’re super cute.
  • Wipes warmer. Here is something I knew I HAD TO HAVE when I was registering for baby #1. “What would happen if I put cold wipes on her tushy??” “Only the most loved babies get their wipes warmed before coming in contact with their undercarriages!” “You are poor, and a poor parent if you swipe Baby’s rear end with a room-temperature wipe!” Slight exaggeration. As soon as I had the child, I realized what a scam these things are. Wipe warmers, though they may make you feel all cozy inside, are really just Babies R Us trying to get more of your money. Life is hard. Wipes are cold. Baby has to learn that some time. Bah hum bug.

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Nursery & Decor

Our first born in her first and last professional modeling gig.

Our first born in her first and last professional modeling gig.

  • Cradle? Bassinet? Co-Sleeper? Crib? I have very strong feelings about this. Scenario #1: you have gobs of money and lots of space- get anything you want. Get a co-sleeper for when Baby is an infant, then a cradle for when Baby is toddler, a crib when Baby is 2, a spaceship when Baby is ready for school, etc etc. Scenario #2: you have a normal amount of money and a normal amount of space- get a co-sleeper for when Baby is an infant and a crib that you can put Baby in whenever you’re ready for her/him to sleep in their own room. Scenario #3: you’re short on money and very short on space- get a co-sleeper. It’s a third the size of a crib and Baby can stay in it comfortably and safely until he/she is one year old.
  • Crib mattress. If you’re gonna get a crib, get a mattress.
  • 2­-3 waterproof mattress pads. Do you have 2-3 children? Then buy 2-3 mattress pads. Most crib mattresses have a plastic-like outer material that’s already waterproof and wipeable. So if Baby leaks through the diaper, you just need to wash the sheet and give the mattress a wipe-down with a paper towel. The only time you’ll need a waterproof mattress pad is if you have a mattress that doesn’t have the plastic-like covering. In my experience, all crib mattresses do, but I could be wrong.
  • Changer/dresser. An almost-necessity. If you have no money and no space, don’t stress it. You’ll be a stronger person for it. But if you have the money and a little bit of space, I recommend it. You don’t need a fancy one- ours is from Target.
  • Changing pad. This is what you’ll put on top of the changing table. No need to get fancy here either. Ours just happens to be from Pottery Barn Kids, but you can get the same one from Target.
  • 2­-3 changing pad covers. My vote? Get two. And hey look! At Target, they come in packs of two!
  • Hamper. Not a necessity in the slightest, but a luxury to have a hamper right there in Baby’s room. We got an awesome one at Ikea.
  • Matching quilt, dust ruffle, and valance. Okay, just learned what a “valance” is. If you’ve got the money, get the whole set. If you’re looking for cute necessities, get a package crib bedding set of sheets and comforter. And get a spare sheet so you can have one in the wash while the other is on the bed.
  • Mobile. I have a very strong opinion about the choice in mobiles. My experience is that every mobile plays clangy, electronic-sounding music. Every mobile, except ours. The Tiny Love mobile plays 4 different classical music pieces, like real music, and not like it’s coming out of a cheap music box. On the subject of mobiles, however: they are unnecessary, but nice to have.
  • Toy chest. Not necessary, though you will need something to put toys in. Try not to get one that (a) has sharp corners; and (b) has a lid that slams down. You’d be surprised how many toy chests have both of these things. We’ve been pretty happy with our $20 one we got at Ikea.
  • Lamp. Sure, if you need something cute that matches the room. Otherwise, normal, adult lamps still know how to turn on in nurseries.
  • Blankets. Oh my goodness, if you register for one, or buy one, you will have 11 blankets too many. Everyone gave us blankets. We have enough blankets for 10 babies. Don’t buy a blanket. Grandma, your Aunt Shirley, and Mrs. Tennenbaum, your mother’s childhood friend, will all give you blankets because they either (a) think registries are terrible things; or (b) don’t know how to work a registry.
  • 2-­3 cradle or bassinet sheets / fitted sheets. You should only be buying fitted sheets. Babies don’t need top sheets. And again, buy 2: one for the bed and one for the laundry.
  • 2-­3 sheet savers. Oh, so now you just have to wash the sheet saver instead of the sheet, and you’ll still want to wash the sheet every few weeks anyway? No. Forget these exist. What a waste of your time and money. But if you have all the time and money in the world, then by all means!
  • Attachable crib toy or soother. This is also the kind of thing you don’t really need to register for. It’s the kind of thing people usually like to give.
  • Dresser. You’ll want somewhere to put Baby’s clothes. Either get a $500 adorable one from Pottery Barn Kids, or a $60 one from Target.
  • Hutch or other shelving. You’ll need some shelves for books and a few toys. Get any kind you want. But don’t get one that baby can climb up and have it fall over. So either get one with a wide surface area, or mount shelves on the wall.
  • Glider & Ottoman. If you have the space and the money. Otherwise, your couch, bed, chair, will do just fine. I love my glider. And you DO NOT need to spend over $200 to get a good one.
  • Sound/white noise machine. Yes, yes, and yes. Our favorite thing, an idea given to us by a friend, is to get the Sleep Sheep by Cloud-B. It comes with a little white noise machine inside it. Pull the machine out and it’s a handy, and great, white noise machine for Baby. Plus, you’re left with a squishy, cuddly sheep. Other white noise machines are too big to throw in your bag, and believe me, if your baby likes the white noise machine, you’ll want to take it everywhere.
  • Diaper stacker. You’ll only need this if you don’t have a drawer, or a shelf to put your diapers in. In other words, you probably don’t need this. After all, diapers are not shaped like balls- they naturally stack quite well.
  • Accent rug. If you want to dress up the nursery, this would be lovely. If your nursery has hardwood floors, then I would say it’s more needed (playing on a cold hard floor won’t be as cozy for you when you’re playing the 12th game of “Let’s eat the puzzle pieces.”
  • Wall hangings or decal. Super cute. I always wished we got something like this. Like some other items, you can get the $124 giraffe decal from Pottery Barn Kids or the safari one from Target for $12.99.
  • Storage baskets/bins. If you get a big toy box, you probably won’t need smaller bins. Ikea has cute ones.
  • Hangers. Yup. Target sells them in packs of 18.
  • Little chairs and table. Unnecessary, but super cute. Ikea has a great deal on a set.

***

Baby Gear & Travel

Bjorn

  • Infant and/or convertible car seat
  • Extra car seat base. I don’t understand why. I lived in Los Angeles and New York City with a car and a baby, and never needed an extra one.
  • Car seat head and body support. These are needed only when Baby is teeny-tiny. But if your baby is anything like mine, their head will just flop forward anyway, and there’s nothing much you can do about that. But don’t worry- their heads can’t break off. I checked.
  • Seat protector mat. I’m not sure why you’d need this… maybe just if you’ve got really expensive upholstery you think may get damaged by food and the the car seat? I don’t know. Never heard of it.
  • Waterproof seat liner. I think this is in case Baby spills something or leaks out of the diaper. We never had one, and never needed one. But again, that’s just my experience.
  • Car mirror. These can be really helpful, especially if you’re a nervous Nelly parent. For the first year, or two, Baby will be facing backwards in the carseat. If you’re sitting in the front seat, you won’t be able to see Baby. But if you attach a car mirror to the back seat, you can see Baby all the time. They’re inexpensive too.
  • Car window shade. We never needed one. Our car seat had a hood over it that we could use to block the sun. Also, I feel like it isn’t too awesome that it blocks some of the view that Baby could be seeing out the window. Like I said before, life is hard. The sun will always be bright. Baby’s gotta learn some time. Bah humbug.
  • Car seat bunting/cover/Footmuff. These are the sleeping bags you see inside strollers all over town in cold weather. If you live in a cold-weather climate, I highly recommend one of these. In fact, I insist. We spent our older daughter’s first New York City winter without one, and spent basically the whole winter trying to keep four blankets on her and washing them constantly because they kept falling on the ground. Get a sleeping bag thingie. Get it.
  • Stroller. Yes. Get one. No question. But which kind? Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! If you have extra money and extra space, get two: one big, fancy one and one flimsy, light-weight one. The first one is for making your way around the neighborhood, while the lighter one is for plane travel, and when you have to hop in and out of the bus/museum/taxi/etc. But if you’re only going to get one, you’re still left with a ridiculous amount of choices. We’ve had the City Mini Jogger since our older daughter was born, and have been very happy with it. I have three VERY SERIOUS criterion for strollers. To me, if they don’t have these three things, they stink. They need to have (1) one bar, instead of two handles. This is because you cannot accurately steer a stroller with one hand, and if you can’t steer with one hand, then you can’t drink your coffee. No good. (2) They need to have a console. If they don’t have a console, then there’s nowhere to put your coffee. However, if your stroller doesn’t have a console, you can always buy something like this like we did. (3) They need to have a 3-wheel setup, instead of 4-wheel one. 3-wheeled strollers have incredibly good turning capacity, while 4-wheeled strollers DO NOT. And if you’re pushing your stroller with one hand while drinking your coffee with the other and turning a corner, you’re gonna want it to happen with ease. In short, this is the worst stroller money can buy.
  • Stroller rain cover. If you live in an area that gets rain and requires some walking, then I recommend getting one of these.
  • Stroller netting. I don’t see why these are necessary, but I also don’t live in a place with a ton of gnats and mosquitos.
  • Baby carrier. I recommend the Ergo. I loved the BJorn with my older daughter, but that was before we moved back to NYC and had to walk long distances. The Bjorn is great because you can wear a newborn, and you can wear Baby frontwards or facing backwards, but it hurt my shoulders and neck after a lot of walking. Then I bought the Ergo, and it doesn’t hurt me. However, you can’t wear Baby forward-facing, like the Bjorn, HOWEVER, you CAN wear Baby on your back, which you can’t with the Bjorn.
  • Playard. Not necessary, but in my experience you WILL need somewhere you can put Baby safely so you can take a shower. Baby needs some type of jail, even if it’s a little bouncy seat thing. Alternatives to a playard (also known as a playpen) are co-sleeper in playpen mode, an Exer-Saucer, a bouncy chair (but only until they’re like 6-months old), or a gated play area.
  • 2-­3 playard sheets. No.
  • Diaper bag for mom. Yes. Get one you love. I don’t love mine and it makes me sad. :(
  • …and one for daddy too. Meh, I don’t see him using one. Most fathers I know consistently leave the house unprepared, so they’ll forget their manly bag every time. Don’t waste your money.
  • Changing mat. Ooh, yes. These are great for traveling and going to parties and out to public bathrooms with Baby. Get a neat little fold-up one, like this, with pockets for diapers and wipes.
  • Toys for car seat and stroller. Yeah, they’re called toys. Bring toys from home and put them in your car.
  • Travel bags for car seat and stroller. Excessive. Just use your diaper bag you’re already registering for.
  • Cup and snack holder for baby. Nope. Baby will drop anything they’re holding. Just put their snacks in your console.
  • Storage console for parents. Definitely. Where else will you put your Xanax? I mean, coffee.
  • Stroller hooks
  • Standing platform stroller attachment for older siblings. Only if this is your second child.
  • Swing. Some babies love’em, some hate’em. Only get one if you’re prepared to give it away to a friend when you realize your baby cries every time he/she is put in it. Plus, they can take up a lot of room, so think about this choice carefully.
  • Entertainer and/or jumper. I like these, mostly because it’s somewhere to put Baby. In my opinion, Baby is thoroughly entertained playing with your coasters and toothbrushes. The reason to get one of these is it’s a fun place to put Baby while you take a friggin’ shower.

***

Toys & Learning

Toys

  • Activity mats and gyms. We loved our jungle mat. These are good, not just because it’s allegedly entertaining for Baby, but because it gives you a place to put Baby that isn’t the cold, hard floor.
  • Developmental toys. Don’t buy them. People will buy you these, especially Mrs. Tennenbaum, your mother’s childhood friend.
  • Books. Don’t buy them. People will buy you these, especially Mrs. Mayer, the woman who lives down the street who you can’t place for the life of you, but your mother says she used to give you apples in the fall.
  • CDs. Get one lullaby one.
  • Extra batteries. Are you going to the Andes Mountains with your baby gear? You don’t need extra batteries. When a toy dies, go to the store and get another battery.
  • Stuffed animals. Don’t buy this. People will buy you these for the rest of your kid’s childhood.
  • DVDs. You won’t need these for ages. Unless, of course, you want to start showing them Baby Einstein when they’re 6 months old, so you can wash the dishes for five friggin’ seconds.

***

Mom & Dad

Daddy

  • Pregnancy and parenting books. For mama, you have to get What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Why? Because everyone has it and you don’t want to be the only preggo on the block who hasn’t read it. Otherwise, what are you going to say when all the other preggos are yelling about how much it helped them, or how much of a piece of shit it is?? Where will you be?? You’ll be on the outside. That’s where you’ll be. And if you want a fun read, get The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy. For papa, I highly recommend The Caveman’s Pregnancy Companion. It made my husband feel like he was a part of the experience, without having to read about vaginal discharge. In preparation for raising Baby, buy Baby’s First Year, or any book like that, that will spell out the basics of keeping your baby alive and fed and changed.
  • Pregnancy and postpartum skin care. I’ve heard people say that anti-stretch mark creams are bullshit. I’ve heard people say that stretch marks are completely and totally hereditary, and if your mama didn’t have stretch marks then you won’t, and vice versa. I’ve heard people say that there’s nothing you can do about getting, or not getting, stretch marks. All that being said, I used Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Stretch Mark Cream. I don’t really have stretch marks. But that could just be dumb luck. And genes. Or Palmer’s could be the magic bean! But if it’s just lotion you’re looking for, just use Lubriderm. It’s always been my favorite. That’s not a pregnancy tip, that’s just a “I have skin and know what I like” tip.
  • Pregnancy pillow. If you have the space, and if your body is achy at night, get a huge noodle pillow like this to wrap yourself around. Because eventually, your husband will want you to get off him.

Happy shopping!

You Had Me at Page Four

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you-had-me-at-hello-tshirt

It doesn’t require a Masters in Creative Writing to know that you have to grab your audience’s attention in the very beginning. When people flip through the books at Barnes & Noble, they don’t say, “The first page is boring, but I think I’ll spend $19.95 on this thing anyway because maybe, hopefully, the other 99.5% of the book doesn’t suck too.”

And in movies, the opening scene has to be, well, awesome, or what’s the point? If you can’t make the first four pages great, what does that say about the rest of the film?

Last night, my husband and I went out to the movies for his birthday. There wasn’t anything playing that we really wanted to see, so we went to 21 and Over, a comedy about college kids and a debauchery-packed night of drinking. The critics’ reviews were terrible, but the fan reviews were pretty good, so we gave it a shot.

It turns out, all the fans who reviewed it were 14 year old kids who think anything with people getting drunk and the word “fuck” in it is a stellar movie.

We did something I haven’t done in years: we walked out. At page 4. The opening was so poorly written that we figured the rest of the movie didn’t have much of a chance. We snuck into Identity Thief, which was just starting in the other theater (also not an award-winner, but it wasn’t total garbage.)

As written by Michael Hauge in his explanation of Story Mastery, “The opening 10% of your screenplay must draw the reader, and the audience, into the initial setting of the story, must reveal the everyday life your hero has been living, and must establish identification with your hero by making her sympathetic, threatened, likable, funny and/or powerful.”

Here are examples of some movies have opened:

Varsity Blues: We learn about Mox and the football culture of the town

Four Weddings and a Funeral: We learn about Charles and all the weddings he has to go to

Never Been Kissed: We learn about Josie and how she’s never been kissed

Heartbreak Kid: We learn that Eddie wants a woman.

13 Going on 30: We learn that Jenna isn’t happy with who she is

Bridesmaids: We learn that Annie wants to feel good about herself, but keeps putting herself into situations that get her the same bad results.

An example of a great opening (in my humble opinion).

American Psycho:

This opening not only illustrates almost exactly who this character is, but it sets the tone of the whole movie and its bizarre humor amidst creepy character details.

Considering all of the above, I wonder if my opening to my new script is as good as it should be. This script has three main characters, so I’m using the first 12 pages or so to spell out the situation each one of them is in. While the beauty of American Psycho’s opening is in the words, the beauty in Office Space‘s opening is in the visual:

I think I frequently rely too much on the words for description. This subject really should be its own separate blog post. Food for thought. Back to work.

Know What You Write

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When I was 13 I wrote a poem about an old woman. I shared it with my boyfriend who also considered himself a poet. He said to me quite seriously, “Do you know this woman? Do you know what it’s like to be an 80 year old woman? You should write what you know.”

Write what you know

“Writing what you know” is not a novel idea invented by Alex. However, I’ve never forgotten him saying that.

I’ve written many things I didn’t “know”. I’ve written plenty of main characters who are men, plenty of married people when I wasn’t married, people with children when I didn’t have children, and other lifestyles I didn’t “know”. And that’s fine. I mean, if no one wrote what they didn’t know there wouldn’t be any zombie apocalypse movies, right?

There’s also the kind of “writing what you know” when the part you really know is in the subtext- for example, “Big Love“, though not written by Polygamist Mormons, was written by two gay men who said they understand what it’s like to be ostracized in your society, like the polygamists living in the HBO show, because they have lived their lives as homosexuals in a not-always-accepting world. (RIP “Big Love”. We miss you.)

But I recently read that the Writers Guild of America claims that only 27% of their film writers and only 19% of their television writers are female. So what kind of service am I doing to the screenwriting industry by writing main characters who are male? What service am I doing if I don’t write the true female experience? (Men try to, but sorry Judd Apatow, your wife isn’t the only woman in the world.) And as Mitt Romney (though thank God not a screenwriter) said: he knows what women of America need because his wife talks to him.

So my new script, for which I’ve been writing the outline for weeks, is finally ready for page 1. And this one, though intentionally catering to all over-age-13 crowds, speaks the female experience that I understand best: the married one, the mother one, the overworked one, the struggling one, and the hopeful one. (And no, Sarah Jessica Parker is not starring in it and you won’t be left wondering, “I don’t know how she does it!” – though in its defense, was in fact written by a mother of two.)

On to page 1 – see you on the other side!

It’s Not Lice, It’s Confusion

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Monkey scratching

I was the kid in school who never wanted to proof their test before bringing it up to the teacher. I was the kid who as soon as they got to the last line of their essay, they just hit print. I used to have a writing partner who could never let go of a script – he would do rewrite upon rewrite upon rewrite, never believing it was finished. Me? My script is done when I get to page 100.

Okay, in all seriousness, I’m not that sloppy of a writer anymore. Now I proof, I outline, I revise and revise. But it’s in my nature to say, “Are we done? Good. Onto the next.”

I’ve been working on this outline now for a couple of weeks (note: Robert McKee says your outline should take months, but he’s a blowhard windbag so whatever.) I wanna start writing. I don’t know what to do next with my outline, so I want to say, “Are we done? Good. Onto the script!” But I don’t want to get lost writing the script. So my question is…

When is your outline done?

My feeling? Your outline is done “enough” when you can write your entire script without once having to look up at the ceiling, scratching your head. (note: there is nothing wrong with looking up at the ceiling scratching your head when you’re searching for specific words, phrasing, or dialogue. But there should be no looking up at the ceiling, asking yourself “where do I go with this now?”)

Anyway, that’s just my opinion.

Bur I sit here, in the cafeteria of my local Whole Foods, looking up at the ceiling, scratching my head, and asking myself, “Can I start the damn script now?” I guess I’ll know when I get to page 50 and I know (or don’t know) where to go next.

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