Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Birth, Start to Finish

I'm not gonna talk about what's right or wrong, because I honestly feel like that's different for everyone.  Instead, I'm going to make a list on what *I* think a mother should be educated about and/or prepared for prior to labor onset.  Once educated on the various choices, informed consent comes in to play, and it is completely the mother's choice of which risks she wants to choose.  So here are the MAIN birth choices, that mothers should look into.

I tried to find useful and neutral links, but please forgive me if I misjudged somewhere.  And sometimes I linked to Wikipedia, which is not THE most valid source of information sometimes, but it's still a good place to start.  These links should not be the end-all to your research.  You've got at least 30 weeks in most cases to learn about all this stuff, and I've only provided you with a good place to start, rather than everything you need to know.

How to Identify a bad source of information:

  1. You want to try to stick with source websites that are .org, .gov, or .edu.  These domains have rules about what they can and cannot post, and in theory the information should be accurate.  .net and .com have no rules, and they can post whatever they want.  Try to avoid those.
  2. If the site is telling you to use a natural form of labor induction such as castor oil, spicy food, or pineapple, just walk away.  While they may have some valid information on their site, feeding you wive's tales and false information makes them more than a bit sketchy.
  3. Wikipedia is not always accurate, so make sure you double check it.
  4. Avoid biased sources of information (this will be a majority of websites when it comes to birth choices).  If they aren't talking about specific studies and citing sources, but promising catastrophic results for choosing ____, you should run away.  Fast.

Happy researching!

(WARNING: While these links are in no way pornographic, several of them do picture women in labor or immediately after birth, and therefore in various stages of undress, with various body parts exposed.  Don't click the link if your boss would object to you seeing real boobs, or if you're grossed out by birth in general.  Please and thanks!)

Prenatal Care
Birthing Location

Reasons your doctor may suggest an induction, or you may choose to request one

Various interventions

Reasons suggested for C-sections

Immediate postnatal and beyond choices

There are more things a mother can research.  If you try to read it all, it's possible your head my explode (but probably not).  These are just some of the main issues that may come up, the more common complications, and the things you should know about BEFORE your doctor mentions them.  Research your choices so that you may give legitimately informed consent.  Know what you are risking, know what chances you are taking with your life and that of your baby, know what choices you have, and make your decision from there.

Other links a mother or mother-to-be might enjoy:
The Unnecessarian (Avoiding a Cesarean, and VBAC support)
ICAN (VBAC support)
Birthcenters (find a birth center)
La Leche League (breast feeding resources)
Attachment Parenting (A Parenting Philosophy)
Car Seat Safety (Make sure your child is safe in the car)
Car Seat Usage, with pictures (Using a car seat in a nutshell)
Choosing a Car Seat (car seats options by brand, features/stats, and price)
Water Safety (Keep kids safe in the water)
Baby Names (My blog post on how to name a baby, you may or may not like it)
Baby names for real (a real link to a real baby names site)
Shape of a Mother (what postpartum bodies really looks like)

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Plea for Accuracy

We all have passions.  Sometimes these passions come in the form of a "cause" - something we want to educate people on, and help them learn about and put into practice.  There are MANY of these in the parenting community.  There's baby wearing, vaccinating (or not), delaying solids, breast feeding, car seat safety, water safety, birth choices galore (natural, epidural, VBAC, repeat C-Section, water, home, hospital).  I'm just gonna stop there.

Whatever it is that you are passionate about, if you're going to argue it with people, you MUST BE ACCURATE!  Otherwise you just invalidate yourself to whoever catches you, and possibly your entire cause.  It's kind of a sad reality that we are quick to judge groups of people based on small sample sizes, but it's human nature, I think.  We take what we know and we run with it until we're proven wrong.

Breast feeding advocates: If you tell people that your boobs will cure cancer or that formula is poison, you're going to illicit eye rolls and scowls, and whoever you say these things to is going to assume you're talking out your rear end.  They're not going to listen to you, and they may never listen to a breast feeding activist again, because "they're all crack pots." *

VBAC advocates: If you tell women that the only way they'll ever get a VBAC is using a midwife and birthing at home, that all OBs are just scapel-happy psychos wanting to slice women open at the drop of a hat, you're gonna scare some people off, or at best make them lose hope.  Rather than fighting for what they want, you've convinced them that they have no options, because they don't want a home birth, or there are no midwives in their area.

Car seat safety advocates: If you're going to quote laws in an article you write, you should probably make sure you're right.  Double check your facts.  If you tell someone that a sippy cup is a lethal projectile in a crash, then that same someone may go to Google and search "death by sippy cup" and realize that you're full of crap.  Suddenly, everything you've told them, and everything they've read about car seat safety is seen as a racket, a bunch of bull, totally pointless.  "What else are you exaggerating or making up? Rear facing probably isn't 5 times safer, either." **

I think my point is obvious.  Advocating is awesome.  Advocate to your heart's content.  Shout from roof tops, spam your Facebook with facts and links and videos, write a blog that does or doesn't make money.  Do whatever you want to get the word out.  But whatever medium you choose, BE ACCURATE, otherwise you're hurting the cause for everyone else that actually knows what they're talking about.

* Breast milk is awesome stuff, and it's best for babies if it's available to you.  It has remarkable healing properties, and it's possible that maybe, possibly, theoretically, it can cure cancer. Maybe it has at some point in time.  It's cured pink eye and diaper rashes and eczema, anyways. But it's not the cure that scientists are looking for still.  Also, while formula has caused the death of babies in various circumstances, it's still a valid alternative when breast milk is not.

** Projectiles are a legitimate concern in a traffic collision.  A plastic, soft spout sippy cup CAN and HAS done extensive damage to the heads and faces of small children.  I encourage you to Google it if you're interested, or think I'm full of crap. ;)

Be Careful What You Say

We hear it over and over from everyone around us - how our children are little parrots, how they hear everything we say and are likely to repeat it at the worst of times.  And we ALL know it's true.

When my son was about 2, he picked up "the D-word" somewhere, and every time something would go wrong in his life, out it would come.  He failed at a video game? "D-word."  He dropped something? "D-word."  I hung my head in shape when he said it in the grocery store, or the church play group.  Eventually he learned to stop saying it, or it stopped being cool, or something along those lines.

Now that he's a 3-year-old, it's even more pronounced.  When he drops a toy on his foot and says "aw, fiddlesticks!" I laugh.  When a toy breaks into pieces in his hands and he says "aw, w-t-f?" (letters not words), I sort of frown at him.  Oops.  I should probably stop saying that one.

But what people don't usually mention is how kids will easily pick up on the GOOD things you say as well.  Like, the best way to teach a kid to say "please" and "thank you" is to say them yourself in the appropriate situation.  But we kind of all know this - it's obvious.  But I never REALLY realized until just this weekend, that this really pertains to EVERYTHING.

We showed up to soccer practice early on Saturday, and while waiting for the coach Luke and I started kicking the ball around.  A little girl from his team walked over and asked to play.  They started kicking it back and forth, and every time the little girl would kick it Luke would tell her "Good kick!  Great job!" "Kick it again!  Yay!"

And my little 2-year-old cheers for me when I do simple tasks, such as using the potty, putting a toy away, or drawing a circle.  "Good JOB, Mom!  Yay, Mom!"

I guess I always knew that positive reinforcement was the way to go, and that it's how we shape them into decent human beings, and teach them how to treat people.  It's how we start preparing them to become good parents when it's their time.

But I spend so much time specifically thinking about what I SHOULDN'T say to my children, that I rarely stop and make sure that I'm saying all the right things.  It feels pretty good to know that I have been, but it woke me up to the fact that what we SHOULD say is more important than what we SHOULDN'T, and I feel like lots of us (parents) have been concentrating on the wrong side of the spectrum.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Part of speech: Adverb
Definition: Almost certainly
Usage: I probably won't die today.

Probably is the word you use when you want to make an absolute statement, but know better than to ever make an absolute statement.  I say probably a lot.  Examples:
"Yes, that's probably who peed on the floor." - I know in my heart it was Vorenus, but I didn't see him do it so I won't make an absolute statement.  After all, Avalon has a generous bladder as well, and so does Lauren.
"My dog probably won't bite you."  He's never even growled at a human being, or shown his teeth.  He is the most submissive dog on the planet.  But he has teeth and a jaw, so I refuse to say he will never bite.
"The baby is probably yours."  It could be alien spawn.  But it's probably not.

You get the idea at this point I'm sure.  "Probably" is my way of interjecting reality into a situation without promising an absolute.  Here's what I mean.

One plane per year has crashed on a runway in the last 20 years (20 crashes total).  There are nearly 11 million flights scheduled yearly in the US.  Your chances of being involved in a runway collision - 2 in 11 million. .0000001%  I can't say that you won't be involved in a runway collision, but I can tell you that going out of your way to prepare for one by spending time or money is going to be a waste of time or money.

Better yet:
There have been 7 fatal runway collisions in the last 20 years.  Still 11 million flights per year.  So every 31,460,000 plane take offs result in one fatal crash. Odds of being in a fatal crash: 2 in 31,460,000. .00000006%  This makes it really tempting to say never, but I'm not gonna do it.

They PROBABLY weren't going to crash.

So let's apply this to parenting decisions.  I like to think in Probablys, and most other parents that I've encountered prefer to think in "Coulds."

Them: This COULD happen, so I'm going to do everything I can to prevent it.
Me: This PROBABLY won't happen, so whatever.

I do pick and choose my probablys based on convenience.  It's really inconvenient for me to bring all three of my children outside into the driveway at once for the purpose of loading them into the car.  Since my house is PROBABLY not going to erupt into screaming flames, and a kidnapper/murderer/rapist is PROBABLY not going to go through the back door and surprise me from inside, I think it's safe to bring out one child at a time.

I realize that the airbag sensor light on my passenger side is PROBABLY functional, and the airbag is PROBABLY off.  But since it's not especially inconvenient for me to store all of my children in the trunk, sardine style (that's safe right?), I won't take the risk with the airbag.  Maybe if I was being chased by someone with a chain saw, and all the back seats were full, then I would toss my rear facing infant carrier into the front seat and hope for the best.  I probably would, in fact.
Disclaimer: My kids are stored in the back seats of the car, all of them in car seats.  I don't even have a trunk.

So, the question to ask ourselves as parents? How willing are you to accept PROBABLY when it comes to your child's safety in the car?  In the bathtub? In the yard? It's always a personal decision that no one can make for you, but I do urge you to consider the consequences before using an expired car seat that's PROBABLY still good, or not reading a car seat manual because you can PROBABLY figure it out on your own.

Please watch this video if you don't think car seats expire - they do.

That's right.  This whole post was about car seats.  Bet you didn't see it coming.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Surviving Church With 3 kids under 4

I think the title says it all.  I'm going to talk about surviving church with three small children, preferably without heading to an institution afterwards.  Church should be "where we go to learn about and worship God" (this is what I tell my children).  But for my family, it's basically "where we go to lose our minds while we try to keep our children under control."

I readily admit that my children are not the most well-behaved children in the world - they don't listen to me in public, because they know I'm not going to strangle them Homer Simpson style where people can see us. My kids are always loud, but when they are pissed off they are LOUD.

So I end up doing everything I can to keep my children from crying and disrupting the whole service. I am a complete push over, and they get whatever they want as long as they just. stay. quiet.  I'm sure the people sitting behind me think I am that over indulgent parent that never says no.  I'm really not - just at church.  Finally we make it through the first hour, and I can breathe a small sigh of relief.  We made it, and few people, if any, came out of thinking I'm a horrible parent (except for the people sitting behind me of course).  The entire time I am likely wanting to strangle either them or myself - whichever will get me out of the pew faster.

Hours two and three are easier, because #s 1 and 2 go their separate ways.  This is where I feel terrible for #1's teachers, because I know that he is horrible for them, too.  I know he doesn't sit still, I know he doesn't be quiet, and I know he causes a raucous.  Basically, I'm well aware that he's a pain in the butt.  This is probably where people start putting together what the see in the first hour (permissive push-over parent) and how he behaves in the second (expectant, impatient toddler).  Really though, he's just always like that!

#3 stays with me for the second 2/3s of church, but the toys and snacks I bring are never cool enough, and the room we are in is never as cool as.. well, the rest of the building.  So I spend two hours chasing her around in circles trying to not bother other people who are able to learn because their kids are 18 months or older, or immobile.  At the end of the 2 hours, I realize that I heard about 10 minutes of either lesson, and retained approximately 4 words.

Why did I go again?  Not only did I learn nothing, but now I'm completely exhausted, and I'm pretty sure that everyone at church thinks I am totally overwhelmed at home by my children, and they totally see through my fake "LIFE IS GREAT!!!!!" smile.  But really, I'm not overwhelmed (most days).  I am overwhelmed by them in situations where I need to have control but actually have none - like church! So while my "life is great!" smile is fake as I am dragging my children through the building, prepared to knock them over the head and (gently and lovingly) set them into their age-appropriate child restraints, life really IS great 5-6 days of the week.

So, here's what I do to keep church a little LESS awful than it otherwise could be, because a little less is better than no less?

1. Pack snacks.  Pack a variety of snacks.  Make sure they are not messy snacks.  Pack the variety of snacks in a variety of containers so that you can constantly switch them out.  I have Take n Toss bowls, plastic baggies, little animal bowl things I got at the dollar store.

2. Pack toys.  Pack so many toys that you're sure your children would be occupied for days.  These will probably last you about 35 minutes.  At least they do for me, since my kids have some form of ADD or something.  In the following picture we have: finger puppets, two balls, a shaker, two matchbox cars, a set of dice, a camera, a teething ring, flash cards, crayons and paper, several different books, a random Perry the Platypus toy, and a fancy ball.  Three kids ages 3, 2, and 1? Yeah, even this kind of selection doesn't last long.

3. Alternate your toys and snacks, and reserve the choices as only for church.  My kids get Whales at church.  Healthy? Not at all.  That's why they like them so much, and why they only get them at church.  I swap out the books and flash cards every week, and some of the toys as well, just to keep things fresh and fun.

4. If you have a SmartPhone, install Toddler Lock.  It's amazing.

5. Take a deep breath, and realize that if your children make a tiny bit of noise, it's still okay.  The pulpit has a microphone, and many other people have children who are not sitting silently and holding their breath.  You're not alone.  Others understand.

And there you have it.  That's how I survive church.  Sort of.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Irrational Panic Room

Sometimes I feel like I'm not the greatest mother because my Panic Button is broken.  You know the panic button - it manifests in multiple forms.  It shows up when you've had a near miss with your child's life (lost track of them for 10 seconds in the grocery store, saw them almost lose their balance on the stairs).  This feature of the panic button works for me.  I do in fact freak out a little when my child almost falls down the stairs, or gets away from my hand in a parking lot.

But the preventative feature of my panic button seems to be broken.
My brain fails to jump to the most horrific of the what-if's, especially not regarding other people's children.  For instance, someone recently posted on a Facebook group about seeing two children, 7-ish, sitting in the back of a car in a parking lot playing video games while their mother was inside.  Outraged, many commenters said they would have called 911 because *insert list of things* could have happened, seeming to think these children were in some kind of mortal danger, warranting an immediate and/or legal intervention.

Me?I decided that since it wasn't illegal for them to be there (not in the state in which it occurred, which is my state, so I knew the law off hand), and they were obviously fine, I saw no reason to call 911 or freak the heck out on the parents.  Now, if the children were banging on the windows with hands that said "NOT PENNY'S BOAT" tattooed on them, begging for help, or if they looked to be in some kind of distress, that would be completely different.  So I thought "meh, why get involved? Kids seem fine."

Apparently what I SHOULD have been thinking was that these two young children were going to be kidnapped out of the back seat, the victims of a freak car jacking, beat up for their video games, or they were going to put the car into gear and kill themselves or someone else.  This is why my Panic Button is apparently broken, because none of those things really occurred to me.  And even once they were suggested, the only option I considered a legitimate possibility was beat up for their video games.

Maybe I just know too much about statistics? There is a .00016% chance that any given child will be kidnapped by a random stranger anywhere in the US.  I can quote sources if you'd like, but you should just take my word for it.  While I'm not thinking "it'll never happen to me" I *am* thinking that "it probably is not going to happen to me, or them, or them."  Obviously it does happen to some people, but it can't be denied that some areas are safer than others.  I know the crime statistics in my small little college town, and the odds of my child being snatched off the sidewalk while I'm putting his sisters in the car are incredibly slim, and I might even venture to say that it's never gonna happen.

Here's what you've been waiting for - a list of things I think are and are not worth panicking about (I'd like to add a disclaimer that my children are generally too old or too young for some of these items, so they may not apply directly to me.  I do not let my 2-year-old play outside where I can't see her, but if she was 8, it'd be a different story).

Don't Panic: There hasn't been a kidnapping in your town for over a decade so you want to let your child play outside unsupervised.
Panic: There is a serial kidnapper in your town, and your neighbor is letting her child play outside unsupervised.

Don't Panic: Stepping six feet from the tub your toddler is in to get a towel
Panic: Wandering around talking on the phone and cooking dinner while your infant bathes.

Don't Panic: children alone in a car, experiencing no distress
Panic: Children alone in the car who look as though they made need help

Don't Panic: A dog riding in the car with children
Panic: A dog in the back of a pick up truck

Don't Panic: you see a pit bull
Panic: you see a pit bull that is foaming at the mouth, snarling viciously, and/or holding a sign that says "I want to rip out your throat."

Don't Panic: Your neighbor leaves her sleeping child in the house to run next door or across the street.

Panic: Your neighbor leaves her sleeping child in the house to run to the store or go to a bar.
Don't Panic: A mother feeds her baby rice cereal at six weeks because she hopes it will help him sleep.
Panic: A mother forgets to feed her baby anything for at least a day.

Don't Panic: Your child has a fever of 103.2.
Panic: Your child has a fever of 106.

I think you're starting to get the idea.  I really feel like MOST parenting decisions are merely choices, and the children will be fine.  Just because they are choices that *I* wouldn't make for myself or my children, it doesn't mean you should panic and alert the neighborhood watch, fire department, and/or local hospitals.

I really feel like I'm in the minority of parents because I don't panic (or freak out) if my child were to spike a fever.  I let them ride in the base of the shopping cart, and sleep in their bouncy seat.  I use a crib bumper.  I have a dog with a large blocky looking head.  I have more than one dog.  I do not follow my dogs around the house to make sure they aren't salivating over the potential deliciousness of my children.  The list goes on, but I won't go into any more detail.  Suffice to say there are many parenting decisions I make that others don't agree with.

It just makes me wonder if I am somehow a broken parent.

SHOULD I go to the ER if I start spotting at 6 weeks pregnant, or just wait it out at home and save my $300?
SHOULD I let my children play on the trampoline, or dress them in bubble wrap before they go outside?
SHOULD I always assume my dog is always on the brink of an uncharacteristic death spree?
SHOULD I be concerned about other people's children (age 6ish) playing outside alone in a 99.99999% safe neighborhood (I'd say 100% but I don't like absolutes)?
SHOULD I worry that my house is going to be broken into at any time, morning, noon, or night?
SHOULD I mentally slap people who turn their kids around at 1 (or sooner), or booster them at 2?

This list goes on as well.  I don't dislike that I don't freak out, but sometimes I worry that I come across as cold and/or unfeeling towards my children because I am not constantly worried about their safety, or thinking of the horrible things that could happen to them when they go outside or eat macaroni and cheese for the second time in a week.

So I guess my whole point was to let people know that I do in fact consider these things, and I feel confidant that my child will not be kidnapped from my front door, that my dog is not going to randomly channel Kujo, and that my 3-year-old is not going to drown in the bathtub if I look away for 10 seconds.  It's not that I haven't considered the possibilities, it's that I considered them and then discarded them.  I can't imagine I will change and become a panicker any time soon, and would like to add that I do take reasonable precautions in all things.

Even though I know I PROBABLY won't get in a car accident in my neighborhood, my children are still always in car seats.  I still stay in the room while my almost 4-year-old takes a bath, and I don't let my small children run around the neighborhood while I sit on my butt and blog.  Again, this list goes on.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Car Seat Options for the Savvy Shopper (Under Construction)

Because I've been shopping for a car seat (or two or three) for a couple of weeks now, I figured this was a good place to put all my thoughts down so I can review them any time I want.  Could I use a document and save it to my desk top? Yeah, but where's the fun in that?!  I also felt like a lot of lists I was finding online were out dated or incomplete.  I hear about the same handful of seats over and over, and I wanted to know all my options and not feel limited to only a few choices.
So here is a lovely list of car seats and options, in case you need to go shopping.

***I've included every brand I could think of, but I'm sure there are some missing.  If you see one missing, let me know.

***I've included what specs I could find on the seats, like height limits and top slot harness heights, but didn't check manuals or anything so I'm not 100% certain on some of them.  If you see something incorrect please let me know so I can correct it.  Thanks!

***I've divided the seats into categories:
Rear facing infant carriers
Convertible Seats
A section for all the seats that rear face to 40 pounds or more
Seats that harness for more than 40 pounds
Booster Seats

***Some seats will show up in more than one category (lots of convertibles have extended length harnesses), with the applicable specs listed for that section.

***Prices may vary.  Many of the prices listed are direct quotes from the website, but the seats can OFTEN be found much cheaper.  So if it's a little above your budget, shop around and you may find you can afford it. Sometimes I just did a search with Google Shopping and picked a popular price at the time, and it may have gone up or down.

Infant Bucket Seats 
(the ones that detach from the base so you can carry them around)(seats are ordered by price, lowest to highest)
Evenflo Enbrace (22 pounds and 29in) - $55
Evenflo Discovery 5 (22 pounds and 29in) - $60
Safety 1st Comfy Carry Elite (22 pounds and 29in) - $78
Safety 1st Designer 22 (22 pounds and 29in) - $85
Safety 1st Comfy Carry (22 pounds and 29in) - $90
Evenflo Serenade (35 pounds and 32in) - $100
Evenflo Embrace 35 (35 pounds and 30in) - $100
Baby Trend Flex Loc (30 pounds, and 30in) - $115
Graco Snugride (22 pounds and 29in) - $120
Graco Snugride 30 (30 pounds and 30in) - $130
Safety 1st onBoard 35 (35 pounds and 32in) - $140
Graco SnugRide 32 (32 pounds and 32in) - $150
Combi Shuttle (33 pounds and 33in) - $150
The First Years Via (35 pounds and 30in) - $160
Grago Snugride 35 (35 pounds and 32in) - $160
Evenflo Secure Ride 35 (35 pounds and 32in) - $170
Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air (35 pounds and 32in) - $170
Chicco KeyFit (22 pounds) - $170
Chicco KeyFit 30 (30 pounds) - $180
Britax B-safe (30 pounds and 32in) - $180
Safety 1st onBoard Air SE (35 pounds and 32in) - $190
Maxi Cosi Mico (22 pounds and 29in) - $180
Cybex Aton (32 pounds and 30in) - $200
Peg-Perego Primo Viaggo (30 pounds and 30in) - $220
Graco Snugride ClickConnect 40 (40 pounds and 35in) - $220
Britax Chaperone (30 pounds and 32in) - $230
Maxi Cosi Prezi (30 pounds and 29in) - $290

(Rear face and forward face)
Graco Smartseat (Rf to 40 pounds, FF to 65 pounds)(shoulder height 11.5in RF and 18in FF) - $280
Cosco Apt (RF to 40 pounds and 40in, FF to 40 pounds and 43in)(shoulder height 13in) - $55 (Note: The Apt has low top harness slots, but the shell is sufficiently high enough that it's a very good rear facing seat for the price)
Graco ComfortSport (RF to 30 pounds, FF to 40 pounds and 40in)(shoulder height 14in- $100
Combi Zeus 360 (RF to 33 pounds and 36in, FF to 40 pounds and 40in)(shoulder height 14in- $400
Evenflo Tribute (RF to 35 pounds and 36in, FF to 40 pounds and 40in)(shoulder height 14.75in- $50
Cosco Scenera (RF to 35 pounds and 36in, FF to 40 pounds and 40in)(shoulder height 15in- $40
Safety 1st onSide air (RF to 40p and 40in, FF to 40 pounds and 43in)(shoulder height 15in) - $80
Evenflo Titan (RF to 35p and 36in, FF to 50 pounds and 47in)(shoulder height 15in) - $80
Combi Coccoro (RF to 33 pounds, FF to 40 pounds and 40in)(shoulder height 15in) - $200
Britax Roundabout 55 (RF to 40p, FF to 55 pounds and 46in)(shoulder height 15.75in) - $200
Safety 1st Alpha Omega 3-in-1 (RF to 35 pounds, FF to 50 pounds)(shoulder height 16in- $100
Evenflo SymphonyE3 (RF to 40p and 36in, FF to 65 pounds and 47in)(shoulder height 16in) - $230
Britax Boulevard 70 (RF to 40 pounds, FF to 70 pounds, and 49in)(shoulder height 16.75in- $320
Britax Marathon 70 (RF to 40 pounds ,FF to 70 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 16.75in- $290
Clek Foonf (RF to 50 pounds and 43in, FF to 65 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 17in) - $450
Safety 1st Guide 65 (RF to 40 pounds and 40in, FF to 65 pounds and 52in)(shoulder height 17in) - $80
Evenflo Triumph 65 (RF to 40 pounds, FF to 65 pounds and 47in)(shoulder height 17in)- $130
Evenflo Momentum (RF to 40 pounds, FF to 65 pounds and 50in) - $150
Graco MyRide 65 (RF to 40 pounds, FF to 65 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 17in) - $150
Britax Marathon Classic (RF to 35 pounds and 49in, FF to 65 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 17in) - $170
Safety 1st Complete Air 65 (RF to 40 pounds/40in, FF to 65 pounds/52in)(shoulder height 17in) - $190
Britax Roundabout 50 (RF to 35 pounds/40in, FF to 50 pounds/49in)(shoulder height 17in) - $150
Graco Size4Me 70 (RF to 40 pounds, FF to 70 pounds and 52in)(shoulder height 17.5in) - $180
Graco My Size 70 (see Size4Me for stats) - $180
Graco Head Wise 70 (see Size4Me stats) - $200
The First Years True Fit (RF to 35 pounds, FF to 65 pounds/50in)(shoulder height 17.5in- $200
Britax Advocate 70 (RF to 40 pounds, FF to 70 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 17.5in- $380
Recaro Signo (RF to 35 pounds, FF to 70 pounds and 50in)(shoulder height 17.5) - $280
Diono Radian RXT (RF to 45 pounds and 44in, FF to 80 pounds)(shoulder height 17.5in) - $250
Diono Radian R100 (RF to 40 pounds and 44in, FF to 65 pounds)(shoulder height 17.5in) - $220
Diono Radian R120 (RF to 45 pounds and 44in, FF to 80 pounds)(shoulder height 17.5in) - $250
Maxi Cosi Pria (RF to 40 pounds and 40in, FF to 70 pounds and 52in)(shoulder height 18in) - $290
Evenflo SureRide (RF to 40 pounds/40in, FF to 65 pounds and 54in)(shoulder height 19in) - $100
Recaro ProRide (RF to 35 pounds, FF to 70 pounds and 50in- $230
Recaro Como (Rf to 35 pounds, FF to 70 pounds and 50in) - $280
Peg-Perego Primo Viaggio SIP (RF to 45 pounds, FF to 70 pounds and 49in- $300

Seats that Rear Face to 40 or more pounds
(If you have a taller child you'll need to pull from the bottom of the list - the seats with the taller shells)(Seats are ordered by height of shell, from smallest to largest)

Safety 1st onSide Air (shell height of 23in)
Evenflo Symphony e3 (shell height of 23in)
Evenflo Triumph 65 (shell height of 23.5in)
Britax Roundabout 55 (shell height of 23.5in)
Britax Marathon 70 (shell height of 23,5in)
Britax Boulevard 70 (shell height of 23.5in)
Cosco Apt (shell height of 24in)
Peg-Perego Primo Viaggio SIP (shell height of 24in)
Safety 1st Guide 65 (shell height of 24.5in)
Graco My Ride 65 (shell height of 24.5in)
Evenflo Momentum (shell height of 24.5in)
Evenflo SureRide (shell height of 25in)
Diono RXT (45 pounds)(shell height of 25in)
Diono R100 (shell height of 25in)
Diono R120 (45 pounds)(shell height of 25in)
Britax Boulevard 70 CS (shell height of 25in)
Clek Foonf (shell height of 25.5in)
Maxi Cosi Pria (shell height of 26in)
Graco Size4Me/MySize70/Headwise (shell height of 27.5in)
Safety 1st Complete Air 65 (shell height of 27.5)

Extended Harnessing
(Kids should stay harnessed until they can safely be boostered, and sometimes that means they won't be ready at 40 pounds. Seats that have a harness height less than 16in were left off the list, because they likely won't accommodate practically any child to booster readiness.)(seats in order by height of top harness slot, when known, from lowest to highest)

Britax Marathon (65 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 16in- $200
Evenflo Symphony 65 e3 - (65 pounds and 47in)(shoulder height 16in) - $230
Britax Roundabout 50 (50 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 16.25in) - $160
Safety 1st Rumi Air (65 pounds)(shoulder height 16.5in) - $150
Britax Marathon 70 (70 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 16.75in- $290
Britax Boulevard 70 (70 pounds, and 49in)(shoulder height 16.75in) - $320
Britax Boulevard 70 CS (70 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 16.75in) - $340
Safety 1st Guide 65 (65 pounds and 52in)(shoulder height 17in) - $80
Evenflo Triumph 65 (65 pounds and 47in)(shoulder height 17in)- $130
Graco MyRide 65 (65 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 17in) - $150
Evenflo Momentum 65 (65 pounds and 50in)(shoulder height 17in) - $150
Safety 1st Complete Air 65 (65 pounds and 52in)(shoulder height 17in- $190
Diono Radian RXT (80 pounds and 53in)(shoulder height 17in) - $300
Graco Size4Me 70(and clones) (70 pounds and 52in)(shoulder height 17.5in) - $180-$200
The First Years True Fit (65 pounds and 50in)(shoulder height 17.5in- $200
Diono Radian R100 (65 pounds and 53in)(shoulder height 17in- $230
Diono Radian R120 (80 pounds and 53in)(shoulder height 17in- $270
Clek Foonf (65 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 17in) - $450
Britax Adcovate 70 CS (70 pounds and 49in)(shoulder height 17.5in) - $380
Maxi Cosi Pria (70 pounds and 52in)(shoulder height 18in) - $290
Evenflo Maestro (50 pounds and 47in)(shoulder height 18in- $85
Evenflo SecureKid 300  or 400 (65 pounds and 50in)(shoulder height 18in) - $130
Recaro ProSport (90 pounds and 57in)(shoulder height 18in) - $200-$300
Graco Nautilus (65 pounds)(shoulder height 18.5in) - $180
Harmony Defender (65 pounds and 57in)(shoulder height 18.5in)
Evenflo SureRide (65 pounds and 54in)(shoulder height 19in) - $100
Britax Frontier 85 (85 pounds and 57in)(shoulder height 20in) - $300
Safety 1st Go Hybrid (65 pounds) - $200
Peg-Perego Primo Viaggio SIP (70 pounds and 49in) - $220
Recaro ProRide (70 pounds and 50in- $230

Dedicated High Back Booster Options (most convert to No Back Booster)
(a booster seat lacks a harness and requires the car's safety belt.  For info on when to transition to a booster seat see my post called Harness Good; Booster Bad)(seats ordered by price, lowest to highest)
Cosco Pronto (30-100 pounds and 34-57in) - $35
Graco Highback Turbo Booster (30-100 pounds and 38-57in) - $50
Evenflo Big Kid Deluxe (40-100 pounds and 38-57in) - $50
Safety 1st Boost Air (30-100 pounds)- $66
The First Years Compass B505 (30-100 pounds and 38-57in) - $70
Britax Parkway SGL (40-120 pounds and 38-63in) - $150
Sunshine Kids / Diono Monteray (30-120 pounds and 63in) - $150
Chicco KeyFit Strada (33-100 pounds and 38-57in) - $170
The First Years Compass B830 (30-100 pounds and 57in) - 70
Recaro Vivo HBB (30-100 pounds and 37-59in) - $90
Clek Oobr (30-100 and 38-57in) - $280

Dedicated Backless Boosters
Graco Backless Turbo Boooster (40-100 pounds, 40-57in)- $20
Cosco Highrise  (30-100 pounds) - $20
Cosco Ambassador (30-100 pounds) - $20
Sunshine Kids / Diono Santa Fe (30-120 pounds) - $70
Clek Olli (40-120) - $95

Budgeting without a Brain

I hate budgeting.  I an ideal world, I would spend all the money I wanted and there would always be more.  Yes, you may have some of what I'm smoking - it's very good stuff.  The problem I run into the most with budgeting my husband's money is discipline and self control.  I really have neither.  If I have the money with me, it's likely that I'll spend it.  And because I have three children, I'm not really comfortable leaving the house with no debit card.  I realize that, logically, there is very little reason why I need one.  I can check before I leave if I need gas, and if my car breaks down or someone starts choking, I'm going to call my husband to come to my aid, and he'll have money on him, but it still makes me nervous to not have it.

And so we've devised the cash only system.  This of course isn't new - I've read about it before, and I'm sure some big money guru talks about it extensively in some book somewhere that costs a bunch of money.  But since my blog is free, I figure I'll go into it some here.

First we break down our expenses into PMS

Primary means things we pay for monthly, even if some of them aren't strictly "necessary."  In this category goes:
Car Payment / Insurance
Cell Phones
Autopay entertainment (like Netflix)
Credit Cards and other Loans

Material means things we need but aren't automatic withdrawals and aren't necessarily a stable cost. In this category goes:
Groceries (encompasses food, cleaning supplies, and toiletry type products)
Dog Supplies

And Superfluous means stuff we really don't need, for the most part. In this category goes:
Junk food and soda
Clothing (which is sometimes a need, but not the way I do it!)
Fast Food
Entertainment (pretty much just means date night)

My husband gets paid once a month, and soon as it hits his account we take a small chunk out and put it in savings, and pretend like we never got it. Alternately, we could put this money towards out debt, and it'll probably end up there eventually, but having SOME savings is pretty important.

Then we figure out how much money we have left after all the bills will be payed (because sometimes rates go up, and some payments are only every other month, etc). Then we sit down with a Nice Google Doc and plan out our month. First we allot money to the Material category, deciding about how much we'll need for groceries, etc. This stays relatively constant every month, so it doesn't take a long time to figure out. As the month goes on we may adjustments, though.

We set aside a chunk of our money for “miscellaneous expenses” - things like vet bills, or signing Luke up for soccer, car repairs, etc. If we haven't spent this money by the end of the month it goes into savings, but I think we have yet to encounter a month where we don't spend almost all of it (three kids, four dogs, two cars? Yeah).

And then comes the Superfluous category. After everything else has been settled, we look at how much we have left for the month, and decide what we can afford to spend on Junk food from the grocery store, fast food, and random clothing items that Kes things are “SUPER CUTE, OMG!” It's rare that our kids actually NEED new clothes, probably because I constantly buy them things. Anyways..

After deciding how much goes in each sub-category, we withdrawal enough cash to cover what we've decided on. And before you get any ideas, remember that we have four dogs AND an alarm system. ;) lol. We keep the cash in labeled envelopes that I made all by myself (omg I'm so crafty!) – one for each category.

The reason this works is that it means I won't spend the money unless I leave the house intending to spend it. So when I leave the house for play group and lunch with Andy, I'll grab enough cash for lunch. But when I leave the house to go to the doctor, I won't grab any cash, and therefore I can't stop for lunch! And when the cash is gone from the envelop, the budget is done for the month. No exceptions.

So priority definitely matters here.
Monthly Bills
Everything Else

It still takes a little bit of discipline, because I still have a debit card with me when I leave the house, but it's a lot easier to exercise self control somehow. Knowing that I “left the money at home” lets me think that I don't ACTUALLY have it with me, and therefore I can't spend it. Prior to the Cash Only System, we had a fast food budget, and always “overdrew.” And we never had a junk food budget, but I decided that we really need one when I added up all the junk food we bought in a month (we drink a lot of soda around here).

And that's pretty much it! It's not complicated, but it works for me, the Queen of Self Control. ;)