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A year ago today, I started out the day looking a LOT like this and ended looking more like that.  Despite my obtuse exterior, I truly had no idea how much my heart–OUR hearts–would grow that very next day.

As summer fades to fall and we start putting away the shorts and pulling out the long sleeves, our family is inevitably going through a transition of our own.   As much as I possibly can, I’m savoring the last few days as the baby phase officially winds down.

But alas, with a kid whose nose is like a running faucet and the overwhelming temperament to match, the past few days have been hard to enjoy.  Like most families with kids in daycare/childcare outside the home know, if your kid appears contagious, he or she is banned!  Since Jeff’s been working crazy hours and I’m faced with monthly deadlines (my last for this publication!) the daycare logistics have been less than desirable.  Jack has been with me at work 1.5 days this week, home with me another and home with Jeff for half a day.    In those movies where they glamorize magazine editors, they don’t show the part where their baby completely MELTS DOWN on Park Avenue during lunch hour for every Suit on the east side to see.  To get even more graphic, since I wear black almost every day, I’ve started to look like a walking chalkboard– you know, with the runny nosed, clingy kid and all.

And to think, I once considered black a forgiving color!

But, it is what it is, right?

In a few hours, we’ll be on our way to Va. to celebrate Jack’s first birthday with family!  Yippeee and ughhhh!  And quite honestly, it’ll be, what we hope, the last major celebratory event outside of the state in which we live—aside from major holidays, of course.  Interpret it how you will, but times are a changin’.

We’re throwing a smallish family party on Saturday at Lola and Lolo’s house.  And from the looks of it, we may have the tailend of a storm for even more excitement!  Cross your fingers that it won’t rain!  Of all the things that haven’t been working out in my favor, I hope my kid’s party will be spared!  We are not driving 700 miles just to have waterlogged Lumpia and soggy cake!!

Either way, it’ll be a happy day!!  I can’t believe our boy is going to be 1!


It is estimated that a baby uses six to ten diapers each day, which translates to about 2,000 to 3,000 diapers each year. That’s a lot of diaper changes.

When Jack was a newborn, I previously reported that we ran the gamut of various conventional diapers. Thanks to gifts from friends and family, we had the opportunity to try out all the big brands like Huggies, Pampers and Luvs. But unfortunately like many newborns, Jack exhibited the traditional signs of super sensitive skin. After those endless diaper changes throughout the day, I’d notice that his butt was bright red by evening. I knew it wasn’t just a diaper rash; I was convinced it was more. Could it be the long list of chemicals in those conventional brands?

According to the Journal of Pediatrics,

54% of one-month old babies using disposable diapers had rashes, 16% had severe rashes.

I’m neither a scientist or an experienced mom, but in my effort to be both, a hypervigilant parent and educated consumer, I wanted to seek out the alternatives.

According to ecobaby,

the super absorbent chemical in disposable diapers, sodium polyacrylate, absorbs and holds fluids in the diaper.

Wired reported that

Sodium polyacrylate was removed from tampons in 1985 because of its link to toxic shock syndrome, a bacteria-caused illness. But no such connection has been proven for outerwear, including diapers, incontinence products and feminine napkins, which all contain the super-absorbent gel, said Celeste Kuta, an environmental scientist with Procter & Gamble, the leading seller of disposable diapers in the United States.

Grasping the environmental impacts of diapers, even before Jack was born, I was adamant about using eco-friendly diapers– including going the cloth route. Diapers made up 3.4 million tons of waste, or 2.1 percent of U.S. garbage, in landfills according to older stats from the Environmental Protection Agency. Like other new conscientious moms, I wanted to at least attempt to balance environmental impacts with convenience and baby’s comfort.

But given our apartment dwelling scenario, cloth diapering and its requisite frequent laundering would be quite trivial. So, following Jack’s cousin’s lead again, we set out to try out the many alternative diaper brands.

So I decided to post our experience (in installments) with the various brands we’ve tried, including cloth diapering. Since we were welcomed home with a big box from Tendercare last night, I’ll start with those.


Tendercare Diapers
A few weeks ago, our favorite baby store was out of our usual diapers in Jack’s size, so we decided to pick up a pack of Tendercare diapers. When we visited Jack’s cousin earlier this year, Katarina was wearing Tendercare diapers. I think Karen and Nick told us they were just trying them out.

On initial appearance, the diaper was thinner than the other brands we’ve tried. I liked how it was much softer in texture as well. The Tendercare diapers have the refastenable tabs, which is key for Wiggle Mcwiggleson. I think I have to refasten diapers at least 5 times before I can get it right, since this child flips and wiggles like a fish out of water. More on the refastenable tabs later…

I like how the Tendercare brand uses non-chlorine bleached woodpulp from sustainable, renewable forests. The fit on Jack, however, wasn’t as snug as other diapers. It turned out, he leaked right through the diapers a few times, too. On the otherhand, Jack IS a heavy wetter. Quite honestly, I’d much rather do extra laundry and deal with a few leaks than make him wear diapers filled with chemicals that irritate his skin.

The fact that these diapers are Chlorine Free is quite significant. The presence of dioxins in conventional diapers has been linked to a laundry list of side effects. Eco baby says:

Dioxin, the most toxic of all cancer-linked chemicals, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a byproduct of bleaching paper. Even in the smallest detectable quantities, dioxin has been known to cause liver disease, immune system suppression, and genetic damage in lab animals.

Back to the refastenable tabs, the second time we bought a pack of Tendercare diapers, we had the misfortune of picking up a bad batch. Basically, every single diaper in this pack had some sort of problem with the tabs– either the tab was hanging off or it was detached all together. The day after bringing home that pack of diapers, I forgot to replace the bad batch. So when I went to change Jack after dinner, he was sealed shut with packaging tape. Apparently, my mom refused to let the bad diapers go to waste and found the packaging tape (and went to town.)

Yes, Jack was wrapped like a 27-lb. package ready to be delivered– in a bad diaper with faulty tabs, no less.

Since an opened package of diapers can’t be returned, Jeff called the company to tell them about it. After a nice conversation with a lady in customer service, she asked Jeff to send the batch number and they would gladly replace them.

We got the box yesterday, a week after calling. They not only replaced the diapers but they gave us another pack and wipes too. Needless to say, we’re pleased that they promptly rectified the issue and with their stellar customer service.

The company touts other Tendercare features such as,
♥ Moisture Barrier Cuff
♥ Refastenable Tabs
♥ Breathable Sides
♥ Latex-Free
♥ Perfume-Free
♥ TBT-Free
♥ GMO-Free
♥ Hypoallergenic Top Sheet
♥ No Recycled Materials

The large size was $7.99 for 22 diapers, which calculates to about .36/diaper.

Despite the tab issue and the occasional leak, we’ll definitely use these diapers as often as we can. Tendercare diapers can be purchased at Amazon,, Buy Buy Baby, as well as other locations.

I just wanted to emerge through this ridiculous pile of papers that, sadly, is to blame for my continued absence this week.
Happy Friday, all! It’s supposed to be a scorcher in our area this weekend. It’s not even officially summer yet and we’ll have our ACs on high, for sure. Let’s just hope my flammable husband or the equally combustible heatbox baby both stay cool. I hope everyone else stays cool, where ever you may be!

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve done a product review, so I thought I’d take the chance to free my mind from my “real” writing and discuss something yummy.
While we were home the other weekend, one of my girlfriends came over to visit with her baby. Jack and Gavin are typically in similar developmental categories. And so, Tanya and I love to share with each other new finds. When Jack wasn’t trying to shake Gavin out of his carrier or pummel him with kissies , he was snatching poor Gav’s snack out of his hand. (Crikey. Sorry, buddy! We’re working on our social skills.)

I noticed the snack was something I’d never really seen before. Its white packaging resembled something I probably would have found at our local Japanese grocery store. It was small, flat and portable, somewhat similar to a shorter version of a fruit roll up package. When Tanya opened the package up for Gavin, it was an interesting snack that looked like a flat, airy half of a Milano Cookie (minus the chocolate) or cracker-like surfboard. “It’s a rice rusk and he loves it.” she told me. She went on to tell me that she found the package at a store we no longer frequent.

But lo and behold, last weekend, when we went to our neighborhood organic grocery store, I found a green box–vegetable flavor–that looked strikingly similar to Gavin’s snack! sweet!


After we picked up diapers, some fruit and cereal, Jack and I started the walk home. Since it was just about time for a mid morning snack, I pulled out the Mum-Mum rice rusks to entertain him for the 20 minute walk. I normally don’t let him eat in his stroller because, well, he likes to make art out of it. But thankfully, it was virtually impossible for him to paint any new masterpieces with his snack because 1) the rick rusk was practically crumb-less and not mushy like other teething biscuits 2) he devoured the rusk in the blink of an eye.

I knew it had to be a good if the snack since it had a mom-friend’s approval. But even better, it has the kids stamp of approval, too!

As I’m trying to foster positive eating habits, in hopes our kid won’t inherit my horrible sweet tooth and snack addiction, I try to stay away from all those big brand, markety snack-pack for babies and kids. {We’ll package this product all pretty and convenient for you and charge double or triple than what you can get on another aisle.} For the most part, I consider it consumer brainwash. I have a hard time paying extra for convenience when in most cases, that convenience is the antithesis of being green. So, I tend to pack a banana (best snack ever since it has it’s OWN natural packaging!) or whatever frozen fruit we have onhand.

Back to the Mum Mum rice rusk. The company originates from Taiwan and has permeated to other asian countries. Their presence in the U.S. and Canada seems fairly new, but I think they’ll do well against the big name baby brands–especially at the inexpensive price tag. A box of Baby Mum-Mum rice rusk runs about $2, and that’s here in northern NJ. Like I mentioned before, we bought ours from our local organic store, but I also saw them at a gourmet grocery store and at Whole Foods for about the same price.

The ingredient list is as follows: Japonica Rice, Sugar, Skim Milk Powder, Salt

the company touts the mum-mums as

  • dissolving easily
  • no artificial colors or vlavors
  • no preservatives
  • wheat, egg and peanut free
  • cholesterol free
  • baked, low in fat & no trans fat
  • no added fats or oils

The downside, to me, is the excess packaging. Two rice rusks are paired and packaged as individual snacks. As convenient as it is, I could do without the individual packaging. Other than that, the mum-mums don’t offer much sustenance. But from experience, I can tell you, they’re great as a time-killing distraction for a bored baby or a great way to keep them occupied until meal time. Considering these are the only snack that Jack can feed himself without destroying his clothes in the process, I consider them a mainstay in our diaper bag.
They also offer Toddler Mum-Mum, SuperSlim Brown Rice Crisps, SuperSlim Rice Crisps and Rice Crisps.

Like I playfully chant to Jack, “yum yum for the bum bum.”

By now, you should be familiar with my level of craziness. As my coworker loves to say when I do something crazy, “That poor baby…”


Want to see crazy? Spend some time with my family. Together, we’re always crazy. A few years ago, I remember Kris joked with my brothers and said something like, “who’s going to want to marry us and our crazy family?”

Crazy doesn’t even scrape the surface sometimes. It’s the craziness that colors our life; it makes us whole. And as always, it gives me yet, even more stories to tell!


A week ago, with our calvacade of overweight luggage, oversized carry ons, car seat and gigantic stroller in tow, a teething Jack and I left NJ/NY to visit my cousin Kris in California. It was a long overdue visit to go see my newly engaged cousin, who’s Jack’s GodmoJack, me and Kris at Disneyther and like a sister to me. Actually, we call Kris and my younger brother “twins” because they are one in the same: they share the same birthday (May 30), are both allergic to the world, are both extremely outgoing and yes, they’re both crazy, just like the rest of us.

Mickey earsFirst things first– flying cross country alone and vacationing without Jeff were, without a doubt, equally hellacious. I’ll get to the actual flying part later, but leaving Jeff here at home completely sucked.

I’m so glad we got to spend so much time with Kris and her fiance Jason, but at times, I felt almost guilty for having fun. Nevertheless, I did get to spend an endless amount of time with the babe, which was worth every single gray hair I’ve sprouted over the past 8 months. All the extra Jack time made all the working mom guilt disappear the minute we hit the tarmac.

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I prefer chips

Originally uploaded by jen_rab

We had a very lovely family weekend– one that definitely recharged my very drained batteries. Just a quick hola and happy Cinco de Mayo! Years past, we’d either be slinging margaritas or chugging them. This year, surely, neither of those will be happening.

Just like every other curious kid who has mountains of toys, Jack prefers to play with the mundane. Here’s a fun video (click on the link above) of the boy who loves bags of chips almost as much as I love my sour cream and salsa. Nope, he doesn’t eat the chips; he just loves the sound of the bag. If I had only caught the moments preceding all of this. Jack was playing on his blanket with a myriad of toys, but as soon as we sat down for lunch, he eyed the bag of chips and went full throttle for them.

Very interesting. According to various news outlets,

Women can influence the gender of their child with what they eat before they conceive, according to new research that lends scientific support to age-old superstitions about pregnancy.

The study of 740 women showed that higher calorie intake led to a higher probability of a male birth.

The discovery shows higher calorie intake prior to conception can significantly increase the chances of having a son while women on restricted diets are more likely to produce daughters.

“We were able to confirm the old wives’ tale that eating bananas and so having a high potassium intake was associated with having a boy, as was a high sodium intake,” research leader Fiona Mathews, a specialist in mammalian biology at Exeter University, told the Guardian newspaper.

Cereal and bananas, huh? FYI, I don’t like bananas. I wonder where sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches fall in this research .

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about the love Jack has for his transitional cup. In case I haven’t, let me just say this child LOVES this cup. He thinks it’s so great, he will go on a baby hunger strike if we don’t give him his sippy cup while eating his food. (well, as much as a feisty 6 month old can) While we only fill this “magical” cup up with a few ounces of water to go along with his solids, I can’t grasp why he loves it so much. Perhaps it’s the alarming brightness? Maybe it’s because he’s thinks he’s cool when he uses his “wings” to get the water out? Or maybe it’s because of the novelty of this whole new development— I just don’t know.
Well, whatever it is, I’m glad he loves it as much as we do.

Jack hearts his cupThe kid has awesome foresight and he doesn’t even know it. As a newborn, he rejected some bottles we were given. Those bottles are now confirmed to be grouped in the polycarbonate bottles that are creating a lot of media buzz.
And now, as we turn the corner into 7 months, the kid is so enamored by this wonderful transition cup, which happens to be a Born Free BPA-free sippy cup. It’s one of the most highly regarded baby items in our home right now.

My kid’s foresight aside, the terms, polycarbonate bottles and BPA, have been in the news quite a bit these past few weeks. Just last week, The Today Show did a segment called, The Truth About Bottles. The show overviewed the dangers of certain plastic bottles which contain BPA.
That show created so much hysteria buzz, they did a follow up segment the next day to clarify some questions.

This report about Nalgene bottles being pulled made me feel the need to post the stuff I’ve found over the past few months as a new mom. But most importantly, The Times reported today that Canada is at the forefront and is moving toward banning bottles with BPA.

The health minister, Tony Clement, told reporters that after reviewing 150 research papers on B.P.A. and conducting its own studies, his department concluded that the chemical posed the most risk for newborns and children up to the age of 18 months. The minister said that animal studies suggest “there will be behavioral and neural symptoms later in life.”

This talk about polycarbonate bottles and BPA is not new news. Many researchers and blogs have been talking about it for years. It just so happens that it’s permeating mainstream media outlets and now, consumers are starting to pay more attention.

The GreenGuide said:

A 1999 study of polycarbonate baby bottles published in the Japanese Journal of Health Sciences found that new bottles, washed gently before using, leached 3.5 ppb of BPA into water, while extremely worn and scratched bottles leached levels of BPA as high as 28 ppb. Another 1999 Consumer Reports analysis found that BPA migrated from polycarbonate baby bottles into simulated formula when the formula was boiled inside the bottle for 20-30 minutes. And several scientific studies have reported that bisphenol-A can leach from plastic when heated, exposed to acidic solutions or after prolonged use. And baby bottles aren’t the only place BPA is found, a 2007 survey done by the Environmental Working Group found the chemical in formula as well., a nonprofit organization who are dedicated to protecting the health and well being of children from harmful environmental exposures, say:

Since the late 1990s, there have been allegations that the chemical industry has distorted science to show that BPA poses no threat to human health. The allegations of bias have carried over to the government’s current evaluation.

When we’re bombarded by so many tests, research and reports, what are we, as consumers, supposed to do? While we all try not to over-parent, I do believe its in our best interest to be educated consumers. As the saying goes, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

As the reports and research are flooding in, what does it all mean? I’m no expert here, but my livelihood depends on thorough research. And as always, I need to understand.

My personal research dates back to August 2007, just weeks before the boy was born. There’s a ton of research and reports out there, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed. So what does it all mean? Here is what I found:

What is BPA?

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice define Bisphenol-A (BPA) as a high-volume production chemical used to make epoxy resin and
polycarbonate plastic products, including some kinds of water bottles, baby bottles, and food storage and heating containers. It is also used in the lining of metal food cans and in dental sealants, and is an additive to certain plastics used in children’s toys. The chemical was first developed as a synthetic estrogen and was later polymerized to produce polycarbonate.

How is BPA harmful?

Bisphenol-A mimics estrogen activity and is known as an “endocrine disruptor,” a chemical that interferes with the hormonal system in animals and humans and contributes to adverse health effects. Bisphenol-A also causes a variety of impacts through mechanisms of action that are
probably unrelated to estrogenic properties.environment california

Bisphenol A is a developmental, neural, and reproductive toxicant, Environment California says. From their thorough report, Toxic Baby Bottles, they found that:

* Scientists have linked very low doses of bisphenol A exposure to cancers, impaired immune function, early onset of puberty, obesity, diabetes, and hyperactivity, among other problems.
* For example, in one recent study, a single, low dose of bisphenol A administered to a newborn rat resulted in hyperactive behavior.
* Bisphenol A is most commonly used to make clear polycarbonate plastic for consumer products, such as baby bottles. Through use, this plastic breaks down and leaches bisphenol A into liquids and food to which it comes into contact.

* The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found bisphenol A in the urine of over 95% of people they tested.
* Alarmingly, the median level of bisphenol A in humans is higher than the level that causes adverse effects in animal studies.

What do we do?

Environment California says,

Parents have the right to know about chemicals in the products they purchase for their children. In the absence of good government regulations, but armed with the knowledge that some chemicals are a cause for concern, parents can take a few simple actions to limit their child’s exposure to these and other toxic chemicals.
At the store, parents should select baby bottles that are made from glass or a safer non-polycarbonate plastic. At home, parents should avoid washing plastic dishware with harsh dishwashing soap and hot water, which may allow chemicals to leach out of the plastic.

Environmental Working Group makes these suggestions:

Nipple: Start with a clear silicone nipple.
Latex rubber nipples can cause allergic reactions and can contain impurities linked to cancer.
Bottle: Use glass.
Plastic bottles can leach a toxic chemical called bisphenol A (BPA)
into formula. Avoid clear, hard plastic bottles marked with a 7 or “PC.”
Water: Use filtered tap water.
If your water is fluoridated, use a reverse osmosis filter to remove fluoride, which the American Dental Association recommends avoiding when reconstituting formula. If your water is not fluoridated use a carbon filter. If you choose bottled water make sure it’s fluoride-free.

What is being done?

The government said they are investigating BPA in Infant Formula Liners, but much more needs to be done. Most importantly, Canada has banned the BPA bottles. It was also reported in the Times that NY Senator Charles E. Schumer, said in a statement that he intended to introduce a bill that would create a widespread ban on B.P.A.-related plastics. It would prohibit their use in all children’s products as well as any product use to carry food or beverages for adults.

What is safe?

As EWG suggests, avoid clear, hard plastic bottles marked with a 7 or PC. so what baby bottles does that leave? I know Born Free, Green to Grow, thinkbaby Bottles and Medela Storage System are all safe.
The Soft Landing, one of my favorite blogs, has done some great reports. The recently posted Learning Your Way Around BPA.

ZRecs, another of my must-read resource blogs, has a great lineup of safe(r) bottles and cups.

And if you need even more links, here are even more sites that I’ve compiled:

Plastic Chart
ABC report on BPA
The Green Guide
Breastfeeding Blog
Chicago Tribune’s Julie Deardorff

Mama Knows Breast
Nature Moms
Baby Bargains-BPA Free Product suggestions
Plastic Bottles Suck- Babble
Baby 411 consumer alert

When he looks at me with those big beady brown eyes, I see so much of Jeff. Yet, when those eyes are closed when he’s asleep or if I turn my head just so, I can almost see myself in him. When he flashes that megawatt gummy grin, emphasized with closed eyes, I don’t see the painfully shy child that I once was: I know for sure my kid is his father’s son.

He may only babble mamamama and dadadadada right now, but I know in time, this cheesy smileskid will champion the same charm and quick wit that everyone loves about his father.

As we’re approaching 7 seven months, Jack’s very mobile, but not in the crawling kind of mobile. Like he’s been doing for a few months now, he rolls and rolls until he’s found the best corner of our tiny living room. With that same grace of a sumo wrestler, when he’s in between belly to back roll, he’ll sometimes plop his head and bump it ever so slightly, almost sounding like it might hurt a fragile child. Not this kid. Afterall, he is built like a tank, as his father often describes.

He is a bouncing baby boy personified.
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As FDR once said, Taxes are paid in the sweat of every man who labors.

Yeah, but what about the mamas? 😉

It’s tax day, do you know where/what your deductions are? Happy Tax Day, everyone.

I remember way back to my junior year in college when I wrote an article depicting the angst that often goes hand in hand with tax day. I’ll never forget my professor who told me in not so many words that my article sucked.

“Well, Jennifer, not everyone dreads tax day, like you do. I know I don’t. I get a nice refund every year.”

Well, duh. Sure you do.

I was like, what, 21 then? What the hell did I know? I was doing an assignment and was making an association with tax day.

While some may look forward to hefty refunds and even this year’s economic stimulus payments, tax season, much to my former professor’s chagrin, isn’t party time for everyone.

In our former life as DINKs, specifically DINKs without a mortgage, Jeff and I always resented tax season for various reasons. Having to deal with 2 states plus federal taxes is always a chore. Several years before baby came into the equation, we’d joke and say that we should have a kid “to make things easier.” (And then when we wanted a kid, it took us years to finally have him. It’s funny how karma works.)

We got what we wanted, but no, things did get not get easier. This year, in terms of taxes, we finally have a reprieve. His name is Jackson. Ok, so he’s not a reprieve as much as he is a tax “credit.”

But what does all that mean? I’m a word person, ya’ll. Numbers are a different language to me. Thank God my husband is the polar opposite of me: smart and very gifted with numbers.

Still, I want to understand taxes and the significance as new parents. It’s no wonder my article sucked back then. I still don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

Thus, I set out to wrap my brain around taxes, and here is some helpful information that I found. I know it’s not the most timely, considering TODAY is tax day and all, but perhaps it’ll be of interest for others in the future. (Looking at you, DINK friends)

As your spending skyrockets, at least you can take some solace in a few tax breaks geared for parents.

One that many parents overlook is the ability to sock away up to $5,000 of pre-tax money for child care through an employer-sponsored savings program. Called flexible spending arrangements (FSAs), most medium and large employers offer them.

There is also a child-care tax credit, which you can qualify for if both spouses are working and your child is under age 13. But Uncle Sam doesn’t let you double up on the FSA and the credit. “For most people, it’s not a tough choice – the flexible-spending plan gives you the biggest break,” says Lisa Osofsky, a New York City accountant and financial adviser.

The maximum child-care credit you can claim is $480 if you have one child and $960 if you have two or more children. In contrast, “if you put away $5,000 pretax in the FSA, and you’re in the 30% tax bracket, you’re getting a $1,500 credit,” Osofsky says.

Another big tax perk: The $1,000 annual child tax credit, which applies to children under age 17. Couples filing jointly who have one child and earn no more than $110,000 can claim the full credit.

A tax columnist is fond of pointing out, a tax credit is far more valuable than a deduction because the credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax bill.

And Babble did a featured a great article on 10 Tax Tips for Families.

Families can take deductions for: insurance premiums, uninsured medical expenses, treatments not covered by insurance, travel for medical care, medically necessary equipment and more…

Beyond taxes, college savings is huge. I’m so blessed to not have any college loans– starting a life with minimal debt was one of the best gift I could have ever received. Jeff is totally ahead of the game here, considering he took the initiative to start Jack’s 529 when he was a wee baby. Jack’s 529 is through Iowa, which is considered one of the best.

As I read in an article,

“The best time to start is when you child is born,” says Dennis Gurtz, a financial planner in Bethesda, Md. There are a couple of attractive tax-free college savings options:

* 529 college savings plans. You can contribute $25 a month or up to $250,000 each year to these state-sponsored plans. Your money grows tax free as long as it is used for college costs.

* All states sponsor one, and each is managed by a brokerage or mutual fund company. The Illinois plan is run by Salomon Smith Barney, and Maryland’s is managed by T. Rowe Price. No matter where you live, you can participate in any plan and your child can attend any school she chooses.

* The plans invest your money in a portfolio of stocks and bonds that gets gradually more conservative as your child nears college age.

* For information on the performance data on 529 plans, see (See link in left margin under Related Resources.) For a listing of all 529 plans, check out The College Savings Plans Network Web site. (Also listed under Related Resources.)

* Coverdell education savings accounts. Formerly called education IRAs, these let you contribute up to $2,000 a year in a tax-free accounts. The earnings build up tax-free. There are some income limits, however: $220,000 for couples filing jointly, and $110,000 for singles.

It’s been a crazy busy week for me at works since it’s deadline time. Thus, my head is barely screwed on straight. As usual, I have lots to say, but not enough time to do it.

I do have a quick picture to share, though. In honor of our friend/neighbor, Lisa’s upcoming birthday, I can’t not share these pix that were taken at her place the other week. When one of Lisa’s childhood friends came to visit her, she kindly invited Jack and me. Why? So we could have a little babymania.

Though we have friends and family who have babies and kids, sadly, we don’t have too many parent-friends in town. So, babymania was a nice change of pace for us.

Coincidentally, Jamie, Lisa’s friend, and I were due a week apart. We met last year during Lisa’s wedding festivities. Little did we know, 2 weeks after Lisa’s wedding, Jamie delivered early and baby Nathan entered the world a bit earlier than expected. I went on to cook a little longer and delivered later than expected. It’s fun how life works, but it’s cool to see it all in motion.

It was so interesting seeing the 2 babies, who were due within days of each other, but ended up being born months apart. Jack loved meeting Nathan but was freaked out when he started to cry. And like a confused baby, Jack cried when Nathan cried.

Ma'am put down the camera

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