Small people – adorable but expensive!

Under the table

We’ve all heard that having a child from 0 to 18 will cost you a whackload of money – according to the Huffington Post, approximately $235000. Is the cuteness and general life changing joy of having a tiny person of your own with your DNA worth a quarter million dollars? Most parents I know (myself included) would say yes. While I recognize that the sticker shock may be making the hair on your eyebrows stand on end, it isn’t as bad as it initially appears.

A lot of those expenses are gradual, and some of them are optional. The three major child expenses are diapers, food and STUFF. (Note: This presupposes that you are Canadian and will be on maternity leave for a year and do not have any additional health care expenses due to universal health care, so daycare and health costs are not noted here).

Let’s deal with diapers first: a lot of the data I read had quoted me up to $100 a month for the first year for disposable diapers, and the outlay for cloth diapers ran about the same (taking into account the initial costs for the diapers themselves). While the tiny environmentalist on my shoulder cried a little with each disposable I used, the first six months were just so overwhelming that I couldn’t add anything else to it. Particularly when that ‘something’ would have entailed rinsing out cloth diapers in a sink in our 700 square foot apartment while pumping, feeding and trying to have the odd shower myself. So disposables it was. I’ve tracked our diaper cost at between $35 – $50/month, with the average being about $40. How does this happen? There’s a variety of factors that come into play…primarily combining coupons and sales, and early toilet training. The latter will depend entirely on the child – I have a girl, and apparently they train more quickly and earlier, so I expect her completely out of diapers a few months after age 2.

What I did was chose a points program that worked for me (Shoppers Optimum), always used the same brand of diapers (Pampers) and ensured that I made all of my purchases there, always on sale and on double points days. I would save up the coupons I would order online from PG Brandsaver, wait for a diaper sale day, and then stock up using the coupons on the sale price, getting roughly 120 diapers for $35. This would make it equivalent to the price of the cheapest box store, but would come with the bonus of getting points for it. Once every three months, I would have enough points to buy $100 of baby supplies and other items completely FREE (although you do still have to pay the taxes).

If you register for the e-club of the points program of your choice, you’ll also get bonus coupons that will give you more points when you buy items that were on your list anyways. And depending on what type of diapers you use, they’ll often have loyalty rewards too.



Food for infants and babies is a fairly hot button issue. Obviously, a big piece of this is whether or not you’re able to/choose to breastfeed, as the first six months is nearly a complete liquid diet. If you’re breastfeeding only, obviously that issue solves itself. I would recommend a double electric breast pump to get some additional milk to freeze so that Elvis can occasionally leave the building, or in case of an emergency if you need to be away – having milk available will mean one less stress if a situation pops up. If you’re doing a hybrid of formula and breastfeeding or completely formula feeding, either by choice, not enough milk or just pure sanity, you’ll need to purchase formula. I’m not going to get into the enormous (and in my opinion, judgey and unjustified) political debate that surrounds breastfeeding/formula feeding. I assume that you, reader, are making the best choice for you and your family and that’s good enough for me! Formula feeding requires bottles and formula (obviously). Once again, use your points program and use it well. Choose a formula based on your particular infant, and then sign up with the company to get coupons and samples sent in the mail. Generally speaking, once you’ve found one that works for your baby, you probably won’t change, so when you see it on sale and have coupons, stock up!

I started our daughter on people food at just over four months (the health folks changed it to six months about a year ago, but four months worked fine for us! If you start too early, babies have a tongue thrust reflex that means they’ll just spit it back out at you – it’s a survival instinct). I gave her infant cereal, but also started her with pureed fruits and veggies right off the bat. Most other countries start babies on real food immediately once they’re able to process solids, and it seems to be just North Americans that have this whole ‘only cereal for a month’ thing. We did about half and half jarred versus homemade…essentially, you just steam stuff and blend it. Easy, yes? Soon enough, they’re eating whatever you eat, and your baby food expenditures just get lumped into general groceries.


Oh, baby gear. The baby is so small, yet the gear is SO LARGE. There are a ton of people and places and institutions who solely exist to SELL YOU RANDOM CRAP.

Get what you actually need. Not what the fine folks at Babies R Us say you need. Or the shiny new baby store in the posh part of town says you need. But what you ACTUALLY need. The basics for the first six months (according to me) are:

*onesies and pants (weather appropriate)


*hats (sunhat if summer, fuzzy hat if winter)


*jacket, coat or baby bunting suit for winter

*somewhere for the baby to sleep (bassinet? crib? Etc). Buy used.

*a baby monitor (depending on the size of your house. We had a teeny apartment and didn’t need one right away)

*swaddling blankets

*bottles (if formula feeding, and also if breast feeding, so someone else can feed with pumped milk and you can escape for a few minutes. Seriously. Leave. It will be better for everyone for you to walk around the block once or twice every day).

*diapers (either cloth or disposable)

*diaper cream

*wipes (or cloths, whatever you prefer)

*baby towel

*baby washcloths

*carseat (be aware that you cannot buy this in the US as it will not have the Transport Canada approval stamp. This means that if you were in an accident, you could lose coverage. Don’t do it. That level of risk is NOT worth saving a few bucks).

*stroller (always buy used or on a really good sale)

*baby carrier (also known as a sling, or at my house, the ‘baby hands-free kit)

*soothers (some people would argue that this is not a need. They did not have my daughter)

*high chair (also buy used)


Some of what *I* considered  fairly essential:


*swaddling sleep sack (that’s a lot of alliteration!)

*mobile (this kept her contented for AGES)

*Bumbo (the baby got to sit up! Without me holding her up all the time! This was genius. The usual common sense rules of ‘don’t leave child unattended on high surface’ and ‘wait for head control apply’).

*double electric breast pump and freezer bags (I liked the Medela freestyle). (NB: I pumped exclusively for the first five months, so this was something I used six times a day and I got the most expensive one possible that suited my needs).

*dangly toys and books for the stroller and to play with on the floor.

*diaper genie. Enough said.

*glider to rock the baby in…also for you to snooze while rocking said baby.


*exersaucer to keep her busy so that you can make a variety of pureed items which will all look slightly gross, no matter how delectable the actual food itself is.

What you DON’T need:


*those weird wedge things that keep babies on their backs. Come on people. They can’t roll over for the first while, and once they can, it’s a bit of a moot point.

*a fancy layette set. Blankets in cribs aren’t recommended anyways, so really? A couple of hundred dollars in bedding that isn’t recommended?

*bottle sterilizer. Use your dishwasher. End of story.

*shoes. I know I’ll get flack for this, but Kate didn’t wear shoes until she was starting to stand. Why? Because she wasn’t going anywhere.

crazy crib

*crazily expensive cribs/strollers/etc. If it goes into the higher three digits, and definitely into the four digit range, it’s just crazy talk. The child will chew on the $2000 crib the same way she’ll chew on the $400 one. Stop the madness.

*those things that tell you if the bathwater is too hot. Use your elbow. It’s free. And presumably, you won’t lose it amongst the other random baby items.

What weird stuff did you get for the baby that you never used? Or what did you consider essential that isn’t listed?



Fall and the flu.


I used to be sublimely healthy. And like those who rarely get colds or flus, blithely smug. I would dance through November, with the odd cold but nothing that really warranted any kind of intervention. I was sympathetic to my colleagues who got sick, making them tea and doing runs for cough drops, but it was sympathy, not empathy. No flu sick days for this girl, no sir. Lots of veggies, daily multivitamins, and exercise fairly regularly…a regular textbook case of glowing, gleaming, healthy health.. (I know. I can hear someone in the back retching a little bit. Don’t worry. Comeuppance approacheth).

And then we had our first baby. And now I sit here, coughing like a ten year smoker and sounding like Burl Ives. I spent the holiday weekend sick. Kleenex is making a record profit from my nose. And not much has changed…the veggies, exercise and vitamins are a regular part of the routine. The X factor is Baby K. Or Toddler K, now, I guess.

See, here’s the thing. Babies and toddlers are superior incubators of disease…adults, generally speaking, don’t tend to put their fingers in your mouth. Or wipe their hands on your shirt. Or throw up on you (most of the time, bar stars notwithstanding). Suddenly, all of these things are your new normal. And when your little angel gets sick, it becomes practically impossible to not get it. And then they go to daycare or school or play group and they sit around in a circle with their tiny buddies in their dinosaur boots and their Winnie-the-Pooh hoodies, plotting for cookies and scheming to swap cooties to bring home to loving, well-meaning Moms and Dads everywhere.

So now I’m that colleague that I used to sympathise with but roll my eyes slightly about.

Anyone have any suggestions on how to quell the stem of child-spread disease around the house, other than the obvious? Send them my way!

In the meantime…excuse me. I’m out of Kleenex.

Blissdom – seeking validation and finding it

Blissdom photo frame

My goals were fairly simple: to learn some new techy stuff, meet some new people, get an idea of how brands worked with bloggers, and see how one makes blogging into a career. I’ve done all of those things and more.

Flying across the country to meet 500 people you’ve never met. Spending $1200 in conference fees, hotel and airfare to do so. With no real idea of how it’s going to turn out. This is the thing that some people’s nightmares are made of. And even I found myself slightly uncertain at the idea of walking into a huge ballroom where I knew a grand total of NO ONE. (Those of you who know me are aware that I am prone to bringing people along in my wake…I have no fears of approaching strangers and work with the assumption that they’re going to be awesome and interesting. They generally are). My innate confidence is apparently not foolproof. Don’t declare it from the rooftops, though…you’ll ruin my rep!

Blissdom, for those of you not following along at home (or on Twitter, #Blissdomca), is Canada’s biggest social media conference. As a new blogger, it was my first time here, and the prospect of 500 people I’d never met was a little daunting, even for me. As they say, though (who is ‘they’? No idea!), if it’s scary (and not unsafe!), it probably means you should give it a shot.

So I landed in Toronto to go to Blissdom. The immediate steps were easy. Find shuttle (thank you Chevrolet!). Check in. Put luggage down and bask in having a hotel room all to myself, which NEVER happens.  And then I wandered down to the lobby in search of the welcome event… found myself standing off to the side, wondering which ballroom it was in and fighting an unexpected urge to cry like an eighth grade girl. There was another woman standing off to the side, texting, and I weighed approaching the group laughing and talking in the hotel bar. So I took a deep breath, turned to the woman texting and said “What do you think? Should  I have dinner by myself, or should I attempt to gatecrash someone’s dinner party?”

She laughed. And we spontaneously agreed to start a newcomer’s club. And so Lesley and I went off together to forge the frontier of bloggers.

Moments that stood out:

*lunch, both days. Day 1 was hosted by McDonald’s. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure how that was going to go. Turned out to be veggie wraps with tortilla chip strips and ranch sauce. All real food, and genuinely delicious. I was completely impressed (and I will acknowledge, very pleasantly surprised!). Day 2 was sponsored by the Lentils Canada. Did you know that you can make the most mouth watering spiced lentil pumpkin cake? I KNOW. I now have a slightly overwhelming craving for lentil soup. Please stay tuned while I go off and hunt down a recipe to make later.

liz and I

*the immediate camaraderie that sprung up with several bloggers I hadn’t met. The talented doll-making Jessica, or the dancing queen Astra. I met Natalie, whose blog I’ve read for quite awhile. Turns out she works in the same industry and we got a chance to talk shop. I learned about baking from Liz, and met the adorable baby belonging to Jac. There were so many amazing people that I can’t even begin to list them all – it feels a bit like an Oscar speech. It was also an opportunity to see a small slice of someone else’s life that is so rare in these screen-filled times. I had never envisioned how isolating it must be to have a child with special needs until an intense conversation about it where someone told me she felt that leaving her daughter with a babysitter was unfair, not to the child, but to the babysitter, who wasn’t equipped to deal with those intense needs. A little window of someone else’s challenges can be enormously illuminating when looking at your own.

*goodies! I got to try products that I’d never tried before and some of them were amazing! I came home with literally a duffel bag of new things – exciting!

*one of the speakers was the head of Twitter Canada – and I *finally* understand Twitter and what it does and why! And that alone was worth the trek.

*the incredible sense of freedom that comes with knowing no one and being able to reinvent yourself. You see yourself through new eyes when you’re meeting people who have no idea of what you ‘usually’ do or your regular schedule. There’s a freedom in being able to wander up to your room and have a nap in the middle of the day or go to bed at 10 when you’re normally up until the wee hours. There are no preconceptions of what choices you’ll make or who you are as a person, and that’s really really cool. And to others, you recognize qualities in them that they had forgotten they had, and you can see their situation in a new light.

blissdom workshop 2.jgp

*seminars and roundtables, led by people in the industry. I learned about blogging and taxes from Shoebox Begone, which was immediately practical – need to get this blog baby making some money! The session on magazine writing was led by one of the editors of Today’s Parent. I learned a boggling amount of things, from how to write a story pitch for a magazine to how to self publish a book from start to finish.

*learning about brands from the perspective of the brand. I’ve never really asked myself how Tetley describes themselves (they just introduced a new Ceylon blend that I got to sample, btw – I must have drank half of their supply!).  I just like their tea and that’s as far as it went. Learning about the enormous charitable work that Tim Hortons does makes me proud of them as a Canadian company. And Philosophy’s skin care consultations taught me about some of the science of skin. Hallmark wants to be part of keeping us connected to our friends in a tangible way. Useful – and interesting! I hadn’t really thought of how companies could reach out to consumers and how they genuinely want you to like them. Really really like them. (I had a Sally Fields flashback there. If you understood it, you were born early than 1982).

glamping with Les

*glamping. Marquee tent, chandelier, barbeque, and floor length glamour. Simultaneously wearing a gold sequined party party party dress while eating turkey wings with my hands was a new experience.

pajama party conga line

*the final event, a pyjama party, was something I hadn’t done since I was a teenager. And the ones I’d been too were with a few close friends, lacking the formal dance floor, bar, and popcorn cart that this one featured. It was sponsored by the wonderful folks at Cottonelle, who had brought in a mobile spa to do manicures and massages. After three days of putting our best face forward and having our hair and makeup done and being dazzling, it was wonderful to wander down to the lobby in teal flannel pyjamas and fuzzy socks and just sit cross legged on a leather couch and hang out with new friends. It was nice to just ‘be’.

But mostly, what struck me were some of the speakers.The session on social media and bullying was hard hitting and topical. If you want to see what it’s like to be famous, do a Google search for Jimmy Kimmel’s series on celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves. No one is immune to meanness, and there’s no excuse for spewing vitriol because ‘it’s a company’ or ‘they’re a celebrity, that’s what they do’. There’s a person behind that keyboard, regardless of how big or small they seem. If you aren’t kind on the Internet, you aren’t kind.

Drew Dudley’s powerful message that you are who you make yourself.  Aim high, and know that you’re the only one out there who gets to be you. So run with that…you’re the only one who can!

So I learned a lot. About brands, about blogging, about friendships and bonding, and about me. I learned that if you want to be a writer, then write. Step outside your comfort zone and find out the story guidelines for your favourite magazine and pitch the story you’ve been thinking about. The worst they’ll say is no.

So Blissdom, you were my summer camp and more. There were new friends, pyjama parties, sponsor treats, six times in a row down the four story waterslide, and an enormous amount of insight. Blissdom, you blew my mind. And next year, I’ll know to have a bigger suitcase!