30 Weeks: Baby Bump & Pregnancy Update

Since it’s been a few weeks since my last pregnancy update, I thought I’d start this post off with a long-overdue “baby bump” photo. The following before-and-after includes a shot taken towards the beginning of the pregnancy compared to one taken last week:

12 weeks (left) and 29 weeks (right).

It’s funny — when that first picture was taken, I was already starting to feel bloated and frumpy, and now I look at it and think “Wow, how was I that skinny?”

Anyway, I mentioned a variety of new symptoms in my last pregnancy update post, and there haven’t been many new ones to add. If anything, I’ve actually been feeling pretty lucky to (so far) avoid some of the pitfalls that I’ve heard are common during this stage of pregnancy. For instance:

No trouble sleeping — Happily, sleep hasn’t been an issue for me at all so far, even though I’ve heard that it can be difficult to find a comfortable position and such in the third trimester. Most nights I’m out cold within minutes of lying down, and even though I’ll typically wake up once or twice to run to the bathroom, so far it’s been easy to fall right back to sleep afterwards.

No back pain — I’ve mentioned having some stiffness in my hips, and my right knee is sore sometimes just for randomness’ sake, but so far my back hasn’t been bothering me at all. Maybe I’m just not huge enough yet for this to be an issue, though — it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks.

Keeping physically active — I’m not exactly hitting the gym, but I do quite a bit of walking — about two miles on a typical day. Even though it can be tiring, it feels good to be out and about, and I know it’s healthy for me and the baby to get some exercise.

All that being said, the various symptoms I mentioned last time are still around. My feet still have a tendency to get pretty swollen, to the point that I couldn’t even get my flip-flops on last weekend, so I’ve been spending more time lounging around with them propped up on pillows. The heartburn has actually subsided a little, though still fires up occasionally. And my weight gain is up to around 40 pounds as of my last doctor’s appointment, though since I haven’t been lectured about it by any medical professionals, I’m content enough to let it be.

Oh, and I passed a pregnancy milestone today: for the first time, a random stranger on the street came up and touched my belly. From various stories I’ve heard, this seems pretty common, but still… Am I alone in thinking it’s a little weird that people feel it’s appropriate to do that?

Crib Shopping at Target: An Epic Failure

Last weekend, we got started on shopping for the most important furniture item in the nursery: the crib. We knew from the start that we wanted something new, since it seems like cribs are always getting recalled for safety reasons and we didn’t want to end up with a secondhand crib that had some kind of dangerous design flaw. So after browsing around online and looking at the displays at Babies R Us, we decided we liked the following model:

Delta Venetian Lifetime crib from Babies R Us.
Listed at $279.99 here.

It had a nice classic look to it, it was capable of converting into a toddler bed or a day bed down the road, and it also happened to be one of the least expensive models Babies R Us had available. We were almost sold on it, when Joe managed to find this model on Target’s website:

Graco Charleston Classic crib from Target.
Listed at $174.99 here.

Since the two cribs looked pretty similar, and they both had a lot of the same features (convertible, no drop-sides, JPMA certified to modern safety standards), it seemed like a no-brainer to go with the less expensive one from Target.

We asked at the Target store closest to us if they stocked it, or if it could be ordered online and picked up at the store, and their answer was no — apparently Target.com will only ship items to your house. The customer service desk at the first store had some kind of printout suggesting that two other stores in the Chicago area might stock it, but this turned out not to be the case, and so we returned home and ordered the crib online.

All this happened on Sunday, so we expected to have to wait at least a week or so before anything arrived. But by Tuesday that same week, a large box had already appeared at our door.

This was a pleasant surprise, even if it was a little off-putting the way they hadn’t even attempted to make the delivery when one of us was home. They just dumped outside, leaving it to get rained on until Joe got home from work and brought it inside. As the picture below shows, the packaging wasn’t in the best of shape:

The freshly-unpacked crib box, with dents and damage from the shipping process.

But the condition of the box didn’t seem too important, and we excitedly unpacked it and brought all of the pieces into the nursery for assembly. It would be so great to finally have the crib put together.

The unpacked crib pieces awaiting assembly.

With everything brought into the nursery, we were about to get to work… and then we noticed some damage to the top of the crib.

Closeup of damage to the crib.

It was a gaping four-inch crack to the wood that would be facing the inside of the crib. Upon closer inspection, it became clear that the top piece and the side piece weren’t securely fastened together, probably due to whatever damage had caused the crack.

At first, we thought about just leaving it, or trying to repair the damage somehow, but both ideas left a bad taste in our mouths. We’d paid for a brand new crib — if we wanted something that was falling apart in places, we could’ve saved a lot of money and gotten a used one off of Craigslist or something. So we decided to return it.

Unfortunately, we learned that returning damaged merchandise purchased on Target.com is a much greater hassle than we might’ve expected. Even though their website promises “quick, easy returns” using an online form, we found that it wouldn’t accept our order number, so we had to call their 1-800 line. And maybe it’s just because their website is broken or something right now, but I had to sit on hold for a ridiculously long time.

Did you know that Target.com’s hold music is really annoying? It’s just these same three songs repeating in an endless loop:

Now, depending on your taste in music these might not be the worst songs ever. Maybe they’re even kind of catchy. But they only use a one-minute clip from each one, with incredibly bad sound quality, and it’s interrupted every 36 seconds by a recording of a cheerful lady who apologizes for keeping you waiting and assures you that someone will help you very soon. I endured an hour and fifteen minutes of this mind-numbing torture.

But I finally got to talk to a human being, who took down all the information about the order, the nature of the damage, etc. and instructed me to return it to any nearby Target store. (Alternatively we could have tried to ship it back, but this would have taken an extra 2-3 weeks to get the refund, and we’re kind of running out of weeks as it is.)

The pregnancy ticker as seen at the time of this writing.

Unfortunately, the box wouldn’t fit in our car (a Honda Insight), so yesterday we borrowed my dad’s van, loaded the crib up, and brought it back in that. It was actually a bit of a hassle getting the unwieldy item from the van to the store, but a couple of friendly passersby helped out, and we were able to get the whole thing up to the customer service desk. Or rather, to the garbage cans next to the customer service desk:

The crib, mostly in its box, returned to Target.

I’m not sure whether it’s the policy for all returned items, or if this crib just looked to be in particularly bad shape, but the woman at the customer service desk called someone on a walkie-talkie and said, “This needs to go in the trash.”

Anyway, the store gave us the refund on the crib, but not the shipping, which was nearly $30.00. They said we’d have to contact Target.com for that. (Apparently Target and Target.com might as well be two separate companies — who knew?)

So we called Target.com again. The first two or three calls, we only got to talk to “team members” overseas somewhere who could provide no help, not even the minimal task of pulling up our order number on a computer screen. But after calling back this morning and sitting on hold for another 54 minutes, we finally managed to get the shipping refunded.

And that’s the epic story of how we almost got a crib. The good news is that we’ve already successfully obtained a different crib from one of Target’s competitors, and we just need to get it put together at this point. So stay tuned for part two of the crib saga, coming soon to a future blog post.

Pasta Salads and Pregnancy Cravings

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been completely obsessed with this pasta salad I ate several years ago in college. See, the cafeteria back at UIC had a refrigerated case full of salads and deli sandwiches, and one in particular became my favorite: it was a pasta salad with rotini, broccoli, green peppers, and cucumbers tossed in a creamy zesty sauce and topped with a nice scoop of tuna salad. It was the best thing ever, and I looked for it every time I ate in that cafeteria.

Then one day, the whole deli case was unexpectedly gone. I asked one of the cafeteria ladies what had happened, and she told me that the company that had stocked it was going out of business. It was a sad day, but these things happen, and life goes on.

Fast forward to the present: I’m seven months pregnant, and the one thing I’m craving the most is this pasta salad made by a company that doesn’t exist anymore. What ever can I do in this situation?

Let me remind you, I’m completely obsessed. I’ve dragged Joe to the deli counter at the grocery store at least once to raid their pasta salad selection… and it was good, but it just wasn’t the same. I’ve also tried to backward-engineer the recipe at home, and even attempted it twice in a row this week, with results were less than satisfying.

Somehow I just couldn’t let it go. So yesterday morning when I was desperately searching the internet for some better pasta salad recipes to try out, I discovered something amazing: that small, obscure catering company that I’d thought was out of business still existed under the name Good To Go Fresh. And they still made that pasta salad.

So I phoned their headquarters and made a very confused customer service guy tell me where I could buy one. And by some stroke of luck, it turned out they were stocked in a Walgreens just a few blocks from my office. So I strolled over there during my lunch break, and sure enough, there it was.

And that’s how the pasta salad and I were reunited after years of separation. And the clouds parted, and angels sang.

The delicious and soon-to-be-eaten pasta salad I wanted.

Unfortunately, articles like this one recommend that pregnant women eat no more than six ounces of tuna per week, so even though this yummy thing is available so nearby, I can’t make it any kind of regular habit. (Which is arguably a good thing — I think Joe would have a heart attack if I started getting takeout for lunch every day at a time when we’re trying hard to be more frugal.) But overall it was a happy ending to the story.

What do you think? Is this the most insanely food-obsessed thing you’ve ever heard? Do you have any crazy stories of lusting after a particular dish, pregnancy-related or not? I’d love to hear any amusing stories in the comments.

Update: Speaking of food-obsessed, here’s something kind of fun: the blog Peas and Crayons holds a weekly food party where bloggers from all over the internet share pictures and stories about what they’ve eaten over the past week. Click here, or on the banner to the right, to check it out!


Our Feline Family Member

Back in October of 2008, a scraggly little calico showed up on our back porch. She appeared to be someone’s lost pet — she was wearing a collar, but there were no tags that might help identify her or contact the owner. And she looked so thin and hungry that we were moved to take pity and give her a little piece of shrimp from a leftover chinese food container.

After that, she seemed to regard our back porch as a haven. She camped out there day and night, waking and sleeping, patiently waiting for someone to come back out. It was chilly that October, and after a few days of this we finally just let her inside.

At first, this was intended to be a temporary arrangement. She’d been wearing that collar, after all, so we figured that if we asked around the neighborhood and put up some fliers and such, we’d be able to return her to her rightful owner. But weeks of looking turned up nothing, and after putting a “Cat Found” ad on Craigslist and checking at the vet for one of those implanted microchips (there was none), we tentatively concluded that she’d been abandoned.

Long story short, we named her “Grendel,” and she’s been our pampered indoor housecat ever since.

Grendel sleeping adorably on the bed at our old apartment.

Since you might be wondering about her name, I thought it would be fun to share a few details about her wacky and often self-contradictory cat-personality. The following are some of Grendel’s traits:

Cuddly and affectionate. Sometimes Grendel wants to sit in your lap, and she just won’t take “no” for an answer — she’ll actually put up a struggle and strain against your hands if you try to push her away. Then she’ll cuddle and snuggle with you in the most adorable manner possible.

Grendel snuggling with me on the couch at our old apartment.

But sometimes bitey. Grendel has a habit of giving these harmless little love bites. Out of love, no doubt.

My response here was to take a picture instead of moving my hand.

Very picky eater. For a former stray, Grendel has some pretty high standards when it comes to her food. Would you believe she’s actually turned up her nose at brands of cat food that don’t have gravy in them?

One of Grendel's favorite brands of cat food, as seen here.

But will eat pretty much anything. One time, Joe and I bought a little “Lucky Bamboo” plant to try to spruce up our dreary basement apartment… and it lasted all of one day before Grendel ate it. She devoured every leaf, leaving just the sad little stump in her wake.

The unlucky bamboo plant as seen before Grendel ate it.

The irony is that, after this incident, we specifically got her a little pot of cat grass, and she refused to ever touch it.

Anyway, despite all the wackiness, we love our little feline family member. Which lately has been leading us to wonder how to ensure a safe and healthy coexistence for Grendel and Baby Hart.

We’re not too concerned about Grendel actively hurting the baby, but rather that she’ll try to snuggle up too close to this soft sleeping warm thing, and in the process interfere with the baby’s breathing. Some websites I’ve found seem to dismiss this concern as an old wive’s tale, but the ASPCA has an article that, while imploring people not to abandon their cats juts because they’re having a baby, also acknowledges that it’s probably a good idea to keep the cat out of a sleeping baby’s crib or even out of the baby’s room altogether.

So far, the solution we’ve been considering involves putting a screen door of some sort on the nursery, so that sound and air can flow through freely — we’ve heard that good air circulation has been linked to lower incidence of SIDS — but unauthorized kitties would be kept out. (Another solution would involve simply training the cat to stay out of the crib and/or nursery, but since Grendel is kind of an insolent rascal we’re not sure we’d trust her to obey such things.)

For anyone reading, have you had cats and newborns in the house at the same time? Any advice on how to deal with the situation?

Painting the Nursery

This past weekend, we finally got around to painting the bedroom that we plan on turning into Baby Hart’s nursery. Of all the rooms in the house, we’ve easily done the least with this one — in fact, up until a few minutes before we got started with the painting, this bedroom was still a storage area for tools and a graveyard for dismantled moving boxes:

The nursery as seen before the painting started.

My sister Laura and my brother Jason were generous enough to spend their Sunday helping with the painting, which we planned to do in a pale green with a simple safari mural in a darker green on one wall — the basic idea was originally laid out in this post from a few days ago. We ended up going with Behr’s “Tinker Bell” for the lighter green and “Friendly Frog” for the darker green, both color-matched to Olympic’s no-VOC premium interior paint in an eggshell finish at Lowe’s. Here’s what it looked like when we finished:

The newly-painted nursery as seen from the doorway.

I mentioned before that my sister is a ridiculously talented art student, and she was the one who tackled the mural. It was pretty impressive — she just looked at that silhouette image I posted a few days ago and sketched out the tree and elephants on the wall, in giant proportions, like it was the easiest thing ever.

Hand-painted safari mural in the nursery.

As for the rest of the painting, Joe and Jason and Laura did the vast majority of the work — all I ended up doing was helping with some of the white trim along the floor and doorway. (In the process, I realized how hard it’s getting to maneuver and get up and down off the floor with the added weight and an ever-growing belly. Oh the joys of pregnancy!)

The painted nursery as seen from the closet.

Anyway, that’s how things turned out with the nursery painting project. And now that the walls are no longer covered in smudges and freshly-spackled nail holes, we can feel free to start bringing in the rest of the nursery stuff — like a crib and furniture and all those important things. We’re planning to start looking at cribs this weekend, so hopefully if we keep working at this pace we’ll be able to have everything prepared by the baby’s due date at the beginning of November.

But wow, it’s approaching fast — less than eleven weeks now! Where does the time go?