Sunday, 15 June 2014

Book Review: What to Expect When You're Expecting: Heidi Murkoff & Sharon Mazel

What to Expect When You're Expecting  Book Cover - Australian & NZ Edition
What to Expect When You're Expecting Book Cover - Australian & NZ Edition
Who hasn't heard of this book??!!  Surely no one!  But is it any good?  Read on to find out what I thought of this book.

Prior to reading this book, I read the prequel - What to Expect Before You're Expecting.  I've also put up a review of What to Expect Before You're Expecting if you are interested.  One of the criticisms I had of that prequel is how it is a bit over the top with the cutesy just-wait-till-that-bundle-o-joy-is-in-your-arms-and-you-are-complete language.  But I am glad to say that while it is still present it this book, it isn't a problem.  I suspect this is because there is so much to cover in this book that they don't have the room for it. With the prequel it felt like they were using it to pad the book out a bit.  So it is well worth considering this book even if the prequel wasn't to your taste due to the cutesy embellishments.

There is also a bit of overlap between the two books - clearly they are attempting to cater for the "surprised" audience who never got the chance to read the prequel!  However I still do think the prequel has enough in it to justify reading it.  But it is a shame that they don't combine the two books together into one slick, all inclusive reference book - but perhaps that isn't so profitable!  So I found myself skipping over some of the earlier repeated content.  When I read this book I was pregnant and needed to get up to speed on the relevant chapters ASAP thank-you very much!

This book is designed to be a reference book for all - so there will be sections that just don't apply to your - for instance multiple births when you are only expecting one.  When I read the prequel I had all the time in the world and I was truly interested to know just what women with/who <insert disease/lifestyle> could expect to have happen.  But with pregnancy / labor / child-rearing ahead of me for the very first time I preferred to only focus on the relevant topics and skipped the irrelevant sections.  And it is here that I have to add a criticism of the book.  The book tries to be a reference book AND hold your hand as you go along. So it gives you a month-by-month breakdown of what to expect and adds a few extra topics it deems you may now want to know about at the end of each month.  But by doing so it puts reference material in hard to find places for you to read at the time it deems you should read them - which doesn't necessarily match up to your information needs.

The book covers labor in a very matter-of-fact style.  I came away from it feeling like I was still quite unsure about what I may want to do even though I knew what would happen in a labor.  For instance I had read about pain-management options - but was really no clearer on what I might like to use.  I also felt like there was a whole world around my mental state (e.g. Hipnobirthing) and birth positions that could perhaps help with my labor but again I didn't gain much information apart from the basics from this book.  I ended up having to look elsewhere for these topics to be covered.

I have since read some other books and have found that this book offers a very middle of the road opinion that is probably designed not to offend anyone - a good financial move perhaps?  For instance it will say that breast-feeding is best - but that formula feeding is very okay too.  Other books will tell you that breast-feeding is the absolutely best thing you can do and that formula feeding can never hope to be as good. What to Expect When You're Expecting goes to great lengths to ensure what it says wouldn't possibly offend anyone when other books aren't ashamed to put forward their point of view.

I purchased my copy of the book from iTunes.  By doing it through iTunes I was given the Australian and NZ edition because iTunes is smart enough to know I need the local edition - which was great because I ordered the prequel through The Book Depository and ended up with an American edition.  These books contain lots of references to local bodies to contact for more information / help so it really is a disadvantage to not be reading the one intended for your country.  So if you are purchasing online - do try to make sure you get an edition relevant for your country if it exists!  I assume if you are purchasing it from a physical bookstore they only stock the local edition if it exists.

Unfortunately there is a bit of an issue with the references in my iTunes copy - which is really bad for a reference book!  The page numbers in the index don't match up - if you try to look up any of the page numbers listed, you will be taken to a random spot in the book.  Perhaps this is just a fault with the iTunes version or just the Australian & NZ edition of this book?  Either way it is disappointing for something that cost ~$20.  You can still do a search for words in the book and find the matching pages - but it isn't anywhere near as convenient.  Also, these references are not links - you have to look them up by hand. And when there is a reference to another section only the title of the section is included - there is no link to follow. Perhaps consider the paper version if you want a book you can come back to reference after you have read it cover-to-cover.

All in all it is a pretty good book that covers a lot of ground to settle down the expectant mother with information.  It is not an exhaustive reference - should your health care provider tell you that you have an elevated / lowered level showing in XYZ pathology test then chances are you will be running to the internet to find out more.  But it is still a worthwhile read.  I give it 7/10 .. if you buy the paperback version!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Maternity Clothes - Part 1

One of my little gripes when I was pregnant for the very first time was not knowing what I needed in the way of maternity clothes.  I knew I'd need them of course - but I had no idea what size I'd grow to be and what size I should be buying.  I had no idea when I'd need them and how much use I'd get out of them - but I knew for certain that I didn't want to spend more money than I needed to!

If you are finding yourself in this position, then this series of articles are for you!  In it I go through my experience with maternity clothes in the hope that it will help you make the best decision.  There are many different experiences with maternity clothes - when your baby is due and what the weather will be like when you are growing will have a big impact on your choices.  If you have anything else you think would be of help to other women out there then please feel free to share your Splendid knowledge at the end of this article.

Maternity Bras (~8 weeks)

By 8 weeks I was already favoring bras softer bras with less padding and therefore a bit more room over those without.  I was still making do with what I had but knew it wouldn't last for long.  But I was very unsure about what to do.  Exactly how big would I become? Maternity bras are expensive right?  Do I really want to have to buy several different sizes of maternity bras? I couldn't help but think that second time mums are lucky they know exactly what is going to happen!

What put me into action was my 8 week appointment with my obstetrician.  She told me it was now time to stop wearing underwire bras to prevent mastitis.  All my bras had underwire so that meant it was time to go shopping.  She also told me it was never too early to get a maternity fitting.  Up until then I thought maternity bras were just for breast feeding women and assumed I'd just get some under-wire free bras in bigger sizes until the baby was born.

To be honest - a bra fitting put me off.  They are only offered in stores where the bras are expensive and I'd never had one in my life.  I didn't particularly feel like starting now.  I was also still in the "I don't really feel pregnant and I'm not yet past the 12 week safe mark" stage.  So I avoided that route and went to my local Kmart to see what their options were.  To my great surprise I found that they had wireless maternity bras for between $8 and $10.  Bargain!  At that price I was happy to get a few and happy to come back if I needed a larger size in the future.   I tried on an array of sizes.  I found one that fit perfectly now - and then tried the next two cup sizes up as well.  2 cup sizes up felt like an apron and so I knew that wasn't an option for now. 1 cup size up felt fine so I went with that with the logic being that I would have a bit more growing room. Even if I didn't grow any more, I had read that when your milk comes in you do grow even more so I figured that cup size could potentially be perfect for then.

Once I got the bras home and washed and wore them, I found that they were perhaps a bit too big and creased a little bit underneath, but they still felt supportive and not too big.  These maternity bras reminded me a bit of teenage bras - triangular shaped with little structure so they are more forgiving than your normal under-wire structured bra that either fits or doesn't.  So you do have a bit more freedom in choosing sizes and getting away with one that is "too big".

Maternity Work Pants (~13 weeks)

One of the things that shocked me the most was how early I thought I started to show.  I thought that everyone at work MUST know that I was pregnant.  It turned out that they didn't - I had a desk job and most of the time my figure was tucked away behind a computer.  But I knew I was changing.  I knew only the fat pants were fitting and getting tight even though I wasn't yet 12 weeks.  I very much thought that you wouldn't show at all before 12 weeks with your first pregnancy - and even then you would have a bit of leeway in not needing to tell anyone until some time after that.  But in my experience, by 13 weeks, my fat work pants had thrown in the towel!  On the weekend of my 13th week, I wore my work pants out as I wanted something a little more dressier than stretchy gym pants.  All my other dressy pants had already stopped fitting.  But even my fat work pants were feeling tight and constrictive.  I straight away said that this was no good and headed straight to the nearest variety store to buy a pair of maternity work pants.  

At the beginning of April I was right on the season changeover period.  I'd been monitoring the shops in the weeks leading up and they still had Summer stock only.  But I was in luck - there were now long work pants.  I tried a couple of pairs on and it was clear which size I needed to purchase.  If I needed a larger pair in the future that would have to wait.  The relief was fantastic.  The maternity pants felt soooo comfortable that I told everyone they should be wearing them normally!  And for $25 it was well worth the investment!

Maternity tops (~17 weeks)

What you realize quickly is that stretch fabric is your new best friend.  Items made out of stretchy material will still be doing the job for you when you have already put non-stretch shirts and pants to the back of your wardrobe.  But by 17 weeks I started to find that my baby bump - even though it was comfy - was starting to show under my normal t-shirts. So if you aren't a fan of the bare belly look, then you will be needing to look for maternity tops from around now to give you the extra length to get over your baby bump. 

Baby Daddy's Clothes (anytime!)

Jump on "The Boyfriend" look craze and raid your husband or partner's wardrobe.  This can be done ANY time.  Men have a lot of stretch material items in their closets - super comfy and big enough to get around your bump.  Ideal for lounging around in on the weekends or when you run out of your limited supply of maternity clothes.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Preparing for Birth and Children with Free Online Subjects

Open Universities is well known in Australia for providing distance education.  May years ago they provided content via the television in the early hours of the morning on the public broadcast channels.  But with the age of the internet their delivery mechanism has modernized to use the internet.

As a promotional tool, they have free classes in many topics that you can enroll in.  It is on a separate website called Open2Study.  If you are planning, or already have a Splendid Family, then two of their free classes will be of particular interest to you.

The "Midwifery" class from the Open2Study website

The "Early Childhood Education" class from the Open2Study website

Despite being based in Australia, there is no restriction on who can enroll.  I've enrolled in both of these classes myself to get a heads-up on giving birth and the development of children and the other students come from all over the world - India, China, USA, Colombia are a few countries that students are from studying these classes.

The "Early Childhood Education" class website from Open2Study

The classes started on the 17th of February, 2014 but you can still enroll.  They include videos covering content, pop quizzes and assessment at the end of each module that is a multiple choice quiz.  You can watch the videos at your own pace and the course finishes up on the 18th of March, 2014.  No doubt new classes will start after those dates if you miss out on the classes this time.

You can't get any credit for the classes, but my experience of them so far is that they are very professional. And if you were toying with the idea of doing some more study, its a great way to dip your toes back into study if your memories of study are distant and you are a bit nervous - it doesn't cost a thing and failure to complete a class or pass wont go on your academic record!

To enroll in these or other classes, go to

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Doctor Who Scarf Inspired Sweater

Doctor Who inspired items seem to be quite popular so I'm really excited to share with you my latest Doctor Who inspired item - the Doctor Who Scarf Inspired Sweater!

Doctor Who Scarf Inspired Sweater
It is always a slippery slope - once you start knitting or crocheting something you start getting ideas for what you could do with that left-over yarn.  Then before you know it you are buying extra yarn in order to make all those projects!  And this is exactly where the Doctor Who Scarf Inspired Sweater has come from! After having made a replica Doctor Who scarf  for the resident Whovian in My Splendid Family, and then some cushions for the couch out of the leftovers (see the lovely cushions below or read more about them at a sweater was the next request.

Cushions inspired by the Doctor Who Scarf  -
If you would like to make your own Doctor Who Scarf Inspired Sweater, I've put the instructions below. As with the cushions, the choice of yarn is all thanks to  The scarf pattern is from season 12 and I chosen a section of the scarf that I think showcases all the colours in proportions nice for a sweater.  I have used Vanna's Choice as the yarn as I was making sure wool allergies would not stop the sweater from being worn but has other options for yarn you may wish to consider.  I've chosen a free Lion Brand pattern called "Custom Classic Pullover" that is plain pattern available in large sizes (up to 3XL - many patterns don't include sizes above XL) and has a V-neck as my Whovian is not a fan of sweaters that are tight around the neck. You will need to register with lion brand for access to the pattern.

As the scarf is knitted in a different stitch to the sweater, and as I had to use smaller needles than the ones I used for the scarf in order to achieve the right guage, I measured the sections on the Doctor Who scarf I made and have translated those measurements into the number of rows of stocking stitch that you will find in the instructions below.  I measured the scarf when it was lying on a flat surface and sitting naturally and not stretched out.  The scarf is very stretchy so it is difficult to be exact, but due to the nature of the scarf you will never get a perfect match - the minute you put the scarf on the dimensions change due to the weight of the scarf pulling on itself.  But with this approach to measuring the different sections should be fairly consistent relative to each other.
  • Pattern -
  • Needles - circular (for the neck) and straight needles.  I found I could just squeeze all the stitches on needles that were 35 cm in length.  I'm not a big fan of circular needles so that was my preferred way of working - but you could get away with just the circular needles if you enjoy using them.
  • Vanna’ Choice Yarn in the following colours and quantities (see my note below on yarn choice) for size 2XL and under.
    • Beige – 3 balls
    • Olive – 2 balls
    • Charcoal – 2 balls
    • Toffee – 2 balls
    • Brick – 1 ball
    • Burgundy – 1 balls
    • Mustard – 1 ball
The following is a list of the number of rows that you should knit in each colour for a 2XL sweater.  You will need to follow the pattern and use this as a guide as to when to change colours.  Smaller sweaters may not exhaust this listing and larger sweaters should continue on with olive until they have finished the pattern as the olive colour in the scarf continues further than it does in this sweater.

  1. Charcoal - Cast on then 4 rows
  2. Beige - 6 rows
  3. Toffee - 31 rows (6 rib, 25 stocking stitch)
  4. Burgundy - 7 rows
  5. Brick - 14 rows
  6. Mustard - 5 rows
  7. Charcoal - 10 rows
  8. Olive - 17 rows
  9. Burgundy - 5 rows
  10. Beige - 44 rows
  11. Brick - 6 rows
  12. Charcoal - 14 rows
  13. Mustard - 6 rows
  14. Olive -33 rows then cast off
Then for the neck band ..
  1. Beige - Pick and knit then 3 rows
  2. Charcoal - 4 rows then cast off

Sunday, 19 January 2014

All Yarn is Not Created Equal

Not too long ago, the crochet/knitting pattern you would have used would have come from a magazine from your country - or from some books sold alongside the yarn at your favorite yarn store - or from a book from a bookstore in your country.  All of these sources would have quoted locally available yarns - and chances are you would have purchased that exact same yarn.

These days with the internet and online purchasing of books and patterns, you are constantly thrown into the situation where the pattern you have found uses a yarn that isn't a local yarn.  There are a few things you can do in this situation.  If you believe the yarn is crucial to the success of your project (due to colour or texture), then you can order the yarn from overseas.  For example, in My Splendid Family we have a huge Doctor Who fan that wanted a scarf made like the one that his favorite Doctor Who actor wore. I found some instructions for the scarf that included several options for overseas yarns that had been matched as closely as possible to the original scarf from the 70s.  The scarf used some very quintessential 70s colours that I knew would be near impossible to match with local yarns.  So to me, any extra overseas postage costs were worth it as all the hard work had been done.  If you do this, you may want to think about ordering an extra ball than required - if you run out of yarn, the postage costs of $20 may make that last ball of yarn very expensive!  It may be cheaper to buy up just in case and have some yarn that you will no doubt come up with a use for one day!

In cases where you don't believe yarn is crucial for success, then a local yarn can do just as well.  The problem you run into here is that each part of the world likes to describe yarn differently.  So if your pattern specifies DK yarn, you would need to translate this into 8-ply yarn if you live in the UK and then find that yarn in your stash or at your favorite yarn store.  And of course knitting a gauge swatch will help fine tune any problems that may arise from your choice of a different yarn.

The characteristics of the yarn can affect the size of your project.  Here are two booties made with 8-ply acrylic yarn.  The one on the left used standard yarn and the one on the right used "soft" acrylic yarn.

Simple right?  Wrong!  Over the weekend I started to crochet my first pair of booties.  I happened to have some white 8-ply acrylic yarn in my stash which the pattern called for.  Not knowing the sex of the baby, it seemed like a reasonable thing to use - at least for a practice run even though instinct said it was probably a bit too scratchy for a baby item.  What I didn't expect was how big the bootie  would turn out!  I seriously thought I had gone wrong somewhere!  But not at all!  The next time I was at the shops, I bought the "soft" 8-ply version of white acrylic from the exact same brand.  I made up a bootie in the soft acrylic and the resulting size difference was simply amazing.  The soft acrylic seemed to want to meld together much more than the standard acrylic - the soft acrylic holes were much smaller than the standard acrylic holes.  And the soft acrylic has a nice sheen whereas the standard acrylic has none at all.  The soft acrylic gave the finished product a slightly glossy appearance whereas the standard acrylic product had a matt finish.  The soft acrylic was also more difficult to work with as the individual strands that make up the yarn were more prone to separating.

Not much was lost with my false start of using standard acrylic - I ultimately wanted to use the soft acrylic anyway if only for the feel of it.  But it makes me wonder about how a larger and more costly project could fail in this way and how it could be prevented?

The characteristics of the yarn can affect the size of your project.  Here are two booties made with 8-ply acrylic yarn.  The one on the left used standard yarn and the one on the right used "soft" acrylic yarn.
Obviously using the exact same yarn as in the pattern is one way this can be prevented - but there don't see to be any clear answers if you a substituting a yarn.  In my case, I used exactly the same yarn brand - both acrylic, both 8ply.  You can't eliminate any more factors than that and yet they behave very differently.  The pattern did not specify "soft" - so experience and gut feeling are often your best allies in choosing a local replacement yarn.  And don't forget to let your fingers help you - some "baby" yarns are available in pastel baby colours but in standard acrylic without the soft texture!

Two samples of 8-ply yarn from the same brand of acrylic yarn.  The one on the left is a "soft" acrylic, whereas the one on the right is a standard acrylic.

How do you deal with this problem when substituting a yarn?  I'd love to hear about your experiences and any tips you may have!
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