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This is too important to not be vocal about!

Did you have a baby in Maine in the last year? Make sure you sign up for your FREE Harold Alfond Challenge Grant. For just 15 minutes of your time, you can start an education fund for your baby with a grant (FREE MONEY) of $500. This education grant can be used for college, trade school, certificate programs — any type of post-secondary education. It can also be transferred (Say the first kid decides not go to to college, you can transfer that money to your second college-bound kid.)

What does $500 look like in 18 years?

Obviously, markets fluctuate, so it can’t be guaranteed, but here’s how the S&P 500 performed through various points of the last century:

Between 1911-2011 (so that includes a lil’ something known as the Great Depression, along with the recessions of the last few decades) the S&P500 still averaged a return of 9.6% — so if we plug in 500 dollars and let it sit and do NOTHING else, by the time your baby is college age, that number could be $2.603.51. (2603.51 times 4 means you earned 10414.04 an hour for filling out the form.)*

If you look at the last 18 years, if this grant was established for kids born in 1993, they would have $1,942.15 to use for college this fall. (and your hourly rate went down to $7,768.60, oh well.)

Are you convinced yet?

I did this for both my girls, but I will say that the hardest part was filling out the paperwork in between taking care of a new baby, keeping up at work, at home, etc. So, I was THRILLED to learn that you can now enroll online. (Before, you could request info online, but the form had to be filled out with ink. ) When you click that link, choose “Enroll Online now at Merrill Edge” (Or click this link: Enrollment ) and choose “Individual Account.” It takes about 15 minutes to complete, but if you get at least as far as the email address, and something comes up (doesn’t something ALWAYS come up?) they will email you to remind you to complete it. And the good folks at FAME will help you, too, OR you can get information in most Maine bank branches.

You have until your baby’s first birthday to complete the enrollment, and you will need their SSN to complete as well, so if you’re reading this on the way home from the hospital, wait for that Social Security card to arrive and THEN do it right away. (The earlier you do it, the more interest to be earned!)

It’s not a scam, it’s the vision of one of Maine’s most generous philanthropists, Harold Alfond — take the money. He wanted you to.

For these numbers, I used calculators found at http://www.moneychimp.com/

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It’s almost that that time! Here’s the scoop on the Bangor Halloween Scene!

 

Friday, October 28

Bangor Parks & Rec Halloween Party, 5-7pm. Parks & Rec Center, 647 Main Street. Free.

Kids 5 and under should attend between 5-6, and from 6-7 the party is for the older kids, up to age 12. Games, prizes, and a haunted chamber!

 

Saturday, October 29

Bangor Fire Department Open House. 10 am – 2pm. Central Fire Station, Main Street.

Kids games & Bounce House, win an iPod Touch, 2 $25 gift certificates, a ride to school in a police car or on a fire engine! Fire engine and ambulance tours, Sparky the Firedog, 11 am costume contest with prizes and free balloons. And for grownups, learn about heating safely with a variety of stoves, get your blood pressure and glucose checked, and ask questions of the Bangor Fire Inspector or a professional chimney sweep!

Pumpkins in the Park. 12-6pm, Bangor Auditorium. $3 pp, $10 family rate, and kids under 3 are free (all benefiting UCP of Maine.) Trick or treating, face painting, clowns, bounce houses, and of course, hundreds of glowing pumpkins!

Downtown Trick or Treat. 3-5pm, participating downtown businesses. Free.

 

Monday, October 31

Happy Halloween! Be safe trick-or-treating in your neighborhood!

Bangor Mall Trick or Treat, 4pm. For kids 12 and under, while supplies last!

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The blog went on summer vacation, and it was great. What have we been doing? Well, checking things off the list:

 This year, in spring, we made this list at the table after dinner one night. It was our wish list of what we wanted to remember to do over the summer, as we know that summer ends too fast ’round these parts, and it’s too easy to get to the end and realize we forgot something. Looking down the list, we did most everything! We missed strawberry picking and Peaks Kenny (but only missed Peaks Kenny because we fell in love with Swan Lake this summer, and kept going there!) and we didn’t get to the UMaine trails because the big girl is too big for the bike trailer but not confident on her new-this-year bike (even with training wheels) so, we’ll hope for next year on that one. But other than that, we checked things off, and had a fantastic summer. The list was so helpful, too — it gets hot and hard to come up with something new, so we’d check it on Friday night and make our plans before falling into the usual activities (and our usual activities are pretty fun! But the list helped keep things interesting.)

The other night we did the same thing for fall. On the fall list we have apple & pumpkin picking at Treworgy’s (of course), a variety of Halloween activities, heading back to Acadia National Park, the Orono Bog Boardwalk, and with a freshly minted Kindergartner, we have our first fall of school activities, as well.

How was your summer? What’s on your list for fall?

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I think it’s safe to start thinking about summer now, right? (I optimistically put my snowbrush in the garage this weekend, so I hope so!) The Bangor Pools will open this year on June 19th (Pancoe) and June 27 (Dakin). Pancoe is the facility with a great zero-entry area for little ones, waterslides for big ones, and a grassy area to spread out a blanket and enjoy the sunshine (don’t forget suncsreen!)

Photo from Bangor Parks & Rec

Not much has changed, the prices seem to be the same as they have been (but there is a cryptic note on the site that they are subject to change July 1 – I’ll update if they do!)

Beth Pancoe Aquatic Center Hours and Fees

Schedule
Monday-Friday

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm . . . . . . . . Adult Lap Swim
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm . . . . . . . . . General Swim
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm . . . . . . . . . Family Swim
This time is intended for family time. Anyone under the age of 17 must be accompanied
by an adult/chaperone.

Saturday & Sunday
1:00 pm – 4:30 pm . . . . . . . . . General Swim

Daily Fees
Adult Lap Swim
$2.00 per session
General Swim/Family Swim
Youth 16 & Under
$1.00 Resident
$2.00 Non Resident
Adults 17 & Older
$2.00 Resident
$4.00 Non Resident
PRICES SUBJECT TO CHANGE JULY 1, 2011

Season Pass Fees (Please come into office — at 647 Main Street — to purchase)

Youth 16 and Under
$25 per person/ Resident
$40 per person/ Non Resident
Adult 17 and over
$40 per person/ Resident
$60 per person/ Non Resident
Family
$80/ Resident
$110/ Non Resident
All persons on pass must reside in the same household
Two adults and three children as defined above
1 Childcare provider may be added for an additional $15 fee

 

Dakin Pool

(Admission is FREE)
Located at the end of Pine St.

Schedule
Monday-Friday

1:00 pm – 5:00 pm . . . . . . . . . General Swim

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm . . . . . . . . . Family Swim
This time is intended for family time.
Anyone under the age of 17
must be accompanied by an adult/chaperone.

Saturday & Sunday
1:00 pm – 4:30 pm General Swim

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The Big Kid starts kindergarten in the fall, and I’ve been told by those who’ve gone before that it’s not too early to consider figuring out before and after school care for when September rolls around.

There are several options, and we aren’t sure which one we’ll end up with. There are two that provide transportation, regardless of school: Bangor Parks & Rec’s Kids Cave will transport to Bangor schools, and the Bangor Y will transport to Bangor & Brewer schools. (These options can change at any time, please contact the agencies I mention for current information!)

Kids Cave rates are $75 for full time, morning & afternoons, M-F. They have other rates for other configurations, as well.

The Bangor Y rates are $95 for full time, morning & afternoons, M-F, and they, too have some pro-rated options.

Another option would be to find a home daycare provider in your neighborhood who will provide before and after care, or to find a sitter to come to your home for those hours.

Complicating our situation is the baby, and the advent of having kids in two different places for the next few years, or, really, the rest of our lives as they are four years apart and will never be in the same school at the same time! Imagining the morning shuffle, which would end up with the big kid getting to a before school program just in time to get on a bus and go back to our neighborhood school, is daunting.

What have you done for before and after care? (And while we’re here, if anyone has recommendations for an option local to 14th Street, I’d love to hear about it, and you can email directly.) And here I thought the working parent gig would get easier and less expensive as they got older! I guess that’s not so true.

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This Saturday is the Kid Central Festival in downtown Bangor, from 11am-5pm. There are a ton of activities at various downtown businesses and organizations, and here’s a map to help you plan your route.

View Kid Central Festival in a larger map

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For years, we’ve had a swing in our backyard. With the big kid, we only needed one, and we have the perfect tree, so the baby swing was eventually replaced by a belt swing, and she has always, always loved it. Then the baby came, last spring, and suddenly we find ourselves in a conundrum — no place for a baby swing! To that end, we are looking to build a swingset.

Swing!

There are lots to choose from! If you are looking for high-end, look no further than the Maine-made Cedarworks sets. I don’t even dare have their page open with my big kid in the same room, for fear of setting an unreasonably high expectation. You can play on a set at their headquarters in Rockport, at 799 Commercial Street.

Another high-end (though not made in Maine) company is Rainbow Play Systems. They have many configurations, and their nearest dealer is in Portland. It’s not hard to be excited about the possibilities of a luxe playset, but it can be hard to afford one.

The big box stores sell basic playsets, from simple plastic sets (great for portability if you know a move is in your future, or for resale!), to classic metal sets, to wooden sets that are not quite as luxurious as the custom companies. Lowe’s and Home Depot also sell components for the DIY-ers — and that’s likely where we will be landing.

You can search for swing set plans online, and find all kinds of ideas, but I’m hoping the more experienced families might have some input on what would be in the ultimate budget DIY swingset for their kids. What do you love about your swingset? What do your kids play with the most?

 

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I am a lucky mama, in that I happen to work at a job I love. I love my chosen career, I love the people I work with, and I love that I work in Bangor. My work/life balance is really not so bad — my home, my job, my husband’s job, and our daycare are all within a 2 mile radius. My ‘commute’ is a quick shot up Valley Ave, where I watch the seasons change over the Kenduskeag, where I have seen wildlife like deer, turkeys, foxes — in the city! — and I see kayakers and ice climbers and cyclists and runners, people enjoying that little stretch of road and stream and gravel path.  If there is a daycare sick call, my husband or I can get the girl in need in minutes, and have them home and tucked into bed (or, if necessary, at the ped’s office or walk-in care) in minutes, generally less than ten. It’s one of the reasons I love living in Bangor (and right now with gas at 3.89/gallon, it’s nice to not have to burn as much if we lived in the bedroom communities.)

But even in Bangor, there can be wobbles when it comes to one’s work/life balance. In trying to find out when the big girl’s Kindergarten (!) orientation is, I’ve called a few times, and just today, as I feared, it looks like her orientation will be on the same day as a conference I need to attend at UMaine. The date is not set, so I am crossing my fingers that they don’t finalize for that day, but if they do, I’ve already planned the day — I’ll go to my conference, miss a session to meet the big girl and my husband at the school, and as soon as it’s over, race back for the rest of the conference.  After I worked that out in my head, I attended a lecture at my employer, and several of us were in the back row, and someone asked why — and it turned out it was because we were all on daycare pickup duty, and the lecture was going to bump into that. Before it was over, the back row (me included) had to duck out, because we needed to fetch our kids.

On the flip side, my post-daycare pickup destination was the Breastfeeding Support Group at Central Street Farmhouse. This has been a great place to talk with other moms, many of them also working moms, which isn’t always easy. There are so many activities structured around the concept of the stay at home mom, but working moms have to, you know, work. Having this meeting scheduled to meet the needs of those of us that work (it’s Tuesdays, 5-7 pm — join us!) has been great. We discuss the logistics of pumping, nursing, daycare…. if you are a working, nursing mom, you should check it out.

And I do have pretty good balance, and a great husband who is a partner in this parenting thing, and not just being dragged along. When the sick kid call comes, we are comparing our schedules to see who is most easily able to take the day with the kid, and daycare is just as likely to call him with any concerns as they are to call me. He does drop off while I do pick up, and again, living in town and so close to everything means that, generally, our whole family is together again by 5:15. That’s pretty nice.

How is your work/life balance?

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It’s been here, meteorologically, for almost a month, but it’s only starting to feel like spring at certain points — it seems if it’s sunny, it’s tempered with a biting wind, or it’s mild and raining. But in the last few days, I’ve smelled dirt and the sunshine has been warmer, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll find myself getting home and realizing I’ve left my coat on my door at work — that’s when I know spring has really sprung.

There’s some great things happening this spring, too.

This weekend, 4/23 at noon, you can check out Central Street Farmhouse’s participation in the Great Cloth Diaper Change. You’ll need to register, but you’ll get a great swag bag for participating and learning about cloth diapering!

Next weekend is an open house for the new location for My Gym. They are now located at 797 Wilson Street (Across from Lowe’s in Brewer) and sharing a space with Results Fitness Center.  The open house runs from 9-1, April 30.

May 7 is the first ever Kid Central Festival in downtown Bangor! Downtown business are participating, from rootbeer brewing at Central Street Farmhouse to “Tats for Tots” (aka: face-painting) at Blind Faith Tattoo Studio, to events at MDM, UMMA, BPL, and lots of downtown businesses, it’s bound to be a blast. It runs from 12-5.

Have a special event I should know about? Leave a comment or email me!

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My baby turned one year this week(!),  so I thought I’d share my top ten list of things that make life easier for us.

Baby specific:

Babywearing — a wrap, or pouch, or soft structured carrier — there are many, many ways to wear your baby. Our family prefers to not use the ubiquitous infant ‘bucket’ seat, and babywearing makes it possible. For a little baby, a fleece pouch or a stretchy wrap (you can buy the Sleepy Wrap locally) is great, and as my kids get bigger, I prefer a woven wrap and my husband prefers a soft structured carrier. Wearing the baby means we’ve been able to take the kids where strollers can’t go, it’s made air travel a (relative) breeze, and it’s a guaranteed cozy place for a nap when out and about. If you want to learn about your babywearing options, visit Central Street Farmhouse — they are well versed in the many ways to carry the little one.

Nosefrida — Okay, yes, it LOOKS disgusting. I know. But here’s the thing — as long as I am responsible for blowing someone else’s nose, I want it to be as quick and painless as possible, for both parties, and the Nosefrida hits the mark. The traditional bulb that comes home from the hospital is awkward, pointy, of questionable cleanliness, and doesn’t even WORK that well. The Nosefrida is great. I generally give a Nosefrida and a package of filters as a baby shower gift now, with the caveat that “yeah, it’s gross, but even if you only ever use it to suck a pea out of a toddler’s nostril, you’ll be glad you have it.” (And then the not-yet parent thinks “oh, but MY baby will never stick a pea in her nose!”) I don’t change the filter between uses, but might after a particular bad cold just to quarantine the germs. And when traveling, I’ve been known to wash the filter and let it dry between uses. I have never, not once, after 4 years of using it, gotten boogies in bad places. The babies generally don’t like it (but they don’t like the bulb, either) and at least with the Nosefrida, I KNOW I’m not poking them and hurting them, and the deed is done in one or two breaths, not repeated squeezes of the bulb. Trust me. People who’ve used it, love it. (And I have used it to pull a piece of apple from a toddler’s nose, so it saved me $80 in an ER copay, by my estimation.)

Baby Leg Warmers: I have these from multiple sources, and these are also a staple in a shower gift for me. They cover the gap between pant leg and sock in the best way (especially in a Maine winter, when that gap can get chilly, quick!) and they make the best ‘tights’ for my daughters when they are in dresses — no wrestling actual tights on between diaper changes, and honestly, they are usually cuter than true tights. For both boys and girls, they function like a long john layer, again, without having to deal with that layer with diaper changes. Central Street Farmhouse has some adorable styles, for less than $10 a pair.

Simple Wishes pumping bra: I work full time, and I breastfeed, which means that I pump. Pumping is never glamorous, and generally not enjoyable, but the Simple Wishes bra makes it so much easier. With my first, I never had a pumping bra because I didn’t want to roll the dice on choosing the wrong size, so I just made do without. With this baby, I went back to work earlier, and the Simple Wishes bra took the size quandary out of the equation — there are two sizes, and then those sizes are infinitely adjustable, so as you lose the baby weight you can adjust the band to accomodate that. It holds both flanges in place, solidly, and allows me to still work on the computer as I pump. It’s still not glamorous, but it is key to making it less onerous for me. You can also find those at Central Street Farmhouse.

For mama:

iPod touch : I am a professional geek, anyway, and have a laptop, an iPad, a Kindle, etc, but hands down, the iPod touch is my must-have tech gadget for a mom. When I was pregnant, I used it to track everything from my doctor’s appointments to my glucose numbers (I had gestational diabetes) to my contractions. I tweeted my labor to keep phone calls at bay, but still keep family and friends updated. I tracked early nursing sessions using an app, to remember which side I’d last used, and I read books on the Kindle app during late night nursing sessions in the dark. And now, the new models have a camera that takes (low-res) stills and shoots HD video! The ideal gadget for the mama who is going to have one arm occupied for hours at a time, or end up  pinned under a sleeping baby but in desperate need of a glass of water — just email daddy! In celebration of the baby’s first birthday, I actually upgraded to the iPhone4. It’s pretty cool.

CamelBak water bottle: If you are nursing, you need water. All the time. (And if you aren’t nursing, you need water all the time, too, but I think breastfeeding mothers experience a thirst that is unlike other thirsts.) The Camelbak with a bitevalve is the best water bottle to use, hands down. I could wedge that between me and the couch cushion and drink hands-free while nursing the little one, because it doesn’t require you to tip it back to get water. They make it in several sizes, and the bitevalve is easy for a little kid to figure out, so if you are out hiking, etc, and they need water, they aren’t going to dump the entire bottle down their shirt trying to sip out of one of those old-school Nalgene bottles (whose caps ALWAYS hit me in the face, which is also not a feature of the Camelbak.) They come in cute colors, and a cleaning tip — disassemble the straw, bite valve, moving parts, etc, and drop those into the bottle with a denture cleaning tablet and follow the directions of the denture cleaner. Great trick to clean fiddly things like Camelbaks and travel mugs and sippy cups!

Roku: We don’t have cable, but we do have a Roku, and it is the best way to watch tv, ever. I swear. With a Roku (models range from $60-$100, depending on features) you can stream from your Netflix Instant queue, in HD, to your tv. The content has grown by leaps and bounds over the two years that we’ve had our box, and for our older kiddo, it’s nice to have television that she likes (Dora, Blue’s Clues, the impossibly whiny Caillou) without the ads that cable likes. With a brand new baby, it was great to curl up and watch movies while the little one nursed the day away, without having to go to a Redbox or, you know, pay for cable. (Our Netflix account is less than $10 a month.) In addition to Netflix streaming, a Roku can access Hulu+, Amazon Video on Demand, Pandora, and  a whole slew of private channels.

Flip & Tumble bags: These little bags roll up into a ball when you aren’t using them, and when you get to daycare and have a pile of art projects, lunch leftovers, a hat that was left behind a week ago, and all the OTHER things kids pile up at daycare, it pops out to a full (or mini) shopping bag. I always have a 24/7and a minibag in my bag or coat pocket at all times and they’ve been great.

Mabels Labels:  If you are a working mama, you know the need to label everything for childcare. Mabel’s Labels are stickers that will stick to just about anything, are dishwasher and microwave safe, but then peel off when you want them to. We buy packs of the Skinny-Minis, as they fit perfectly on the bottle parts at daycare, and our daycare providers have loved them just as much as we have! Once they move past bottle stage, we use them to label books that are hauled into preschool from home, backpacks, lunchboxes, food containers, you name it. We love them!

Amazon Mom:  I do a lot of shopping at Amazon, and the Amazon Mom program offers a free trial of their Prime membership, that can be extended based on what you buy from their baby section. I have a diaper subscription through Amazon Mom, and that earned me a full year of free Prime. Being able to have stuff shipped directly to me, and quickly, is amazing.

There’s my top ten! What are you must-haves for that first year?

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