Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thank you!

Julie from Earth Mama Angel Baby found my blog and read my post about Nursing Esther. She sent me Booby Tubes and Bosom Buddies to help, just because! The Booby Tubes are a nice lightweight circle shape. I had been using a big rice sock, and these are much nicer. I tried the Bosom Buddies poultice as well. I smelled like tea and cabbage, but I think it is helping. Thanks Earth Mama Angel Baby!

Nursing is still a struggle. Esther was tongue tied, and while we had that clipped last week, she is still learning to use her tongue properly. She makes a clicking noise and gulps air. The pain isn't as severe and the nipple shield helps with that, but we still can't nurse without it. I've had a couple rounds of plugged ducts and engorgement to deal with. I'm frustrated that I still can't seem to help her figure out how to nurse correctly. She is such a sweet little girl though. She is pretty calm and rarely fusses. My mom has been here visiting this week so I've just been hanging out in pajamas and getting all the rest I can. I bought a baby scale and Esther is gaining weight just fine. She is up to 10 lbs 1 oz and getting chubby little cheeks. I'm hoping that as her little mouth grows bigger it will be easier for her to latch on correctly. Thanks for all of the encouraging comments on my first post about nursing. I'm still hanging in there and working through it!

Friday, January 29, 2010

aden + anais swaddle blankets

Esther has been wrapped in one of her aden + anais swaddling blankets practically the entire time since she arrived. I love these blankets! They are huge, a great size for swaddling, but also very breathable. Esther stays just the right temperature in one of these blankets. They are soft and lightweight with just a bit of stretch so that they wrap up snugly.

We received a four pack for review in the "mod about baby" print. It includes adorable bumblebee, fish, frog, and caterpillar blankets. I think these are a definite must have for any baby wish list and they will probably be my new favorite baby shower gift to buy. I don't know what we would do without them. The one time all four were in the laundry, I had Ross trying to get them washed quickly so I could have one to use that night with Esther. We have a miracle blanket that we used with Julia and while it did work well, I prefer these. The swaddling blankets are more versatile as far as ways you can swaddle the baby. You can also use these as a toddler sheet, stroller blanket, nursing cover, etc. - they are a great large size to have. I can never get regular receiving blankets to work for me, they are always too small and falling off of the baby. Here you can see how big these are:

Swaddling is a great way to help your baby feel safe and secure. Read more about swaddling here at the aden + anais website. While you're there, check out their swaddle love foundation that works to provide orphaned babies with caregivers. I've been to a baby hospital in Romania where its all too true - the babies are minimally cared for and left alone for much of the day. I love that aden + anais cares about these babies and is getting involved.

You can find directions on how to swaddle your baby here. I thought that I invented a certain way of swaddling Esther, but its actually the "Aussie way" to swaddle! I tuck her arms in the flap so they are swaddled, but not pinned to her side. This seems to keep her snug but not too restricted. You can see how in these photos:

aden + anais is giving away a four pack of swaddling blankets to one of my readers. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post being sure to include your email address. For an extra entry let me know that you're a follower of my blog. For a third entry, become a fan of aden + anais on facebook and leave another comment letting me know you did this. I'll close the giveaway on Friday, Feb 26 at midnight. Be sure and check back soon, I'm doing a whole series of baby product reviews and giveaways this month that you won't want to miss!

*This giveaway is closed. chose comment #82. Thanks for your interest.*

I received this product sample for review with no compensation. The opinions are all my own.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Its All So Important

It was September 2004, we had just confirmed at the doctor's office that we were indeed pregnant with our first baby. I called my parents in Texas and told them the news and then we headed over to Ross' parents house in town to tell them in person. Backing up a bit...

The summer before, when we had gotten our Chocolate Lab puppy, Leia, we brought her over to Ross' parents house in a cardboard box. We handed them the box with Leia inside and some towels that she was wrapped up in. They didn't know that we were getting the puppy and were surprised and loved her right away. "Grandpa" pulled out his camera and they called her their "grand-dog". They had a Black Lab as their first "child" too. Yes, it was a bit silly, but that's the back story to this.

So, a year later... we decided to wrap the pregnancy test in some towels and put it in a big box. I added a jar of applesauce for some weight. When we arrived, we handed Ross' parents the box and said "You're going to be Grandparents again." It took them several minutes of searching the box looking for another puppy until Ross' sister pulled out the pregnancy test and started hugging us. His mom realized the news soon after that, and I think his dad was still looking for the puppy for another minute. Once everyone calmed down and stopped hugging us, we decided to go out to eat for dinner and then shopping at Target for a couple of baby things to celebrate.

We chose a pacifier and a little stuffed duck, and were wandering around. I picked up the book "Consumer Reports Best Baby Products" and was paging through it. I started reading the section about pacifiers and how latex was not a good idea because of possible latex allergies and a few other reasons they gave. Silicone was a better choice. I looked down at the cart - the pacifier was latex! I was horrified, and immediately told Ross that we had to go completely across the store back to the baby section and find a different pacifier. I think at that point he thought I was a bit insane, but went along with it.

I was shocked. I never knew that there could be a "wrong" type of pacifier. It was all so important though. I was responsible for this little being and everything in its world depended on me and my decision making. From that moment on I became obsessed with researching the best baby product choices for my new little one. I spent hours reading reviews and thinking about the pros and cons of different options. Honestly, I still do.

I've learned a lot since then about product safety, toxins, and more. I not only read reviews, but research the product from a few more angles now. I enjoy sharing what I'm learning on my blog, whether its a product review or something like how to use a cloth diaper. Being pregnant with my third baby, I haven't had to do quite as much research this time around, but I did still have a list of things I wanted or needed. Of course each item had to be thoroughly thought through.

I am going to be doing a series of baby product reviews this coming month. Each of the items that I'm reviewing are things I personally chose to use with this new baby. Most of the companies are offering a giveaway item or a discount code to my readers as well. I hope you enjoy this series and find it helpful. I'm sure you'll get to see lots of cute photos of my new little one trying out the products as we go. Let me know if you have questions or thoughts about the different items, and be sure to enter the giveaways!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Backyard Find

This little guy was in our backyard today! Leia (our chocolate lab) was barking outside and when I went to check on her, I saw this opossum in a tree. The girls were very excited to see him and Ross went outside to get some close up photos and video. I think the opossum was still sleepy because he fell out of the tree and didn't know what to do with himself. I think he's cute!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ecostore USA Dishwasher Powder

I haven't been able to find a good non-toxic dishwasher powder until now. I tried a recipe for making my own and the dishes just didn't come clean. For a while we purchased Palmolive Eco, but the store that I shop at stopped carrying it. I wasn't completely certain about the ingredients either, there was still a strong bleachy smell when I ran the dishwasher. Ecostore USA recently contacted me about trying their products. I chose to try the Auto Dish Powder and the Lemon Rinse Aid.

I had seen the Ecostore brand at Meijer, but hadn't tried it yet. I like their statement No Nasty Chemicals and their commitment to being green. Ecostore USA is an extension of a 20 year old New Zealand company that makes plant based, non-toxic household cleaning, baby and personal care products. The dish powder is made of mineral salts, citrus and coconut oils. They list the ingredients right on the package, which is something most of the new big brand "eco" products do not do.

So, basically my review is - it works. There is no smell or residue left on the dishes. Its a bit more expensive than other dishwashing powders, but having a safe dishwashing powder is important to us. We use two tablespoons of powder per load of dishes (one in the compartment and one in the open part), and it seems like one bottle will last us a while. The rinse aid is nice also, I thought that the dishes might smell like lemon, but they don't. The Ecostore products work just as well or better than anything else we have used.

Ecostore USA products are available at Meijer. They also offer free shipping on orders of $25 or more from their website. If you're interested in trying their products, they are offering a $25 gift card to one reader. To enter the giveaway, head over to the Ecostore blog and sign up for their No Nasty Chemicals newsletter (in the right side bar). Leave a comment letting me know you did this, being sure to include your email address. For an extra entry, leave a second comment letting me know that you follow my blog. I'll close the giveaway in three weeks on Feb 13th at midnight.

** This giveaway is closed and a winner had been contacted. Thanks for your interest.**

Thursday, January 21, 2010


We've been overwhelmed with meals, gifts, love, support, and encouragement. Thank you so much for all of the emails. comments, and well wishes. Even though its been a rough two weeks for me and I'm running on no sleep, still trying to figure out nursing, and dealing with cranky kids - we feel so loved and cared for. I'm loving all of the support from other moms- even if its just a note to say hang in there, it gets better. I appreciate it!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Story Number Three

If you haven't already, you'll want to go read Story Number One and Story Number Two before you read this one. I also wrote a post with some of my Thoughts on Home Birth a couple of weeks ago. So, Story Number Three begins...

We were planning a home birth this time, and I had been seeing a midwife throughout my pregnancy. I really enjoyed the personal care, focus on a healthy pregnancy, and just the overall view of pregnancy as healthy and normal rather than it being a medical event. Ross had been to most of my prenatal visits with me and was completely supportive. I was excited and a bit nervous.

Towards the end of my pregnancy, all of the unknowns really started to get to me. Aside from (of course) not knowing when the baby would arrive, we didn't know the gender of the baby since we hadn't had an ultrasound. Ross was looking forward to the surprise this time, but it was driving me a bit crazy not to know. Both times previously, my water had broken quite dramatically, so I kept wondering when and if that would happen. I told my mom I felt like a walking water balloon, ready to pop any minute! Not having had a home birth before, I didn't feel like I had a clear picture in my head of how things would go, what position I would give birth in, or just what it would all be like. Julia was 2 weeks and 2 days early, so that was my date to have everything ready by, but it also made the wait beyond that date feel so much longer. I had to try very hard to remain patient and calm with all of this swirling through my head those last few weeks!

There were a couple of days in my 38th week where I had some contractions and felt pretty achy, but for the most part I was just feeling normal end of pregnancy stuff. Ross had some time around Christmas where he was able to be home from work and we spent our days in pajamas playing with Lucy and Julia and relaxing. We kept wondering if this would be the day for baby to arrive, but he/ she seemed to be pretty comfortable in there. Ross went back to work on January 4th, and I started to get nervous. I was almost 39 weeks at that point, and he worked 45 minutes from home. Incidentally, his office is in the same building as the midwife, so they would both be pretty far away if I went into labor during the day.

At a couple of my appointments I told Yolanda (midwife) that I was nervous about her arriving in time when I was in labor. Julia's labor was just three hours total. She reassured me that if I was having a fast labor it would be much better to have her on the phone and on her way to me than be trying to rush to a hospital and have the baby in a car. At home I had all of my supplies gathered and she could talk us through anything we needed. She did mention that if the baby were coming fast, she tells the mom to lay on her side with a pillow between her legs. A standing position or squatting would only encourage the baby to come faster.

I think I called Ross every afternoon that week, wanting him to come home early. On Thursday he did come home a bit early. That night I had a bit of bloody show. I ran to the computer and Googled "bloody show how long until labor starts", and asked friends online if they remembered how long until they went into labor. Some websites said that it could mean labor would start within 24 hours. I knew that my body was very ready at this point, so I told Ross not to go to work the next day. When Yolanda had done her home visit before Christmas she checked and said that I was already 80% effaced then.

Thursday night we watched a movie and I sat on an exercise ball and tried to relax. I didn't have any hard contractions, maybe a few extra braxtons, but not much. I went to bed - laying in the direction facing the bathroom so that I could jump up if my water broke. I slept all night and woke up around 7:30 am with some braxtons rather close together. I got up and started having a few contractions. Ross was home and getting the girls breakfast while I kneeled in front of the exercise ball for a bit. Around 8:00 am I told him I thought this was it and he called Grandpa and Grandma to come pick up the girls. I was having more bloody show and around 8:30 my water broke. It broke just a little bit at first so I wasn't sure, but it soon started to pour out. We called Yolanda and she said that she would be on her way in about 15 minutes and to call her back if anything changed. Pretty quickly my water was gushing out and I decided to get in the bath tub to help with the painful contractions.

Ross had been busy getting Lucy and Julia breakfast, calling his parents and Yolanda, putting old sheets on the bed, and reassuring me in between all this. As soon as the contractions had started they were intense, close together, and very painful. I kept telling Ross to call Yolanda back and tell her to hurry. He kept telling me that it was fine and she was on her way. The warm water in the tub helped with the contractions, but they were still quite powerful. At one point I thought "Forget all this, I want an epidural!" ... and another part of me thought "That's what people say when they are in transition!" ...yet another part of me thought "Calm down, people don't have babies in ten minutes. I can't be in transition yet. This is quite painful, but the baby has to come down, I have to dilate, etc. Yolanda will be here soon." I was anxious for Yolanda to get there because I felt like I didn't know what to do during the contractions and wanted help figuring out what position to be in and how to get some relief.

I started to feel like I needed to go to the bathroom and was trying to figure out how on earth I would get myself to the toilet through these intense non stop contractions. I didn't want to sit on the toilet though for fear of making the baby come too quickly. Just as I was trying to figure this out, I realized that my body was pushing with a contraction. I told Ross that I had to push and he replied "No you don't. Its not time to push yet." I told him that I couldn't help it and he told me to "get in that position that Yolanda told you to." I sort of laughed and replied that I was, I was laying on my side in the tub and there was nothing else I could do. He asked if I wanted to get out of the tub and I said no, that I couldn't. He went back out of the bathroom and I had another contraction and felt my body push again. I reached down and felt the baby's head coming out. Ross came back in the bathroom and I told him that the head was right there. He reached into the tub and caught his baby girl with the next contraction.

I remember thinking as she came out that she was huge. I told Ross to check around her neck for the cord and he said she was fine. Ross pulled her up onto my chest and we rubbed her back a bit to get her to cry. He covered her in a towel and had Yolanda on the phone giving him a few directions. After a minute we checked and found out that we had a baby girl. We just looked at her and snuggled her for a few minutes until Yolanda arrived. She helped Ross cut the cord and delivered the placenta (at which point Ross started to get queasy).

I moved to the bed and held Esther and nursed her for a bit. Yolanda checked her over and said she was perfect. She weighed 9 lbs even and was 20 1/2 inches long. She had been born at 9:28 am, just one hour after my water broke, an hour and a half total of labor. I had only been in the tub about a half hour before she was born. It was amazing to feel my body push her out, to reach down and feel her soft head. Even though the contractions were incredibly painful and intense and I was worried about Yolanda arriving in time - when I realized that I was pushing, I was amazingly peaceful. I only tore very slightly (although I did end up with a very sore bottom that took quite a while to heal up).

For the next few hours Yolanda was there writing up the birth paperwork and checking on Esther and I. We eventually called Lucy and Julia at Grandma's house to come meet the baby. We didn't tell them it was a girl until they arrived and met her. They were both thrilled to have a baby sister. Ross and I were both kind of in shock for the next couple of days - amazed that we had a healthy new baby girl and trying to process the crazy birth events.

Esther Joy is beautiful. She came out with a head of dark hair quite unlike her sisters. She is a calm little one and has already smiled a few times in response to Mommy and Daddy talking to her. She turns her head to find her Daddy when she hears him talking. We are in love with her and in awe. Welcome to our family, little one. We love you!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday

I pulled out some new muffin tins today for Muffin Tin Monday. I thought about saving them for Valentine's Day, but figured we needed the specialness now and could use them again to celebrate the holiday. Thankfully Grandma was here to hold Esther so I could throw together a quick lunch.

There was no theme today so we just enjoyed eating from our special tins. We ate crackers, cheese, salad (craisins for Julia), applesauce, oranges, and a cookie. Stop by Muffin Tin Mom for more fun ideas. Next week's theme is ABC/ 123 - sounds like fun!


Lucy and Julia are proud big sisters! They love to hold baby Esther, talk to her, and sit beside me on the bed and chat. Some of the things we have done to help celebrate our new baby include:

big sister gifts - We got them each a shirt that says "I love being a big sister" and a new Strawberry Shortcake doll that they got to open after they met the new baby.

birthday cake - We picked out a cake mix and frosting for Lucy and Julia to make with Grandma while I was in labor. They talked about this beforehand and were excited to make the birthday cake for the new baby. We did have to explain that Esther couldn't have any cake, but that we would eat it to celebrate for her.

books we read - Dr Sears' books What Baby Needs and Baby on the Way are both great books that we enjoyed reading and talking about together as we waited for our new baby to arrive. The books show a mommy nursing and babywearing and do a great job of explaining what its like having a new baby in the family.

meeting the midwife - I took Lucy with me to one of my prenatal visits and she enjoyed meeting Yolanda, seeing the models of growing babies in her office, and hearing the baby's heartbeat. Julia got to meet Yolanda when she came to do my home visit just before Christmas.

sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa's - Lucy and Julia were excited to have a sleepover at Grandpa and Grandma's house when the baby came. We told them that they could of course come meet the baby, but that they would get to have a sleepover that night so Mom and Dad could rest with the baby. Grandma bought the girls each a new pillowcase for Christmas with the sleepover in mind (princesses and Dora). I think this was Julia's first night away from home, and one of few nights away for Lucy. They both did fairly well, but I missed them!

nursing pets - We got them these nursing stuffed animals for Christmas because I just couldn't resist them. I had searched for a nursing doll, but didn't find anything. Lucy got the nursing cat and Julia got the nursing pig for Christmas. We also got this book with photos and information about animal and human babies nursing.

photos - I haven't done this yet, but I plan to print off a photo of Esther for each girl to have as their own picture and carry around and show to people. I have a cute one of each girl holding their new baby sister.

Lots of extra love, snuggles, and doses of patience are helping us all adjust. Of course we are having our fair share of tantrums as well (all of us). ;)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nursing Esther

Nursing my girls through the first couple of weeks has proven to be one of the hardest things I've ever done. Lucy and Julia both had trouble latching on correctly and ended up using a nipple shield. Lucy used the shield for the entire 22 months that she nursed. Julia weaned from it at six months and then nursed without it until 23 months when she weaned. Esther is using a shield for now too.

She is having trouble opening her mouth wide enough, keeps her tongue back in her mouth too far, and sucks on her lips when she latches on. My nipples are cracked, sore, bloody, and torn. I have scabs that get torn off when she nurses. Someone telling me that the baby wants to nurse is like saying "Ok, time to slam your nipple in the door." The pain when she latches on is that intense. My whole body tenses up and I want to scream. The shield helps her tongue not to scrape on my sore nipples, but nursing still hurts quite a bit.

I'm using a variety of things- moist burn pads, Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple butter, vitamin E capsules, breast shells, heating pads, simple tongue exercises, and working hard on proper latch. I've talked with my midwife and La Leche League leaders several times. There have been lots of tears, and I've considered which brand of formula I would tell Ross to buy and wondered how we would afford it. If I can't latch her on any more, my next plan is to try pumping and feeding her my milk in a bottle until I heal up.

On Friday, Esther was a week old and it was Ross' first day back to work. Thankfully I had help here with the girls because I ended up calling him in tears with chills, fever, dizziness, and breast pain. I developed mastitis and have been on bed rest this weekend with a routine of vitamins and lots of fluids. Engorgement combined with Esther's poor latch and scabs blocking the milk flow led to the infection. I'm feeling slightly better today and still just working hard on getting her to latch right. Esther is a sweet, content little baby and I know we can figure this out.

Why am I sharing all of this? I don't know, just being honest I guess. Nursing can be hard work. I'm sticking it out because its the best thing for Esther.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Esther Joy

Here are a few photos of our sweetheart:

just after she was born, being checked over by the midwife

snuggling with Mommy

after having her hair washed up a bit

We are all in love with our new baby! The girls are patiently trying to let Mommy and Baby rest, but are excited to hold the baby any chance they get. Lucy can't wait to pick out the clothes for Esther to wear and says "Hi, Baby!" every time she walks past her. Julia loves to come up and touch the baby's soft cheek. Ross is staying home from work and doing a wonderful job of taking care of us. I've been pretty sore and nursing is quite painful right now so Esther and I are snuggled in bed for the most part. I'm sure I won't be able to resist posting more pictures soon though!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Welcome Little One!

Esther Joy was born January 8th at 9:28 am. She is 9 lbs, 20 1/2 inches long, and has a cute head of dark hair! I'll post photos and her crazy story soon; it involves just 1 1/2 hours of labor and Ross catching her in the tub before the midwife even arrived. We are all healthy and resting for now. Thanks for checking in on us!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Still Waiting...

We're still waiting for baby to make an appearance. I just added a poll on the sidebar of my blog -you can vote on whether you think I'll have a boy or a girl. Julia thinks its a girl, and Lucy did say that she thought it was a boy for quite a while, but she's switched to saying girl now too. We're not telling names yet, partly because we haven't quite decided. Lucy has names picked out though: "Star" if its a girl and "Nemo" if its a boy.

Everything is ready for baby to come. We have the house all clean, the Christmas decorations put away, and my to do list is about finished. Tomorrow will be 39 weeks, so I suppose we could have another week to go yet, although my midwife guessed I would go a bit early. I'll be sure to post the good news as soon as I can!

**poll is now closed at 17 boy, 7 girl**

Monday, January 4, 2010

Introducing: Sing Song Yoga

Sing Song Yoga is a unique program that uses songs to teach yoga poses to children. Deb Weiss-Gelmi, the developer and teacher of this program, is a friend of mine! She is a school teacher and has been practicing yoga since 2001. Her daughter Lia is a year older than Lucy and we've had many playdates together. I was so excited for Deb when she decided to have this dvd made, and I think the results are fantastic! My husband Ross just graduated from film school in August and was involved in making this dvd also. Lucy and Julia were so excited to watch a movie that their Daddy helped make, see Deb teaching yoga, and look for their friend Lia on the dvd.

In the past I had done some searching for a good kids yoga dvd and wasn't really impressed with the ones that I saw. I read reviews on amazon and checked out several dvds from the library looking for something to use with Lucy and Julia. Including movement in our homeschooling days is important, especially in the winter when we don't get out to play as much. I had sort of given up my search, not finding anything that I was interested in. Sing Song Yoga is definitely what I was looking for!

Sing Song Yoga uses songs to describe how to do each yoga pose, with the words appearing on the bottom of the screen. Deb demonstrates how to do each pose while she is singing, along with children who do the poses also. Deb is great at gently giving directions when needed and even says a couple of times "If you fall out of this pose, its okay!" The dvd moved quickly enough to keep my girls interested, yet also gave enough time for them to try the movements. There are a variety of fun poses - a frog that leaps up into the air, a donkey that kicks, and many more. Easy as well as challenging poses are included and sometimes the children show different ways of doing the same pose so that you can do them whichever way you choose.

I like that the dvd gives the option of playing all of the poses or selecting just standing, sitting, or floor poses. I couldn't do much of the yoga being as hugely pregnant as I am, but eventually this will be great for me to do along with the girls. Its easy enough for them to follow along with, but I think I would also feel pretty stretched and challenged. Lucy loves ballet and practicing this yoga dvd will be a huge help at improving her balance, flexibility, and coordination. Julia (age 2) enjoyed watching and trying a few things, it will be interesting to see if she actually learns how to do the poses after a while. The songs are simple and catchy, so we could even sing them on our own whenever we wanted to do some stretching.

Deb gave us this dvd to review, and is also giving away a dvd to one of my readers! Check out the Sing Song Yoga website for information on how yoga is great for the brain, see a clip of the dvd, and more. You can also order the dvd right from her website. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post being sure to include your email address. For an extra entry you can leave another comment letting me know that you are a follower of my blog. The giveaway will close on January 30th at midnight.

I'm proud of you Deb, and think you did an amazing job! Thanks for sharing Sing Song Yoga with us!

**Thanks for your interest. The giveaway is now closed and a winner has been contacted.**

Saturday, January 2, 2010


We took apart the Berkey water filter today to clean it. The filters had gross orange stuff on them and after we cleaned them off and primed them again more orange dust came out. We've been filling the Berkey with our regular tap water, so if we weren't filtering our water we would be drinking that nasty stuff!

If you haven't already, you can read my research on What's In My Water? part 1, part 2, and part 3. The Environmental Working Group also recently updated their National Tap Water Database with some great information and research.

Friday, January 1, 2010


We recently received a Hugg-A-Planet Earth, Moon, and Mars set to play with and review. Of course the homeschool teacher in me is excited to have these as learning tools for my kids! Hugg-A-Planets are soft, stuffed globes. Earth has 600 places labeled on it, the Moon has 100 places labeled, and Mars actually has 400 places labeled as well. The Moon and Mars are both in proportion to the size of Earth. The Moon fits in a pocket on the Earth as you can see in this photo:

We already had a small beach ball type globe that we used for school and the girls really enjoy playing with it. I don't let them play with it all the time because its just a beach ball type thing. I like that we can leave the Hugg-A-Planets out and play with them and reference them often. They are squishy and huggable, although it does bother me a bit that they don't stay round. The Earth gets pretty lumpy, and I think that's because of the pocket part in it. Julia sitting on it didn't help its lumpiness either. There are just a few places where the seams don't match up exactly so the borders of a couple countries aren't entirely clear.

Overall though, I think the Hugg-A-Planets serve a great purpose. I love that I can have my kids toss me the Earth and talk about where elephants live. When we first opened up the package, Lucy asked me to show her where Australia was. I don't know why she wanted to know that in particular, but I was happy to show her. Mars and Earth both come with great fact sheets that we will use in our studies as the girls get older. We had to disregard parts describing how the earth began and the age of the earth and planets as this is contrary to our beliefs. The Mars fact sheet in particular has a lot of great information that I didn't know and was interesting to read.
The Earth, Moon, and Mars set is actually on the International Space Station right now! They were delivered on September 18, 2009 and will stay until 2016 or longer. Here is a fun video of some astronauts using a Hugg-A-Planet Earth in a short lesson. If you'd like your own Hugg-A-Planet, you can use the code "freeship" for free shipping until the end of February (this is for ground shipping only). Thanks Hugg-A-Planet!