for the uninitiated, i really can’t explain the horror that is Babies ‘R Us.

our m.o.h., foster mom, is in town this weekend, and we’re taking advantage of her unbridled enthusiasm to travel across the vast wastelands of the D.C. suburbs looking for baby crap.

the store seems to have been organized via the detonation of a low-yield nuclear weapon, and then ravaged by whatever rampaging, post-apocalyptic hordes survived. there is no sign of intelligent life to explain to you what you really need, just clerks saying what will happen if you don’t buy the most expensive device they have in stock. to make matters worse, only the most overpriced items are readily available, and all the “reasonably priced” merchandise is either out-of-stock, or hidden in some dark ghetto corner-of-shame in the store.

admittedly, i might not be qualified to judge fairly — i hate the ‘burbs, i hate driving in the ‘burbs, i hate big box stores, i hate backward “R”s, and i get claustrophobic when surrounded by lots of 200 lb pregnant women using strollers as cow-catchers.

none of this affords me an unbiased platform from which to judge.

that being said, there is at least one good thing about these monuments to baby-spending-excess: you can touch the items. before you put them back down. and buy the same thing online. for 20% less.

fortunately, friend and co-worker Papa Bradstein (unwittingly) gave us sage advice about a book called Baby Bargains, which is a kind of Consumer Reports for baby stuff.

(actually, Baby Bargains is better, because while CR rates baby products, they don’t give much insight into why they rated one product better than another.)

the book has been great, and i’ve been reading it non-stop … taking away solid info on not only which particular product is best for us (ie. one car seat vs another) but what types of mass-marketing bunk we can avoid entirely (diaper-stackers) without it triggering a child endangerment persecution or (worse yet) nasty looks from our parenting peers.

luckily, as we slog through the baby shopping, the lady sparkler and i are on the same page about this breed of baby consumerism and she is every bit as exasperated/angry as i am.

the only difference? i know more about breast pumps than any human possibly can with out getting his man-card forcibly revoked.