More products we just love

Background

7 months into this experiment, and I still can’t believe we have a child.    We’re on the verge of crawling and figuring out a good daily routine and I wanted to post about a few more products we are using and really appreciate.

Playyard

Essential for day-to-day survival.

Dagny spends at least 1 hour a day rolling around with toys while we cook in the kitchen.  She rolls around in the morning during breakfast and also as I cook dinner.

She does it in the safety and comfort of her own brightly colored playard.   We inherited this bad boy but I would gladly buy one!  The interior mat is soft and friendly to the little bonker and the rattling creatures on the side provide much enjoyment, too.   This this is essential to our sanity and we have even taken it when we go to other people’s houses so that she has as safe place for a nap.  We’ll even quickly collapse it and transport it outside so that we can work in the garden while the kid plays in the shade.

Play Mats

Interlocking blue foam mats for the rough and tumble infant.

Now that our little one is rolling like a mad person and trying to crawl, we have determined that she is too active to be bothered by little things (like controlling her head).  She has this habit of rolling and dropping her melon onto the hardwood floors.   Eventually she might learn, but my knees and hips won’t.   We needed something softer to roll around on the floor with her.    Carpet is nice, but vomit and spit-up can be tricky.  Steph found these killer and simple mats at a great price and we have invested in a large area to go on top of our nice carpet.  One of these days (when the spitting up has ceased) we’ll store these mats and reveal a clean carpet.  Until then, it’s blue kickboard foam mats for us.

PRODUCT IDEA & GRIPE: I have one gripe to settle with the manufacturer, they don’t make features to interlock with these tiles.  They have a “border” piece that you can attempt to source, but it is at the same level as everything else.   When Dagny rolls over the 3/4″ edge and onto hardwood (a spontaneous event when she has mo’) she invariably goes “thunk”.   We would LOVE to have a raised border of about 4 inches….enough to stop her from flying off the side.   Come on product engineers and bring out the add-on feature.

Digital Video Monitor

The Mobi Cam video monitor is another sweet "essential" device.

We inherited an audio baby monitor, but it was analog and the frequency drifted in and out and the range was horrible.   We really wanted to be able to go outside and do yardwork while Dagny napped (without having to check on her every 10 minutes to see how she was doing).  Once again, Steph did the research and we figured we would get a video monitor (audio doesn’t carry the “information” that you want… like is the baby asleep or just being quiet or just lying face down on their mattress).

We were stoked when our Mobi Cam arrived.   The thing is digital and paired (so somewhat secure) and has an awesome range!  We can put Dagny to sleep upstairs and go downstairs and outside and garden.   You can set it to audio-only mode or watch the video now and then to check on her.   The night vision on the camera is excellent, too.     This device has greatly freed us from checking on her and has actually resulted in longer and better naptimes for Dagny!

NAG: The only nag I have is that the Mobi Cam operates at 2.4GHz, which means that it can trounce our wireless network signals.  To solve this, we simply put our airports into interference robustness mode and we keep the camera and receiver a good couple of feet away from our laptops.   Once we did all that it’s a non-issue.

PRODUCT WISH: You are a product engineer and you are making a digital wireless camera at 2.4GHz.   Could you please just put a DHCP client (or Bonjour capable) and web server in there and simply just serve basic video over the network.  Yes, I know that H.264 is an evil steaming pile of licensing issues, so do something else.   If you did this, then my iPhone becomes my baby monitor (save a web clip) and I only need the camera.       Yes, I looked into security cameras linked into our network, and these generally sucked or were 4 times more expensive than the Mobi Cam and painful to install.     Maybe in a couple of years, somebody will have solved this part.

Wrap Up

As we head into crawling and walking, I’m sure we’ll revisit this topic again soon.   Containment devices (gates and play pens) will surely make the future list.

Celebrating 2000!

Hazzah!

Dagny was in a rush these past few days.  In a rush to get to 2000 — diapers that is.  You see, she’s been battling a tummy-something and has been on the diarrhea bandwagon for a few days (“When you’re sliding into first and you feel something burst…….”)

So, naturally, there was much rejoicing a few minutes ago as we uncorked this vintage model to find yet another poopy mess.   Dagny was quick to reach down in an attempt to examine her work — an attempt thwarted by goalie skills and some handi-wipes.

That’s a Lot of Landfill

2000 diapers in 7 months.  That would normally be a lot of landfill (thank goodness for cloth and the cleaning service!).   Let’s see….about 60 diapers _fills_ a trash container that measures 12″ x 15″ x 24″ (2.5 cu. ft).  Since cloth is a little bulkier, we’ll round up and say that it takes 100 disposables to fill that container.  That means that in the last 7 months we would have generated more than 50 cubic feet of plastic non-degrading human-waste coated silicate-filled landfill wrapped in non-degradable plastic trashbags.    The average disposable trained kid (those that we have seen recently) seems to be in diapers for 3-4 years — that’s something like 300 cubic feet per child.  For reference, fill your living room with a foot deep of diapers and you get about 300 cubic feet.

Soapbox and Diaper Pails

But that’s actually not why I like the cloth diapers.   Environmental pats on the back side, after 7 months of heavy use, I can still soapbox (again) for a few bullet points on the benefits of cloth diapers:

  • Dagny can tell when she’s wet and she doesn’t like it one bit!  Tight feedback loops are key to training.
  • We can tell when Dagny is wet, which means we change her more promptly.   As a result, we see little or no diaper rash.
  • Cleanup is easy, and we experience very few blowouts (compared to the few times we’ve resorted to disposables).  Using the remaining clean part of the cloth for initial wipe down also significantly reduces the number of wipes we need to use.
  • Smell is not a problem, either.
  • The cloth service now also takes compostable diapers and compostable wipes in the same container.  This simplifies things whenever we need to resort to the compostable diapers for whatever reason.
  • In the end, I’m selfish and want to change as few diapers as possible.   There’s the belief (true or not, we’ll see) that cloth diapered babies ‘train out’ on average 1 year faster.

Here’s hoping that we’ll be “out” before we hit 5000!

Dagny’s Dislike for Doctors

Dear Doctor,

It’s not that my baby doesn’t like you, far from it.  Dagny actually enjoys meeting and interacting with new people.  She’ll smile and babble and reach for the glasses on your nose.   She’ll look around and laugh at random inanimate objects.   Dagny is generally a well behaved and non-fussy child.    Check out the attached graph created by trolling through reams of data with statistical sampling techniques.

Dagny's happiness over time

Dagny's happiness chart drawn from large amounts of sample data

Being reasonable parents, we do our best to schedule appointments taking into account the probability of a feeding/napping.   In other words, we know (thanks to Trixie Tracker) when Dagny likes to eat and sleep every day (see chart below).

Our goal is to nudge the timing and shoot to “reset” the happiness clock right before we put her in the car for a given errand.   Generally this works really well, and our child arrives rested, well-fed, dry and generally happy as a clam (and typically smelling better).

But so far happiness for just about any member of your profession has eluded us.   We wake her up, feed her and change her and get her in the car.  By the time we arrive at the clinic, we are well into the chilling phase with occasional bouts of smiling.    We check her in, and immediately fill out all the unnecessary paperwork.

We then sit and wait……

As we sit in the waiting room, Dagny will smile and babble and smile some more.    Around the time a nurse calls us back, Dagny is chilling again.  We’ll weigh her in and the nurse will gather all of the Viking Princess’ growth measurements.  So far so good.

At this point in the visit, nurses are obligated to leave you alone in the exam room with the door closed.  Dagny typically picks this time to start rubbing her eyes.   A few minutes of that (and requisite yawning) and her eyes will catch one of the “Don’t get HIV” or “Mommy’s on the Run” posters and this will kick off giggling and cooing like a crazy psychopath.  When manic, Dagny can get loud enough, that I’m sure the nurses in the hallway become fearful of the sounds emanating from inside our closed room.  Shortly into the manic state,  you (our doctor-du-jour) will knock and come into the room.

Too late.

The peak has passed and whining and nonstop bitching has commenced.    Typically, the only way out is to put Dagny down and reset the clock once again.  But you need to do things, and these things prevent sleep.

And this is why you must think our child hates you.   The nurses have seen the other side of that manic peak and think she’s a cutey, but the same is not true for you.  And so, at the end of the appointment, we put our child back in her car seat and she crashes and sleeps all the way home and the cycle resets anew.

Signed,

Dagny’s Parents

PS:  This cycle has become so predictable at any medical clinic that we no longer try to show up early (or even on time) to fill out the paperwork and grab a chair in the influenza-filled waiting room.   Since y’all are going to make us wait 30 minutes every time, we now just show up 15 minutes late and split the difference — this serves to shorten the amount of back end bitching from our daughter.

Dagny's sleep schedule is fairly predictable and can be nudged a little this way and that without too much effort.

Rant: The woes of Office 2008 for the Mac

The following rant revolves around Office 2008 for the Mac.    In the 2008 release, Office supposedly goes “native” for the x86 architecture and Aqua.   My old copy of Office 2000 was still working and running under Rosetta on 10.5, but (silly me) I felt like I needed to upgrade for improved performance when I upgraded to 10.6.

When you meet up with an an old friend after a decade, you are all the more aware of the changes they have gone through. Similarly, my switchover from Office 2000 to Office 2008 gives me an excellent “delta” comparison.  In this case, Office 2008 is like that high school 2nd string athlete who is now balding, fat, divorced and addicted to some substance or another.

So, without further ado, let’s look at Office 2008 for the Mac (under 10.6) with an eye towards its former self, Office 2000.

Suite-wide Performance

Compared to the current release of Office 2008, the apps of Office 2000 launched faster (with Rosetta) on 10.5 and 10.6 than Office 2008 does “natively”.   I wish I had hard numbers for you, but I’m simply not going to be that thorough here.

POINT:  Office 2000

Look & Feel & Tools

In Office 2008, Microsoft’s attempt at tool palettes is a miserable failure.  Not only do they manage to clutter the screen with a massive amount of junk (like clip art and shapes and a pre-formatted document style pane) they also fail in several other key ways:

  1. The tool palettes fail to have the same information and capabilities as the menu system.   This simply makes it a nightmare to find a given feature (could be in the menu, could be buried in a tool palette).
  2. The clutter of palettes is completely unwarranted mainly because it is features that nobody but a 3rd grader (book report with clip art) or a CEO (powerpoint with motion and sounds) would think of using.  It’s almost like they dragged users into the feature meeting, pointed out a palette and said “wouldn’t it be cool to have clip art and styles and sound palettes”.  The users said “yeah, I guess”, and the design team took this as a free ticket to put everything in your face.    Sure, one could go through the mess of turning stuff off, but “intelligent defaults” are nowhere to be found here.
  3. “Tearing off” a palette is something Photoshop and Illustrator have done “forever”.  Pinning palettes to the top is also a key feature.  Reorganizing palettes to fit your workflow.  Easily adding or removing palettes.   Give it up…..not supported in Office 2008

For simplicity and less clutter,
POINT:  Office 2000

Excel 2008:  Misery

Nothing in the Office 2008 Suite has gotten as drug-addicted as Excel.   We’re talking crack-head functionality here.

First point — I couldn’t give a hoot about VBA support.  This seems to be all that people whine about in the new Excel versions (“No VBA support on the Mac!”).  Whatever, as there are even more mundane problems with this turd of an upgrade.

No text labels in charts, but you can add pictures of ducks instead

Excel 2008 now fails to properly handle and graph large amounts of data.  If you have more than 1000 datapoints, be prepared for long waits as it tries to build your graph.  Be prepared for the beachball.  Be prepared for a crash.   Most of all, be prepared to deal with Excel’s inability to graph things it could crank through in Excel 2000.

POINT:  Office 2000

Oh, and while we are on graphs, you can no longer have a graph on the sheet with data and print just the graph!  Selecting a graph and hitting print may just send 400 pages of data to your printer.  Turns out this is a “known” issue according to Microsoft from 2 years ago! You have to move the graph to another sheet to print it out by itself.   Awesome, eh?

POINT:  Office 2000

You can no longer add arbitrary text boxes to a graph (See example picture).  This was something that was easy to do in Office 2000 (and even in Office 1997). In some graphs in a workbook,  you can add clip art of a dog or a duck or a cute little doggie (who wants their Busy Bee?) but you cannot add additional information other than a title and axis labels.  For some reason, in other graphs I’m unable to even add the same pictures.   So there goes my hopes of encoding additional chart information based on the animal’s species.  WTF???   This loss of text boxes in charts is a backbreaker.    It turns out that Open Office 3.x appears to suffer the same difficulties.

POINT:  Office 2000
POINT:  iWork for Mac, ’cause it is even more functional for graphing!

And finally, formatting a graph is painful at best.   In Office 2008 it is even more difficult to modify the data series data (No, Microsoft, I don’t really want to drag select my data columns when I have more than 1000 rows of data….I’d like to manually enter the series range).  Don’t even bother trying to re-arrange or re-center, as graphs tend to move around on their own.   Seriously, check out how far iWork has surpassed Office 2008 in terms of charting capabilities.  8 years ago there was no “iWork”.   Even the free Open Office matches the features and then some.

POINT:  Office 2000
POINT: iWork for Mac, Open Office 3

Powerpoint 2008: Ho Hum

Powerpoint 2008 is in stasis.   Really, it improved at all in the last 8 years.   For many users, Powerpoint is their primary “draw” package, yet it is no easier to draw pictures and edit photos than it was in Office 2000.

Forget about styling your slides.  An eye Candy pre-formatted puke fest clutters the tool palette instead.   If you want to set up basic font styles based on bullet point depth you’ll have to search and work on it for quite some time.

Auto-layout and layout guides are barely implemented (see Keynote or OmniGraffle for a great example of how to do this).  At least Powerpoint 2008 can hand PNG images!

Regardless, Powerpoint is still the same boring old POS.  It has lots of clip art and other junk at the expense of a clean method for managing and creating professional looking presentations.

This one is a DRAW

Word 2008:  As nimble as a cow

Word continues to be a massively heavyweight cluster-f.  The floating palettes are equally cumbersome and still make changing fonts and adding styles a mess.   Even after 8 years, putting together a Table of Contents is something that befuddles all but the most dedicated users.   Forget about indexing!     Lost in the stone-age, Word fails to do lots of basic text editing tasks and make them easier.   As a document layout tool, it still remains painful.  Images have a habit of moving around and re-sizing themselves (or ignoring your attempt at re-sizing).   Establishing basic things like gutters and orphan control continues to be an option buried deep in the layers of menus.

POINT:  Office 2000
POINT:  TextEdit, TextWrangler, iWork, OpenOffice

Conclusion

On Mac OS 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, 10.4, 10.5 and even 10.6, Office 2000 is a solid upgrade to Office 2008.   In Office 2000 you will find a bevy of useful features and a fairly clean interface and relatively simple-to-use set of tools.

If, like me, you had no reason to upgrade, I strongly recommend you stick with your old copy of Office 2000.  If you must upgrade, consider the free version of Open Office, as it not matches the functionality (and then some) of Office 2000 and even Office 2008.     If you don’t mind breaking out a little bit, I would suggest iWork, as surpasses Office 2000 in terms of functionality and ease of use.

Oh, and at no point is this review being sarcastic…..Office 2008 really is that much of a step backward!

Doing Something Right!

Well, we must be doing something right.

Tummy time head lift...... oooh the Olympian effort.

Just this last weekend we celebrated our 1,000th diaper.   I say celebrated, because Dagny insisted on screaming throughout the entire change, and I did a little dance with my arms in the air.

It’s also significant, because it shows that my daughter has survived my fathering (so far) and her output is significant.   This means that her input must also be significant (more on that later) and the difference is showing in inches of growth and pounds of weight.

It’s no secret that we’re using the local cloth diaper service and loving it.  <soapbox>With cloth diapers, we experience few blowouts and are happy to be utilizing reusable items and not to be loading landfill with tons of diapers.  I can change a cloth diaper as fast as a disposable, too.   The few times we’ve had to resort to disposables (because we ran out of the week’s allotment), Dagny fails to recognize that she’s wet and will sit happily in a dirty diaper.  While a content wet kid sounds convenient for parents, there are 2 things to be aware of:  (1) non-breathing disposables and a wet kid = diaper rash, (2)  children raised in cloth diapers tend to “train out” of them about a year earlier on average, most likely because they find a wet diaper uncomfortable!</soapbox>

Anyway, with cloth diapers, we hang on to the entire load in a plastic hamper, and it gets picked up every week.  This enabled me to take a little data a few weeks ago.  First, I weighed a load of 80 fresh diapers, and then took the weight of 80 soiled (ready for return) diapers.  Here’s what I found out.

  • We’ve been averaging around 75-80 diapers per week (10-12 per day).
  • Wayyyy too much information in a picture

    Celebration of parenthood!

  • Dagny’s weekly output is something like 28-30+ pounds.  (This is probably lighter than actual, as evaporation during the week has to play somewhat of a role).
  • A pint’s a pound the world around — so let’s say there are at least 32 pints of weekly input.
  • 32 pints is 8 quarts.
  • 8 quarts is 2 gallons.    My daughter is getting at least 2 gallons of input every week.
  • Holy Cow! (pun intended) In order for Dagny to be drinking 2 gallons a week, Steph is outputting at least 2 gallons of milk per week!

Steph is doing someting right, that’s for sure!

2 “Custom” Baby Products

No Purchase Necessary

In spite of moving into a newly renovated house with Steph ready to pop, we still managed to do some nesting.   That which we did not receive as a gift or hand-me-down, we purchased.   Steph organized everything.   The nursery was set up.   We even did a final Baby’s-N-Crap run to get the last minute things.

And now with the baby, we have stumbled upon 2 very effective solutions to common baby issues.   I’d like to pass these along for the hopes that it saves some body a little bit of money/grief along the way.

Changing Pad Covers

What a crock.  We spent something like $10-15 each for a “soft” and “comfortable”  changing pad cover that goes on a changing pad that won’t see use for a few more months.  Thankfully, we did receive a wonderful Graco Pack-n-Play which has been the baby’s primary crib.   Note that it has changing area?   Turns out this works really well.  However, Graco will gladly sell you a functionless  changing mat that simply doesn’t work (it’s too small and slides around).

Our solution:  dog towels.    If you’ve ever had a dog, you know what dog towels are and you probably have a bunch of them, too.

No, I am not talking about an expensivespecialty” dog towel that you buy for your labradoodle name “Princess” (and costs more than your egyptian cotton bath towel that you use every day).   I’m talking about the ratty old beach towels with holes and stains on them that live a second life as hand-me-downs to dry the dog.

Since we no longer have a dog, we find ourselves with plenty of dog towels. In fact, we currently have 4 dog towels in the changing area rotation.  We routinely fill a sanitary load with 2 or 3 of them, since our particular child likes to cluster several open air #2’s in a given day.    The large terry cloth towels cover all of the blast area and are soft and comfy enough for the baby.   Even though they are not nearly as styling as an art deco changing pad cover, their functionality greatly outweighs their anti-aesthetic.  I anticipate continued dog towel use when we do start using the changing table and changing pad.

Dog Towels Part 2:  Nursing Pads

Speaking of dog towels, turns out they are great “nursing pads” as well!  Projectile spit up over your shoulder headed towards the couch?   Foiled again by the dog towel you are thoughtfully sitting upon.

NOTE, however, that dog towels are far too large to make for good burp cloths, unless your dog was a toy chihuahua and you used facecloths to dry it.

Blast Shields

Here is a product that we did not see anywhere on the market.   (Since you heard it hear first, and I’m giving the idea away for free, please do me the favor of visiting the ads that appeal to you on this page, or kicking some paypal coin my way.)

The product is what we call a “Blast Shield“.   You could also call it the Projectile Poop Protector, the Shit Shield, the Changing Coat, or the Bio Blockade.

The concept is simple:  your infant is guaranteed to have gas.  They will poop, toot, fart or even spray fire out both ends during a change.  This “event” is unnerving and can be somewhat unpleasant when the little output device ejects cheesy mustard colored poop with enough force to travel 9 feet horizontally (true story: happened all over yours truly at 6am and I measured the result to verify distance).    This poop-ejection will occur when you are freshly showered, have just put on your clothes to go to work, are too tired to deal with the situation, or simply are not paying attention.

The solution to the problem is also simple: use a “dog” apron.   Find your least favorite (easy to clean) apron in your kitchen and keep it hanging right by the changing table.  When you are the least bit concerned or scared for your (or your clothing’s) well-being, don the Blast Shield and change your little biohazard with peace of mind.   Bonus points if your apron has pockets below the height of the changing table (to catch the fallout as it occurs and keep it off the floor).

Hope these help somebody somewhere.  Feel free to comment and share your own solutions…


The Quiet Goalie

Here’s a post that I’ve been meaning to post for quite some time and just now finally getting around to writing.

Why won’t you talk to me?

Goooaaaalllllll!

Goals can be a good time to grab a break.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out one thing about the entire goalie position.   Take a look at the design of a goalie helmet and you might notice that it is extremely protective.   The cage has lots of bars in front of the face to keep pucks (and butt ends of sticks) out.  A large chunk of your face is covered by the helmet, leaving only enough for basic peripheral vision.    The chin of the masks drops really low to protect one’s throat.  Oh, and a goalies mouth is almost always entirely blocked by that same chin area.

And back to the lesson learned — nobody can understand a word you say while wearing the brain bucket.  Talk all you want, but they can’t see your mouth moving and they, too, are wearing a helmet with their own ears obscured.

Worse yet, people can’t see your facial expressions, so sarcasm and joking are all but impossible!

And if only to compound this fiasco, I now wear a mouthguard .  Even though it is a good mouthguard that allows me to speak decently enough, (a chipped molar during play once and decided rec hockey wasn’t worth concussions and dental visits) it definitely adds another obfuscation layer.

But you keep ignoring me!

Of course, your D wants to talk to you (and apologize, even if it was your 5-hole that failed the team), but they sometimes take it personally when you appear to be ignoring them.   For this, I must apologize and explain.

That same head cage that keeps me from being able to effectively talk to you also hinders communication going the other way.   Unlike a player helmet, a goalie helmet typically has zero (zip, nada, zilch, nada) ear holes to let sound it.   As if that wasn’t bad enough, imaging having a drum cymbal attached to your earlobes and making a loud crashing sound every single time you move your head.  Yes, this is what a throat dangler can sound like (but believe me, having had my neck saved several dozens of times the things are worth it!).

So, chances are good that if you try to talk to me when you are outside of my field of view I won’t hear you.  If you talk to me in a normal tone of voice, I won’t hear you.   If you don’t get my attention before you start the conversation, I might not hear you.  And even if you do everything right and manage to let me see your mouth so I can add lip-reading into the mix, I will typically only get 50-75% of what you say.

In other words, expect me to spend the next attempting to parse your joke, only to be lucky enough to laugh at it by the time you next get on the ice.

Caveat:  All the above said, I can say that I do manage to hear things (good & bad) shouted at me within the vicinity of the crease.  “Good Save”,  “Hate you!”, “Thief!”, “Gotchya!”.

You must be mad at me, you turned your back!

Play stops and players are lining up for a face off.   Or a goal is scored and the ref comes and gets the puck.   Either way, I get 10-15 seconds to grab a drink of water and get a quick face wash.  I’m not mad that you lollygagged your ass on backchecking and allowed a 3 on 1 play to develop.  Seriously, I’m just hot and thirsty and need to make the most of my short break “between shifts”.  Not sure when I’ll get another one!

What did we learn today?

Conversation ensues

"That's my puck, get off of it!"

Let’s recap — I’m not mad, nor am I ignoring you.  Heck, I’m not even particularly quiet.  We just have an impediment to casual communication.   That said, more often than not, the punchy one-liners do get across and make for a fun game. So keep on chatting!


Necessary Baby Products So Far

2 months into this experiment called fatherhood and there are some “products” we have come to recognize as essential or “must-haves”.     The reason for the list is because I’m mostly surprised by what ended up being important and what is simply baby crap.

So, in no particular order, here they are:

All of the hand-me-down chairs

We laughed at first at how many chairs we had accumulated in our guest bedroom.  We have since come to recognize that arms get tired and you need a place in every room to set the baby down.    As for our favorite chairs, the baby poop-a-san chair not only vibrates but seems to relieve gas as well.   The big fisher price swign chair in the office keeps the baby super quiet.   Not so favorite is the stupid graco back-and-forth swing chair that sits the baby too upright and results in an uncomfortable and unhappy infant.

Halo Sleep Sack (link)

Our baby slept 6 hours at a stretch by  week #2 in this thing.  We got this as a present from a good friend and we thank her for it.   Here’s why we love this thing:

  • We tried swaddling her with a blanket, but she is like a little houdini and kept breaking her hands free.  Free hands are distractions that wake a baby up.    The sleep sack has a velcro outer wrap that cinches baby nice and tight.
  • Her legs can kick around.   Swaddling the arms is one thing, but she hates having her legs bent up all the time.  The sleep sack addresses that by leaving the legs unbound.
  • Easy changing!   This is a key feature for any nighttime outfit.    The zipper is intelligently placed on the bottom of the sack.    I can even change her up without removing the arm wrap if need be.
  • Warm and cozy but not too warm.  This thing seems to be the perfect warmth for our room at night, no blankets or extra clothes required.

Trixie Tracker Account (works with iPhone)

Seems a little geeky to be “essential”, but let me offer some logic to bring you over to the dark side.

  • It’s mobile phone (aka iPhone) optimized and very streamlined. Turns out it is quicker to use Trixie Tracker than to keep a handwritten journal.
  • Ever try to track the number of diapers in a day when you are just trying to figure out how to get in a square meal?   It’s kind of embarrassing to go to the pediatrician with the answer of “more than 5 and less than 20” when they see output as an essential metric of well being.   Trixie Tracker makes diaper tracking a cake walk.

    Diaper tracking....  Kinda cyclical and you can see the number of poopy (brown) is doing down.

    Diaper tracking.... Kinda cyclical and you can see the number of poopy (brown) is doing down.

  • Steph swears by the nursing tracker.   Rather than wearing (and forgetting about) a hair tie around her wrist to keep sides even, she uses Trixie Tracker to track times.   One less thing to try to remember over and over.

    The nursing chart shows the occasional spike.   That's a lot of time in the recliner!

    The nursing chart shows the occasional spike. That's a lot of time in the recliner!

  • It’s helps communication between the two of us…..either one of us can switch-hit and can check when she’ll be hungry again, when she’s due for a nap, etc.
  • It’s fun!  Seriously…watching the sleep patterns and growth patterns emerge is fascinating.

    The sleep charts are fascinating.  This basic probably chart confirms what we have come to expect from our daughter.

    The sleep charts are fascinating. This basic probably chart confirms what we have come to expect from our daughter.

Baby Carrier

We have the Baby Bjorn, but any carrier that gives you 2 hands free and is 99% guaranteed to put the baby to sleep within 10 minutes is essential.  I find that I can chop vegetables, work in the shop and do laundry with the baby in the carrier.   Oh, and we can go on walks outside as well!

Burp Cloths

Falling into the category of “No Duh” but we were surprised by the vast quantity required.  Just about anything will do, but have dozens on hand.

Gowns with mittens (example)

We always thought “onesies” and bodysuits, but we only put those on when we go out of the house.  It turns out that the elastic bottom gowns are perfect for every day all day wearing and make for easy changing.  The mittens keep the baby from going Freddy Kruger on her own face.

Really good nail scissors

These facial hair scissors work great for clipping a squirming infants nails.

These facial hair scissors work great for clipping a squirming infants nails.

Forget the stupid baby nail clippers — they are just regular nail clippers with extra large grips and a cheap plastic magnifying glass. Silly devices are unwieldy and I wouldn’t even try to clip a sedated ferret’s claws with the things.

Go to the drugstore and get yourself a really nice pair of scissors (example to the right) and it will be worth every penny.   We went for the tweezerman brand, since they have rounded tips (for safety) and are big enough for my meaty hands to manage.

Right now, we’re clipping the baby’s nails twice a week and just barely keeping up.   Since our kids is seriously opposed to daytime naps, I have had to conduct said clipping sessions on a fully awake infant!

2 months of fatherhood lessons

Without further ado, here are some random things I have picked up after nearly 2 months of being a father.

  1. You do a LOT of things 1-handed. By far the most challenging is eating a burrito with your right hand while burping the baby on the left.   I’ve gotten so good at the football hold that I can cook and still manage to keep the baby’s head away from the heat.
  2. The best analogy I have heard to date (Mikhail) is that a new baby is like a campfire in your living room.  You need to keep an eye on it, carry it carefully, and always have a place to put it wherever you are headed.   If you are not careful, the campfire will cause damage to the property around it.
  3. Watching the nurse give the baby her first bath was enlightening.  Not to say the nurse was “rough”, but darn she was quick about it.   This alone gave me the confidence to “manhandle” the baby like trussing a turkey (for diapering) or rolling out pizza dough (for wipe-downs).   Putting on new gowns is it’s own bit of rodeo wrangling!
  4. Speaking of diapers and baths and all that — don’t worry about it.  The baby might scream but she will live and forgive you and you will be much much better at it by the 100th time you drag your weary ass out of bed to deal with it (which happens about 1 week into becoming a new parent).   Definitely one of the fastest learn-as-you-go cycles to be had anywhere!
  5. Trading off and/or putting down the screaming baby and walking away is one of the sanest things you can do after being screamed at nonstop.  Heck, I can’t figure out (or fix) all of her problems, especially that breastfeeding part.
  6. The new camera has definitely been worth the investment.  Before you know it, she’s learning to smile and laugh!

    Problem:  I needed 2 hands to carry the warm laundry up the stairs.  Solution shown.

    Problem: I needed 2 hands to carry the warm laundry up the stairs. Solution shown.

  7. If someone you know offers to come over and hold the baby, you take them up on it so that you can get some sleep or eat a meal (with 2 hands).
  8. It is far too easy to talk about your child’s main accomplishment, and by that I mean poopy diapers.  On the other hand, it is very difficult to not become “one of those parents” that always refers to diaper incidents.   Like the time I woke up at 6 in the morning only to be shotgunned by projectile poop that went 9 feet across the room (true story).
  9. Butt Paste is a real product (although not our favorite in the breed, since it smells like vanilla and that just ruins creme brulee for me).  Oh, and as our pediatrician informed us, it really helps to frost the baby’s cookies every diaper change.
  10. Be prepared to wash your hands a LOT (see previous 2 items).  While purell-type stuff “sterilizes” it also dries the crap out of your hands and chaps your skin.  Get some good smelling hand-soap and some lotion to boot.
  11. Staring at the baby is a time-consuming task.  Your entire day can be sucked up watching the baby just sit there.   Not sure why I stare at the baby…..it just happens!
  12. Cats don’t get jealous…heck they don’t even seem interested in being in the room when she screams at us.   As far as they are concerned, the baby is not food nor is it a provider of food.  It is merely a source of loud noise.

    Dagny at just over 8 pounds next to Boris at just over 16 pounds!

    Dagny at just over 8 pounds next to Boris at just over 16 pounds!

  13. It is very important to have the next 2 hour block of time planned. By the time the feeding/diapering block has occurred you have a scant window of 1 hour to accomplish something before the fussing begins to start the next feeding/diapering block.
  14. Babies can stink like Starbucks.  You know what I’m talking about, too….that nasty rotten milk smell that pervades the chain of McCoffee shops.   We found that lots of spot-cleaning helped keep our stinky baby smelling baby fresh.
  15. The 5 S’s and a fast problem-solving triage are key (a la Happiest Baby On The Block) for limiting the crying.  I can quiet a baby in seconds with some loud shushing and the shaking really lulls them off, while the super tight swaddling keeps them there.  As for “side-lying” and “sucking”, those 2 are overrated but sometimes necessary.  My favorite hold in the early days was what I call “The Cocktail Shaker”.  Guaranteed to put baby to sleep in 5 minutes.
  16. Burp Cloths! We thought we had a lot of them, but this item was always our limiter for laundry load cycles.   We have since bolstered our ranks and can go almost an entire day without having to do burp cloth laundry.
  17. We totally did not have our co-sleeping arrangement setup properly for when we came home.   Turns out we needed a nightlight for those late night feedings and diaper changes.   We also needed a comfortable place for those late night feedings and by day 2 the recliner moved downstairs into the bedroom.   That said, the Graco Pack and Play with the integral diaper changing station has been key to our survival!
  18. Having loads of recorded shows ready-to-go on the Tivo really helped in the first 2 weeks when the baby simply did not want to sleep.   The baby and I both enjoyed catching up and Dirty Jobs.
  19. You just figure it out, they gain weight and grow, and somewhere amidst the exhaustion, when they start smiling back at you, it makes it all worth while……especially when the smiling to crying ratio begins exceeding 1!

Every Day is a New Day

This post will be TMI, you have been warned.

Introduction to the Background

Some minor differences were found with Pantoufle.  Daddy was sad to find out she wasn't a goalie!

Some minor differences were found with Pantoufle. Daddy was sad to find out she wasn't a goalie!

What follows are the long-winded persona recap of how our beautiful daughter came into this world.  You may not find it interesting, and that is all right.  Perhaps this recollection is written more for Steph & I and our new daughter (years from now).  It is as frank and honest and details how our daughter came into this world.

Background to the Preludes

Steph had a picture-perfect pregnancy.   No morning sickness at all.   Little or no complications (other than being tired, short-winded and hungry) to speak of.  A minor concern regarding platelet levels. Typical but well-managed concerns regarding RH factors and Group B Strep, etc etc.    Sure, during the first ultrasound, there were some abnormalities (our little Pantoufle didn’t look like was going to be born a goalie).

Steph on Game Day in the new kitchen -- 9 months in.

Steph on Game Day in the new kitchen -- 9 months in.

If anything, our biggest worry was completing a major home renovation in time for Red (with help) to move a 9 month pregnant wife and still leave time in the day for nesting (e.g. setup of all the baby furniture and fixtures).
While we were seriously hoping for a Halloween baby, she decided to be stubborn and make us wait.   Well, she was worth the wait!

Prelude to the Prelude

It all started sometime around midnight…. to mom they felt like a few simple practice contractions.   I was upstairs taking care of some additional work and such and finally came down around 1am.   When I saw that Steph was still awake, I new that these were too strong and too regular to be basic practice contractions — this was the real deal.

Until around dawn, Steph would hop out of bed every 8 – 10 minutes and do some pretty intense breathing while simultaneously hunching over.   I managed to get about 3 hours of sleep that night (Steph got none) and the next morning the contractions were in the 5-6 minute range.   We had a good breakfast of french toast and sausage (possibly our last meal for quite some time).   Around 9:30, the contractions seemed to be hitting the every 4-5 minute time frame and Steph no longer had the luxury or time to go back into the bedroom and get some privacy for her “discomfort”.     We called in the the Ob-Gyn office for a “labor check” and were in the office shortly after 10am.   (Sounds easy, but every try walking a couple of hundred yards up towards the Ob-Gyn office while labor pains are progressing).

Sadly, all that work and only 1cm — they sent us home and told Steph to keep at it and call at the end of the day if things had stopped or picked up.

Prelude

Throughout lunch and all afternoon, we tried to watch some TV to get Steph’s mind off of things.  This involved routinely hitting the pause button on the Tivo and then hitting the “lap” button on the iPhone stopwatch app.   With the aid of the stopwatch, Steph went through contractions every 5 minutes for the better part of 4 hours.   By around 4:30pm, we felt it was time to call in and get another “labor check” done.  Surely, something had happened by this point.

So, we end up grabbing all of our pre-packed bags and driving to the hospital.  Once again, sounds easier than it is to drive a contracting moaning woman and then make her walk a hundred yards to get to reception desk.  With my hands full and Steph moaning, I am forced to fill out some silly H1N1 notepad of paper saying that we are not sneezing and not going to infect everybody.

The nurse escorts into one of the private birthing rooms and they have Steph strip down completely.   At that point, we wait for 10 minutes and then they come back and hook Steph up to the fetal and contraction monitors.  Steph is still contracting every 3-5 minutes and after another long 10 minute wait it is time for the L&D handshake.

Steph on the night we hoped to give birth, dressed as the Pillsbury Dough Boy!

Steph on the night we hoped to give birth, dressed as the Pillsbury Dough Boy!

Steph was still “a loose 1 cm” according to the abrupt nurse on staff.   Steph requested pain medication (request being a nice way of saying pleaded/demanded).  They got ready to go get Steph a little morphine for the pain.

When the short-tempered nurse came back with the dose of morphine (which she jabbed into Steph’s thigh) she chided us for essentially “wasting her time” by not recognizing “early labor” versus “active labor”.   We pleaded innocent, what part about 8+ hours of 5 minute contractions did they not understand?  What part of 3 minute intervals did we get wrong.   The horrible nurse seemed to doubt our ability to count and I threatened to bust out my iPhone and show her the endless hours of lap counting contraction timings.

We asked the nurse to tell us in no uncertain terms what metrics we should use for a return visit to the hospital.   Since contraction timing is clearly bogus, and I don’t know how to check cervix dilation, what do we wait for.   As if the nurse didn’t hear us, she basically told us to “go away”.     It sounded like we need to keep away until (a) Steph’s water broke or (b) Steph was in so much pain she requested a bullet to the head.

Lude

I’m pretty convinced the morphine that they gave Steph was a placebo.   She crunched in labor pain the entire car ride home and claimed to only be a little bit sleepy.   We got home sometime around 8pm (having missed dinner) and Steph decided she would try to go to the bedroom and lie down and “rest”.   Checking in on her around 8:15, I tried to also lie down but we were in the “don’t come near me” stage of labor.

And so, having only gotten 3 hours of sleep in the last 36 hours, I went upstairs to try to get some shuteye. I set my alarm needlessly, for less than an hour later, I was awoken by the moans that filled the house.

Did I mention that the 2-hour old morphine shot must clearly have been a placebo.

For the next 2 1/2 hours, Steph enjoyed the moaning pain of labor every 3 minutes (longest span was 4-5 and the shorter clusters were 2 apart).  Most of this time was spent cross-legged on the bed with me trying to stay awake and give her a back massage.   Occasionally, Steph would nod off during the 1 minute break between contractions and then awaken in even worse state.

It turns out that breath control for pain management only works if you start ahead of the contraction or very early in the contraction.  Waking up at the peak of a contraction completely caught Steph off-gaurd and made “pain management” impossible.

Another thing that did not work was lying on her side.   However, after 2 hours in cross-legged or on all fours, Steph was running out of energy.  Side-lying just made things even more painful and was a last-ditch effort to last a little longer.

The “good news” in all this, is that her contractions were so regular that I was able to give Steph 1 minute of sleep and then watch my stopwatch and provide a quick “get ready the next one is coming” warning.  This would wake Steph up enough to begin her breathing and mostly manage the intense pain.

Surrender

After midnight at some point, a mere 24 hours into the process with 12 hours of 5-minute spacing and more than 3 hours of intense 3-minute spacing, Steph looked at me and said “that’s it, I cannot take it anymore, please call”.

I called the after hour number and gave them the information and was promised a call back from a physician shortly.   30 LONG MINUTES (that’s 10 contractions) LATER WE HAD NOT RECEIVED A CALL BACK! Finally, I picked up the phone and started to dial — only to be interrupted by an inbound call from the on-call doctor.

We explained the contraction timing and the pain and that we had already been rejected twice by doctors. We simply did not want to come in one more time and get rejected.   The doctor promised us that they would hold Steph this time for sure.

Getting to the Car

The next 10 minutes are in grave detail, because it turns out that getting a heavily contracting woman to the car is nearly impossible.    Here’s what we did.

First, we waited for a contraction and then tried to put some clothes on Steph.  Oh wait, did I forget to mention that a tired and laboring woman really really cannot handle having clothes on her body?  We found an ugly and very loose skirt and some socks and shoes.    This process took 2 or 3 contractions to get through.

Second, Red ran out to the car with the bags and shoved them in there and came back for Steph just in time for the next contraction.  Then, Steph stood up and we got another contraction in without falling to the floor.

And it was GO-time.

We quickly (slowly shuffled) our way to the front door.   Not quick enough, by the time we got out the front door and had it locked, Steph was contracting on the front porch. Ouch.  This gave us the next span of time to barely make it all the way across the street (our ass**** neighbor across the street can’t seem to park his care in front of his own house) while simultaneously having a contraction.

So there we are shortly after 12:30 and I manage to wedge Steph (moaning loudly for the block to hear) into the passenger seat, but she won’t swivel and put on her seat belt.

Another contraction, and then another (moaning at midnight, great for the neighborhood) and then Steph looks at me and says something neither one of us will forget nor will we share to broadly.   Just as we are about to act on that, the ***hole neighbor opens his front door to figure out what the moaning noise is.  I shout in his direction “don’t worry she’s just laboring” and he shuts his door.

Enough is enough, so I pick up Steph’s legs and swivel her into the car and close the door.  A long (10 minute = 3-4 contractions) drive to the hospital and park in the after hours lot.

Arriving

We begin walking up towards the entry way when Steph gets hit by a good one and ends up leaning over a garbage can for support and moaning.

Some dude in the parking lot sees us and shouts at me that we should get a wheelchair for her, and lo-and-behold there is one sitting in the bushes nearby.  He is kind enough to go and get the chair and help us seat Steph in it.   (Thanks, Dude!!!)   This enables me to wheel her the last 20 yards to the entrance.

Once again, the nursing station makes me fill out some silly H1N1 contagion form while Steph leans over their counter and moans in pain.   They inform us that all of their private rooms are full (busy night in the L&D ward) and we are escorted into the surgery recovery room where we have a small bit of space to drop our 4 bags.

Progress

The nurse (Janice, super nice) hooks Steph up to the contraction and fetal chart meter.  Super cool, I can see that Steph’s contractions are indeed 2-3 minutes apart and OFF THE CHART!  (Seriously, she had the thing pegged).   Steph asked the really important question “When can I get an epidural”, and the nurse told Steph she could get a shot of fenegan <sp?>.

The “good” news is that this time the L&D handshake revealed that Steph had made it to 5cm!!  Halfway!!

At this point we are around 1:00AM and the nurse has gotten an IV situated (amazing job on a woman writing in pain).  My hand is like ground meat from the Steph-squeezing.  Pantoufle (codename for the baby) is hanging in there with a 150-180 hbpm rate.   Steph was busy dancing around on the bed and moaning.

The nurse puts the painkiller into Steph’s IV to “take the edge off”.  Guess what — didn’t work, but it did manage to space the contractions back out to every 5 minutes (weird, huh?).

At this point, the nurse also administers the first of two penicillin drips that are required.   We are informed that it would be bad for Pantoufle to show up in less than 4 hours at this point.   It is now 2am and Steph had been laboring for 26 hours.

Approaching Relief

Sometime between 1:30 and 2:30am we go to meet with the dude that laboring woman love:  the anesthesiologist.  He was awaiting lab tests (Steph has low platelets and this can be a serious complication) and would end up getting pulled into an emergency C-section, so Steph was second in line and still writing in pain every 5 minutes (in spite of a second dose of that Fenegan stuff).

The “good news” is that one of the private rooms was opened up and we could be moved there for Steph to continue her efforts.

Sometime around 3:30am, the L&D handshake put Steph at 7cm dilated!!!   Oh, and Steph was finally able to get her epidural.   Compared to the 2 contractions she went through during the procedure, the procedure itself was painless.   I’ve never seen her hold so still, actually.   When asked, Steph actually says she only under went about 27 hours of labor…. because once the epidural took effect (around 4am), things got much much better.

Blessed Sleep

From around 4am to around 7am, both Steph and I slept hard while her body continued to work — all pain masked by the epidural.   Sure, we were woken up every 30 minutes by the nursing staff, but that extra 3 hours of rest was key.  Remember, Steph’s labor started late and her last nap or wink of sleep was 6pm, 34 hours before!

Sometime around 7am that morning, another L&D handshake from our new nurse (Stephanie, a 4-foot tall woman with incredible talent) revealed that “you are at 10cm and we’ll be ready to push in about 15 minutes”.   Our on-call doctor confirmed as well.

The Final Stretch

By around 7:30/7:45, the stirrups were in place and all sorts of prep work was complete (blue cloths, metal devices, pans, pots, sauciers, etc etc etc).

Time to push.

So, I failed to mention that there were all sorts of cool monitoring devices and chart recorders and we could actually watch and see that Steph was contracting before she even knew it.  Not only that, the chart recorders for the L&D ward were all networked and the nurses could monitor the recorders on all 13 stations!   You could see other rooms contracting and pushing and delivering.   At one point we even (sadly) heard a Code White call (newborn not breathing) which was very quickly resolved as all the nurses dropped what they were doing and rushed to be on station.

Anyway — Stephanie (our 4 foot tall outstanding nurse) helped me lift Steph’s legs up and instruct Steph on how to push.  Don’t worry ladies, the nurses can tell you exactly what you need to know and do it in the short time between contractions.

With every push, Stephanie helped stretch Steph out to avoid the dreaded episiotomy.  Steph was a complete trooper and pushed hard.   For you partners out there…..be ready for the smell of labor (or of maconium laden amniotic fluid), as this does not come through on any of the videos that they show you.  Smells won’t bother you for long, as your focus narrows on the count-to-10 and intense effort of pushing.

The Actual Stretch

Within 30 minutes, the nurse told Steph “when you feel the next contraction, do NOT push — we need to go get the doctor now” and immediately paged the ward for the on-call physician.   Dr. G showed up within a few minutes and the pushing resumed.

Wow…. at one point, the doctor had to tell Steph to actually slow down on her pushing.  Needed to allow time for things to stretch out!   It was all going to fast.

Within 15 minutes (45 minutes of total pushing), our beloved daughter was born.    Dagny came out without a cone-head and Steph had (only?) type 2 lacerations and less than a dozen stitches.  There was some worry regarding blood loss shortly after birth and a little bit of a rush to get Steph a shot to help the clotting (but nothing major enough to merit running and panic).  That said, everybody was healthy!

An exhausted Steph & Red with our newest family member.

An exhausted Steph & Red with our newest family member.

Finale & First Chapter

There are some things that cannot be unseen, that is for sure.  Delivery is not necessarily a pretty sight (or set of smells) while at the same time being profoundly beautiful (and relieving).  The exhaustion makes the entire experience feel out-of-body (Steph would agree).   In the end, everything is on auto-pilot and you do what the nurses tell you to do.

After 32+ hours of labor, our beautiful daughter came into this world at a reasonably sized 7lbs 11oz and 21″.  She showed up with red hair (for now) and a pink complexion.    It’s fitting that she showed up shortly after dawn, for we have chosen to name her Dagny (we give it the american pronunciation of “dag-knee”), from the Norse equating to “new day” or “dawn”.    Her middle name, Renee, is effectively “renew”. Put together, we like to say: “Every Day is a New Day” and now the first chapter begins.

Only a day old and she's trying to wear Mommy's hockey jersey.

Only a day old and she's trying to wear Mommy's hockey jersey.