Archive for September, 2012

September 29, 2012

Mom-tographer Overboard

It finally happened. I ran out of space on my iPhone. After 4100 photos and 45 videos. Of someone who hasn’t been around more than 90 days. That’s 46 photos per day from my phone. And I cannot bring myself to delete a single one. Not even of the near duplicates.


My camera roll

Actually, that example from my camera roll isn’t so bad. It’s only a couple near duplicates. Let me scroll a little further back.

At least there (mostly) all different facial expressions? Let’s scroll a little more.

I cannot choose between them. They are subtle differences between them and I cannot choose.

So what’s a Momtographer to do? Delete apps and music off my phone to make more room. Please tell me this is perfectly normal behavior.

September 25, 2012

On sleep

As a first time mom I don’t always know what’s normal. I thought 30 to 45 minute cat naps were too short and Nicki wasn’t getting enough sleep throughout the day, until my mommy friends set me straight. One thing I’ve always known is that Nicki is an unusually good night time sleeper.


My champion sleeper

She slept from midnight to six am without waking starting at around three weeks. She’d usually go down for four hours again around 7/7:30. At two weeks she slept five to six hours, and prior to two weeks we would wake her up to eat after four or five hours.

With the exception of one day since she has been five weeks old she has been getting at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Lately it’s been 10 hours. She will stir during the night, and sometimes appears to wake up, but she settles down on her own.

How?!

Your guess is as good as mine. She didn’t have day night reversal and she doesn’t appear to need or want night time feedings which makes me think it might have something to do with the way we feed her. When I nurse she usually gets hungry again quickly. She appears to get more from the bottle, so I always give her a bottle before bed. (We often nurse before bed too, but I make sure she has had plenty from the bottle first.) It could also be the amount she eats. She can pound down 4oz like a champ. My other theory is the rock n’ play. She’s might comfortable sleeping it. Most likely, though, we just got lucky in this aspect.

What about engorgement overnight?

My body adapted pretty quickly to Nicki’s schedule. Sure the first time she went from 6 to 8 hours, or 8 to 10, and even the day she slept 12 (!!) I woke up pretty engorged. But for the most part it hasn’t been a problem. I think most working moms also experience this. Their supply adapts to match their pumping schedule.

Keep in mind just because Nicki gets 10 hours of sleep a night doesn’t mean I do. I pump more then I nurse. Whenever she’s napping I need to devote time to pumping. I have quite a bit of chores pile up in the evening. After she goes to bed, I stay up for another couple of hours doing chores. I then pump right before I got to bed.

Do you get up in the middle of the night to pump?

No. I always pump/nurse when I wake up, but I never set an alarm or anything to wake up in order to pump. I have woken up once or twice from being engorged and pumped then.

Aren’t you worried about your supply? I heard you shouldn’t go more then 5 hours without pumping/nursing.

Sure, in that same new-mom way I worry about everything. But every parenting choice comes with its pluses and minuses. We found I’m a very different mom with sleep then without. Even an hour or two can make a difference. Without, I’m very mechanical, just going through the motions. I have to constantly remind myself to interact with her while changing her or feeding her. With sleep I do a much better job at stimulating her. To us, the risk to my supply is worth it.

Then again, adequate rest is supposed to help production. So maybe it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other?

What about growth and development? I heard you shouldn’t let the baby sleep too long without eating

According to our pediatrician, once baby has regained her birth weight it’s safe to let her sleep as long as she wants. She regained her birth weight and then some by one week. She’s reaching all her milestones and the pediatrician is happy with her development, so we don’t worry about it.

September 23, 2012

So Much for her Batting Average

Looks like we skipped the batting stage. Or at least we’re breezing right by it. Nicki’s hands have been open for awhile and she has been ‘holding’ her bottle and binky. So when Domingo and I encouraged her to reach for a toy it shouldn’t have surprised us that she’d go straight to grabbing.

And then, of course, the toy went straight in the mouth.


Toys, it’s what’s for dinner!

We realized it was time to break out the activity gym. This kid never ceases to amaze me.


Reaching…


Got it!


Nom, nom, nom

She really likes that red rocket. It’s low enough that she can get it, usually by the tail. Her second favorite is the monkey with the helmet, but she can’t really reach it or grasp on to it. We’re going to go to the store later and look for toys that will be easier for her little fingers to grasp. Domingo has been looking forward to this day since we brought her home from the hospital.

September 17, 2012

Too Many Changes

I know the goal is to raise healthy, well adjusted kids, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all these changes. My little newborn is growing so quickly.

According to the baby books, the 2-4 month time is critical for establishing good sleep habits. On the list:
* Establish a bed time routine (check!)
* Create a modified bed time routine for naps
* Get on a nap schedule
* Transition to the crib
* Stop rocking the baby to sleep
* Loose the binky for a night time sleep aid

Our bed time routine currently is bath, pjs, milk, bed. We won’t be replicating a bath before every nap (although I am thinking about washing our face and hairline with a warm wash cloth). I’m also not going to put her down immediately after every feeding. That doesn’t leave much to work with for a nap time routine. We’re thinking about incorporating reading as the final step in the routine. We’ve been trying to read to her for a couple of weeks, but she is only now becoming interested in the pictures.

We’ll begin transitioning Nicki to the crib when Domingo gets back from his business trip. It’ll be easier if we’re in an established schedule. I don’t want to implement too many changes at once and disrupt her night time sleeping!

As for the last too, well I’m hesitant. The argument is that as baby becomes more aware of her surroundings, she will disoriented if she goes to sleep in mom’s arms with her Binky, and awakes somewhere else without it. She’ll need mom’s arms to fall asleep again. But the book also says no infant sleeps through the night constantly. We’re already the exception to that rule. In fact, last night Nicki sleep 10 hours, and the night before that 9. More to the point, I’ve seen Nicki on the video monitor wake up and put herself back to sleep. (I fully credit my amazing daughter with this skill, and not anything we did. Domingo and I got lucky with her!). Waking up somewhere other than moms arms has not been a problem. For all I know she expects to wake up in the rock n’ play, like a respawn place in a video game.

Still, this advice is coming from doctors and experts who study sleep. I am certainly no infant sleep expert, and just because something isn’t a problem yet doesn’t mean it won’t become one. I wouldn’t want to set us back because I wasn’t ready to (and making excuses not to) stop rocking her to sleep. Once on a schedule, we’ll stop rocking her to sleep. Next month.

The other change this week is day care. Today was Nicki’s first day. Well, it was a visit day. Nicki and I went together. It was rough. There were tears and they weren’t coming from Nicki.

In a perfect world, I’d stay home with her until she reaches two or so. That way she’d get the best of both worlds in my estimation – individualized attention, and social interaction. But, alas, I need to graduate. As much as I would love to be a stay at home mom now, I know it isn’t for me long term. In the tech world a couple year hiatus makes you obsolete.

I’m nervous about daycare and full of guilt.

It’s a good thing I decided to test our online strategy early. Monitoring tweets with tweet alarm just isn’t going to work, at least not how I originally set it up.

The first problem is that I’m getting alerts for tweets like “Fry’s Black Friday 2011 Ads Finally Revealed”. Yes, that’s a recent tweet from today! Most likely it isn’t a legitimate account. I’d link to it, but the shortened link in the tweet is most likely a virus. It made me realize that tweet monitoring may be bad advice. If you decide to use tweet monitoring, be careful not to click on links from accounts you don’t recognize. The second problem is that I’m getting too many tweets. I can’t find the legitimate ones mixed in with the illegitimate ones.

I’m not giving up on social media for Black Friday. In the past I’ve used the websites Black Friday Ads and BlackFriday Info, both of which have twitter accounts (@BFAds and @blackfridayinfo, respectively). It may take me longer to get notifications of good deals, but at least I can trust the information.

September 12, 2012

Lessons from a Mom-tographer

A more apt title would probably be ‘Lessons from a crazy mom’, since this post has more to do with my neuroses, but ‘Mom-tographer’ sounds better.

1.) Put the baby in the cute clothes

I like to preserve everything. I have a chenille sweater I bought last year that I haven’t worn once out of fear I’ll destroy it in the wash. It’s a compulsion that I’ve always had. So it’s no surprise that when I stated dressing my daughter, I’d want to preserve my favorites of her onesies. Inevitably in the 5/6/7 pack I’d buy, there would be one I didn’t like. I’d dress Nicki in that one when I thought a poop was imminent, or right before a feeding. The result? Lots of photos of Nicki being cute – in her ugly onesies. I learned my lesson. Baby goes in the cute clothes. The ugly clothes can go as spares for the diaper bag or day care.


Nicki is so embarrassed

2.) The best camera is the one within arms reach

As soon as you want to take a photo you’ll realize that the camera is no where in reach. Baby will fall asleep on you, or making a funny expression. If you move to get your “good” camera, the opportunity for the photo will be over. A blurry, High-ISO yet still too dark photo trumps no photo at all.

sleepingnicki
Sleeping on Mommy

3.) You will never have the perfect photo

Invariably, something will be wrong. You’ll still be in your PJs at three in the afternoon unable to recall your last shower, or your baby will be in ugly clothes (see above), you only have your cell phone handy. Babies wiggle. Unless you have studio lightening (or you only take photos of sleeping babies), that means high ISO pictures or blurry toes.


Happy babies are wiggly babies!

Sometimes the stars align – baby is in an adorable outfit, sans spitup, holding a cute pose near an adequate light source. Snap away as quickly as possible. Don’t waste time thinking about how you want to frame the shot.

4.) You don’t need the perfect photo.

Really. Blurry toes and high ISO images will grow on you.


Too dark, light source from the wrong direction (highlighting the back of her head not her face), messy-hair, PJs and still perfect

It’s starting already. Apple and Amazon are kicking off the shopping season with the rumored announcement of the iPhone 5 expected this week and last week’s Kindles announcement. Even though I won’t be pregnant this time around, we still plan on focusing our shopping efforts online. I really don’t relish the idea of taking a sub five month old out during some of the busy shopping days of the year, in the middle of flu season! As such, it’s time to update our Back Friday strategy with the times.

We’re developing our strategy primarily to catch surprise deals – those we won’t know about in advance. Since we expect the deals to start prior to Black Friday, and continue well into Cyber Monday (which is more like Cyber Week…) we also want to make sure we don’t buy too early if someone else is going to have a better deal.

Price Watching
Dynamic Pricing is becoming increasingly common. It’s been speculated that retailers like Walmart and Amazon will rely on dynamic pricing this holiday season to undercut the competition. In order to capitalize on these price fluctuations, we plan to set up price watches.

We intend to utilize Camelcamelcamel (Amazon price watches), and it’s companion websites CamelBuy (BestBuy price watches) and CamelEgg (NewEgg price watches). Last year, many of the big chains had great deals in the days and weeks leading up to Black Friday for items like video games, books, music, toys, and electronics. They even had price drops for big ticket items as well like TVs and gaming consoles. Sometimes these price drops were advertised in advance, but not always. Price watching alerts you to sales as they happen, giving you the best chance possible to grab items as they go on sale before they’re sold out.

I have adjusted all my price watches on down significantly (I never buy during the black Friday season unless it’s an amazing deal!). Currently on my price watch? Memory Cards for the camera, and baby toys & books.

Price watching, however, can only get you so far. Bundles were common last year, and I suspect they will be again. Rather than drop the price of, say, an Xbox 360, retailers will bundle it with several games or with gift cards. Bundles are popular when manufactures control the price of products so retailers can’t discount them. Apple is a prime example. Many of these bundles will be announced for Black Friday, but some are surprises and will happen in the weeks and days leading up to it. Since bundles appear as new product listings, automated price watching won’t work.

Social Media
When we were gearing up for our baby, I set up Google alerts in the hopes of catching sales from online stores too small to have dedicated price alert websites. I’d set an alert with the name of the product I was interested in, and the phrase ‘(Discount OR Sale)’. The strategy didn’t work for me. Turns out Google alerts were not real time enough. For this shopping season, I’m turning to twitter and social media. Nothing is more real time than twitter.

I’ve already friended companies in Facebook and follow them on Twitter already to watch for coupons. For the holiday season I plan to use saved searches, and set up an account with tweetalarm.com. Once those deals are live, you can bet some happy consumer will take to twitter to share the joy of their new purchase. Since I’m new to twitter, I’m testing both services out now. What am I searching for now? #Blackfriday! I want to catch any other good strategy ideas in time to use them.

I did the best I could to prepare for baby. I read the books, watched the videos and attended classes. I knew that no matter how much I prepared, being a mommy would be an on the job learning experience. If I could go back in time, there are three things I would tell my pre baby self.

1.) It is okay to pee.

My first day home alone with the baby ended miserably. Domingo came home from work to find his very stressed out wife holding a crying baby. I was trying so hard to be the perfect mom, to cater to Nicki’s every need, that I forgot my own. I’ll just get her to stop crying first, I thought. Get her to fall asleep and then I can put her down. I somehow had the impression that if I let her cry for one second longer than she had to, I was a bad mom. The longer I held her, the more uncomfortable I got. the more uncomfortable I got, the more fussy she got.


Safe and Sound

Yes, she would have cried harder had I put her down in the crib. But it would have only lasted for a moment. Babies cry. We can’t stop every tear from falling. It’s okay to put them down, in a safe place for a brief period of time, to take care of something important. It results in far less tears from everyone.

2.) It’s okay be break the rules.

Just as no two babies are exactly alike in terms of genetic make up or finger prints, no two are exactly alike in personality. What works for most does not necessarily work for all.

When we had problems breast feeding, the lactation consultant wanted us to train Nicki to suck by giving her our finger. One desperate night, well before the magic one month mark for breastfeed babies, even before the two week mark for bottle fed babies, I gave in to the dark side. I decided there wasn’t that much difference between a pacifier and a finger, and gave my baby her first binky. I was torn between the guilt of fearing that I had just torpedoed our chances to ever breastfeed, and the joy of the sound of a happily sucking baby. One month later she was taking the breast as well as she took the bottle, and we never saw hide nor hair of the nipple confusion beast.


Binky Love

Since Nicki wasn’t really formula fed (she only had formula for a few days) and wasn’t really breastfeeding (most of her feedings came from a bottle) I had so many questions that the newborn care books and classes hadn’t answered. Questions like how to know whether she was eating enough, or how much to pump to establish my supply – did the number of pumping sessions matter, or the length of the sessions? As I dug around the internet for answers I realized how often baby wisdom suffers from the whisper down the lane effect. What was studied to be true under certain conditions, gets reposted and reported as true under all circumstances. You know that guideline that the first two weeks are the most critical for dictating breastfeeding success? It’s a correlation based study – not causal!

Conventional wisdom is conventional for a reason. It’s true for most babies. Your baby, however, could be the exception to the rule. As a scientist it was hard for me to accept that so much of parenting is instinct. You know what works for your baby, follow your heart as well as your head.

3.) It’s okay to not do everything.

Newborns sleep 16 hours a day, and eat 8 times a day. There is not enough awake time left to do everything your supposed to – read, sing, play games to develop their brains. Tummy time was her least favorite activity, and it quickly fell to the wayside. At first I didn’t sweat it. Nicki had great head control from the start so I figured one or two less tummy times wouldn’t make a difference. A few weeks passed and I began to realize how little tummy time she was getting. I kept telling myself the next time she’s in a good mood, when we wake up after our next nap, we’d try again. I soon found us days away from her two month check up, and we still only had done tummy time maybe 5 or 6 times total! The guilt swept over, the books said she should be able to lift her head while lying down by now.


Look Ma, what I can do!

I put her down for an immediate tummy time and she surprised me, not just by lifting her head at a 45 degree, but keeping it up and turning it from side to side. She hasn’t done it again since, at least not to the same degree, but it made me realize that she will develop physically and mentally, even if we skip a few songs, or tummy times. She will still learn to sit, stand, walk and talk.

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

While rocking Nicki to sleep this afternoon and reading the news on my mobile phone, I came across an article on Walmart. They are rolling out a new search engine, called Polaris. Polaris is so effective, according to Walmart, that they’ve seen a 10%-15% increase in the likelihood of the customer completing a transaction after conducting a search.

As I played around with Polaris, I couldn’t help but contrast the experience to one I had a few weeks ago. Nicki had been fussy all afternoon and I found myself at the end of the day without any clean bottles. Life would be so much easier with one more bottle. So while rocking Nicki off to dreamland, I wipped out my mobile phone to find out if my local target sold Dr Brown’s 4oz bottles. Typing with my free hand I entered the shortened query “dr brown” into the target search bar.


Screen Grab from my phone on 9/1

What the what??

The first item is at least a Dr Brown’s product. The second result at least has “dr” in the title, but “eye of the beholder”?! How is that relevant to my query? I scrolled five pages before giving up on that search.

Okay, I’ll change my query to be more specific. I typed “dr brown 4oz bottle”


Screen Grab from my phone on 9/1

Target, you are killing me!

Target’s search on the mobile phone is pretty much worthless, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are three easy ways to fix it:

1) Set a better threshold for deciding which items are included in the results. It’s clear from my two query examples that Target’s search returns any product that contains some words in the query. That’s why adding words to the query increases the number of results returned. While this is generally a good approach, it can run afoul when some of those words make up very important phrases (ie ‘dr brown’) but are also fairly generic (ie ‘dr’ and ‘brown’). As I scroll through my search results, I found furniture in a brown finish before I come across the bottle I want.

Unless target is using a very antiquated search algorithm, it should be scoring search results according to relevance, which is a prediction of how well the item matches the query. There are three ways to filter out bad search results.

* Set an absolute threshold. This is the easiest and most straight forward approach where any item with a score below the given threshold is considered not relevant.
* Set a relative threshold based off of the most relevant item. In this approach only the top n results are relevant, or only results within n points of the highest scoring item are relevant.
* Look for a gap in relevance scores. The best approach would be to look for a gap in relevance scores. Most modern search algorithms weight co-located terms higher than terms that occur in the description but not together. Thus while a Dr. Seuss book may have the word ‘brown’ somewhere in the description, it still is considered less relevant than a product that has the phrase ‘dr brown’. All ‘dr brown’ products likely rate much higher than all non ‘dr brown’ products. By looking for this gap, you can filter out results the customer is likely not interested in.

2) Allow customers to search by relevance like they can on the desktop version of Target.com. Or, if that’s what Sort by ‘Featured’ means, set it as the default and make it clearer. Searching by popularity only makes sense if all items are relevant to the query and the customer is otherwise unsure of which item they might want to buy. If I was interested in baby bottles in general, I could use ‘popularity’ as a proxy for value, trusting my fellow consumers’ buying choices. In order to find a specific product, however, I’d have to either guess how popular it is relative to other items target sells and jump to that results page, or scroll through every result on every results page until I find it. Price is only marginally better, as I can venture a guess as to how much a single bottle will cost.

3) Expand search results smartly. It might be tempting to return everything that evenly marginally matches the query to increase collateral sales. Instead, it just frustrates the customer who has to scroll passed more results to find the ones he or she is interested in. If you look at the most relevant results by the approaches described in step (1), a pattern typically emerges. For my query, the top results would all be in the baby category, manufactured by Dr. Brown, and be feeding related. Rather than return all results that marginally match the query, return those that that are also similar to the top results in these regards: other baby items, other items manufactured by Dr. Brown, or other items related to feeding. This approach is referred to as pseudo relevance feedback in the Information Retrieval community.

I want to continue shopping at target. With the new baby my days of browsing the isles on a whim are over. I rely on my mobile device not just to make purchases online, but to decide which stores to visit in person. The mobile site just has to work.

As for the bottle, well… it turns out Amazon sells them.

(Note: I’ve since installed the Target App on my phone, and search is much better – but that’s still no excuse for a broken mobile website in 2012! )

September 3, 2012

Foiled Again

My attempt to pay the lowest, rock bottom prices, have been foiled again.

Yesterday afternoon I ordered a clock for Nicki’s Nursery. Domingo and I had discovered that we need to rock Nicki for at least twenty minutes after she falls asleep before she enters her deep sleep. Try and stop rocking before then, and the eyes spring open. Normally I have my phone with me and can time how long we rock, but every once in a while I forget it. So a few days ago I picked out a butterfly wall clock from Cafepress, and yesterday I ordered it with a 30% off labor day weekend coupon. This morning I wake up and find a 35% off coupon for today only. Have I mentioned how much that annoys me to miss out on a the best sale, even if it’s only 75 cents?!

But that wasn’t the only savings I missed out on.

I also noticed yesterday that Shutterfly was doing a 34% sale on canvas prints. Since I wanted one for Nicki’s nursery, I decided to go ahead and order it. Much to my delight, they were also running a free shipping on orders of at least $30. Since I couldn’t do both the free shipping and my $20 gift card, I decided to hold off on the gift card. (Shipping would have been $19.99, and I can use my gift card for Christmas cards.) I finalized my purchase this morning at around 1:41 am. Just 7 hours and 5 minutes later I get this offer in my inbox: $39 Canvas Print from CafePress, including shipping.

Now that one stung.

As an aside, $39 for a 16 x 20 canvas print is a great deal, and (given that you have until December to use it), would make an excellent Christmas gift for a spouse or parent. A quick Google search shows me they run this deal about once a month. Clearly I need to do more research before making a purchase next time.

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