Archive for October, 2012

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.

We decided to skip Halloween costumes this year. Nicki is too young to understand, and, since we weren’t planning on going out, a custom didn’t make sense for us. We did have her skeleton sleep and play, so when I started feeling the momma guilt of skipping her first holiday, we thought we’d do a Holiday photo shoot and send out cards to family.

Nicki was only a little over three months for this photo. She’s obviously not sitting on her own yet, but can sit while propped up. To create the card I envisioned I needed to get a little creative.

For this photo I started by folding two towels and placing them on the floor for padding. We have hard wood floors, and Nicki will kick when excited. I didn’t want her to hurt herself by accident. Next I got the plush backrest pillow and put it on the towels. I had bought it umpteen years ago when I was off to college, but never really used it. Since I can’t ever throw anything away, I still had it. I placed the backrest on top of the towels so I would have a cushy spot to prop Nicki up.


The setup

I draped a black backdrop over my setup and with a few props and I was good to go. I adjusted my camera settings so my metering light showed a bit dark and upped the contrast in post processing for a spooky effect.

We got a couple good ones, it was hard to pick a favorite. Ultimately I decided to go with the smile, even though a few of these invoke a more halloweenish feeling. Grandmas adore the smiling babe.

Nicki kept scooting forward in what Domingo called the ‘limp skeleton’ pose. Gotta love her facial expression. I predict she’s going to be quite the little ham!


Another good limp skeleton.


Here’s one were she’s holding a pumpkin between her two hands.


A good one of her ‘sitting.’

A few months ago one of my mom’s groups discussed technology. It started as a conversation of elementary kids and cell phones, which everyone seemed to be against, but quickly grew to other forms of technology like personal computers and tablets. I was shocked to learn not a single one would allow their child to have a personal computer in their room prior to high school. Not a one. Many wouldn’t even allow it then. My fellow moms wanted to protect their kids from the Big Bad out there on the internet. At a time when even some elementary schools are considering giving their students pads as a learning device, this kind of concern seems short sighted.

“[Someone who] out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow” – President Obama

The Internet has become the great equalizer. Don’t have access to the best schools? You can take classes online like Khadijah Niazi, the eleven year old Pakistani girl who was the youngest ever to pass an online college-level physics class. She learned the material by watching youtube videos at the same time the Pakistani government decided to block youtube.

The bar for achievement keeps claiming higher each year. The kids at the intel science completion are writing computer simulators to solve complex mathematical problems at 16 and 17. Sixteen! Like it or not, this is the level of competition. You can’t write a simulator at sixteen if you’re just learning to use the computer at fifteen.

An often cited recommendation from the AAP is no screen time for children under 2. If you read the press release they’re largely talking about TV watching and passive screen time (e.g. watching a video on youtube). Studies have failed to prove “educational” toddler and infant programs have any real benefit. Worse, some studies suggest some specific media programs may be detrimental. Even ambient TV on in the background can distract a parent from engaging in a child. There’s also secondary concerns not mentioned in the press release about things like eye strain. All these are real concerns, and yet, I keep finding myself coming back to this one idea: there’s a difference between active and passive screen time.

Am I naive enough to think Nicki can learn shapes from tablet and phone apps? Of course not. But she is learning. She is learning that she can interact with the iPad, that it reacts to her touches. We don’t do it often, certainly not every day or every week, but we do let her have it occasionally, and plan to continue to do it. Over time she’ll learn how to control the tablet. When she’s old enough to actually benefit from the educational programs, she will have already mastered the tool. That’s not a bad thing in my book.

This isn’t to say you can’t be successful without growing up with a computer. Of course you can. And it’s not to say there aren’t scary things and scary people on the internet. Of course there are. Technology is a tool that can be used for good and bad. I personally feel the benefits out way the risks.

After taking an average of 46 photos of Nicki a day with my iPhone, I took only 6 last week. SIX! Of course, that’s because baby is still sick (and so is mommy.) That just won’t do! This weekend I decided to have some of my favorite photos of Nicki printed. Aside from her birth announcement, we haven’t hung a single photo. That also won’t do!

I was so disappointed with the print quality of my iPhone.

I’m using a 4S, which means it has a 8MP camera. An 8MP camera can produce a high resolution (at least by pixel count) image up to an 8″ by 10″. The photos look beautiful on my iphone screen which is roughly 3” by 2”. But actually printed as a 4” by 6” I could see the grainy effect caused by the high iso and slight focusing issues. It was disappointing.

On the one hand it’s hard to get mad at the iPhone. I use it in very low light situations. It’s quite (no shutter sound) and doesn’t wake the baby. Since the phone less bulky, I can also position it differently which is handy when the baby is sleeping on me. So without the iPhone, I wouldn’t have those photos at all. It’s also a fraction of the DSLR cost. Maybe I’m expecting too much from my cell phone?

It does highlight the fact that maybe I’m relying on the iPhone too much as a primary camera. It’s great at capturing the moment as it happens, but I need to use my DSLR more. I want more photos that I could frame (even if I never do.) I need the option!

Oh iPhone, I just can’t quit you.

October 14, 2012

Sick Baby

Remember how I sterilized everything in the house when baby was spitting up more than usual? How cute was I in my naivety. Nicki has her first cold. It started a week ago and I can assure you baby colds are every bit as bad as it’s rumored to be.

Nicki surprised us by waking up in the middle of the night a week ago Wednesday. Something she never does anymore. I thought I had jinxed her wonderful sleep habits by talking about them here! She had coughed herself awake, but other than that one episode she seemed fine. She had no other symptoms. Then Domingo got sick Thursday night. Sore throat, aches, the whole shebang. He kept his distance from the baby Friday, but by Saturday morning both she and I were showing the same symptoms. By that Saturday afternoon, all three of us were in full blown cold mode.

We all had sore throats. Trouble is, Nicki would cry to let us know she was uncomfortable. The crying made her throat worse, so she’d cry louder, which made it even worser. We were trapped in terrible feedback loop so we called the pediatric advice nurse. The nurse told us to run the humidifier, saline drops and steam baths. Since Nicki was three months, we could also try some acetaminophen. Luckily we had just been to the doctor, so I knew her weight and we could figure out the right dose. The acetaminophen seemed to help.

Getting her to suck on a pacifier also seemed to help the sore throat. Timing being what it was, though, she had started rejecting the soothie pacifiers. She’d suck on the pacifier once or twice before loosing patience with it. So we were off to the store again to try the brand her day care recommended.

Her cold got worse through the weekend. She was so congested she couldn’t breathe threw her nose with all that congestion. She woke up every three hours screaming. Poor baby was exhausted. At 3 a.m. Sunday I just decided to stay up with her. I sat in the nursing chair and held her upright so she could sleep on me until morning.

We had a little reprieve during the week. My parents were visiting, so after Domingo and I did the “night” shift, they’d get the morning shift and give me a chance to nap. Poor Domingo had to go to work on very little sleep. (Have I told you he’s the best Dad, ever?) Nicki was such a trooper, smiling during the day through the sniffles.

When her cold didn’t abate after a week, we decided to call again on Thursday to see if there was anything else we could do. Nope. Saline drops, bulb syringe, steam rooms, and wait it out. She tolerated the bulb syringe, as long as we didn’t try too many attempts to liberate the snot. The drops were tantamount to baby torture. She started crying as soon as she saw the bottle. Not good. Not good at all.

I called the advice nurse for a third time again yesterday. Nicki’s coughing fits seemed to be getting worse. Sometimes it sounded like she was chocking, and often didn’t end until she had spit up. One time it seemed like she had spit up the entire bottle. Since she had been sick over a week, I was getting very concerned. The advice nurse set us up an appointment with the weekend doctor since Nicki had been sick for over a week. He listened to her chest to make sure it wasn’t something serious, and checked her ears for signs of ear infections. Just a cold. Just a cold. He told us it could last 2 to 3 weeks and the average is 6-10 colds in the first year.

10 colds lasting 3 weeks would mean Nicki would be sick 58% of her first year of life! Even 6 colds at 2 weeks a piece would be 23%. Here’s hoping she gets better soon. Two and a half more months until she can get a flu shot.

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.

I’m still in love with the video baby monitor and everything else I previously raved about. Now that we’re three months old, we’re using a whole new set of gear. I thought it would be fun to share what works for us.

Toys!

My favorite brand right now is bright starts. My aunt gave us this adorable bright starts blue elephant teether that makes a crinkly sound and Nicki loves it. We went out and bought the monkey and giraffe. (from Target for $7. Seriously Amazon? $20?!). We keep Mr. Giraffe as a car toy, and Mr. Elephant and Mr. Monkey stay home.

When Nicki was learning to hold and manipulate objects I wanted to get more toys for her to provide tactile stimulation. This set of links are a huge hit. She can easily grasp them and they have different textures. It took her a little while to figure out how to get them in her mouth, but once she fid she seemed to have a giant leap in fine motor control. Of course it could be correlation, not causation, but whatever the case, the links were the best $5 I’ve ever spent.

Another huge hit? these hanging birds. There made by Sassy and are elastic and attach to the car seat handle. Nicki grabs at the feet and can pull them closer to her. It’s great when I need to put her down somewhere for a quick errand (like making a bottle.) The birds keep her entertained and happy.

We’re also in love with the Lamaze Symphony Motion Gym. The motion is an absolute must. It keeps her entertained and focused on the moving parts. Also it’s purple and science themed. It’s perfect for a girl geek. Like the links, the gym can keep her entertained on her own for a little while.

We noticed Nicki had an easier time grabbing the tags of her plush toys then the corners of the toys themselves. I remembered seeing the Taggies ABC’s Blanket in the store for just $9. As predicted, the abundance of tags made it another toy that helped her learn to grab and hold. I love the concept of the taggies brand in general. A tag blanket would also make for a fun craft project! In fact, that’s probably what I’ll do for the next baby shower I go to.

Health care

Nicki has her first cold, so I’m sorry to say I have some experience with health related baby products like baby thermometers. Despite our health care providers insisting in our newborn class that the only accurate way to take a newborns temperature is with a rectal thermometer, they never used them themselves. At the hospital they took her temperature underarm, and at the pediatrician’s office they used a forehead thermometer. In reality when I have a fussy, sick baby trying to sleep on my shoulder, the last thing I want to do is put her down and take off her diaper to take her temperature.

The sad truth is it’s darn near impossible to get a good thermometer cheaply. We eventually settled on Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer. The previous thermometer we had needed to be placed on her forehead for five seconds to get a reading. When she moved (which was all the time), the thermometer failed to get a reading and would display an error. It would then need to be rebooted before it could take another reading. But you couldn’t reboot it once the error message was showing, you had to wait another five seconds for the screen to clear. It took several attempts to get a reading. Not cool. The Exergen thermometer is much less prone to errors. It scans quickly and you can rescan without rebooting the thermometer.

Update 4/2/13. I no longer recommend the Exergen. Nicki had her first fever but the Exergen reported a a normal body temperature twice. While it could have been user error (maybe I did not put it flush enough against her head) I would rather the thermometer give an error message than an incorrect temperature!!

Sleeping

We tried a number of different sleep sacks, but the BreathableBaby Wearable Blanket was the best. The Halo sleepsack has a zipper that starts at baby’s head and ends at her toes. It’s convenient for diaper changes, but a pain to get her in and out of it. The BreathableBaby has a double zipper so you can unzip her at either end.


Daddy Daughter Bonding – 1 Month Old

“What are your expectations when it comes to who will be responsible for what chores after baby arrives?” It was a question posed in the mid-pregnancy educational class we attended last February. Whose job would it be to make sure the diapers and wipes were well stocked? To take out the dirty diapers each night? The class instructor had everyone fill out a ‘mine’ and ‘theirs’ responsibilities work sheet as we waited for everyone attending the class to arrive. No peeking!

Up until that point Domingo and I hadn’t really discussed diving up the baby chores. We had discussed our general parenting philosophies such as how we felt about sleep training and discipline. We made sure we were on the same page when it came to what kind of parents we envisioned being, what we wanted most for our daughter and our expectations as parents. But the day to day chores didn’t come up.

I gave myself 100% of the responsibility of feeding baby (kind of hard to share that one when you plan on breastfeeding) and night time baby care. I figured there was no sense in us both being up if I had to be awake to feed the baby anyway. (I referred to it as our zone defense strategy.) For everything else I split responsibilities 50/50. I thought Domingo’s sheet would look the same. Wrong! Domingo gave himself 70% of the responsibility of diapering and 100% of household cleaning. As he saw it – if my job was to feed the baby, his job was everything else. Cooking, cleaning, he expected to take on a lion’s share of the chores. But he didn’t expect to stop there. He expected to be awake at each and every feeding.

And he meant it.

After a long day at work, he comes home and is ready to take a shift with the baby to give me a break. Always. On days that Nicki is home from day care, he comes home from lunch to make sure I have something nutritious to eat. Always. Without fail or complaint.

My idea of a zone defense was a bit naïve. Most days it can work, but some days I just need a little extra sleep or a second pair of hands. This morning was one of them. Even though Domingo went to bed after me, he got up to feed the baby. After she eat, she fell asleep immediately in his arms. Rather than risk waking her, he stayed with her in the rocking chair. I woke up to find them there an hour later.


I have the Best Daddy Ever! – Three Months Old

I knew I hit the jackpot with Domingo. I knew he was the kind of guy I wanted to spend the rest of my life with the first time I met him. I knew he was the kind of guy I wanted to be the father of my children before we even started dating. It was the first time I was in a relationship and could see myself in the roll of wife and mother, not just girlfriend. Still, he blew away my expectations. He is all I could ever have wanted and more. How did I get to be so lucky? Amazing husbands make for the best dads.

October 3, 2012

Nicki at Three Months

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.

Dear Nicki,

Three months! Wow! It seems like we were just reflecting on your two month birthday.

You’ve really gotten into your toys. It started with the Bright Starts Snuggle & Teethe Blue Elephant Teether and Lamaze Space Symphony Motion Gym. Oh, how you loved them! But you sometimes struggle to hold them. Mommy got the idea to try some Links. Best $5 I ever spent! They were perfect for your tiny hands. You could grip them and learned coordination necessary to hold those other items with ease. They are hands down your favorite toy.


Concentrating so hard

We’re still working on giggling, but you smile up a storm. Daycare says your favorite activity is song time (which doesn’t surprise me) and that you like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Patty Cake best. I’m pretty sure you’re one of the favorites. Even though there are a few infants your age, when ever I pick you up someone is cuddling you!


Cute as a button

You’re also growing so incredibly fast. Even though you were still wearing newborn clothes at six and seven weeks, we have graduated you to 3-6 month sleepers before 3 months! They’re just too short on you, you can’t fully extend your legs. The 0-3 month onesies still fit you well, and you have quite a bit of room to grow in them both width and length wise. Were did these long legs come from?! Certaintly not mommy or daddy.

I have a colleague who recommended we cut the feet out of your sleepers to make them last longer. I think back to the how much you loved your PJs the first time we put you in them. The warm fuzzy feet seemed like a must. Since you will need 6 month sleepers eventually, it doesn’t seem to matter whether we put you in them now or wait a few weeks.


Enjoying your October PJs

I guess it’s time for me to stop thinking of you as ‘our little newborn.’ That will take some getting used to.

Love always,
Mommy and Daddy

I still haven’t deleted any photos of Nicki off my memory card for DSLR. That’s the advantage of external memory; I can always pop in another memory card when the last one is full. Alas, my phone is different. It’s quickly becoming my go-to camera since it’s always near by. It’s full. I had to make more room. But how? How could I delete any photos of my baby? I sat down last night and started the process of backing up everything – in triplicate. I didn’t want to loose anything, not even the near duplicates, not even the blurry half cropped off baby ones.

My hard drive is a mess of disorganized photos. As I was combing through them I re-discovered these.

They brought back a wave of emotion. I remembered how beautiful I felt being pregnant. I couldn’t help but reflect over how I enjoyed our journey together, especially my last trimester. But as much emotion that I had seeing these photos, I hadn’t shared them anywhere. Not on display on my house. Not on facebook. Not here (though I did post a similar one). No where. They were just hiding in the corner of my hard drive.

That’s the problem with photography. Sometimes a photo just doesn’t speak to you. Sometimes you may not even like it. I didn’t love my engagement photos. I had gained weight recently and wasn’t used to seeing my heavier self. Looking at my engagement photos, all I could focus on was how awful I felt about my figure. But when you look back years, months, weeks, even days afterwards, you see it through different eyes. Now? I don’t see the weight. I see the excitement I had about starting my life with Domingo. I don’t even remember why I opted not to share these maternity photos.


Even blurry can be beautiful

So my advice to anyone and everyone out there: take photos every day. Even if you don’t like the way you look or the way they are turning out. Shuffle them away to rediscover later. But do take them and do save them.

As for me I pared down my 4,100 photos to 975. Progress.