A nice Christmas

We’re off to Florida for a week. I’ll be back in time for the KU bowl game, but I won’t be able to blog about the KU-Yale basketball game (something I’d dearly like to do, as my brother-in-law roots for Yale). Ah well.

We have had a nice Christmas, with plenty of snow, sledding, presents, cookies, and family. I thought I’d leave you with a picture of our tree, held hostage by our 18-month-old son. Can you tell how tall he is from this photo?

An 18-month-old lives here

The Lawrence Festival of Trees

This was a while ago… about a month now (the end of November) but still fun. Every year (we’re only getting to know the holiday events) The Shelter (a local kids and family charity) hosts the Lawrence Festival of Trees. People decorate trees and donate them, then other people (mostly businesses) bid on them at auction, and the proceeds go to The Shelter.

There is a suggested donation for the public to come and see the trees, which we did. Our baby was probably overwhelmed (if you can’t keep ’em quiet, dazzle them with crowds and flashing lights), but our four-year-old thought it was pretty fun. He especially liked the upside down tree. Next year, we hope to see the gingerbread house competition across the street, too.

Some of the trees were very gaudy, and some of them were especially clever. I took photos of the ones that caught my eye, and you can see them below. One in particular, a carousel themed tree, was very cool. The movie below is of that tree.

Enjoy!

The photos on Flickr

The best baby sleep clothes

Our babies always had trouble sleeping. The first one didn’t sleep through the night until he was six months old (though now he could sleep through an earthquake). The second one slept like a dream for three or four months and has woken up at least once every night since then.

We swaddled and breast fed and cradled and sang and walked and did everything we could to get them to sleep. Of all those things, what helped the most was swaddling. Now, swaddling is a bit of an art. You need a big blanket (like the one you stole from the hospital), and you need to be none too gentle with how tightly you fold your baby up. Invariably we wound up using a blanket that was too small, or our boys would manage to get an arm out (with which to whack myself over the head, Daddy!).

But we found something that helped. The Miracle Blanket is a blanket designed for swaddling. It has special flaps for the arms and a pocket for the feet, and it is truly miraculous. It comes in two sizes (last time we checked) and really does work. Don’t be thrown off by their “As Seen on TV” style web site.

The other problem we have run into with baby sleeping is how cold it gets at night, especially when we lived North, and during winter. At some point (ask your pediatrician when) you can put a blanket in the crib with your baby, but even then it will be a while before they get the idea of snuggling under it to stay warm. Enter the SleepSack. We bought these in two sizes, too, and both our boys used them. Now with the second boy, we have just ordered some SleepSacks for toddler sized kids, which include foot holes.

These two items are a bit expensive for what you get, but we love them so.

Best baby monitor

We’re on our third baby monitor. The first was some Graco/FirstBaby something-or-other brand whose salient feature was that it had two receivers. We thought (mistakenly) that we’d need two receivers, one we could leave in the kitchen, and one in our bedroom. We were wrong.

This is what we needed: rock solid reception, lots of channels, rechargeable bulletproof batteries, a visible indicator of noise. Our second (and third, I dropped the second on the kitchen floor and it broke) set of monitors are the Sony BabyCall Rechargeable (NTM-910). It works like a dream, which is to say, we never have to think about it.

Set the channels on each piece (they are color-coded for ease). Plug one into an outlet in your baby’s room. Plug the other in, say, your kitchen. Charge the receiver. Use. In four years of use (before I dropped it) we did not notice a fall-off in battery power or longevity. We typically plug it in overnight (we don’t usually use it at night, we can hear the baby from our room, but when I have, it has lasted all night without being plugged in), and use it during the day. We can carry it out into the yard without getting out of range (it has a very annoying = effective alarm when it loses the signal). When we put the baby down and he is wailing before he gives up and goes to sleep, we can turn the volume down but still see him cry on the bright red lights. It does have a “voice activated” feature we don’t use, as it is somewhat masked by the noise machine we have in the baby’s room.

It is cheap (about $40 via Google or J&R) and relatively frill-less. And perfect. So perfect we bought another when I dropped the first.

Best bath mat

Once you’re done with the baby bathtub, you’ll need a bath mat for your regular tub. We moved our boys to the regular bath when they were between six months and a year old (when they could reliably sit up and we’re reliably splashing gallons of water out of their baby bathtub). The bath mats we found were all small, and we imagined our squirrely kids getting beyond it and onto the slick porcelain of our tub pretty quickly.

Which is why we got the Ulti-Mat (we got it at OneStepAhead for $20 or so). Really, bath mat tech is pretty simple. Rubbery material with suction cups, ideally with some anti-bacterial coating. But this bath mat is extra-big. It covers the entire floor of our bath tub. We’ve taken it on trips with us to Grandma’s house, we love it so much.

There’s something else out there called an Ultimat, in blue and clear, but I don’t think it is the same thing. I’m not sure.

Note to readers: I’m not getting anything from listing these items. There are no affiliate links or backroom, under the table, behind the kangaroo deals here. Just our honest love for stuff that got us through babyhood. Also, I get to test a cool WordPress plugin, In Series.

The best baby bathtub ever

As our kids start to move out of babyhood, I feel the need to tell someone about the best baby gear we came across while helping them survive to toddlerhood. I also have a pair of friends about to have a baby (Hi Denny, Hi Aprille!), who probably already have all their gear lined up, but you never know.

First up is the best baby bathtub ever. It has no temperature sensor, no cushy foam pad, no fold and pack features. It is just one, huge piece of molded plastic, but it is still the best baby tub. The Eurobath by Primo. We started our babies in it when they were the barest of infants, with this behemoth of a bath on the counter in our kitchen. The bath contours are molded such that infants can lay in it, safely cradled. Even our squirmiest baby did not manage to upend himself and drown, even while splashing and playing and giggling.

As the kids got older, we first moved the bath to our regular tub (mostly because of the copious splashing going on, the kitchen was getting too wet), then we turned the kids around, so instead of laying down at one end of the Eurobath, they were sitting up at the other end. A word of warning, the splashing only gets more impressive when they can sit up. When you’re done, it has a drain feature (though we just dumped the whole thing out, but it can get heavy if you fill it a lot), and you can hang it on a hook to dry out.

You won’t go wrong with this thing. Most places are selling it for about $25. BabyCenter users rate it 5/5 stars with 245 comments. Amazon users rate it 4.5/5 stars with 581 comments. BabiesRUs users rate it 5/5 stars on 116 comments.

The manufacturer says it is for birth to 2 years, but we found our boys did better in the tub proper by about a year. We finally gave ours away to friends here in Lawrence. I do wish they’d named it something else though, it feels like I’m endorsing some kind of European singing competition.

No more AdSense on this blog

I know, you’re not all torn up about this. As a further refinement of my blogging efforts, I’ve decided to stop hosting ads on this site. Especially Google’s context-sensitive AdSense ads. Turns out that a blog as eclectic as this one is a bad fit for contextual advertising. I’m open to ads in the future, if I find something that fits the blog better.

Obligatory ice storm photo

We had an ice storm earlier this week. I, along with every other individual in the Midwest ((Witness, this search on Flickr turned up over 10,000 ice storm pictures just this week)), took pictures of the cool ice capades.

I am limiting myself to just one photo, taken a day later, when the sun was shining and everything was melting. The photo looks better in the biggest size.

Icy trees on the hill in the sunlight

The Master Home Computing Plan gets a wifi remote (updated)

You may or may not have read the Master Home Computing Plan, a post where I outlined how and what my perfect home computing plan was. That post is under review right now, but a crucial element has just been introduced by a company called iospirit.

Enter Remote Buddy. Originally, this was software you installed on your Mac to enable new functions in your Apple Remote and/or your Wii remote. But now, they have added your iPhone or iPod Touch as a remote. New functions? Well, among others, the ability to control iTunes via Wifi. And not just control. All the bells and whistles are there.

Check out the movie of Remote Buddy at work on an iPod Touch. As a frustrated remote iTunes user, this is simply awesome.

Our music setup is pretty cool. We have all our music residing on an Infrant NAS. iTunes on our iMac connects to that music, and sends it out via AirTunes to an Airport Express. That is, in turn, connected to a hobby-built FM transmitter that sends the signal out over 98.5 FM, and we listen to it all over the house on our radios.

Until now, we had no way to remotely change the music. We had to fire up a laptop to run one of any number of mediocre remote itunes controllers. Or run downstairs and change it on the iMac. Hard to do gracefully when you forgot to take Mr. Hankey out of the Christmas Music Mix before family came over.

Of course, we still don’t have a way to remotely change our music, as we don’t own an iPod Touch. But the future is coming.

Thanks to bbum for finding this first.

Update: bbum has come through again, this time downloading and reviewing Apple’s own free iTunes remote for iPhone and iPod touch. He loves it.