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.


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.