Seeing Pop Pop

26 02 2008

Two weekends ago we brought e to my parents’ house in Maryland. It’s the first time my dad got to see him, as well as my aunt Kimmy, who came to visit from Tennessee.

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I was also finally able to give my folks pictures of e via digital photo frames. I was a little taken aback by how expensive these frames are. I might want to make a summer project of cobbling together an inexpensive version of these.

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Holiday Wish List for Single Moms

15 12 2007

After writing a post giving suggestions on how to gift new parents, I came across this thoughtful post on how to gift single moms.

I’ve got a newfound respect for single moms that I’m sure will only grow with my experience. How they do it alone is beyond me.





e week 2: taking stock, pt. 2 – the frugal father

7 12 2007

Continuing my series revisiting older posts preparing for fatherhood, we come to this one:

The Frugal Father

…where I talked about how one can pinch some pennies in buying baby supplies.

Now, my reflection is going to sound a little self-serving because I want to focus on getting gifts for parents of newborns. And, yes, I am indeed shamelessly winking at you, dear reader.

Actually, no, this post is inspired by a recent thread on Ask Metafilter about this very topic. There’s lots of good advice there, but if I may…

A lot of people recommended babysitting or providing an extra set of hands. I can certainly see that coming in very handy later on, but right now, I think Dana and I still need time to get our bearings and figure out our routines. I also have to factor in that it’s the sniffling season, and I’m trying to keep e as sick-free as I reasonably can.

So instead, I suggest:

The basics

One can’t go wrong with buying something practical that needs constant replenishing.

What comes to mind:

  • diapers (Pampers Swaddlers, oh yes)
  • baby wipes
  • disposable changing pads
  • onesies
  • burp cloths
  • batteries (D and AA)

The distractions

We’re stuck doing — and waiting to do — repetitive tasks all day long now, so it helps to have some hands-free things to distract. An iPod helps, but man, do I covet one of those clippy iPod shuffles right about now.

e loves the mix CDs I made for him, but our stereo is spazzing out on us, and it’d be really nice to have one that works (and has iPod compatibility).

Of course, if you want, you can just go ahead and give us a plasma wall tv, include a dvd player, and renew our netflix subscription.

The next stage

Another tack is to anticipate something the parents haven’t quite gotten ready for yet. Dana and I, for example, have yet to get a childproofing kit together.

Other parents might not yet have gotten around to buying a breast pump. An electric sweeper like the Shark might also be handy in the near future.

The push present

I just read about push presents in the New York Times, and, while we don’t have the funds for me to splurge like that, it’s worth considering that the best gift you can give a husband is the means to buy the best gift for his wife. Call me.

Survival tactics

Okay, that completes the self-aggrandizing portion of the post. What if a set of parents can’t rely upon the kindness of others? What then?

Well, I stand by my original post, but here’s some additional tips:

  1. Steal from the hospital. Most hospitals have policies similar to the best hotels: take what you can carry. (I’m not making this up; I was told this in the babycare class). They’ll liberally fill your cart with diapers, burp cloths, and doodads that’ll make starting off with your kid a lot easier. Things I found useful to take:

    • diapers — duh
    • burp cloths
    • onesies
    • disposable changing pads
    • vaseline
    • betadyne (for the umbilical stump)
    • suction bulb (very useful in sucking up mucus and fluids from various orifices)
    • baby wipes
    • bath basin
  2. Don’t buy everything now. I think it’s clear from this previous post that because newborns have such limited behaviors, it’s not necessary to get all the gear right away. Get what you need to keep the kid warm, fed, and clean, and keep your life simple.

  3. Freepeats. Haven’t tried this, but it seems to be a logical extension of freecycling with a lot of merits. If you don’t have friends, neighbors, relatives (thanks Doug and Heather, et al!) to mooch from, this might be a good place to benefit from another person’s good will.




e week 2: taking stock, pt. 1 – the best that daddy can buy

7 12 2007

Elijah is a little over two weeks old now. He had his first doctor’s appointment on Tuesday where he weighed 7 lbs 12 oz. and measured 19.5 inches. His circumcision is all healed up, and it looks like his umbilical stump is due to fall off today.

I thought I’d take this occasion to review some of the notes I’ve taken to prepare for parenthood and see how my experience has actually panned out so far.

Let’s start with my post called The Best That Daddy Can Buy:

Room

Most of our nursery furniture hasn’t been delivered yet because the glider we ordered is not in stock. So the nursery is empty, but that’s all right because all we really need right now is the co-sleep that my brother-in-law donated to us. The co-sleep is really nice because the child is sleeping in the same room, Dana can just roll over to pick him up and nurse him, and it’s an efficient use of space.

I’ve set up the baby monitor system, as well. Though someone is always with Elijah, the monitor system is useful in calling a spouse for help in a three-floor rowhome.

At one point I had a directional lamp with a dimmer in the room but Dana had me take it away. A simple nightlight seems to be sufficient instead.

Wear

We were donated a lot of infant clothes by my brother-in-law and received a bunch more at the baby shower. Most of the clothes, though, are still too big for Elijah. We just dress him in onesies/bodysuits (the ones from the hospital are perfect) and then use a larger bodysuit outfit as a loose sleeping bag. Caps are good, but again, the ones we have are a little too big and tend to slide over Elijah’s eyes.

A good swaddling blanket is a must. We swaddle Elijah all the time.

Gear

Graco infant car seat — you guessed it — donated by my brother-in-law. Man, it really helps to have a relative who has several young kids.

DO get that car seat inspected. They really do a good job of making sure that everything is as secure as possible. I thought they were going to let me go with flying colors but it was eye-opening to see how much unacceptable give I was allowing in my installation.

Strollers. This was a point of contention between Dana and I. I had recommended the Inglesina Zippy to her. Upon visiting a baby store, we compared the Zippy to the Peg Perego, which was slightly cheaper. Dana liked the Peg Perego more. A few weeks later, though, Dana did a side-by-side store comparison of the Peg Perego with the Zooper Waltz. She thought the Zooper was a little simpler to use — and it was less expensive. I wasn’t too elated that Dana threw my research out the window, but you know what? The research was a starting point. Dana liked the Zooper Waltz and her own internet research showed that a lot of other people did as well. We got it, and so far we’re happy with it.

Diaper bag. Another hard decision. There’s really no clear hierarchy of diaper bag quality and style and new makes are coming out all the time. Dana’s not a fashionista, but she has clear intuitive preferences, and she felt uncomfortable buying a bag that she hadn’t seen in person. In the end, though, that’s what she ended up doing, her geeky side having been sufficiently swayed by Ju-Ju-Be’s laundry list of thoughtful features. It was a little pricey, but she hasn’t expressed any regret.

A co-worker gifted me her no-longer-needed Baby Bjorn. Elijah and I love that thing. He goes to sleep right away next to my chest. I get to have the use of both of my arms. I can even wrap him in a large coat and take him out for a quick stroll (looks a little funny, though).

We also have a Graco mechanized swing, but Elijah’s not so into that.

Toys

Toys? Dude, it’s hard enough to keep him awake. If he’s not sleeping, he’s eating. He’ll only look cute for you with both eyes open half-hour tops.

Care

If you’re breastfeeding, a breast pump is necessary. Not only for the day when you’ll need stashed milk because mom’s away, but also to relieve some of the pressure when the breasts get too engorged. Yeah, unfortunately, you’re going to have to hear me mention breasts quite a bit the next year or so. We got a basic Ameda model with a sterilizing bag.

Other breastfeeding necessities: nursing bra, nursing pads, lanolin, and a Boppy pillow.

Burp cloths. You need a lot of them.

We’ve only been washing Elijah once a week or so. He hates it, and his skin starts noticeably flaking off afterwards. We’ve gotten some Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, but Elijah hasn’t really gotten any rashes. My brother-in-law also gave us a spray bottle of his own concoction — a “butt wash” made of a mixture of water, lotion, and soap that he swears will help in wiping off sticky poo.

What we do do endlessly (hee-hee) is change diapers. We bought a big box of Pampers Swaddlers at BJ’s and we went through it in ten days. Oh, and make sure you get a box of the Pampers wipes. You can get other baby wipes for cheaper, but the box is invaluable to hold and dispense them.

We stole a few disposable changing pads from the hospital, and we’re so glad we did. We’re down to non-disposable ones now.

I recommended the Diaper Dekor in my previous post, but Dana subsequently found that after some heavy use, most people preferred the Diaper Genie, which was sturdier. Fortunately, we didn’t have to return anything because my brother-in-law already donated a Diaper Genie to us. It’s… meh. I actually kind of prefer tying up Elijah’s diapers in old plastic bags and throwing them in a regular trash can; it helps me get rid of old plastic bags, and now I know what to ask for when I get the “paper or plastic question” at the supermarket.

Next: Holiday Shopping for Us





The Frugal Father: Saving Money on Baby Supplies

27 08 2007

Note to all who’ve perused my best baby supplies post: Babble has a new “best of” list for play yards.

Turns out, though, that my sister-in-law has already donated to us her old Graco Pack n Play, a perfectly great infant play pen. And floating up in today’s feed came this article by Because I Said So:
You’re Wearing That? about the futility of buying new children’s clothes for children that obstinately stick with the same two costumes every day. (If you haven’t read her famed, eBay post that shot her to blog-stardom, you must drop everything and do so now).

I have been inspired thusly to list some thoughts on how you can save money on baby supplies. The Kim clan is mostly a single-income home right now — and that income’s from teaching middle school, mind you — so we anticipate needing to pinch a bit here and there. A dirty dozen off the top of my head:

  1. Make some decisions ahead of time in the cold light of reason.
    I fault no parent for wanting to buy the best and the brightest for their child. And I myself know that once E is born, I’ll be permanently stuck in a weird distortion field that ignores all fiscal reality to pursue the whitest whale for my son. That’s why it makes sense for me, now, to set some policies that will buffer those tendencies when they come. A good example: toys. Right now I feel most children get too many toys. Children will play with anything, not just the most newfangled contraption with sampled sounds and flashing lights. They’ll study lint until they’re cross-eyed if you give them half the chance. So I’m setting a limit on the amount and kind of toys E will get, taking into account factors of educational stimulus, versatility, and durability. Will I break my own rules? I’m sure I will, but I’ll feel guilty about it and rein myself in a little.
  2. Be realistic about what you need.
    The jogging stroller, for example, is often the infant version of the SUV. Do you really need an all-terrain vehicle for your child? Do you really plan to continue to jog briskly for 10 miles every morning with your child in tow?
  3. Wait to see how your life changes before you prepare for it.
    You’ll kick yourself if you get a state-of-the-art $200 electric breast pump and then find after a week that you really can’t commit to breastfeeding after all. You may think you really need that baby alarm clock until you realize you don’t. Some gadgets are really helpful to some families with certain babies — and not to others. It can pay to wait and see.
  4. Resist feature creep.
    Man, that diaper with twenty compartments and ballistics nylon looks pretty sweet, until you realize your old camera bag with a couple of ziplocks is just as effective. It’s tempting to ask Q for the works, but you can sometimes surprise yourself with how resourceful you can be with less. In fact, confusing systems with a ton of features have a way of increasing the complexity of one’s life — which is usually the last thing you need with the chaos of a kid.
  5. Consider who it’s really for.
    Be honest with yourself why you have to have a particular item or brand. Babies don’t give a squat about fashion or the cuteness quotient; newborns barely have enough perceptual ability to appreciate your choice of color and shape for at least several months. It’s okay to want your baby to be surrounded by precious things — just be clear who it’s really for.
  6. Make shopping lists.
    Whenever I walk unprepared into a store or showroom, my eyes glaze over and my heart shrivels up with lust and envy. Doing some research and knowing exactly what you want can prepare you against an overwhelming array of options and marketing. My previous post has some tips on where to start.
  7. Use your registry smarter.
    A baby shower’s a beautiful thing. One should always accept any gift with humility and gratitude, but the advent of the baby registry allows you to strategize the giving to your benefit. Don’t register for frivolous items, and stay away from registering for things you’d probably purchase for yourself anyways (diapers, for instance). I think it makes more sense to register for things that fall into a gray “nice-to-have” area — items that are a bit more expensive or extravagant than you might willing to buy without wincing, but whose quality and style you ultimately appreciate. A nicer stroller, say — or fashionable but sensible outfits. In adding things to our registry, we often found ourselves saying, “Who knows? It’ll be nice if it gets bought.”
  8. Re-gift.
    Well-meaning relatives and friends will inevitably get you things out of the scope of what you want. Of course, if they tend to be touchy and very very observant, you might be stuck with their generosity. Otherwise, I have no problems re-gifting. Heck, one friend told me that her mom only let her choose one gift out of the many she might have received at her birthday party and then squirreled away the rest to re-gift at other kids’ birthday parties. Ma’am, I salute you.
  9. Buy in bulk.
    BJ’s, Sam’s Club, Costco — ya gotta love ’em. Okay, maybe you don’t, but their economies of scale can save you a ton of money on staples such as baby wipes, Q-tips, and disposable diapers. A trip to BJ’s this past week revealed that their diapers were about 10 cents less (per diaper) than regular retail. Make a little storage closet for yourself and stock up.
  10. Borrow from (and share with) friends and neighbors.
    Establish a local gift economy — have friendly swaps and co-ops and gifting between your neighborhood and church pals. Couples who already have children can give you old baby clothes and even furniture. (Of course, you can also hit up family). You can split up everything from babysitting to shopping runs. And it’s nice to exchange war stories and advice. Just remember to extend the kindness in kind to other fresh-faced couples as they come down the line. Like yours truly!
  11. Frequent thrift stores.
    You can’t get much better deals on clothing and toys than in your local Salvation Army or Goodwill. You’ll need, though, to bring your common sense with you; be discriminating in looking for potential faults in safety or function.
  12. Make and mend.
    Tuesday nights are often Ladies’ Craft Nights around here, where a bunch of neighborhood gals get together to sew, quilt, crochet, or work on some other craft project. It’s a way to share in the knowledge of a set of skills that are both fun and frugal. I’ve been nudging for a Guys’ Craft Night to no avail.

Well, those are my suggestions. Agree, revise, append?