Dads Helping Dads Figure Out Being a Dad

Itzbeen baby timer

For many looking at baby products, the Itzbeen baby timer may seem overpriced or over-hyped.  I expect that there are apps available for your phone that will do essentially the same thing as this device.  Even so, we have found it to be a very useful, if not indispensable, tool.

The Itzbeen functions differently than I had originally thought.  I thought that it was designed to function as a count-down timer for various activities such as feeding, changing, sleeping and a fourth activity, intended to keep the baby on a schedule.  In fact, the timers count up, giving you information as to how long it has been since those tasks were performed.  We don’t keep our kid on a schedule, so the way that it functions is actually better for us.

If you are expecting, you are probably thinking “come on, how hard is it to remember how long ago you changed the kid?”  Well, it feels like you are changing the kid every 15 minutes — and sometimes you are.  But during feeding and changes in the middle of the night, or when you inadvertently take a nap in the middle of the day, having a timer running is useful.

The device has a couple of extra features that are nice.  One is an led nightlight, which can be used to check the baby or to find your way in the dark.  The device does have a second back light to view the buttons and timers in the dark.  It also has a ‘switch’ which doesn’t do anything electronically, but is used as a reminder of which which breast was nursed last.  It also has a key lockout, which allows the back light and night light to function, but prevents the timers from being reset.  There is also a belt clip for portability.

It took us a while to figure out how to set the clock.  Here’s how.  Hold down the back light button and press the * to set the hours and the ZZZ to set the minutes.

The design for this device is well thought out and executed.  It is easy to use and the buttons are well spaced when fumbling in the dark.  The back light is, if anything, too bright in dazzling blue and red.  The night light won’t illuminate a room, but it is excellent for quick tasks.  If you want, or need, a timer to keep track of baby tasks, this is a great choice!

Uppababy Vista Update

After purchasing our Uppababy Vista stroller, I wrote a review indicating our choice and why.

So, Connor is 8 days old, and we have had a chance to try out the stroller: was it worth it?

After 8 days, a trip to Babies R Us and Milo’s training class, we are very pleased with our choice.  The stroller glides effortlessly and turns on a dime.  Maneuvering tight aisles is a breeze and the stroller is easily steered one handed.  The ride is smooth enough that the baby stays sound asleep.

Perhaps the most telling evidence was my sister’s evaluation.  My sister worked through college as a nanny in South Orange County.  When we told her about the stroller we were looking at, she indicated that her employer ‘spent her money on other things.’  She had not handled an Uppababy Vista before and was only peripherally familiar with them.

When she took the stroller for the first time in Babies R Us, her jaw dropped.  She said that it was like no stroller she had ever used, and had used a bunch of them.  She commended our choice, and it will likely be the stroller that she will buy after she gets married and has kids.

If you are considering the Vista, it has our full endorsement!

Changing Tables

A changing table is the only piece of furniture that we have not yet acquired for the nursery.  I have debated back and forth between building a table and purchasing one.  Most of the tables that we have looked at that are commercially available seem poorly constructed and overpriced.

For those of you with kids, what did you do for a changing table?  If you purchased a commercially available one, how did it hold up to daily use?  Did you use it as a dresser once the kid was out of diapers?  If not, why and did it hold up well enough that it could have?

4Moms Mamaroo

We are considering the 4Moms Mamaroo for our swing.  However, we have some concerns.  Some of the reviews that we have read have indicated that there are a couple of safety problems as the kid gets older.  Namely, hands can apparently reach the ‘no fingers’ parts of the device, and older kids can lean forward and reach the controls.

This is a fairly innovative product.  Rather than swinging, it mimics the motion of a swing by moving left to right and up to down, and has several different swing motions as options.

Our inclination towards this swing is pragmatic, as it has a very small footprint, allowing it to fit in small places — a distinct advantage over many of the larger swings.  Do any readers have feedback on the Mamaroo product?

Here is a youtube video by a fellow blogger, illustrating how the swing works.


Diaper bag update

Our original post indicated that we had decided on the Maxpedition Colossus bag… After attending the SHOT show in Vegas and being able to compare bags, we decided to go with the Mongo instead.  It’s a little larger and more of a messenger style.  Caleb, who I attended the show with, thought it was more size-appropriate and thought that the colossus might have been a bit small.  The foliage green is a very nice color, and is kind of a grey-ish sage.

Cloth vs Disposable Diapers

This post is a bit different.  I am looking for some feedback from any readers who have experience with cloth diapering systems!

My wife and I have been considering using a cloth diapering system — probably fuzziBunz.  This is a one-size-fits-all (most) diaper.  For us, this is not a environmental decision, but is mainly a financial decision.  Our thinking is that this could save some money using these.  They recommend about a dozen diapers if you plan to wash daily, putting the initial cost at about $250.  The diapers should last through multiple kids for nearly the entire time that they wear diapers.

However, a good friend has indicated that even the most eco-friendly people he knows have given up on the cloth diapering systems.  Apparently the inserts do a good job of holding moisture and preventing it from leaking, but they also do not contain dessicant (a drying agent) that disposables contain, with the result being that the baby needs to be changed more frequently.  In other words, if a baby pees a half a teaspoon, the disposables whisk away the liquid and dry it nearly immediately, whereas with the disposables the baby can feel the moisture and begins to cry.  My friend indicated that, from what he has observed, using disposables results in as many as twice the number of diaper changes per day.

If anyone has used disposables and cloth diapers, I would appreciate feedback!

Panasonic tm-900

The Panasonic tm-900 video camera arrived today, and thus far I am very impressed.  This is a prosumer model, designed with pro-style features, but geared towards a consumer market.  Generally, cameras in this class are more clumsy with the pro-features than the pro cameras as the assumption is that those features are used occasionally.

This camera is capable of 1080p filming as well as 1080i (1080p is not standard for cameras utilizing the AVCHD format).  It has a Leica Dicomar lens, 3.5″ touchscreen LCD screen, and a viewfinder (which is unusual) that utilizes a small LCD screen allowing menus to be navigated through the viewfinder.  It is also 3D capable with the purchase of an additional lens.

The main reason that we chose this camera is that is makes use of a ‘soft ring.’  This is a very user-friendly way to access those extra pro-features, like manual focus.  Much like the buttons on a cell phone that change functions depending on what is on the screen, the soft ring that encircles the lens does different functions depending on what option is selected.  This can be shutter speed, f-stop, focus or zoom.  It can also be used to navigate menus (for example, when using the viewfinder).  Thus far, this seems to work very well, with one caveat — make sure not to rub your finger on anything else when turning the ring as the friction will translate to sound.

To say that the software which came with the camera is unimpressive, would be generous.  However, after playing with some other software packages, I managed to (relatively) quickly put together a passable short video complete with transitions and a separate audio track.  An additional complaint — the battery life is a bit short at 60-90 minutes.

This camera is loaded with auto-modes for those looking for a great shot without a lot of fuss.  It will automatically change scene modes, detect faces and smiles and adjust lighting to match, turn itself off if left on, pre-record 3 seconds of footage to ensure that you get the shot, stabilize your image, warn if you are moving too quickly, and a variety of other features to make shooting easier.

Some baby-specific features:

  • The camera goes from standby to recording in .6 seconds by simply opening the LCD screen — great for capturing ‘firsts.’
  • It has hybrid image stabilization, utilizing digital and optical stabilization to smooth out the image when laughing or tripping over toys..  Any kind of optical stabilization is unusual in this class.
  • Low-light mode for filming the sleeping baby.
  • Smile detection can be used to snap a photograph when the selected individual (baby) smiles.

Thus far, I would absolutely recommend this camera!

Electrical socket safety faceplates, review and how to make them fit properly!

This last week we went to Babies-R-Us to do some shopping, and they were having a sale on Babies-R-Us branded electrical socket covers.  These are the type that replace the existing faceplates and have a sliding socket cover, with a one-screw install.  We picked up four packages (enough for the baby’s room and the main room where he/she will generally be), and today I installed them.  The link above is for the same type as the Babies-R-Us faceplates, but they will work with decora or standard outlets whereas the ones we bought only work with standard socket outlets.

A few points about the Babies-R-Us covers.

  • These will only work with standard outlets, NOT decora.  Decora outlets are rectangular in shape and do not have a screw in the middle.  The standard decora faceplates have a rectangle cut out of the center and require two screws to install which can be seen at the right.

    Standard outlets are round-ish in shape and the standard faceplates have two round holes, one for each outlet.  The faceplate requires one screw to install, located between the two outlets.
  • The covers are deeper than standard covers and you may have difficulty getting larger plugs (like the kind that plugs into your cell-phone) to stay.  This problem likely applies to all faceplates of this style, not just the Babies-R-Us ones.  Read on to learn how to fix this problem.
  • The center screw that is included to hold the faceplate in place is not painted white like the ones that are likely in your existing faceplate.  Instead they are silver.  They also are longer than normal, so the screws that hold on your current faceplate won’t work.

Making the faceplates fit properly

We have an emergency flashlight/nightlight that we keep plugged into the outlet in the nursery.  If the power goes out, the led flashlight turns on.  If it is dark, a sensor turns on a different, downward facing led light which serves as a nightlight.  The unit that plugs in houses the nightlight and also serves both as a holder and charger for the flashlight.  As an added bonus, the flashlight charges with induction, so there are no contact points to be concerned about with the baby.  After installing the new safety outlet covers, the flashlight holder simply fell out of the socket.  This would likely be a problem with other things plugged into the babies room, such as a baby monitor (a normal plug works fine, the problem only applies to items with heavy plugs).  This is a problem because a very small air gap exists between the faceplate and the outlet.

The solution is very simple.  Before you put in the replacement faceplate, loosen the two screws that hold the socket itself in place.  These screws are the ones that attach the outlet to the box inside the wall, and are above and below the plastic face.  They can be seen in the image of the standard outlet above, and are the silver screw heads that are in the screw holes found in the metal bracket.  Don’t remove these screws, simply back them out about 1/8 of an inch.  When you screw the faceplate to the outlet, the outlet will pull out from the box just a bit and remove the small air gap that exists between the faceplate and the outlet due to the additional depth of the faceplate.  The faceplate still sits flush with the wall.  If the faceplate can be moved once installed, remove it and tighten the two screws that hold the outlet in place slightly (about 1/4 of a turn).  The faceplate should provide friction against the wall to prevent motion.

I hope this helps you to solve what could be a very frustrating problem!  Due to the Babies-R-Us faceplates having silver screws, I would not recommend them.  Otherwise they are fantastic, assuming you have standard outlets.  They do sell painted screws at Home Depot, and I will be checking to see if they have them in the appropriate size.  I will post an item number if I can locate the appropriate part.  Thanks for reading!

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Tatamia Highchair

We just made the trek to downtown LA to take a look at the Tatamia highchair.  Advertised as a infant feeder, highchair and swing with one of the slimmest folds available, we wanted to take a look at the space-saving possibilities.

First off, this thing is unbelievably hard to find.  The nearest boutique shop that had a floor model available for examination was 30 miles away, at La Brea and Highland.  After spending about an hour folding, adjusting, swinging, raising and lowering the seat, I have some thoughts.

The braking system, which uses two buttons on top of the highchair to release the brakes (the brakes are permanently on) was very nicely done.  Some people don’t like this set up as it requires two hands to move the chair, but I am fond of its operation.

The swing is a nearly useless feature.  Yes, the highchair swings, but don’t mistake this for what most of us think of as a baby swing.  You have to push it, which will result in an uneven swinging motion.  It also seemed to have a lot of friction when swinging, which means that it will need to be pushed often.  In my mind, the swing functionality kind of misses the point, which is to entertain the baby while freeing you up to do other things — or if you are lucky, to use the swing to lull the baby to sleep.  I can’t see this swing/highchair doing either of those tasks well.  The buttons to allow the swing to function require you to push and slide… and didn’t work well.  Even after figuring out which buttons to use to convert into swing mode, it still took almost 10 minutes of fighting to successfully move both buttons.

This highchair has a LOT of cracks and crevices that need to be cleaned.  The tray itself is fine, but in the location where the chair attaches to the frame, there are numerous places where food WILL end up.  None of these places would be easily cleaned.

The fabric is fantastic, the build quality appears high, and the front tray uses the standard Peg Perego attachment method, with spring-loaded rotating arms that fit inside of corresponding tubes.  These stuck every time I tried to remove the tray, resulting in a very disconcerting ‘tweak’ to the tray — one side was still in the tube while the other side entirely removed, which is far more flex that I would prefer to see in a design like this one.

The folding method was easy enough for the base — pull up on two tabs and both sides of the elliptical base automatically flip up, leaving a narrow center that the chair sits on.  The release to collapse the seat was easy enough — but required putting the chair into swing mode to re-attach.  -1 for user-friendliness.

The seat recline was easy enough with a lift-up handle with several recline positions, including ones appropriate for infant feeding.

Bottom-line, we passed on this chair.  The overall build quality seemed good, but the fit on most of the plastic buttons used for adjusting various elements of the chair seemed sub-par.  I expect all functions on a $350 highchair to work like a well-oiled machine.  The adjustments on this chair have more in common with a Happy Meal toy than a finely tuned precision instrument.  Save your money, buy a good swing (the mamaroo seems like a good choice with a space-saving design) and a more run-of-the-mill highchair for the same price as Tatamia.


The Infant Car Seat in a Simpler Time

I feel like I grew up in an intermediate age in regards to the evolution of the infant car seat.  I clearly remember my mother placing me on the seat next to her so that she could reach out her right arm whenever she stopped the car in order to prevent me from flying forward and hitting my head on the un-padded car dash.

She used the same routine with my younger brother and sisters, well into the 1960′s.  In those days, seat belts were a rarely-ordered option on new cars – if they were available at all.

If I remember correctly, California mandated a bunch of smog and safety features in 1966 and these became federal requirements in 1968.  Seat belts became a standard feature, but many people resisted their use, preferring the thought of being thrown clear in an accident rather than facing the possibility of being trapped by the seat belt and burned alive inside a wrecked car.  (Sometimes I marvel that we managed to grow to maturity and pass our genetic material on to another generation at all!).

By the early 1980s, “baby carrier” designs had evolved to include provisions for securing  them with the auto’s seat belt.   There was not much thought given to keeping the baby secure inside the baby carrier, but the thought seemed to be that if the baby carrier was secure, the baby could pretty much bounce around inside the baby carrier and it was “good enough”.

But “the infant car seat” was beginning to appear also.  These were somewhat similar to what we see today … except that they were simpler, lighter, and a whole lot less expensive!  The car seat we used with Jeremy was plastic and was held in place with a seat belt.  He was secured in the car seat with a three-point harness made from materials – both belt and buckle – similar to those used in automotive seat belts.

As he grew, he graduated to a larger car seat – I believe made by Graco – that had a chrome tubing frame that elevated him maybe 6 inches above the automobile seat.  It placed him in an upright position and allowed him to see through the windshield.  Again, he was secured with a three-point harness.  By this time, his cooperation was required as he was quite adept at getting out of the car seat on his own when he decided that he wanted out.

If I remember correctly, the first time I had to visit a chiropractor was after I tweaked my back placing Jeremy into this car seat.  Think of it … take child, bend 90 degrees at the waist,  lean into car and extend arms holding child, twist (somehow) to the right to place child into the car seat …. and OUCH! … forget about standing up again.  Yep.  That is one vivid memory!

Eventually, the car seat was replaced by a simple “booster” seat.  This just sat on the rear seat of the car and once Jeremy was in place, the automotive seat belt was stretched across in front of him, securing both the seat and its cargo into the car.

I confess to suffering from sticker shock after shopping with Jeremy and Mel for their “baby transport systems”.  Science, government regulations, and inflation have all added to the cost of providing state-of-the-art safety for this most precious cargo.  In some cases, the lineage of today’s models can easily be traced to those models I remember.  Sometimes, today’s state-of-the-art car seat little resembles those of yesteryear.  They are heavier, better-built, and probably safer – so I guess the cost makes sense.

And while you are counting the cost – check to see if your medical insurance covers chiropractic treatments.  I highly recommend it!

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