Thursday, July 15, 2010

Favorite Baby Products

There are so many baby products out there that it's really hard to know what to spend your money on.  I've wasted a few bucks buying the wrong stuff.  Four and a half months into my job as a mom now, I have a better idea of what I like.


  1. Baby CarrierERGOBaby.  My husband really likes the Moby Wrap, but I like the convenience and comfort of the ERGOBaby.  It's a bit pricey, ranging from $105 to $120, not including the infant insert, but the comfort and good craftsmanship is well worth it. There's also the possibility of buying them used off Craigslist or eBay.
  2. Stroller  (a) BabyTrend Snap N' Go.  The Snap N' Go is a wonderful stroller.  There are many reasons why I like this product, the most important being the ability to, well, snap the carseat into it and go.  This is important because my baby usually naps during a car ride and I can transfer her, carseat and all, into the Snap N' Go without waking her.  For an inexpensive stroller (around $70), it navigates surprisingly smoothly.  AND it folds up  and fits nicely into a small car like my Corolla.  The storage basket and the cup holders are a bonus. (b) Bugaboo Frog.  I was appalled at the price of this stroller (retails for around $700), but I got it for free, and so I was eager to test out why there is so much hype about it.  I was amazed by the sturdiness of its metal frame construction and its minimalist aesthetics.  The wheels navigate really smoothly -- the stroller comes with its own air pump for its inflatable back tires.  The frame can be used with a bassinet or seat.  So far, we've only used the bassinet, which comes with a beautiful quilted sleeping bag lining and canopy.  The bassinet on the stroller is so comfortable that it is very easy to rock my baby to sleep in it inside our home.  I think this stroller is great for folks who live in the city and won't have to worry much about constantly loading the bulky thing in and out of a car (it does not fit into my Corolla).  Also, the shock-absorbing tires provide a smooth ride over bumps and cracks in urban sidewalks.  We live in a fairly walkable neighborhood, and I like to do light grocery shopping on foot with this stroller.   It does not come with a cup holder, but you can order it as an accessory for a hefty price of $25.
  3. Baby WipesBounty Paper Towels + water.  We were skeptical when the nurse at the hospital told us to stay away from baby wipes and instead use Bounty and water because they cause rashes.  I think we were being optimistic because we had already received so many boxes as gifts from our registry.  Besides, we got the kind for sensitive skin.  But the hospital nurse was right.  Our baby developed really bad rashes.  Now, we cut up each sheet of Bounty into 4 squares and wet it with a spray bottle.  We still have a lot of commercial baby wipes, and I use them when I have to travel.  But the rashes are gone.
  4. Disposable DiapersTarget store brand (some sizes are hard to find).  I've come to realize that there is very little reason to use Pampers or Huggies, except for the fact that they're widely available.  In fact, Pampers and  Huggies often leak desiccant crystals that I find disturbing.  The Target store brand diapers do not have this problem, and they are amazingly economical: $6.16-6.49 (50 count in size 1 and 42 count in size 2).  It makes me wonder how much of the Pampers or Huggies' licensed animal characters (e.g., Winnie the Pooh or Cookie Monster) you're paying for when you buy them.  Also, the sizes of the Target diapers run a little larger, so my baby fits into a size 1 in these and a size 2 in Huggies/Pampers.













  5. Cloth DiapersgDiapers.  It occurred to me that my baby used 1,000 disposable diapers in a little over 3 months.  The thought is disturbing, and I began to look into cloth diapers.  I started with the old-fashioned diaper cloths (which are great to have as burp cloths regardless of whether you use them as diapers), but I soon found out that my baby gets a rash from the urine-soaked 100% cotton material.  I invested $50 in the gDiapers system (2 gently used covers from eBay and 1 new + 6 gCloth inserts from Babies R'Us).  It's not cheap, and she can easily go through all 6 inserts in a day.  But the gCloths are well crafted with a layer of microfleece to keep her skin from getting irritated and the rest of it is made with cotton and hemp.  The system  has yet to pay off, but I'm looking into using other substitute inserts to work with it.

  6. Changing Pad Liner – Any brand of doggy training pads in large size.  We cut these wee wee pads in half and place them on top of our changing table mattress to minimize washing the changing table covers (of which we only have two).  They are a lot cheaper than the ones sold specifically for this purpose in the diaper aisle.
I'm sure this list will expand as I have more experience.

    Monday, July 12, 2010

    RIP, Loki the Cat

    Loki passed away suddenly yesterday from what I gather was a stroke and subsequent cardiac arrest.  I just want to take a moment to remember him while it's peaceful in the house.

    I adopted him in April 1997 with his brother Apollo, an orange tabby, when I was living in Tokyo.  He was born to an English mother and a Japanese father.  The mother was owned by an English family who let her roam about the streets of Tokyo unspayed and later returned with her to England right after she had her litter, which they left behind with a friend.

    Loki was all white with light green eyes and a semi-bobbed, crooked tail, which I attribute to his having a Japanese father, since there are many bobbed tailed cats in Japan.   He was the most gentle cat I have ever known.  All thirteen years of his life, I never heard him hiss.  The only times he bit were when he was playful.

    Loki lived up to his name.  He was mischievous and stole food from us often.  No meal we prepared was safe from him if left unguarded for one minute.

    He had a series of illnesses over the past few years, but he's finally pain-free now.

    Apollo is sad today.  He walks around meowing loudly and comes to me often for solace.  We miss Loki.

    Sunday, July 04, 2010

    THE BLIND SIDE by Michael Lewis – Book Review

    The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis


    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    I saw the movie starring Sandra Bullock first and loved her in it, and MONEYBALL has been sitting on my to-read list for a couple of years now. When I found out that the movie was actually based on a Michael Lewis book, I decided to read THE BLIND SIDE. I'm glad I did. The book is far superior to the movie, which is a bit too sentimental in hindsight.

    Michael Lewis is a wonderful writer. At times his prose is so rhythmic that your pulse quickens as you visualize the action he describes on the football field. He writes his characters with respect and compassion. He does not get sappy (unlike the movie), but I still feel emotional enough to choke up at certain passages.  He has an honest voice that is not laced with hypocrisy.

    I should be reading MONEYBALL soon.

    View all my reviews >>

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    My Response to "Rent a White Guy" in The Atlantic Magazine

    Earlier in the day, I posted a link in Facebook to the article "Rent a White Guy" from The Atlantic Magazine, and I just want to clarify a few things.  I didn't post it to show people that the Chinese are evil and dishonest.  The Western press has already done enough of that since the beginning of the Cold War.  I didn't post it to reaffirm stereotypes about China.

    Yes, there are some very dishonest Chinese businesses out there, but, gosh, people, please look beyond the obvious.  Was this dishonesty appalling? Yes.  That's not really shocking news.  The irony here is how white men are treated like gods in China.  You don't even have to have any skills.  Just as long as you're  a white Caucasian male in a suit, they can use you. All the while, Americans think the Chinese are constantly working against America and the West.  Au contraire, they WORSHIP the West.  And if there are people they are working against, it's other Chinese people.

    My point is that even Chinese people in the People's Republic of China do not seem to have pride in things Chinese.  They need to put a foreign stamp on it to elevate its worth.  When I posted this as a link, people seemed to have missed this point. 

    Monday, March 08, 2010

    Why Esther?

    Esther was born one week ago, ten days before her due date, immediately after the two-week celebration of Chinese New Year for the Year of the Tiger and, coincidentally, immediately after the Jewish holiday Purim in honor of her namesake, who saved her people on the brink of genocide.

    You'd be right if you guessed that Ken and I are not Jewish, but we like the Old Testament story.  It may not be obvious at first, but persons of Chinese descent are similar to the Jewish diaspora the world over.  Many of us had been merchants historically, settling far away from our original homeland.  And like the Jews, the Chinese have been distrusted by other peoples they lived amongst.

    Like American Jews, who consider themselves American and Jewish, we are American as well as Chinese, retaining our cultural identities while assimilating as Americans.

    We kept Esther's name a secret until she was born.  My mother-in-law, being a chemist at a major pharmaceutical firm, thought of ester and ether when we told her the name.

    Our daughter's Chinese name is 界悠 (Jieyou), a very unusual Chinese name.  Ken's reason for choosing the characters is twofold: (1) because they mean "flexible between worlds or boundaries," which also embodies our hope that she will be a good mediator and ambassador like Queen Esther; (2) because the characters are atonal homonyms for the name of the princess 解憂 from the Han Dynasty, who was married off to form a political alliance with a western state in what is now Xinjiang Province.  Princess Jieyou, like Queen Esther, was a great diplomat who assimilated herself to the culture of her husband and introduced Chinese customs and foods to them. 

    So, to those who say that Esther is an old lady's name, I roll my eyes at you.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    What's Going on in There: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life

    What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot


    My rating: 5 of 5 stars
    This is probably the most useful child development book I've read. I now have a much better understanding of the physical limits of a child's brain at different stages. Also helpful are the motor milestones to look for in case early intervention is needed.

    View all my reviews >>

    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    The Daunting Responsibilities Ahead

    Lately, I have been reading many books on child development theories and ways to raise and discipline children. With the exception of What’s Going on in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life (a book full of brain development facts by Lise Eliot, Ph.D. in neuroscience), the titles I’ve come across have mostly been different philosophies and recommendations. I have come to accept that much of our future children’s personalities will be shaped by nature rather than nurture, but I still believe that there are specific values important to us that we can try to inculcate. These values, based on accomplishments and mistakes we have made in our past, will merely serve as guidelines to help our children achieve happiness. Here’s the start of a brainstorm list.
    1. Appreciate history and culture. I believe understanding the history of both the United States and China will help you possess a stronger sense of who you are, as you are both American and Chinese and should be proud to be both.

    2. Having a successful life does not mean having a big, regular paycheck, BUT you should be able to make enough money to sustain your costs of living.

    3. Understand personal finance.
      • Do not ever get comfortable with the idea of debt, not even for a tax-deductible mortgage.
      • Save money. It’s not how much money you make, but how much you end up saving and investing that will determine your net worth.
      • Spend money wisely. Things and gadgets may be cool, but experiences are usually more meaningful. Things can end up owning you.
      • Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. Wanting things that other people have can get you into a lot of trouble.

    4. Be a responsible citizen. Understand what’s going on around you and try to contribute to your community.

    5. Have a wide range of interests. People often like to put you into a category, and if you believe what people say, you may start living a stereotype. You can be a nerd and a jock at the same time. You should be able to enjoy a Red Sox game and the Museum of Fine Arts on the same day. You will never be bored or boring if you have a wide range of interests.

    6. Value family and friends. Family members and friends may not always agree with you or tell you what you want to hear, and they may get on your nerves sometimes. But relationships always take work, and you need to remember good times and bad. Writing off people is not a good way to deal with a relationship, unless the person you are dealing with is clearly not trying and you have done your best at making it work.

    7. Think independently and critically. Don’t always believe what they tell you in the news. Think about why something is happening. Don’t be manipulated into thinking a certain way by the media.