October 10, 2007

Dad Recommends...Baby Monitors

We have two baby monitors, both of them audio-only models. The first one we used with our older daughter was the typical Graco baby monitor that almost everyone has. It works fairly well, and we continue to use it. It's analog, on the 49mhz frequency.

Then we needed a second monitor for our twins. To insure that it wouldn't interfere with our daughter's monitor, we got a digital monitor, since digital monitors usually run on a completely different frequency. It's called the Summer Infant Secure Digital Monitor, and it uses 900mhz. This particular monitor is awesome in that the receiver has a docking bay, and it automatically recharges in the docking bay. Then the built-in rechargeable battery is good for 8 to 10 hours of usage. This means that you can carry the receiver around with you, clipped onto your belt, or put it on the kitchen counter, and you're not worrying about power cords or AA batteries running out every couple of hours. Even now, two years later, the built-in battery stills holds a good, long charge, and it's never given us a problem. Plus it always has very clear reception.

One difference between our older daughter and the twins is that we always wore our daughter to sleep in good attachment parenting style. We never really missed the video feature with hr, because we really only needed the monitor to know if she woke up - and if she did, then we would go get her. But with the twins, after about a year, we started putting them in their cribs at the start of the night for them to fall asleep on their own. Most of the time they fall asleep quickly, but on some nights, they might cry for a little while. Then we're always wondering, "are they crying because they're having a hard time falling asleep, or because they got their leg stuck in the crib or  some similar other disaster that requires parental intervention?" Because of this, it really would be handy to have the video feature to be able to know this without having to go in the room.

Summer Infant also makes a handheld video model that similar to our digital model in that it has a built-in rechargeable battery. From the reviews on Amazons, customers seem to have left pretty good feedback, both on the product itself, and on their experiences with the company. Without having had a video baby monitor ourselves, I'd probably look first at the Summer Infant video models first, based on the good quality of the Summer Infant monitor we already have.

Bathroom Remodel: Underground plumbing

Here's a photo of our current state. The cement floor was broken up, and the new wastelines put in place. It turns out that our basement floor is a full 4" thick cement slab, which is quite unusual for Portland. Most homes have a 1" or 2" thick concrete slurry poured on top of the dirt.


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October 8, 2007

Dad Recommends... Unbreakable Mirrors For Kids

I'm in the midst of trying to baby proof a mirror my daughter received for her fourth birthday. Even though she is way more careful than her two year old twin brothers, there's still a reasonable risk of it breaking. And if her brothers get a hold of it, it wouldn't last an hour. My first tactic is to glue felt to the back of the mirror so that if it does break, the glass won't scatter and go everywhere. Then I'm going to try to mount the whole thing to a sturdy wood frame, and then mount that to the wall in her room.

All of this work made me wonder about better solutions: are there unbreakable mirrors for children? A quick search on Amazon found unbreakable travel mirrors, a Soft N Style brand unbreakable handheld mirror, and a Salon Mirrors unbreakable boudoir mirror, all for under $20. And if you want an unbreakable wall-size mirror, then there's the $76 Soft Frame Mirror.

The Ultimate Tiara website

Until my daughter got one, I was never exactly clear on what a tiara was. But now I know that it is among the most special thing a four year old can own. Since I'm now in the process of gluing the tiara for the fourth time, I got to looking for tiaras on the web, and found that there really is an ultimate tiara website. They have over 500 tiaras, and at surprisingly reasonable prices.

I just wish they were available in titanium so they could stand up to a 4 year old and two 2 year olds.

Waiting for the Bathroom

When we bought our new house, it was with the plan of putting a bathroom in the basement. Luckily the place we wanted the bathroom was located immediately over the waste line and directly below the incoming hot and cold water. So plumbing would be kept to a minimum. Two of the walls and the door always existed too. We wanted plain white fixtures (sink, toilet, stall shower), and no tile. So we got bids from three local contractors with a reputation for doing environmentally friendly construction. The lowest of the three bids was $24,000.

That was about double what I was expecting and seemed totally outrageous. My dad, who worked in construction on the East coast, suggested that he could fly an entire team of construction workers out from NY, put them up in a nice hotel, and airfare+hotel+contractors would still cost less than the local contractors. It seemed a bit too complicated and absurd though, so we didn't go that route.

So even though I measure my spare time in minutes per week, I decided to take on the task of adding a bathroom basement myself. Since I have no experience with plumbing at all, I found a good local plumber, and hired him to do the plumbing work. So far he's broken up the concrete floor and installed the waste lines. Next, we get the waste lines inspected and then put down new concrete.

Based on a rough estimate of materials and the bid from the plumber, I expect the entire project will cost about $6,500. From experience with my estimates on previous projects, I know that means it will be closer to $8,000, but that's still only a third of the lowest contractor bid.

I'm glad for construction workers that they're now earning a decent wage for the skilled and physically challenging work that they do, but it's hard for me to understand how anyone can afford to pay the rates they're asking.

October 2, 2007

Wil Wheaton

I had no idea that Wil Wheaton had a blog.

A Very Good Sleater-Kinney News blog

I just found Tiny Suns Infused With Sour: A Sleater-Kinney News blog. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to keep up with news of the ex-band members.

September 18, 2007

Lost Civilization Debunked

Years ago I got sucked into Graham Hancock's books, such as Fingerprints of the Gods. They are fascinating and fun, and I wanted to believe in the mysteries that they propose, such as a long civilization that lived in Antartica. But today I found it fun to read Bad Archaeology's debunking of Graham's lost civilization. (Via RB.)

September 17, 2007

Dad Recommends...The Mixed Diaper Strategy

I'm a big fan of cloth diapers: our children rarely get diaper rashes when they wear cloth diapers, children potty train themselves earlier when they wear cloth diapers, the diapers are free from endocrine disrupting chemicals, and with a good washing machine or diaper service, they are very easy to maintain. They are also a small fraction of the cost of disposable diapers.

That said, I think there are a few key things that can make the adoption of cloth diapers easier.

  1. For the first two or four weeks, use only disposable diapers. You'll have enough going on in your life, that you don't need to also try to figure out how to correctly put on cloth diapers, and wash them. You'll also have to deal with the packaging material that babies come with, a.k.a. meconium. That's super sticky and messy, and not something you want to mess with on your nice new cloth diapers. Just set a firm date at some point two to four weeks after the baby is born, and then transition to cloth diapers.
  2. Use disposable diapers when you go out. We've used cloth diapers when we go out, and the truth is that is it a pain. Sure, you can do it. And if you are a totally gung-ho environmentalist, you probably will do it. (Get several washable, water-proof bags to store dirty diapers while out and about.) But we decided to simplify and use disposables when we go out, and use cloth at home. The babies are home 80% or more of the time anyway, so we still get most of the benefit of cloth diapers while avoiding the worst of the pain.
  3. Invest in a high quality water-saving, front-loading washer. Whether you use cloth diapers or not, the amount of laundry doubles once you have a small baby. It's ironic, given how small their clothes are, but true. An excellent front-loading washer such as the Whirlpool DUET will not only get all of your clothes clean using less water and energy than your current washer, it will also consistently get diapers (even yucky poopy diapers) spotlessly clean. In fact, when we purchased our Whirlpool DUET, we eliminated any prewashing or scrubbing of the diapers, and they are still brilliantly clean, using only environmentally friendly detergent and no bleach. The Whirlpool DUET is just outstanding.

September 14, 2007

Dad Recommends...Cod Liver Oil

For the most part, I think expecting dads should steering clear of trying to influence the diet of expecting moms. But  there is one item I would strongly recommend after reading an article at my pediatrician's office: cod liver oil. As reported in Psychology Today and elsewhere, cod liver oil supplements during pregnancy and while nursing have a strong correlation with increased I.Q. Take cod liver oil through pregnancy and while nursing, and raise your child's I.Q. by 3-4 points, in addition to reducing the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. Carlson's Lemon Flavored Cod Liver Oil tastes pretty darn good too: My partner and I, as well as all three kids love it.

Nutritional Yeast Dressing Recipe

This is a favorite recipe we acquired from Dianne on one of our trips to Cortes Island in Canada.

Nutritional Yeast Dressing by Dianne West


Gallon recipe ½ gallon  1 quart
20 cloves garlic chopped10 cloves
5 cloves
1.5 cup tamari¾ cup3/8 cup
1.5 cup cider vinegar¾ cup3/8 cup
1.5 cup water¾ cup3/8 cup
4 cup nutritional yeast flakes 2 cup1 cup
Oil to desired consistency


  1. Place first 4 ingredients in blender and blend.
  2. Add nutritional yeast flakes.
  3. Add oil to mixture in blender.  There is enough oil when funnel closes in blender.

Our notes: 

This recipe makes 1 gallon but it is easy to quarter the recipe.  This dressing tastes great on salad, rice and veggies and just about anything else you can think of.  The dressing lasts for several months in the refrigerator.

About Will

I've been hosting and cocreating online collaboration systems and communities since 1987. I believe that sustainable business practices offer the most powerful lever to move society to sustainability. I'm particularly interested in the ways that technology can create the systems conditions that foster sustainable business practices. As a father of three, most of my online contributions are made in the wee hours of the night while burping babies. I live in the sustainability mecca of Portland, Oregon.

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