It’s nearing the end of the sixth month, kid, and we’re suddenly feeling like we’re way behind on everything. There are showers to consider, interviews with pediatricians, rooms to outfit, college applications to file… Wisely, we decided to take on two of the more daunting tasks this Sunday, setting up a shower registry and looking for some decent maternity wear for your mother:
1. Baby Megastore
You’d think this would be a slam dunk, right? The only baby megastore on this side of town is only a short distance away from our house. We’ve been to this store before to buy shower gifts for other friends and come away unimpressed with both the selection and the staff. Yesterday we were greeted by a surly girl behind the registry desk who handed us off to a second, quieter girl, who struggled with a fleet of barcode scanners for a full ten minutes before giving up and sending us into the store weaponless. It was here we met up with our first major obstacle: bottles.
Perhaps a lifestyle change is in order
As we quickly learned, choosing a particular bottle brand and model is sort of like declaring a religion. There are so many things to consider: Does it contain Bisphenol A? Slow, medium, or fast flow? Silicone nipple or latex? Aerated or traditional? Does it fit with the breast pump model we like? Can it be used as a flotation device? Already overwhelmed, we turned the corner to find even more bottles and a rack of electric accessories—heaters, warmers, and cleaners; glass bottles, for the folks who don’t trust plastic at all, and some weird european-looking stuff that only barely resembled containers. Our sheaf of printouts from the Consumer Reports website didn’t cover any of this. What do we pick? Just then, the girl at the registry desk came up and handed us a barcode scanner she’d got working, which added another ten tons of pressure to make a decision. After a quick conference, we decided to punt on bottles and wade further inward. Set phasers on buy, Mr. Scott.
Car mirror, check. First aid kit, check. Baby washing tub, check. Did you know they have baby washing spas? Seriously, a little plastic clawfoot tub with jets and bubbles and a showerhead. Sorry, Cuke, you’re not getting a nicer bathtub than Mommy and Daddy—we’re one step above a washrag and a bucket. Three aisles in, we hit the stroller section, which I’d come prepared for. I found the one CR ranked their Best Buy and was about to grab a box off the shelf, when your mother turned me around by the shoulders, smacked me upside the head, and showed me a wall of car seat systems, where the seat snaps into and out of a car base, a stroller, a trebuchet, a hoverjet, and a Gundam mobile suit. And just like that, my printouts were worthless.
CONNECT THEM ALL TO FORM VOLTRON!
Further in, we came to diapers, another discussion topic, mainly focusing on the choice between helping save the environment vs. stuffing the landfill with mountains of Lockardugan poop bombs. Punting again, we waded through fields of ugly, overblown, and expensive baby furniture displays with price tags higher than our quarterly tax bill. By the time we made it over to the bedding and linen section, we were exhausted, and we only had ten things in our little phaser. Somewhere around the receiving blankets, we gave up on finding anything we liked, handed our scanner back to the girl, and fled the store.
2. Cheap Trendy Clothing Chain
The company website has a whole section of pretty maternity clothes. Unfortunately, nobody in their right mind would order clothing straight from the website, because the clothes are made so poorly it’s impossible to know if it will fit correctly without trying something on.
The brick-and-mortar store, where normal people have to go to try on the cheap clothes, has no maternity section. The bored employee your mother asked told her They’re? out? on the floor? mixed in with the clearance merchandise? in that annoying upwards cadence most teenagers have these days. She lied too. There was no maternity clothing anywhere in the store. There was a time when walking into this store meant being accosted by seventeen teenagers with those stupid headsets. Today, there were none to be seen anywhere. A badly managed location, or a sign of the economy’s current strength?
3. Wonderful Minnesota-Based Department Store, Local Version
Maternity clothing: Not so much. In fact, it’s sort of a joke. They take the trouble to hang a “maternity” sign from the ceiling, the same size as “shoes” or “toys”, and the section consists of three bombed-out racks with a bagful of merchandise, all size Small or XXXL. And it’s all stuff I wouldn’t give my grandmother.
We have found calm and peace. There is a wall of bottles here, but in some way it is less threatening, less confronting. At the Superstore, the display is monumental; its sheer size and breadth leave the first-time consumer gasping for air (or wishing for a stiff drink). Here there are eight or nine bottle systems, but they are contained, organized, and somehow friendlier. Everything we might need as new parents is here, contained in six or seven neat aisles, and the selection is better. The designs here speak to us immediately, where the $400 tulle/leopardskin/patchwork/shabby chic bedding sets at the Superstore made us run in horror.
Jen looked at this and said, “They call it a backpack, but it’s really there to distract people from the fact that you have your child on a leash.”
The furniture is reasonable, the car seat system selection is strong, and they have prices that don’t make my wallet burst into flames. Sold!
For the last year or so we’ve been working on finding a good school to get Finn into so that she’s got the best possible chances in 9 through 12th grade. We looked at a couple of very pricy private schools, one of which seemed to be a factory for Stepford Aryan lacrosse players. She also tested for the local magnet school, which has a very good reputation in this area. We’d done a tour last fall and came away extremely impressed by all the programs we saw. Their graphic arts program was staffed and set up better than the facilities I taught at over at UMBC. Their Environmental Science programs all looked fascinating, all the technology programs were sharp, and even the cosmetology program was legit. Jen arranged for Finn to take the various tests and we waited nervously for the results. She didn’t wind up being accepted to the other expensive private school we looked at, but we found out this week she was accepted into the magnet for Environmental Science and she’s low on the wait list for the Graphic Arts program. I can’t express what a huge relief that was for our whole family.
Our local high school isn’t terrible—it’s rated #5,920 out of all of the high schools in the country, #104 in Maryland, with a 92% graduation rate. But in contrast, Western Tech is rated #366 in the country, and the #6 school in Maryland according to the US News & World Report ratings. And according to the Baltimore County report card, it has a 98.6% graduation rate. It’s set up to be a lot more rigorous, with a lower teacher-to-student ratio than the others, and the facilities and curriculum all look solid.
I’m so proud of her for working hard to get in. She deserves a program that will challenge her; I hope she digs in and makes the most of it.
I haven’t taken many pictures in the last year—something I’ve been thinking about is looking over the number of files in my Lightroom library to see what the falloff has been—but we had to take a picture of Finn for a church thing yesterday and I thought I’d post it here too.
Wow, look at that. Fifteen years ago this week I started demoing the old exam room in preparation for a renovation; I think it was this same day Jen came in and told me she’d just gotten a positive result on a pregnancy test.
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I’ve been using a cast-off MacBook Pro from work for email since before the pandemic; I have one good machine cobbled together from multiple out-of-service 2013 Retina models—this one has a drive from one machine, a replacement battery from another, and a screen from a third. It’s serviceable for what I’m doing on it, mainly email, photo selection/cataloguing, and other basics. But I’m stuck at OS 10.14 on this machine and I’d really like to upgrade to the latest version for security and modern features. It can’t talk to my iPad, which kind of sucks. It suffers from random 1-5 second freezes. There are some applications I can’t run anymore.
I think it’s time to upgrade my personal system here, given that the last truly new MacBook I bought was back in 2011, funded partially by the sale of my previous laptop. I’m looking at something ligher and slimmer (and cheaper) than a true MacBook Pro, which points at a MacBook Air: They’ve just updated the model to the new M2 chip and it goes head-to-head with the 13″ MBP with only a few minor omissions that I don’t care about at all. I’m waiting for a large expense report check to come in from work, and when that does, I’m going to pull the trigger.
Happy Birthday, monkey.
This is the first weekend in a long time where we’ve been home. Like, in our own house for two days. Jen has been socked in with work for several weeks, and a lot of it has come to a head, so we thought we’d take a break from driving south to Lexington Park and stay around the homestead. I’ve had a lot of things around the house piling up in our absence, so I took the opportunity to knock a couple of them out.
The first thing was replacing two basement windows that were original to the house. I’d ordered replacements back in March and they finally arrived about a month ago; I’ve been waiting for a solid weekend to tackle the project. Pulling the old windows was pretty quick work—they were only held in by two sets of ancient brass hinges and a hook and eye latch. I cleaned up the wooden surrounds, cut and installed baffles, and slotted them into place. With some careful carpentry the inside baffles got nailed into place, and they got caulked tight. Now we can have open windows and enjoy fresh air in the basement! A miracle.
The second project is one Jen has been asking about since last year: painting the garage to match the house. I started out by scraping the west side and got it ready for paint. After cleaning both my guns and consolidating the remaining paint, I filled the compressor and sprayed out the west side and half of the driveway side before running out. I’m going to have to repair some of the plywood on the front side and do a lot more scraping overall, but it looks pretty good so far.
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Finn has been binging a new videogame for the past month, and has been asking me to play with her. It’s a survival/exploration game called Ark, where you land on an island teeming with dinosaurs and have to learn how to gather food, build tools and shelter, and tame those same dinosaurs to help you advance. She’s been playing on her iPad, but I can’t load it on my phone and squint at tiny menus. I saw that it was available for the Xbox so I ordered a used copy on Amazon and installed it on the console. From there it demanded a 100GB update, so we waited days for the console to choke that down (it puts itself to sleep after an hour, so I had to constantly keep it awake) and then two more updates before we could play.
Once that was done, we picked up our controllers and started a new world together. And found, very quickly, that it was almost impossible to navigate in 2-player mode. They split the screen horizontally, so the top half is one character view and the bottom half is another, but they didn’t change the menu system to fit that resolution. So when you go into the menu system (and half the game is spent here) it’s still the size and shape of an iPad and you have to squint at tiny little icons smushed into the narrow space given. It’s like looking at the menu bar of Word 97 through a peephole: impossible unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. I tried for several nights but found it almost unusable.
She then found a new game called Albion and started playing that. Seeing that it was available for the Mac, I downloaded a copy and tried it on my 8-year-old laptop, which slowed to a gelatinous crawl, cooling fans struggling to keep the processor from melting. I thought about it for a day or so and decided I’d pull the trigger and finally buy the iPad Pro I’ve been looking at since they were released. Playing games with Finn was a big part of the decision, but the other reason was that I want to work in Procreate with the Apple Pencil and learn how to illustrate with the system. I bought a new 11″ unit with the Pencil and picked it up at the local Apple Store this past week. The early review is very favorable: playing Albion on it is easy and fun! We spent a couple of hours on Friday getting me set up in the game and understanding how not to die. Now I have to catch up to her character level.
This is the first device I’ve owned with Face ID, and it’s very slick. The Pencil is fast and responsive. I bought Procreate and started fooling around in the program but it’s going to take a lot of time to sort out how I use it and get the most out of it. Getting used to the way the brushes and pressure work is an uphill battle, especially for someone as picky about the tactile feel and orientation of scratchboard tools as I am. I’m going to start out trying to mimic what I know and love, and then see where the app takes me.
And that’s one of a hundred reasons why I worked for that wonderful Minnesota-based department store. I mean, um, not the maternity section per se, or the baby section (though now that the Cuke is on the way I could be burying you in employee-discounted baby clothes). No, the way the stores are run and organized.
Maybe I should go back…the Cuke is going to need spoilin’. And boy or girl, Auntiesnarx is going to teach that kid to *shop.*
Wait…you worked at Target? When was that?
Loved your blog. Spoke to Aunt Pat and mentioned the $150.00 breast pump thing and she knew all about it from her girls. But the great news is that both Dee and Kristin rented theirs from the lactation department of the hospital. Now I’m not sure where or how that department is at your hospital, but I’m sure you’ll find it. Worth a try to discuss with them. Spend that money on something else for baby Cuke. Love xxxs
At our hospital (and the others in the area that actually will rent to you longer than the first week or two that you’re home), the cost of renting is much more than the cost of buying.
I only know this because a few friends were sent home with the hospital grade pumps because the ones they’d purchased were lacking in pressure or something like that. They also had to return them fairly shortly because the hospital only loaned them out to people who were experiencing low flow and needed the extra jolt to the boob.
Buy the maternity clothes from a thrift store; they’ll be gone soon enough and she can stash the few items she won’t loathe for “next time”. Also, I kept my second one in a cardboard box for a couple months. She didn’t mind, but when my boss came over for a visit, the crib and layette soon followed.