Sebastian’s first swim class


We took Sebastian to his first swim class. He was almost 8 months old at the time. It was a Parent and Me swim class.

The pool was super warm: over 80 degrees. Since babies can’t generate much body heat, all the kiddie pools are super warm.

The class was mostly splashing, encouraging them to kick, putting them on their back and stomach, and submerging their mouths.

Maybe subsequent classes will submerge them fully. Sebastian seemed to enjoy it.

Sebastian’s First Road Trip

Road poo

We took Sebastian to visit my parents in Northern California this Independence Day. We live in LA, so we seriously considered flying. After thinking about it though, we realized we would have to either check his carseat, buy an extra plane ticket for his carseat, or buy and install a carseat on the other end.

And then to get to the airport, we would either have to get someone else to drive our car, or park at the airport – and LAX’s parking sucks. So we decided to drive. It’s a 5.5 hour drive on a straight shot, but it realistically took us 7 hours with stops and lunch.

On the way up, he slept a bit, then got quite fussy for an hour or two. He finally fell asleep again on the last stretch.

During the weekend at my parents place, Mary kept hoping Sebastian would poop. She was worried he was hoarding it for the road. And she wanted to see him make a mess at her in-laws place anyways.

It was not to be. He didn’t poop until an hour into the trip home. After that, that was a weight off his shoulders, and the baby slept for 80% of the rest of the trip home.

Excellent road trip, would drive again.

The baby is escaping now


We’ve long preferred to just allow Sebastian to sleep in our bed – both at nighttime and for naps.

Now this has gotten a lot harder. He is able to crawl off the bed and escape into the floor.

We still let him sleep on the bed, we just have to be extra vigilant and fetch him when he wakes up.

Sebastian Goes to the Zoo


A few weeks ago we got an LA Zoo pass and took Sebastian to the zoo. Did he get anything out of it? Probably not.

He did seem to have a good time overall though, even if he did not understand anything. He was asleep for large parts of it. Sebastian wasn’t actually into the animals very much. He was more into the plants.

I think Mary and I had a better time than Sebastian, though I was very tired afterwards. It got us out of the house!

Our Smoking Neighbor


One evening while Sebastian was sleeping in the bedroom, Mary went in and smelled smoke. She freaked out. She was so mad. She told me we had to move immediately. This is because she had read this pamphlet (from the CDC) about secondhand smoke that stated:

No amount of secondhand smoke is safe. Even when you can’t smell it, cigarette smoke can still harm your child.

Opening a window or using a fan does not protect children.

I had recently installed a window fan to intake fresh air from the outside, so unfortunately, it also started intaking the cigarette smoke from our smoking neighbor (who smokes once a week or so). She was hopping mad and demanded we move immediately. So I reversed the fan flow (to exhaust) and emailed our pediatrician.

The pediatrician basically said: so long as you are closing windows, using fans to blow in fresh air, and staying away from neighbors who smoke, it’s fine.

This was a much more moderate stance than the CDC pamphlet, which is pretty hardline. Since Mary trusts our pediatrician, I think I have successfully deferred moving from our awesome rent-controlled apartment for another half year. Whew.

My takeaways:

  1. Most window fans can either intake our exhaust. Use exhaust for where the baby is sleeping to not bring in outside smoke.
  2. If the smoking source is occasional (once a week in our case), remote (not in our apartment, somewhere in our complex), and we can shut the window / blow air out, it’s fine.

Sleep Training basically worked


Last time I posted about sleep training, I said we basically gave it up. Actually, after a few days, we modified it just a bit with great success.

The modification is this: Follow the sleep training, but if the baby sounds scared or distressed, go in and soothe immediately.

Sebastian has two types of cries:

  1. Fussing, frustrated “Why can’t I sleep” cry.
  2. Scared, distressed, in-pain cry.

If it’s the first type, we follow the sleep training, and allow him to try, checking on him in intervals. If it’s the second type, we go in to soothe him immediately. This is pretty successful, and he falls asleep pretty well (usually within 10 minutes).

I will say – Mary often doesn’t use sleep training, and opts to lay next to him and boob him to sleep. Since I don’t have that tool, I resort to sleep training, and it works for me.

Our Cry-it-Out sleep training lasted one day


A few weeks ago, our pediatrician suggested sleep training. Mary immediately got two books (The Sleepeasy Solution and The No-Cry Sleep Solution) and devoured them. And after two weeks of nagging, I finally also read The Sleepeasy Solution.

So on Sunday we began sleep training using the method detailed in The Sleepeasy Solution. This book is basically the same method as the Ferber Method, part of a family of sleep training methods called Cry-it-Out, a.k.a. the extinction method. The gist of it:

  1. Put your baby onto bed awake, say good night, and leave the room. Ignore any crying or fussing.
  2. After 5 minutes, go back in and check on him. Don’t touch him, but reassure him verbally.
  3. After 10 minutes, go back in and check on him again.
  4. After 15 minutes, go back in and check on him again.
  5. Repeat Step 4 until he is asleep. This may take hours.

The theory goes: falling asleep is a learned skill, and the baby needs to learn how to do it on his own – without parental assistance.

We tried it on Sunday for Nap 1, Nap 2, and Bedtime. Here’s how they went:

  1. Nap 1: Baby lays there not complaining for the first 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, I check on him. Soon thereafter, he starts crying. Then after 3 more minutes, he falls asleep. Total time until sleep: 8 minutes.
  2. Nap 2: Baby lays there and starts complaining after a few minutes. After 5 minutes, I check on him. He starts crying, and then continues crying for 7 more minutes. Total time until sleep: 12 minutes.
  3. Bedtime: Baby starts crying immediately. After 5 minutes, I check on him. He keeps crying. After 10 more minutes,  I check on him again. He keeps crying. At this point Mary capitulates and goes in to soothe him.

So there you go. We lasted all of a single day before Mary declared defeat. The main sticking point for her: there is a difference between the baby’s fussing cry and scared cry, and the baby was starting to give the scared cry.

The good news is that the next day (today), the baby fell asleep during his naps without any intervention or regimen. Maybe my training did do some good.

Frustrating the baby

Just out of reach

Sebastian can’t really move, so his toys are often out of his reach. I used to watch him, and when this happened, I’d grab the toy and give it to him immediately.

But recently, since watching Mary interact with him, I’ve stopped doing this. Mary will encourage Sebastian to struggle to get the toy for himself. Sebastian stretches out with every muscle in his tiny body. He will kick the mat in an ineffectual manner but move a centimeter at a time. And when he finally does get the toy, it looks like he’s very satisfied with himself.

And then he will forget the toy.

(Just to be clear: there’s a limit to the baby’s frustration (dependent on age), and at some point, like if he starts wailing, Mary and I still just give him the toy.)

Mary calls this process: teaching the baby to manage frustration. And also: how rewarding it is to work for something and eventually get it.

I’m all about character education, and I think that all actual achievement follows from character. I am very impressed with my wife for finding opportunities for character education within the mundane and everyday.

Given her expertise, I am sure she will raise a baby better adjusted than me. Either that or he will be really neurotic.


Babyproof Your Telephone Jacks


When I started baby-proofing, I immediately zeroed in on the power outlets. But I ignored the telephone jacks. I haven’t had a landline in years, and thinking of them as just data jacks, I thought they were harmless.

Wrong, as my electrical engineer father-in-law pointed out. Those plain old telephone jacks carry 50 volts DC. They aren’t digital, but analog. They used to power phones even if the power was out.

And my apartment had a telephone jack right above the baby’s sleep area.

My dear wife kept complaining, repeatedly, over a span of about two weeks, that Sebastian was looking at the telephone jack right above his head, and was starting to reach for it.

I ignored her. I told her it was a harmless data jack.

I finally looked it up on Wikipedia to silence my wife – to prove to her that they were actually harmless. And that’s when I discovered they weren’t.

The Solution

The solution is simple. You don’t use the landline anymore. Replace the telephone jack wall plate with a blank one. I bought a metal one from Home Depot for $1 that will probably survive a nuclear blast, and is definitely tamper-proof.

It takes 5 minutes and can be done with a flathead screwdriver.

  1. Unscrew the telephone jack wall plate.
  2. Disconnect the wires from the wall plate. Tape them off and separate them so they don’t short. Stuff them into the hole.
  3. Install the blank wall plate in its place.
  4. Don’t tell your landlord. Fix it before you move out.

My ambitions for Sebastian


I have many unfulfilled goals – just like everyone else. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had a rewarding life and I’ve gotten to do many things I would have never imagined. But there are also many things I’ve imagined that I’ve never done and probably never will. I still dream though. I have an active imagination.

But one big thing has changed recently. Before, when I’d imagine some awesome achievement and reward, I’d always picture myself. But now, sometimes I think of Sebastian instead.

That makes sense right? We’re finite. We’ll die someday. Some doors are already closed to us (just a few!) due to the choices we’ve already made.

But Sebastian – yes Sebastian – all doors are open to you. You’re born into the wealthiest and most dynamic country on Earth with a silver spoon in your mouth. You can do anything. I know you can’t even crawl yet, and you shit yourself multiple times a day, but you can do anything. I know it. Eventually.

We tend to see our children as extensions of ourselves. If we’re not careful, our unfulfilled ambitions can be a burden on them. We want to live vicariously through them, to play back history, but at a key moment, make them succeed where we stumbled. Even though that game is over. Even though people don’t even play that game anymore. Even though that moment’s long forgotten by everyone but ourselves.

And as a result, these burdened kids grow up with expectations, a plan, a formula. Some get depressed they can never live up to their parents wishes. Others rebel in various unproductive ways. And most finally grow out of their shackles and get to be their own person. But it is still a burden. Our dreams have become a burden.

How can I dream for Sebastian in a helpful way – without burdening him? I have no idea, but here are some possible things I can do:

His interests, not mine. The world will be vastly different in 20 years, and he’ll “get it” in some ways much better than me. I’ll need to respect that. He needs to choose his own fields to endeavor in. You can’t predict what will be important.

Introduce possibilities. To help him discover what he likes, I could show him a variety of places and things: zoos, aquariums, nature, labs, buildings, museums, books, the Internet, and historical bulls**t.

Provide resources, not orders. Within reason, provide him with all the resources I can afford for him to pursue his interests (assuming a reasonable rate of return). Don’t tell him what those interests are.

His fire, not mine. Obviously I do not want him to be on the couch smoking weed all day. Hopefully, if he can pursue his own interests, he won’t. But there’s no way I can order him to do things (beyond you-must-try-it-for-at-least-a-month I guess).

No outdated prejudices. You know how your moderately racist or homophobic parents or grandparents are kind of embarrassing and wrong? That’s going to be me about robosexuals and transracial people in 20 years. I can’t burden Sebastian with outdated thinking.

Any other suggestions?