Category Archives: Parenting

Parenting research and personal anecdotes.

Baby Costs

I spent the entire day Sunday working on year-end household finances. It probably shouldn’t have taken that long but I’m a bit on the obsessive side. As part of that, I created a report to see our top 10 expenses of 2014. Calvin’s school was our #1 most expensive item. Our mortgage was our second most expensive item1.

There’s definitely some truth in the idea that kids cost as much as you’re willing to spend on them. Or, more precisely, every child is going to cost a base amount and then, depending on the family’s situation, you decide how much more you’re willing to spend on them.

When Jaeger and I decided to have another kid one of the first things we did was a very basic look at whether or not we could afford another child. The quick answer is, “yes, of course.” However, our question wasn’t really about whether we could afford the base cost of a kid but whether we could afford the kid with the lifestyle we’d want to provide the child. However, we re-shifted some priorities and decided we could probably make it work.

With Calvin, we actually didn’t buy a lot of superfluous stuff. For first time parents I think that’s a pretty good start. However, almost everything we weren’t given we bought new. Because I had gotten rid of most of Calvin’s baby stuff we started from scratch with baby 2.1. However, this time I decided to exploit the power of Craigslist. With the exception of the car seat I was ok with most of the expensive stuff being used. So, I figured out exactly what item/brand I was looking for and setup an RSS feed to look for them. It worked really well. Baby items really do have a relatively fast turnover. I was able to get the following things on Craigslist, all half or more off the new price:

  • BOB Revolution Stroller, infant car seat adapter, BOB Travel Suitcase, and BOB Weather Shield2
  • A good baby swing that can swing back and forth and side to side3
  • A boppy and a brestfriend breastfeeding pillow
  • A frame stroller for the infant car seat

What I could not get:

  • Mini-crib — If I had waited long enough, one might have come up but they aren’t as popular in our area as full-sized cribs. That said, I wanted a mini-crib this time so it’d take up less space and Calvin was crawling out of his crib before he needed the full-size crib he was in. Happily, my mom bought 2.1 a mini-crib as a Christmas present.
  • Addition BOB Accessories — Most people seem to sell their BOB accesories with their BOB. Possibly I should have held out for an all inclusive bargain but I still did relatively well. The two things I wasn’t able to get for a reasonable price on Craigslist are the handlebar console and the sun shield. I’ve added those to our registry.

The church is going to have a baby shower for me so I’ve added a fair amount of stuff to the baby registry. I’ll evaluate what else we need to get after that. I suspect we’ll get a fair amount of clothes. Other than that, the only important things I’ll really, really need are bottles, diapers, a baby monitor, and possibly formula4.

Though, of course, baby stuff isn’t the most expensive part of having a baby. It’s the daycare costs. I’m hoping to continue working 32 hrs/week after 2.1 is born. I’m not sure if this is practical but I felt so much more me when I went up from 20 hrs/week to 32 hrs/week. In any case, most daycares require you to pay for full-time care whether or not that’s what you need. If you’re very lucky you might find a daycare that will let you enroll your child for just 3 full days a week but I prefer working smaller chunks all 5 days.

Jaeger and I have visited one daycare, I visit another one tomorrow, and then have one more at the end of the month to look at. In addition we’re considering an au pair. The cheapest of these options would cost around $1300/month and the most expensive option would cost around $1700/month.

The au pair is a very new idea for us. Given we’re hoping to go live in Asia for a couple of years after 2.1 turns one, it might make sense for us to have a little cultural experience ahead of time. From one perspective, an au pair could provide more flexible childcare options. However, there’s a lot more unknowns with an au pair in terms of costs and expectations. I’m still researching this option.

Looking at Calvin’s one-year costs, I think we’re in a reasonable position. I’m really hoping I can successfully breastfeed this time and cut out most of the formula costs as well as the breastpump costs5. The diaper costs are still going to exist. In the long run, cloth diapers, even expensive ones, are less expensive than disposable. However, I have committed to doing things the easy way this time. If we have an au pair, I’ll probably go with cloth diapers. Otherwise, I’m still debating with myself. The infant car seat I bought can take a significantly larger baby than Calvin’s did so hopefully I won’t have to buy a convertible car seat as soon. We already have the strollers, crib, co-sleeper, and Boba baby carrier6. I’m going to skip the crackpot therapy this time.

I finalized our budget for 2015 and managed to find money for everything that’s necessary. Now I’m hoping we don’t have any huge unexpected costs to deal with.

  1. Terrifyingly, groceries was our 4th most expensive category. I’ve always had trouble keeping the grocery bill under control.
  2. The weather shield was a particularly good deal, $5 for what looks like a brand new shield, they run $50 or so new.
  3. Calvin was never into a swing but you don’t know until you try it.
  4. Though I won’t know about the formula till after the baby is born and we see how the breastfeeding goes this time.
  5. Insurance will pay for a very good personal breast pump but not a hospital-grade rental. However, if breastfeeding doesn’t work for me this time, I’m not going to pump much past one month. If it does work for me, presumably the personal breast pump will work well enough once my milk supply has been established.
  6. The Beco was lovely but when Calvin was three I bought a Boba carrier, which has a higher weight limit, for Hong Kong which should work fine for an infant too.

Vacation-Related Ramblings

The peak of my ILS migration has passed. On November 11 we successfully finished migrating from our old ILS to our new one. I ended up working 50 hrs that week which isn’t a lot for some people but it is for me. The project isn’t finished yet, there’s still a lot of mopping up to do. However, I’m back to working straight 32 hr weeks. Overall, I’d give the migration a B+. Things went wrong but the two relatively major things that went wrong were things that we couldn’t have tested easily ahead of time.

Now comes the part of customizing the new system as fast as I can to replace all the customization I already did for the old system. I always find it a bit amusing when staff lament a feature that our old system had when the old system really didn’t have the feature, I just messily hacked another application in to compensate. I’ve been reminding staff I had ten years to customize the old system and the new system will get there too, it’ll just take some time.


Sunday

Last Sunday, Jaeger and Calvin flew out to California and left me by myself. The Logans have a family reunion every-other-year in northern California (at least, I think it’s considered northern California, my California geography is bit incomplete). Normally, I would go but the location is up in the mountains, off main roads, and I was nervous about the possibly of getting snowed in and then having a pregnancy-related emergency of some sort. So, I decided not to travel this year for the holidays. This was also a great opportunity for me to be by myself. Calvin was out of school for the whole weak so Jaeger got ambitious and decided to go early and swing by Legoland prior to heading up north for the reunion. From all accounts (and pictures) Calvin had a blast.

I dropped Jaeger and Calvin off at the airport on Sunday and then went back home and contemplated the family room. Overall, we do a fairly good job of keeping Calvin’s stuff limited to the family room or his room. However, it still can get a bit overwhelming. So, I spent most of the rest of the day Sunday watching TV while re-organizing the family room. I took apart the many, many lego structures that had accumulated over the past months and deposited their components into the appropriately colored bins12. I don’t insist that Calvin take apart his (or Jaeger’s) structures immediately so they tend to hang around on the entertainment cabinet for weeks. This makes it hard to clean around. So, after evaluating the situation, I removed my china from 2 of the 3 shelves in the china cabinet and have them reserved for new Lego structures. After that, I moved Calvin’s desk from the corner where it usually resides to instead jut out by the entertainment cabinet. This left the corner available for the tree that I planned to put up later in the week. It doesn’t sound like much but I got through 4 TV episodes before it was all done.


Monday

I didn’t take Monday off from work. However, without Calvin to get ready I could sleep in and still start working early. I quit at my scheduled time of 2:30 and contemplated what I wanted to do for the rest of the day. Even though I was working, it was already like I was on a mini-vacation. I decided to do a bit of research on pregnancy-related exercise options in the area.

Up till I was pregnant, I exercised almost every day3. However, when I was only a few weeks pregnant, I started feeling a lot of cramping when I walked. Being perhaps overly paranoid, I stopped exercising almost entirely. Once the morning sickness set in, I wouldn’t have been exercising anyway. I think I basically just laid down on the couch for about 2 months hunched up in a ball of misery4. The morning sickness was way worse this time than it was last time.

Second trimester arrived and, like magic, most of the morning sickness disappeared and I started feeling pretty good again5. However, anytime I walked more than 5-10 minutes my uterus would tighten up and stay tight until I sat down. Given our fun with Calvin, I’ve been taking the paranoid approach and continued not exercising. However, not exercising has its own health risks. Walking isn’t very comfortable but I decided I should try to find something I could do.

When I was in preterm labor with Calvin I was flown down to PSL. A lot of that experience was very stressful. However, the one thing I really enjoyed was PSL’s therapy pool. Twice a day many of the pregnant patients were allowed to go down to the therapy pool to just sit in the water or paddle around. It felt really good having a temporary release from all the extra weight I was carrying around. Given my past positive experience with a therapy pool, I decided to see if something similar existed around Boulder. Boulder hospital does have a therapy pool and they use to have prenatal water aerobics but that class no longer exists. I contemplated checking out their regular water aerobics class but it’s smack in the middle of my working day, starting at 11:30am. If I was a normal worker, I could just take a long lunch break but to get my 6 1/2 hrs in every day, I eat while I work. Going to a mid-day class would mean I’d have to make up the work time either early in the morning or after Calvin is already out of school. I kept looking around for other alternatives. After some browsing I noticed that the Boulder rec center closest to us offered prenatal water aerobics Monday nights at 7pm. Since my evening was completely free, I decided to give it a try.

A bit before 7 I wandered down to the North Boulder Rec center and figured out what it took to gain entrance to the class (it’s just a drop-in class but that was only the 2nd time I’ve been to that rec center). After finding the locker rooms and changing I headed out to the lap pool. A random staff member greeted me and noted that she was subbing for the regular teacher. I wasn’t sure what to expect. At PSL, we didn’t do any exercising, we mainly just floated, and I’d never been in a water aerobics class before. We got in the pool which was quite cool. The instructor had us grab kickboards and do several laps the length of the pool. By the second lap I was warm enough the pool’s coolness no longer bothered me. After the kickboard laps, she had us change to using pool noodles. They were curved and we straddled them so one end of the pool noodle was in front of us and the other was behind and we were in kind of a seated position. Then, using our arms, we did a couple more laps. We spent most of the time in the deeper part of the pool with the pool noodles and doing various exercises. It drove home to me how very out of shape I am. However, even though the exercising got my heart rate up, I didn’t contract at all which seemed like a good sign. Towards the end of the class we transitioned into the leisure pool (which is much warmer) and finished with stretching. The next day my arms ached really bad but presumably that will lesson as they start getting back in shape. Overall, I was quite pleased with the class and am going to try it again.


Tuesday
Tuesday, I again worked but took a break for a prenatal appointment with my OB. I was suppose to have this appointment on Thursday but the OB had to cancel, after I was already there, due to an emergency c-section. I know they didn’t have any warning to call me because the assisting doctor was leaving as I was walking in (I hoped she was going to assist another OB but no such luck). Anyway, I showed up on Tuesday and this time there wasn’t any emergency to delay my appointment. The nurse took all the normal readings and everything seemed good (my weight is probably a bit much but she didn’t comment). She told me to schedule another gestational diabetes test with the lab between 24-28 weeks 6. The doctor arrived and noted that she’d had yet another successful VBAC the previous day. She knows one reason I switched from Longmont to Boulder is because I wanted the option of a VBAC so every visit she makes a point of telling me about the successes they’ve had recently. I’m not going to be heartbroken if I end up with a c-section, I mainly didn’t want to commit to one at the beginning of my pregnancy, but I do appreciate the doctor remembering VBACs are something I’m possibly interested in. The doctor listened for 2.1’s heartbeat which was nice and clear. Then she sat down and asked if I had any questions. I talked to her about my concerns of preterm labor (I think I mention this every visit) and she said unless I start feeling a lot of pain or pressure I shouldn’t worry too much. Then I asked her about exercise options. She was quite enthusiastic about water aerobics. She was also of the opinion that I didn’t need to worry about the tightening while walking as it was probably just braxton hicks contractions. I’m not quite as sanguine but I have started taking short walks around the neighborhood because I do think it’s healthy to get outside more than I have been. Lastly I asked about prenatal yoga which she also endorsed as a good thing to try. I do appreciate how the OB sat down and answered all my questions thoroughly then went on to ask about holiday plans and stuff. Most prenatal visits tend to be fairly short but I feel good that the doctor didn’t feel rushed and sat down to talk. Small things but it makes a difference in my emotional comfort 🙂

On Monday, while researching prenatal exercising, I ran across Yo Mama’s website which is a yoga studio (and more) that specializes in pregnancy and early motherhood classes. I was already aware of it because I had gotten several prenatal massages from Faith Davis who works there7. I looked at their schedule and they had a 6pm prenatal yoga class on Tuesday. Given Calvin was away, I figured this was a great time to experiment and see if it worked out for me.

After work I decided I’d go thrift store shopping, eat an early lunch, and then go to the yoga class. Unfortunately, Savers, which was my preferred thrift store, closed unexpectedly in Boulder. However, I heard there was a fairly new Goodwill which I figured was worth checking out. Well . . . I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t nearly as nice as Savers was. It wasn’t a bad thrift store, just not great. I wandered around for a while then decided to go to the Greenwood Wildlife Thrift Shop. It’s a smaller thrift store, I rarely find any clothes I want, but last year I found several nice Christmas decorations there. I wandered around and found a couple small things I wanted. Just as I was getting ready to leave, I noticed a small sign noting they had maternity clothes. I asked the volunteer about it and she said they did, but didn’t have room for them in the main store area. So, she went out to the back and brought out three fairly large bins full of maternity clothes. They were really nice quality, mostly brand name clothes, and were going for $3.50 a piece. I sat down on the floor, sifted through the bins, and came up with a stack to try on. As expected, quite a few of the clothes didn’t work but I still ended up with quite a few items that fit with room to grow. I walked out of the store with a stack of clothes and a couple of ornaments for $19.

By that point is was about 4:30, a little too early for supper but not a lot of time for thrift store browsing. So, I decided to go to a kids consignment store and see if they happened to have any Legos for sale at a decent price. No luck with the Legos. However, I had completely forgotten that they also carried maternity clothes. There wasn’t a lot that spoke to me but I found a maternity swim suit. The swim suit I had worn the day before barely stretched to fit me and I knew it wasn’t going to last my pregnancy. However, I hated the idea of paying real money for something that was only going to be good for a couple of months. The maternity swimsuit was not particularly flattering but it was only $6.50 and I figured there probably wasn’t much point in holding out for something really nice looking just for water aerobics.

I went and ate supper at Native Foods, which is my favorite fast casual restaurant in Boulder, and then headed off to try out the yoga class.

In general, I’ve always avoided paying money for exercise classes. Up to this point, I’ve gotten along fine with walking, a treadmill (recent addition), and exercise DVDs. I’ve also never really gotten into Yoga. A lot of it is a bit too . . . mystical for me (in fairness, it doesn’t take a lot to get too mystical for me). I’ve tried a couple Yoga DVDs and with the exception of one I’ve always lost patience with them. So, I was a bit nervous trying out a prenatal yoga class, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.

Other than the instructor, I was the first person to arrive. It turns out she was a sub but she took in my deer-in-headlights expression and figured out this was my first time in the class. Then I got to explain that I had never actually been to a Yoga class either. She appeared delighted to have a complete newbie show up and showed me where everything was and what I needed to grab for the class.

The room itself was dimly lit, I assume this was to provide a calming atmosphere and it did work. There were only four other people besides myself and the instructor. I’m not sure if this is normal turnout, if it was light due to the holiday, or if evening classes are just less popular than mid-day classes. It started out with some stretching warmup. During the warmup we were all invited to talk about how our pregnancy was going that week, any issues we were running into (emotional, physical, anything), and also something positive that had happened that week. In many ways, it seemed like a mini group therapy session. The class was long, an hour and a half, but everything was slow and relaxed. If I had been doing this as a DVD at home I would have been bored out of my mind but somehow it wasn’t as boring doing it as a group. My arms, and my right leg, had been aching all day, probably due to the unaccustomed water exercising. By the end of the yoga class the aching had mostly disappeared and I felt very relaxed. So, this experiment was also a success.


Wednesday

Wednesday I worked and then organized some more. On Monday I had started organizing Calvin’s room but hadn’t finished. I finished up on Wednesday. I’ve now packed away all his 3T clothes, discretely recycled much of his artwork (something that’s hard to do when he’s around), and put all his Lego instructions into a binder. Calvin loves looking through the Lego instruction booklets but it’s hard to keep them from sprawling everywhere. I’m not sure if the binders will work but it seems worth a shot. Based on the instruction booklets I also took the opportunity to make a master list of what Lego sets he currently has so we don’t accidentally buy him duplicates.

I finished out the day by watching a movie and going to bed.


Thursday
Thursday I woke up and made myself biscuits and scrambled tofu for breakfast. Then I prepared my Thanksgiving meal for later which was stuffed squash. I always love taking a squash or pumpkin, stuffing it with something, and then baking the whole thing in the oven. It always looks so festive to me. Afterwards, since I was now officially on vacation, I took a nap.

After the nap, I decided to start making Christmas candy. I got the coconut and peanut butter filling mixed together, put them in the fridge to chill, and then switched to pulling out Christmas ornaments. Technically, neither candy making nor Christmas decorating should be done till the day after Thanksgiving but I decided I could fudge it given I was alone. I got the tree up and decorated and then went back to roll the candy filling into balls and dipping them. That took most of the day.

I ate my stuffed squash, watched another movie, and went to bed.


Friday
Friday I continued with the Christmas decorating. In addition, I met with a lactation consultant. I believe my breastfeeding experience with Calvin could properly be described as a fiasco. Breastfeeding didn’t work and I didn’t give up pumping nearly as quickly as I should have. I’m stubborn and had trouble admitting this wasn’t something I could deal with. This time, I’m going try to be more realistic. However, I do want to try breastfeeding. I don’t believe formula is evil8 but breastmilk is ideal and is usually cheaper9. Anyway, this time around I realize that breastfeeding isn’t necessarily easy so I want to be more prepared ahead of time.

My therapist recommended a lactation consultant who she feels is very good. I decided to email her, explain that I had trouble last time, and ask when she thought would be a good time to do an initial consultation. A little bit to my surprise she suggested Friday on the basis that we could get all the history out of the way and so be more prepared regardless of when 2.1 decided to show up.

My experience with Calvin took a fair amount of time to explain so it probably was just as well we did this early. I keep forgetting how complicated everything was with him until I start trying to tell it to someone else. I was fascinated by the lactation consultants extremely negative reaction when she heard I had been on Reglan to increase milk production. She mentioned something about being amazed any doctor would prescribe that to a postpartum woman even five years ago. Yet, at the time, several lactation consultants and my OB seemed to think it was quite reasonable to try so I have to wonder if additional research has come out about it in the last five years. I’m not entirely sure what this lactation consultants reaction was due to but I suspect it’s probably related to Reglan’s known depression side effect (both therapists I have talked to since felt it is very bad for postpartum women to use Reglan because of an increased risk of postpartum depression, which I did get but I tend to blame on lack of sleep).

The lactation consultant took pages of notes while I talked and then asked me what my goals this time around are. I appreciated how tactful she was at asking what I was willing to try this time. I explained that while I didn’t mind pumping briefly at the beginning and while I work, I felt I made a bad trade off pumping so much while Calvin was present. I still remember being hooked up to the pump, with Calvin in a bassinet, while I tried reading to him to provide some sort of interaction. I don’t think that was good for me or Calvin.

After all the questions, she discussed and wrote down a plan with me. She even labeled it a plan. I like plans. Her initial thoughts are, given we can’t know for sure at this point, that probably most of the problem had something to do with Calvin’s inability to suck properly and if he had sucked properly, I probably wouldn’t have had low milk supply. Pumps aren’t as efficient at extracting milk as babies (or even husbands 😉 ). She had a long list of suggestions, mainly on how to start things off with the best chance of success. She said to give her a call or email when I first go into labor so we could setup an in-home first visit with her. In addition, given Calvin’s problems, she suggest a fairly early oral-motor exam for 2.1 to make sure he doesn’t have any physical issues that would make breastfeeding harder.

Overall, I felt pretty good after talking to the lactation consultant. I have a plan. I always feel better with a plan. In most cases, I don’t get overly stressed when circumstances diverge from my official plan. However, I do tend to get stressed ahead of time if I don’t have a plan.

I spent most of the rest of the day puttering around the house either chatting with Jaeger online or finishing Christmas decorations.


Saturday
I woke up this morning and decided to attend first service at church, which starts at 9am. First service is the contemporary service and, among other things, they have the lights dimmed. This turned out to not be particularly good for me. I got extremely sleepy during the sermon. After church, I skipped Sabbath School, headed home and took a nap. I slept for two hours before surfacing for lunch. I chatted with Jaeger a bit more, puttered around the house, read, watered our two delicate trees (one new and one that’s trying to die), and then decided to document my vacation. Naturally, the documenting took way longer than I expected.

  1. Though I did not destruct the castle set or his brand-new Lego Movie mech.
  2. Yes, I’m that mother, the one that feels a compulsion to keep her son’s lego’s organized by color. Type would probably be better but color is an easier concept to explain to Calvin at the moment. Plus, organizing by color makes it easier to explain to Calvin how to divide a large task into smaller pieces. Such as picking up Legos one color at a time.
  3. I adore eating so it seems prudent to balance that with a reasonable amount of exercise.
  4. Since I work from home, I also worked hunched up on the couch in a ball of misery. I can’t imagine how bad it would have been if I would have had to go work in an office constantly. Honestly, I keep being amazed people keep procreating given the fun of pregnancy and early infanthood. I’m also not always sure why I decided to attempt it a second time.
  5. Though I still have this weird quirk where brushing my teeth or coughing makes me throw up. No nausea, just suddenly I’m throwing up. When I told my OB this, she just looked at me for a moment and then noted pregnancy does weird things to people.
  6. I’ve already had one due to family history and the doctor wanting to be extra careful given my complications last time. On the upside, the nasty stuff they make you drink seems to have improved since my last pregnancy. It’s still vile but not as vile as last time.
  7. On the off chance anyone is looking for a prenatal massage in the Boulder area, I’ve been very happy with Faith. I keep meaning to write a review but I always have a hard time writing good reviews.
  8. Breastmilk is ideal but formula these days is a very acceptable substitute. There are a lot of studies talking about the benefits of breastmilk but the benefits are often exaggerated.
  9. I say usually because I’m pretty sure last time I spent a couple thousand dollars attempting to breastfeed once you add up the lactation consultants and hospital breast pump rentals (and that doesn’t even count the psychological cost I incurred).

Horizons K-8 School Playground adjacent to Admiral Arleigh A. Burke Park, Boulder, CO

In 2013 the City of Boulder Parks and Planning and Horizons K-8 School partnered with other organization to update the Horizons K-8 school playground which is adjacent to Boulder’s Admiral Arleigh A. Burke Park. The project was completed in September and I was curious to see what had been done. The playground is accessible to the community during non-school hours.

Based on the website it was unclear to me whether the park itself had a playground or only the school grounds. Driving up, it became apparently the park did not have a playground. However, it did have a shelter with a picnic table and some benches.

01Shelter

Thunderbird Lake is within the park and there are walking paths all around it.

02Lake

The park also contains a wood deck which was designed by a University of Colorado class for outdoor classes and meetings. The deck was suppose to be bigger but a pared down design was required in order to finish it by the end of the semester. There were big signs about not allowing skateboarding which the structure really looks ideal for.

03MysteriousStructure

The playground itself is on school property. It has swings, a tire swing, and a tether ball. It also has new playground equipment which appears to use both the PlayBooster and Evos equipment from Landscape Structures. Calvin immediately gravitated to the roller slide. He slide down it once in the traditional style and spent the rest of the time pretending it was a treadmill.

04RollerSlide

I think the Dakota Ridge Park was the first place I’d seen the Evos equipment. It’s very different from the equipment I had growing up with but Calvin loves playing on it and it provides him quite a bit of climbing and strength exercise. I’m now a fan.

05Climbing

06SwiggleBridge

It's hard to tell from a still picture but these circles rotate.

It’s hard to tell from a still picture but these circles rotate.

08OZone

After spending time on the Evos equipment, Calvin transitioned to the more traditional style equipment. He started with the fish net climber.

09NetClimber

The spring bridge was also fun.

10SpringBridge

I’d seen a lot of double slides before but this was the first triple slide I’d seen.

11CloudburstSlide

And finally, he had to climb up the Corkscrew Climber.

12CorkscrewClimber

Also on the playground was a sand area. However, there wasn’t any built-in equipment for it and I hadn’t brought any of our toys so Calvin ignored it.

All-in-all, it was a very nice school playground.

Summary:

Features Swings (no bucket swings), tire swing, tether ball, roller slide, climber, O-Zone climber, Swiggle Stix Bridge, Gyro Twister, Fish Net Climber, Spring Bridge, Triple Slide, Corkscrew Climber, Loop Arch Climber, Covered Slide, Rush Slide
Surface Material Bark Chips
Restrooms No
Water fountain No
Shade No.
Picnic area There’s a covered picnic table but it’s not very close to the playground.
Parking Fairly convenient street parking
Pros
  • Nice new equipment
  • Lots of climbing options
Cons
  • Playground not available during school hours
  • No restrooms


View Random Parks and Playgrounds in a larger map

Playground at Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland

The absolute best playground we visited in Scotland was on day two at the Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh. The playground is located on the far western side of the park. The park map we saw neglected to mention there was a playground and we trudged the entire length of the park, Calvin complaining the entire time, on faith having heard a rumor there was suppose to be a playground somewhere.

I was very relieved when we found the park to see it was worth the trek. The park is spectacular. The main playground equipment is setup like a play castle.

04CastlePlayground

It has all the normal playground features such as slides, monkey rings, rope bridges, etc.

03CastleSlide

06MonkeyBars

08RopeBridge

There’s also a climbing wall so you can storm the castle.

07ClimbingWall

The playground also had a wide variety of spinners ranging from single-person spinners to a giant rope climbing apparatus that also spun.

12Spinnerwithoutsun

09IndividualSpinner

02spinner

There’s also a little kids area and the obligatory themed spring rider.

11LittleKidArea

05SpringRider

And, of course, a log swing that looks like it could be used to ram open (fragile) castle gates.

01logswing

If you’re looking at the park facing south, you can see the play castle overshadowed by the real Edinburgh Castle. (The sun was not kind to my pictures.)

10SpinnerAndCastle

Summary:

Features
Surface Material Mostly poured rubber
Restrooms Yes, relatively close, it appears you usually have to pay but we didn’t the day we were there
Water fountain Can’t remember
Shade Reasonable amount of shade
Picnic area Can’t remember but the park itself has a ton of benches.
Parking No
Pros
  • Nice playground equipment
  • Very scenic backdrops
Cons
  • A bit tricky to find if you don’t know where it is.

Playground at Highland Folk Museum, Scotland

I’ve been meaning to post pictures of the Scottish playgrounds we visited but kept procrastinating. While Scotland isn’t quite as overflowing with playgrounds as Hong Kong is, we visit several nice ones. On our seventh day in Scotland we visited the Highland Folk Museum. We arrived toward the end of the day so didn’t have nearly enough time to wander around. However, right within the entrance is a pretty nice playground area for kids.

Among other things, they have the best tire swing I have ever seen. It’s huge.

01TireSwing

The main playground area had a rustic feel to it.

05springrider

However, they had several more modern pieces of playground equipment also. I’m pretty sure one of our Boulder parks has this one:

03modernplay

They also had a fantastic spinner. I think it would have been even better with more people on it.

02spinner

There was also a single-person spinner and a wobbly balance beam to walk on.

04singlespinner

Away from the main playground area there’s also a digger, fairly close to their sawmill building.

06Digger

Summary:

Features Modern age 5-12 playground equipment, log-house style playground equipment, wooder spring rider, amazing tire swing, large spinner, individual spinner, wobbly balance beam
Surface Material Mostly bark chips
Restrooms Yes, relatively close
Water fountain Can’t remember
Shade The more modern playground is shaded by the trees but the wood-based playground elements don’t appear to get shade.
Picnic area Can’t remember.
Parking Parking for the museum
Pros
  • Best Tire Swing Ever
  • Nice variety of equipment
Cons
  • N/A

Columbine Park, Boulder, CO

After Salberg Park I decided to drop by Columbine Park which was just a few blocks away. Earlier in the morning when I was trying to decide where to go I stumbled across a Boulder City post about their Top 10 Nature Play Parks. Columbine Park was on the list but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be large enough to amuse Calvin for more than a couple of minutes.

Columbine Park was a very pleasant surprise. It doesn’t have any traditional playground structures but still had enough elements to keep Calvin amused. The first thing he did was run over to the “OmniSpin Spinner” which appears to be a modern equivalent of a merry-go-round. It’s definitely a cut above most modern merry-go-rounds but I found it difficult to get up to a nice speed (being pregnant probably doesn’t help). Even though it goes slower, it’s pretty comfortable to sit in. I relaxed in it for a bit and let Calvin (briefly) spin me.

01MerryGoRound

Next up, Calvin climbed aboard the “Oodle Swing” (at least, I think it’s an Oodle swing, definitely similar if it’s not that exactly). Add some pillows and I think it’d make a nice hammock-like swing for a kid to read in.

02Swing

The playground also have several rocks with rope ladders to climb up.

03Climbing

A unique feature of this park is its extended balance path consisting of pretend tree stumps, rocks, log balance beams, and log tunnels. Calvin enjoyed running back and forth on them.

05Balance1

06Log

07Balance2

The park also had a fake “stream” wandering around one edge of the playground area with rocks providing more balance options.

08Stream

The final feature of the park is a tree. Normally, I just mention the man-made structures. However, this was a perfect playground tree. Its branches hang low enough to the ground that children ducking under toward the trunk are nicely hidden. Plus, the branches are low enough to the ground that children can climb up the (sap-leaking) tree. This is probably not an officially approved activity but I liked Calvin have the opportunity to climb on something actually natural, not just nature-imitating. Calvin didn’t go up more than a couple of branches but enjoyed that bit of climbing up by himself.

04Tree

I was amused to see a sign indicating the playground was designed for ages 5-12. I know they have to do this for safety reasons but there was a lot that younger kids could get from this park. I think it’s one we might go back and visit once 2.1 is born.

Summary:

Features Multi-person swing, merry-go-round substitute, lots of balancing elements, several rocks/ropes to climb, good climbing tree
Surface Material Poured Rubber
Restrooms No (though there’s an elementary school behind the park that might be available if you get desperate)
Water fountain Yes, it was even turned on
Shade Yes, there’s quite a bit of shade provided by a picnic structure and mature trees.
Picnic area Yes, one covered picnic area with a couple of tables, including wheelchair friendly tables.
Parking Fairly convenient street parking
Pros
  • Lots of balancing options
  • Merry-go-round-like equipment
  • Good climbing tree
  • Interesting multi-person swing
Cons
  • No traditional playground equipment, may bore some kids?
  • No restrooms


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Salberg Park, Boulder, CO

October has been unnaturally warm. It’s almost the end of October and today was sunny and almost 80 degrees. On the weekends Calvin has a tendency to get stuck in the family room playing with Legos all day. I love Legos but I also think that outside time is important. So I decided it was time to go and explore a couple of parks.

We first went to Salberg Park. Calvin and I have been to this park before but it was in the pre-photographing of park era. It’s a nice park with restrooms! (Though it appears the restrooms may only be open in summer as they were locked today).

Playground Equipment

The park has a nice-sized traditional playground structure. It’s mainly designed for “older” kids but does have several things underneath for younger kids. An example is a little bucket swing.

Little Swing

Calvin enjoyed climbing across the rope wall.

04Climbingrope

The playground also has two regular swings and two bucket swings for babies. (Calvin hasn’t learned how to swing himself yet so I don’t have any pictures of them). I had forgotten that Salberg park has a very nice sand area. I should have brought our sand toys. Even so, Calvin was able to amuse himself with the built-in sand equipment: two regular diggers, a wheelchair accessible digger, and an elevated sand table.

Sand Area

As always, Calvin enjoys climbing on the rocks.

01ParkRock

I think the playground might have been upgraded since I was there last. It has two structures that I don’t remember. The first is some equipment that I believe is suppose to mimic a sailboat (note it’s also surrounded by blue poured rubber). The entire structure can be rotated, with some effort.

Sailboat

The other structure provides more climbing opportunities.

05climber

Summary:

Features Small double slide, curved slide, swings, bucket swings, mini-swing, rope wall, sand diggers, accessible sand digger, elevated sand table, stylized sailboat structure, climbing wall
Surface Material Poured Rubber and some sand
Restrooms Yes (possibly only open for summer)
Water fountain Didn’t see one but seems like there should be one by the restrooms
Shade Yes, there’s quite a bit of shade provided by a picnic structure and mature trees.
Picnic area Yes, one covered picnic area and additional nearby picnic tables.
Parking Dedicated parking lot
Pros
  • Good equipment
  • Easy to park
  • Sand!
Cons
  • N/A


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Pregnant

I have a good reason for my blogging silence recently: I’m pregnant. I spent pretty much my entire 1st trimester either sleeping or curled up in a ball trying not to throw up. Morning sickness was a lot more intense this time and towards the end I ended up taking meds to keep the vomiting under control (though I know I got off a lot more lightly than some women). Now that I’m at 13 weeks, the vomiting mysteriously disappeared which was a relief1. I planned this pregnancy carefully to make sure my migration (big project) at work happened before I was likely to hit any preterm labor problems in case I have a repeat of last time. However, I hadn’t counted on being incapacitated during my first trimester. I was still able to get in all my hours but I don’t think I was operating at my normal level.

Below is a post I wrote the morning I found out I was pregnant back on July 8, 2014.


It turns out that it’s a bad idea to take a pregnancy test at 2:00AM. It seemed like a good idea at the time because I didn’t want to avoid going to the bathroom all night just to make sure I had concentrated enough liquid.

The test shows the very faintest plus symbol. Technically, I took the test one day before the instructions recommended. I got it confused with the non-generic brand I used last time and didn’t notice the difference till after I had already tested. So, I was a little surprised to see a faintly positive result. My understanding is that if you see any plus at all, no matter how faint, you are pregnant. However, according to at least one study, 22 percent of “chemical” pregnancies never become “clinical” pregnancies2

Now I am sitting down in the family unable to go back to sleep.

Coincidentally, I interviewed an OB today. I really liked my Longmont OB but the Longmont Hospital won’t do VBACs. It’s not that I necessarily want a VBAC. I had a great c-section the first time and due to various factors my odds at a successful VBAC aren’t great. However, I dislike not having the flexibility to choose a VBAC. The OB I interviewed today delivers at Avista Adventist Hospital. It’s 20 minutes away from my house but has a Level III NICU3, vegetarian food in the cafeteria4, and does VBACs. However, the main reason I’m considering this particular OB is she is very close to one of the libraries I can work at. The OB answered my extensive list of questions and I felt pretty happy with her responses.

I have an interview scheduled with a Boulder OB next Monday. Boulder Community Hospital also does VBACs and is only 12 minutes away from our house but prenatal appointments would be slightly more inconvenient than the Avista OB. They also have a lower level NICU though I’m not sure how much importance I should place on that.

Assuming this pregnancy continues, my due date is March 24, 2015. Does this date seem vaguely familiar? Calvin’s birthday is March 26. This was unintentional. I’ve been trying for a while to get pregnant and I guess this was just weird coincidence. Perhaps something about summer makes me more fertile.


UPDATES: I decided to go with the Boulder OB. Both OBs seemed great but Boulder Hospital appears to have a dedicated vegetarian menu which is hard to beat (particularly if I end up there for several weeks). I also got the fancy MaterniT21 genetic blood screening done since I’m “elderly” at a whole 35 years of age. It came back negative for the major chromosomal abnormalities it tests for. In addition, it was able to determine that I’m having a boy. So, Calvin will get the little brother he’s always wanted. Of course, I’m not sure Calvin really realizes how long it is before babies become interesting humans.

  1. With Calvin I had much milder morning sickness that lasted significantly longer.
  2. I’ve been seeing a therapist for the last couple of months for stress-related issues. She would no doubt like me to point out at this point that only a 22% loss means that it’s more likely than not that I will stay pregnant.
  3. I thought I saw they were a level IIIB but the OB said they take babies at 28 weeks or later which implies IIIA.
  4. I thought PSL in Denver had bad vegetarian options till I delivered in Longmont. They were worse. I could get frosted flakes for breakfast at both locations but at least at PSL, the moderately “healthier” options, such as a whole wheat bun instead of snow white, required the approval of a dietitian.

Camping

Our family spent the Fourth of July long weekend camping at Moraine Park Campground. It’s a very civilized campground with flush toilets! This campground was also the site of Calvin’s first camping trip back in 2010.

This time I tried a new way to organize camping food. All the stuff that needed to be cold went into the cooler. But everything else got portioned into my cloth grocery bags. I had one bag for each cooked meal. So, in the first bag went everything I needed for the first meal that didn’t need to be chilled. The next bag contained everything for the next meal, minus the items I needed for the first meal (like the camping pot) and so on. Then, at the end of each meal I redistributed the things that would be needed later into the appropriate bags for their next meal. This system worked surprisingly well and prevented me from doing a lot of the rummaging I’ve done in previous trips. I would have preferred to use clear plastic bins for each meal but this was a lot cheaper.

Thursday
We left for the campground Thursday evening around 5ish. As soon as we got there I put up the bug shelter for the picnic table and then started to make supper. Since we were expecting to arrive around supper I made it super easy. I brought a bag of freeze dried pasta primavera for each of us and a pound of asparagus. In retrospect, I can’t believe I never thought to bring asparagus for camping before. It’s incredibly easy to prepare and cooks within minutes.

After supper we put our stuff in the tent (we have a fantastically huge family tent), got everything organized. I read to Calvin for a while and we all eventually fell asleep.

Friday
Thursday night I slept the best I can remember in a tent. The air was pretty warm most of the night and Calvin slept straight through without waking. In addition, nobody else’s child was screaming which was a definite plus. At around 5:30 I was woken up by a loud noise. At first I thought it was the wind violently whipping the tent around. Then I realized a huge herd of deer had decided to go pounding through the campground. We got the tent door open soon enough to see them stampede away. It was not uncommon to see a couple of deer in my backyard growing up but it was still pretty interesting to see a whole herd of deer wandering around a campground.

For breakfast we had scrambled tofu that I had prepared back home, pastries from the Bavarian Bakery, and strawberries. I heated up the tofu in my cast iron skillet so cleaning up was really easy. I just dumped the extra tofu into the compost sack1, wiped out the skillet and then heated it on the stove again to sterilize it.

Our goal on Friday was to hike up to Emerald Lake. Since Calvin loves transportation, and parking at Bear Lake is impossible, we took two shuttle buses to get there. Calvin obviously can hike when he wants but he spent much of the time complaining. However, it was still a successful hike for him.

On the way back we stopped by the Moraine Park visitor center and I got seduced into buying three books. Two are books about park ranger adventures and the third was a picture book about scat. Calvin also decided he wanted to use his allowance to buy a stuffed fox.

For supper we were contemplating hot dogs. However, they didn’t start selling wood till 5:30 so I read to Calvin out of one of the new ranger books. Around 5:30 Jaeger left to get the firewood and it promptly started raining. I changed supper bags and started getting things ready. The bug shelter provided some protection from the rain but not for a particularly large area.

While mom was visiting she took me shopping to Costco and suggested I try using the prepackaged Tasty Bite entrees. They’re shelf stable and it turns out you can heat the pouches up by just putting them in boiling water. This has the distinct advantage of keeping a pot from getting dirty. I paired them with boil-in-a-bag brown rice and called the supper a success. Given the rain it was particularly nice not to have to spend a great deal of time cleaning up.

Saturday
Saturday I attempted to make pancakes. I haven’t had prior good success with pancakes while camping but gave it another shot. I used a Krusteaz mix so I only needed to add water and then oil for the cast iron skillet. It took me a couple of times to get the cooking time and temp right but eventually I ended up with pretty decent pancakes. Probably a first for me.

Jaeger was having trouble coming up with hiking routes that were both interesting and something Calvin could reasonably be expected to do. Eventually he settled on going over to the west side of the park and taking the Big Meadows trail. This time we explained clearly to Calvin that we didn’t want to hear any moaning or no smores for supper. This hike went much better, especially during the short time when we were walking as the same speed with another family that had kids close in age to Calvin. The meadow was nice but I didn’t find it quite as inspiring as a lake as a destination. On the way back we saw a moose.

Since Calvin did so well, and it was way too hot, we decided a treat was in order and drove to Granby to get ice cream. Then we returned back over Trail Ridge Road to camp.

There wasn’t any rain in the evening so we were able to eat our veggie hot dogs and smores. To my surprise Calvin seemed to think the smores were ok but he only wanted one.

Sunday
Sunday we ate a fairly boring breakfast of oatmeal then packed up and came home. Remarkably we were on the road by 9:30 so got back home in time to unpack and put things away in a orderly manner.

All-in-all I think it turned out to be a pretty successful camping trip though Calvin can definitely use more practice hiking.

  1. I wanted to minimize dish cleanup so we brought compostable dishes and had a bag we put all the compostable stuff into. It worked fairly well except the bag stunk up the car toward the end. Next time it needs a sealable bin.

Bookmark

For Mother’s Day this year Calvin’s preschool had him create a bookmark. This is one of the more useful Mother’s Day presents I have received from daycare/preschool because I always need more bookmarks. The front has a drawing which I suspect is suppose to be me. I have very large feet. The back has typed written descriptions of what Calvin must have told his teachers about me. It must have been in the form of fill-in-the-blank but they aren’t explicit about which parts Calvin filled in. I found it pretty amusing:


Gem

Her hair is brown.
My mom’s favorite food is food I
don’t like.
My mom likes to wear whatever
fits her.
My mom’s job is working at home.
My mom’s smart because she knows
I don’t know if she’s smart.
My mom works hard at I don’t know
if she works hard.
My mom relaxes by exercising on the
treadmill in our basement.
My mom tells me a lot to hurry a lot
when we’re late for school.
I’m happy when my mom reads
to me.
I love my mom because she loves me.
I know my mom loves me because
she hugs me a lot.

Love,
Calvin, age 5

Mother’s Day 2014