Huggies vs. Pampers

Last night Ravi unexpectedly drank 15 to 20 oz of liquid.  Normally it takes only couple of hours for the liquid to pass through his system.  So after changing him couple of times out of full gigantic diapers, I thought we were out of the woods.  But I can always count on Ravi to be full of surprises.  When I changed him this morning, his Huggies Overnight diaper was again full and some urine leaked onto his undershirt.  This is definitely a sign that I should re-evaluate my diaper selections.

Ever since Ravi was born, we have been using three kinds of diapers through various sizes.  This is because I personally prefer Pampers Baby Dry, the daycare lady prefers Huggies Snug & Dry, and a third the Huggies Overnight for extra protection.  So for as long as I can remember, I have been buying three different kinds of diapers.  I use Pampers at home, bring Huggies to daycare, and use Huggies Overnight for night time.  Out of all of them, my favorite is Pampers.  Compare to the other Huggies diapers, it is much slimmer and form fitting.  Because it is much smaller in volume, it doesn’t look bulky under cloth and hugs baby butt much better than Huggies.  It also has a nice stretchy guard line that prevent leaks.  Don’t be fooled by Pampers’ thin material, it is actually extremely absorbent and redistribute liquid incredibly well.  This is especially important for boys since they pee in front, the urine will actually gets distribute to the back before it ever gets out.  Even when the diaper gets really wet, its inner surface still keep relatively dry.  Additionally, Pampers diaper doesn’t clump up like Huggies, and has a nice and fabric like texture.  I have changed Ravi out of some truly amazingly gigantic wet diapers, I would otherwise never have believed how much liquid it could hold without leaking if I didn’t see it myself.

But what about the cost?  Honestly speaking, I have not carefully checked on the prices for a while and I had to look into it again today.  Normally Pampers is the more expensive choice, but not so for me right now.  I am a member of Amazon Mom and I subscribe my diapers through Amazon Subscription service.  This means I get 30% off the list price.  So as of today, I pay:

Pampers Baby Dry:  $0.137/diaper (size 3, 204 per box at $28 after 30% off)

Huggies Snug & Dry:  $0.143/diaper (size 3, 156 per box at $22.34 after 30% off)

Huggies Overnight:  $0.25/diaper (size 3, 62 per box at 15.49 after 30% off)

I did notice that price does change over time, but I am surprised that right now I got Pampers at a lower price than Huggies.  Of course the bigger box means the bigger savings, and that may be a contributing factor to the lower price.  By re-evaluating my selection today, I’ve decided to eliminate Huggies Overnight, which is nearly twice as expensive as Pampers Baby Dry and doesn’t hold liquid nearly as well as I have hoped.  Even though I don’t like it, but I would continue to order two types of diapers.  Between you and me, I think Pampers is the much better choice.

-Flo.

A New Addition to Our Family

We’ve received a call early this morning from our geneticist letting us know that we’ve passed the amniocentesis and we are so thrilled!  Sorry, did I loose you?  Let me go back to the beginning and tell you the whole story.

Even before Ravi was born, Mario and I have planned to have two kids.  We both came from families of two or more kids and we enjoyed having sibling(s).  Watching my nieces Do and Jo grow up with age gap of less than three years, I am always amazed at the wonderful relationship they have from an early age and that’s what we’ve always wanted for our kids too.  So after being best friends for six years and then a couple for seven years, Mario and I got married and started a family.  Ravi was born and we absolutely adore him.  While we tried to recover ourselves from all the hard work associated with being new parents, we contemplated when we should have the next one.  Our plan was to have two kids with relative close age gap.  Luckily, we were able to conceive earlier this year.  I suffered through months of really bad “24 hours morning sickness”.  Though difficult, I knew my suffering indicated that my baby was alive and kicking.  But there was always a fear lingering in the back of our minds: what if there’s something wrong with the baby?   So when the time came, we choose to do the amniocentesis with an OB/GYN that has an extremely good track record and whom we trusted immensely.  The results came back this morning and the baby has passed the test!

So now we can finally let the world know, we will be welcoming another baby boy in May 2011!  Ravi will be an older brother.  We believe deep in our hearts that this new life growing inside of me is the best thing we can ever do for Ravi.  Ravi baby, mommy loves you so much!

-Flo.

Kid vs. Cat

A decade ago when Mario and I first moved in together, we adopted a three year old cat that his owner no longer wanted.  He has very soft white and grey coat and we named him Titus.  When we moved to a bigger place, we decided to adopt another cat to keep Titus company.  We found this little calico kitten and we couldn’t resist.  It turned out to be a girl and we named her Needles for the way she digs her claws into our skin as a baby.  For man years, we lived very happily together and they were our children.

Both Titus and Needles were extremely rambunctious during their early years.  They have attacked and destroyed some of our furniture, and they chewed through boxes and books.  They gave us first lessons of parenthood and taught us how to be patient.  It was particularly valuable experience for Mario, as he had no tolerance for unruliness and had a hard time dishing out the right amount of discipline and affection.  If you ask Mario today, he would still blame me for being the main driver behind the cat adoptions, but I think he does recognize deep down the importance of this experience in our lives.  As the cats aged, they became more gentle.  Ten years later, Titus is now anywhere between thirteen to fifteen years old (since we couldn’t get that information from his original owner) and Needles is now six.  They enjoy snuggling by our side and purr as we pet them.

Then we brought Ravi home.  I’ve always wondered how the kid and cats would get along.  Would the cats be jealous and hurt Ravi?  Would Ravi abuse them when he grows up?  It turned out to be quite interesting.  Needles has became extremely afraid of Ravi, she would run away every time Ravi comes near her.  That’s why we never got a chance to take a picture of these two together.   Titus on the other hand had became this extremely tolerant soul.  He would lets Ravi pet him, even though his petting is more like slapping or hitting sometimes.  He would also lets Ravi lay on top of him, which is something Ravi loves to do in the morning or after daycare when he first sees Titus.  Unfortunately I have not been able to take a good picture of these two together since this always takes place in low light conditions and for very short time.  I apologize for the picture quality.  But you can see how happy Ravi is playing with Titus, and I hope they would grow together and good friends in the future.

Ravi’s Hair Cut

In his 20 months life, Ravi had only two hair cuts by professional hair dressers and both specialized in kids’ hair cuts.  Both times he cried like a mad man, from the beginning to the end and some more afterward.  The first time he was at about 6 months of age.  I thought maybe he was still too young and we should try again when he’s a little older.  The second time he was about a year old, he cried all the home and wouldn’t stop no matter how much I comforted him.  I thought, this is the last time!  We would not try again till he’s able to answer yes to another professional hair cut.  But his hair got longer and longer and someone needs to cut it.  So I got out our old electric hair clipper kit that I used to practice on Mario when he was in college and became Ravi’s personal hair dresser.

So its been eight months since his last professional hair cut and I can finally say that Ravi is beginning to look somewhat decent after my “home cut.”  We didn’t start very well.  Initially he would still cry at the sight of the hair clipper and the sound of its buzz, but daddy held him and kissed him while I made sure I did a quick job.  We didn’t expect much, our objective was a quick and painless cut, rather than a good looking hair cut.  So the first few months he did go to daycare with wacky hair cuts.  All the other parents understood and we weren’t too embarrassed.  Bad looking hair cut beats hearing him cry again like he did during his last professional hair cut.  I think that cry will echo in my head forever.  As months passed, Ravi became less agitated during his hair cuts and my hair cutting skill has also improved quite a bit.  Slowly the wacky looking “home cuts” faded away and no one ever talked about his hair cut at day care anymore.  We gave him another hair cut about three weeks ago, and if I may say, it turned out quite good!  Nothing great compared to the professionals, but if you don’t look carefully, you might not think it is a “home cut.”  Here are some pictures of Ravi sporting his new cut a week after.

If I may say, Ravi does look very handsome with his new hair cut!  Some hair on top just doesn’t want to behave, that’s just the nature of Ravi’s hair.

Ravi’s hair cut is actually really simple to do.  We tried many different approaches and in the end we loved the refined “three lengths” approach.  This means we use three separate clipper length attachments for this hair cut: 1 inch at the top, 3 quarters of an inch on the side, and 1 quarter of an inch at the bottom.  Additionally, we cut the side burn and trim the side edges with children’s round edge scissors.  Initially it is hard to control the clipper so that the different lengths blend in with one another, but after couple of tries, it became much easier.  Besides, it is barely noticeable after a couple of weeks.  We may still adjust our approach in the future, but the 3 lengths combo works pretty well right now.

By doing “home cuts” we saved over $100 this year.  Not too impressive by itself, but the longer term saving is huge.  It also saved us tremendous amount of time.  Each hair cut takes about 5 minutes to prepare, 10 minutes for the cut, and 10 minutes to clean up.  No fuss, no cries, just some wiggling to overcome.  After we have been doing it all these months, we would never think of going back to professionals again, till maybe when he is 15 and make his own money.  That will be the day!

-Flo.

Ravi Plays In My Kitchen

Ravi is not a kid who has hundreds of toys, but he certainly has plenty to play with.  What surprised me was the fact that he prefers to play with random things he finds in the household as much as his favorite toys.  For example, he has a passion for empty bottles.  He loves to take the cap off and put it back on, pretend to drink from it or pour it out, putting things in and take them out, or bang the cap onto the bottle to make “music”.  A simple bottle of any size can amuse him for at least half an hour, which is an eternity in kids’ time.

Ravi also loves to play in my kitchen.  This makes me extremely nervous when I am cooking, so normally daddy is called in to distract him.  When the kitchen is cleaned up, he is allowed to come in.  He loves to play with small kitchen appliances and equipments, so I purposely leave them in a lower cabinet where he can open and reach in.  His favorites are the magic bullet blender and his small little pot.  He loves to take the cup or top off and put it back on, much like the bottle game.  He also loves to bang on various things to make noise.  There are so many items and so many combination to try, he would usually play with them for quite a while.  In the meanwhile, mommy can sit right by him and watch.  It is always good when he can amuse himself and I don’t have to carry him.

Since then we bought him a set of kitchen toy pots and utensils, which also gets lots of attention.  But whenever he sees his magic bullet in the kitchen, he always demands to play with it.

Never Go Anywhere Without Your Wallet

I had an early morning doctor appointment on Monday.  After getting Ravi and his daddy ready and send them on their way, I also packed up and went got out of the door.  There wasn’t any rush, as I had plenty of time to get there.  The sun was shinning, the birds were singing.  I felt the warm and fuzzy of a happy Monday.

I arrived at least ten minutes before my appointment.  I parked my car in a large parking spot (scored!!!) and walked leisurely into the building.  I got into the check-in line with only two people in front of me.  I thought, this is turning out to be a pretty good day!  I reached into my purse to find my wallet.  Hum, it is not at its usual spot, maybe it fell out during the ride.  I took my purse off my shoulder and looked through the entire content, but I couldn’t find my wallet.  I began to get a little scared.  Maybe someone  stole it?  Oh my god!  How can that be?  Did I leave it on the counter somewhere when I paid my last purchase?  I thought back to the day before and realized that I had moved it to the diaper bag and never remembered to move it back.  Good, at least it is not lost.  But I was standing in line without a wallet.  Good thing this appointment did not require any co-payment, but it I needed to show an ID to check in.  I didn’t want to walk away now and schedule another appointment since I’ve waited a month to see this doctor.  I was relieved when I told the check-in lady my story and she was able to accept my work ID badge as an substitute.  Okay, maybe this is not going to be too bad of a day after all.

I went through the doctor’s office without any problem.  There were a couple of times when the nurses asked to see my card and were okay when I told me I left my wallet at home.  I left the doctor’s office right on schedule and was glad that I can finally head out and forget all about this incident.  I got into my car and started to drive out.  It was not untill I reached the parking exit did I realized that I had to pay for parking.  I ransacked my purse one more time to try to find any loose change I might have had, but all I could find was a single dollar bill.  In my desperation, I thought about paying with any valuables I might have on me but realized that wasn’t realistic.  I drove up to the parking attendant and told him my story and offered him all the money I had in my possession (the whole one dollar!).  He was actually very nice.  He told me I could pay by mail.  I filled in a forms and he wrote down my license number and gave me a small paper with an address on it.  I was let out on my words that I will pay at a later time.  I guess I must not be the only one who ever left their wallet at home, and I was thankful they were generous enough to trust me.

I exited the parking and headed straight home to pick up my wallet.  The detour took me an extra twenty minutes but it was definitely worth the peace of mind I had the rest of the day.

Story of a Lemon Tree

This is a story of a lemon tree.  Unlike many of the pampered backyard fruit trees, it has gone through seasons of neglect and harsh weather.  Who would have thought that not only it survived, but it produced a mind boggling amount of beautiful fruits!  Here’s the fairy tale story.

This lemon tree is a resident of my parents’ new backyard.  Prior to the purchase of the house, we were told that the house was unoccupied for nearly a year.  When we first came to see this house, we expected total devastation in the backyard, and what we saw was the sight of the neglected plants that looked depressing.  The high summer temperatures in the area added to the punishment of the plants; the grass has lost its battle with the weeds, fruit trees looked tired and beat down.  We didn’t expect much from the trees, but hoped they would survive till we are able to take care of them.

The sale of the house closed in end of June.  Renovation process began and lasted months, suffered many schedule delays.  This also happened to be the hottest months of the year, and we were only able to water the trees and plants about twice a week.  My parents moved in earlier October, but had to leave immediately to a pre-planned trip.  Finally, everything settled down by mid October and work began on tending the plants in the backyard.

I remember this lemon trees earlier in the summer time.  It must have liked the little attention it had gotten and started to blossom, quietly in the corner of the yard.  As months went by, little green lemons started to pop up on the branches.  It was so cute, though no one expected it to ever grow to eatable size.  But the lemon tree just kept growing.  By the time my parents have finally moved in, the fruits have gotten a lot bigger and we were surprised by the number of them.  They were just everywhere, more than we ever hoped to see from this tiny lemon tree.  However, the fruits were green and smaller than size of an egg.  We thought: it is good to look at, we will probably never eat them.  But the lemon tree just kept growing.  Branches now are weighted down by the growing fruits, some began to touch the ground.  A few weeks later, my parents started the pruning process on the tree.  Some branches were cut to allow proper growth, and nutrients were also added to the soil.  We must have collected a bag of lemons just from the pruned branches!  Slowly, the fruits got bigger and turned yellow.  Much to my parents’ delight, the lemons grew to as big as you can find in supermarkets and there are so many!  We tried to finding all kinds of ways to use them.  We put slices in tea, make lemonade, use them to clean around the house…etc.  My mom also collect the very pretty ones and send them over to close friends so everyone can enjoy them.  Every weekend when Ravi and I go visit, I would pick a fresh one off the tree for him to play with.  He lovingly call it “guo-guo” which is Chinese for “fruit”, and one of the first words he learned to say.  We are all very proud of this lemon tree.  We have plans to take care of it through out the winter so it can grow even better next year.

So here’s the Cinderella story of a lemon tree.  As you can see from the pictures below that it is still packed with fruits even though we have picked so many.  The lemon tree still keeps growing.  It is now getting the proper care it deserves and lots of admiration.  This tiny tree is full of surprised, I wonder what it will be like next year.

Current Home Sales in the US

I don’t bother to update or revise other blogs’ financial data sets because I usually see very little value in rehashing what everyone else is already doing a fine job of posting. Unfortunately, sometimes other people don’t  express a data set in a method that is consistent with seeing a bigger picture. When presenting disparate units it is of the utmost importance that the ranges employed have the same spans. If you use different spans, you can end up not understanding the data set completely. In the chart below, I’ve made sure that both data sets’ bottom range is 50% of the top listed value and that both sets starting point is close to each other. This allows one to gauge the relative percentage change visually as opposed to numerically.

The chart below is for new and existing home sales within the US for the last twelve months (the data set currently available from the National Association of Realtors and the US Census Bureau).

While the graph is similar to the one posted by Dr. Housing Bubble *on his blog, I think the above graph which has been smoothed for data ranges expresses a better picture of the current situation than his does. The range on the left side has a max value of 6.6 million homes and a min value of 3.3 million homes, while the range on the right side has a max value of 450 thousand homes and a min value of 225 thousand homes. Both data ranges have a min value equal to 50% of the max value. This allows the above data sets to “experience” the same percentage result when plotted on the same graph. If existing home sales fell by 10% and new home sales fell by 10% you would see the same amount of decline in the graph. This is a very valuable technique. It allows you to eyeball very quickly which data set is moving at a faster pace. If you’re also skilled enough to line them up closely you can also tell immediately their relative percentage changes. From the above graph, what we’re starting to see is that both sales are approximately suffering by the same amount percentage-wise from last year. This is sobering news. It means that while we have more existing home sales than new home sales (which we always have had) we have the exact same decline in sales for both types of housing. Over the last year, it hasn’t mattered whether the house was new or not, sales have declined for both properties by the same percentage. If you’ve been following housing related news, they’ve all been talking how new homes have been pounded while existing home sales haven’t. Absent some manipulation by the federal government due to the home buyer tax credit, they’re both suffering the same amount this year. The housing malaise has finally caught up with existing home sales.

Mario.

*btw – Dr. Housing Bubble is an excellent blog and I highly recommend him. His blog, with a couple others, is my main source of information on the US and California housing markets. He has an incredible wealth of real estate information and was partially responsible for me not losing my shirt to the current housing bubble. I’ve probably been reading him religiously for at least two or three years. Also he’s been tracking this data set for longer than I have and his graph is a better picture of the housing market over a longer period. I just wish he did what I did for the graph so that the reader would get a better understanding of the current situation. That’s the only real reason I’m posting this blog article.

Another Little Accident

We spent the weekend with my parents as usual.  On Saturday, they scheduled to have workers come in to install the window treatments.  In order to get ready for them, my parents tried to clean up as much dust and dirty left behind on the windows and screens by previous renovation team.  So it was a busy time for both of my parents that morning.

I took on the responsibility of watching Ravi.  Nothing new, been there and done that millions of times before.  After Ravi got tired to playing in the backyard, I followed him to the front of the house where grandpa was washing the window screens.  I must only took my eye off of Ravi for a few seconds to check out my dad’s work, then suddenly I heard a cry.  Ravi had fell into a bucket of water and hit his face on the rim.  There was water in the bucket, and I am sure he tried to reach it and slipped.  He cried and cried.  I picked him up and took him inside.  Initially there wasn’t anything of concern, just a bruise on his noise ridge.  Then I saw a tiny little drip of blood coming out of the corner of his eye.  I was scared for a second, but then I realized that he’s eyes were fine.  There was a cut on the side of his eye.  I tried my best to dab a clean cotton ball to clean it and just left it as it was.

Another scare!  After a few minutes Ravi doesn’t remember the accident anymore and started to look out for more things to play with.  He didn’t let the wound hold him back at all.  After all the work got done, grandpa and grandma came and check on him too and regretted that we didn’t all watch him closer.  So we spent the rest of the weekend watching him like a hawk with three pairs of eyes.

Ravi is 20 Months Old Today!

Dear Ravi,

You are 20 months old today!  I am amazed as always that you have become a more wonderful little person and so much more capable of learning so many things.  When you weren’t feeling well last week due to teething fever, I held you tight against my body for hours and you nearly covered half of my body length!  I thought to myself, you will outgrow my strength soon and I will dearly miss very much moments like these that I have your head on my shoulder and you depend on me for every step.  But know that my love for you will never be outgrown by your size and age.  I will always love you to the end of the days.

You have been simply amazing this pass month.  When you were 19 months old, you learned to say two words the whole entire month and mommy was so happy and proud.  This past month, you were able to pick up new words you heard and repeat them!  With such accurate pronunciation too!  Some simple words or phrases you can associate to objects, like “dog”, “bee”, “juice” ..etc; other ones you just repeat.  Once when you met a new friend, he asked you: “what’s your name.”  And you suddenly repeated those words back to him!  It nearly took my breath away!  I thought that I didn’t really hear you right, but since then you have repeated other phrases of similar length.  I am amazed.

You have shown tremendous interest in alphabets.  You love the alphabet song, probably because it is the same music as your other favorite song -Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  You like pointing and try to pronounce the alphabets when you see them.  One alphabet you know and get it right 90% of the time is “O.”  Sometimes you also get “A”, “B”, and “C” right.

In the past few weeks you have been drooling like a mad man.  Most days you wet half of your shirt front by dinner time.  I thought this was due to teething, but I waited and waited and didn’t see anything come out.  This morning when I peeked into your mouth, I can see that you have two new teeth pushing out between your bottom molars and the four front teeth, but they still haven’t shown themselves yet.  I can’t wait to see a continuous line of pearly whites when they present themselves. Dad can’t wait for you to actually use your teeth!

In the past week, you have bonded with grandma.  Grandma came to stay with us while grandpa went on a business trip.  She labored all the time in the kitchen to cook us all kinds of good food.  Mommy and daddy love her cooking, but you simply refused to eat any!  It is true that she hasn’t figured out your taste buds yet, but keep in mind that someday you will love her for all the wonderful things she can make just for you.  You have always prefered grandpa holding you rather than grandma.  During the last week, you realized that she is more fun to play with.  You like playing hide-and-seek with grandma and laugh and laugh.  Grandma would bring out your LEGO boxes and patiently build structure after structure for you to destroy.  Every morning after you get dressed, she always tells you what a good looking boy you are.  I hope you will keep growing your relationship with grandma, because she loves you so much.

You have begun to do much more cooperative play and pretend play.  Whenever you run past a speed bump, you would signal daddy to follow and do the same.  You love to collect empty bottles around our home and “pour” from one bottle to another, then taste it and share it with daddy.  After each “sip”, you and daddy always pretend it is the best drink in the world.  You also start to realize that when things are out of sight, they are still there.  For example, one of your favorite game is to put a small toy between two of your stacking cups, then rattle it.  You also enjoy putting a piece of paper into your bottle and shake it, then turn it upside down to retrieve it.

Ravi, I am so proud of you.  Each month when I write this post, I always worry if I write down all of your progress then I would have nothing left to write about the next month.  But you keep impressing me with your personality and progress, and I now know that I will never run out of things to write about you.

Love,

Mommy.