Weekend without Nanny, 9/23rd-25th

Another two weeks came and gone in a flash.  When I blinked again, it was time to send nanny home for her weekend off.  I drove her home little after lunch on Friday 9/23rd and picked her up on Sunday 9/25th.  On this particular weekend, Mario was able to stay home and my mother-in-law (MIL) also came over to help us out.  Max was little over five months old at this time.

Mario and MIL took care of Ravi while I mostly took care of Max.  During the day, Max was absolutely wonderful.  He loved to roll around on the floor, enjoyed his tummy time, and was facinated by everything Ravi did.  Nap was a different problem.  Max had a hard time napping for longer than 15 minutes under my care.  When I sense the first signs of tiredness, I would take him down to his room and attempt to rock him to sleep.  I would hold him till he falls asleep, then put him down onto his bed.  On the first afternoon, all four of my consecutive attempts to put him down failed, resulted in Max opening up his eyes the second his head touched the bed.  At the end I gave up and took him back to the living room to play.  Then I remembered that nanny told me a little trick to check if he is in deep sleep simply by shaking my elbow where his little head is resting.  If he is oblivious to the shake, then it is safe to put him down.  So on the second day, I set a rule for myself that I would at least rock him for 15 minutes from the point when he closed his eyes before I check if he is in deep sleep.  If he is disturbed, then I would begin another cycle of rocking for 15 minutes and try again.  This time I had better luck in putting him down, but he would suddenly awake in 5 minutes, sometimes in 15 minutes.  Then I would start the process all over again.  This means for the duration of his nap, I would not be able to step away to do anything else.

During the night, Max fell asleep much easily.  But unlike previous weekends when he woke periodically every two hours, this time he stired often and sporadically.  Sometimes he would sleep for twenty minutes, sometimes an hour, and very rare occasion even an hour and a half.  This time, I tried to breastfeed him in bed first instead of getting up to feed or rock him.  At the end, it worked relatively well.  I only got up twice the entire night.

Somehow, Max’s sleep has gone worst compared to previous weekends.  He is also older at five months of age.  Ravi, the bad sleeper, at five months were able to sleep solid three to four hour stretches.  The difference betweent he two are Ravi was fed formula at night and went to day care at four months of age.  Though we did give Max solids at night, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.  I always suspected that his stires were not caused by hunger but his lack of ability to transition from deep sleep to active sleep.

I am very concern about this weekend’s results.  This is because Mario and I have finally decided to send Max to day care on October 10th.  So this is the last two weeks that we will have nanny’s help.  With Mario having an exceptionally busy schedule this quarter and Max being such a bad sleeper, I often wonder if I can take care of both my kids myself and still survive a demanding work day.  Of course I will have some help from my MIL and my parents, but how much and for how long?  The truth is, right now, I can’t comfortably handle two of them them at the same time.  But I believe with time I will.  In the meantime, I will have to work extra hard to get through.  Day care will be absolutely wonderful experience for Max.  He would be stimulated and taught the right habits to sleep.  This will also help his nightime sleep as well.  I hope the day will come when I can handle two of them with ease.

-Flo.

Related links:

Weekend without Nanny, 9/8th-10th

Weekend without Nanny, 8/26th-28th

 

Settlers of Catan Strategies Part 2

Settlers of Catan is played very differently when you know the players versus when you don’t know the players. If you’ve never played with the players before or they don’t share information, I like to think of this game as a memory-less competition. If they have played against you before, I consider this scenario as memory competition. In memory-less competition, you don’t have to try and elect a leader to deflect attacks. Instead, you can focus on the most important strategy in the game, that of being a market maker. Each player’s turn that player has the opportunity of initiating a trade with another player by asking if anyone has a specific resource. When competing against another player with the same resource and a comparable swap, you want to tip the probability in your favor that they’ll trade with you.

Remember, the more resources that move through your hand the more chance you’ll end up with a favorable resource for others. If you do have a favorable resource and are considered an impartial market, you have the ability to raise the spot price in any turn. This is because in any given turn, the game can be considered a zero-sum game for resources. That means that the value of resources is only dependent upon each player’s perception. If you want to increase your chance of winning, you need to get ‘valuable’ resources from others and then trade them for their increased value to the correct party.  If you’re the market maker, this will happen automatically (almost instinctually) as other players ask you what you’re willing to trade and what you think the current price is. As cards move through your hands, you can naturally create those favorable trades that wouldn’t have occurred if another player was opposed to you, or get the first chance for valuable resources for yourself.

When you are playing against others who remember playing against you, the initial game dynamics change. If you’ve won a number of times, you want to try your best to create and point out leaders. These are players who have more points than you and are currently ahead of the others. What you really want to do is have players expend resources attacking each other through the soldier cards. While soldier cards are valuable, their greatest value is when only one player builds the greatest army. If this occurs, then the 2 points for greatest army only took 3 soldiers and nine resource cards. This is very very efficient. If you can convince more than one player to attack another, or you have two fighting for largest army you force players to expend resources in a competitive manner. If you have two players that have five built soldiers (with one at 3 and the other at 2), you’ve forced the game environment to expend 15 resources on two points. This works especially well when the second player builds a third soldier. At this point both players need only expend three additional resources on one soldier to get the largest army, but each has already expended nine resources. The marginal output is 2 points for three resources and each has a sunk cost of nine resources. While one will get the largest army, the other player won’t get any points making the in-game expenditure of resources quite expensive for just 2 points. The same principle also applies to the longest road. If you get the chance, never try for these points unless you can be reasonably assured that you won’t face competition for them.

My last strategy I’ve dubbed the dwarven empire. In Settlers of Catan there is usually a progression from building roads, to settlements, and finally to cities. This progression involves a transition from wood and clay to sheep to finally grain and ore.  Since this progression involves all of the resources possible, it means that most players will have to trade somewhere along the lines to get the resources they can’t produce. Fortunately there is a way to circumvent this progression and instead build up the two initial settlements into full-fledged cities. You can do this if you have ore and grain at the start of the game. Building cities quickly is also valuable for the two resources they generate on each dice roll. If you do this early enough, you can generate more resources (over the lifetime of the game) than others will. Also, the strategy also involves only two types of resources ore and grain. If you’re the fourth placement, there is a strong chance that you can capture both resources easily in the initial placement. Since the ore is more valuable than the grain, you’ll end up trading the valuable ore for other resources you might need. Everyone will refer to you as the ore king. Hence the name dwarven empire (since they are traditionally miners in any fantasy setting). If you can pull this placement off, the chance of losing is very slim.

 

Hopefully this list of strategies will serve you well in your next game of Settlers. Remember, the most important turn is the placement turn. After placement, you’re only real job is to create a market and pretend not to be the leader.

 

Good luck.

Mario.

 

Related article:

Settler’s of Catan Strategies Part 1

 

Settlers of Catan Strategies Part 1

In college, my friends and I would get into board gaming spells that would result in us playing a single game exclusively. I used to hang out at Games of Westwood after school hours and could almost guarantee getting a board game in nearly every other night.  One of my favorite board games is called Settlers of Catan. Since Settlers is a quick game (2-3 hours) and the gaming store had an irregular cycle of players, I got the opportunity for many games against repeat and one off players. I must have played it at least 40 or 50 times and developed a small reputation for being a very strong opponent. Before I get into some of my strategies, let’s talk a little bit about the game.

The basic game consists of 19 hexagonal tiles that represent the island of Catan. Each tile, except for the sole desert tile, produces a single type of resource- grain, sheep, clay, ore, and wood. These resources are used to build settlements, roads, cities, and development cards. Each settlement and city is worth points, with bonus points for the longest road, largest army, and certain development cards. The first player to 10 points wins. What makes the game interesting, from a strategic point, are two elements. First the game has a turn-wise random but game-wise static probability distribution to distribute new resources within the game, and secondly the players have the ability to trade resources forming a functional market with specific spot prices.

Each player places their game tokens at the intersection of three hexagonal board pieces. Each board piece has a number that when rolled produces that resource for anyone on the intersection. The possible numbers for each board section range from 2 to 12 (with no 7); this coincides with the sum of two six sided dice. There are four board sections for grain, sheep, and wood and three board sections for clay and ore.  The 18 numbered board sections have two numbers from 3 to 11 and only a single 2 or 12. The basic game has a set number for each board section, but most players play with a random drop of tiles and then follow the assigned drop of numbers. This makes sure that you can never have a 6 by and 8 (the two best numbers), and that the 2 and 12 are diametrically opposite of each other. Surrounding the land is the Sea of Catan that contains trade ports that allow players to exchange certain resources for others in more favorable ratios.

What is very interesting about this setup is that you have certain amount of probability that can be determined at the start of each game. The sum of two 6 sided dice has 36 distinct combinations with 7 being the most possible combo (1 in 6 or 6 in 36) and 2 and 12 the least possible at (1 in 36). Since it’s very easy to think in parts of 36, I like to think of each board section in their respective probability. A board section with a 6 has a 5 (in 36) probability of being rolled each turn and a 2 has a 1 (in 36) chance of being rolled. The creators made sure to give this value to everyone as each number is listed with 1 to 5 circles depending upon the probability of being rolled per turn. Most players are savvy enough to realize this and determine their city placement by trying to get sections with the 6 and 8. You’ll notice in the section (since placement proceeds in a circle), each of the four players has a single city on a 6 or an 8 intersection. White probably was the fourth placement and got to place both cities at the same time. This is probably why it has two 6 placements.

While this is an effective strategy, what most players miss is that the clay and ore board sections are rarer than the others. While they may have lower values, their ‘trade value’ is actually much higher than other resources. I like to multiply their value by a 1/3 (+33%) to represent their true trade value. If you look at the blue player’s placement, his two choices have a combined value of 10 and 9. This is lower than other players’ cities on the 6 and 8 board sections which have a combined value of around 11. What isn’t usually calculated is that the blue player has the clay and ore sections and you should internally multiply their value by 1/3. If we do this, the left placement comes out to a trade-weighted value of 11 and the right placement has a trade weighted value of 10.5. This raises his placement value significantly. If you calculate the un-modified values, the red player has a placement value of 22 and all of the others are at 19. Red definitely has the best placement, but no other player has a disadvantage. If you recalculate the trade-weighted value of the placements, Red has placement value of 23.6, Blue is second at 21.5, Orange is at 21.3, and White is far behind at 19.3. Even though white was able to capture two 6’s (the best placement), his trade-weighted placement puts him far behind the others. He probably has the worst chance of winning of all of the players. I would also subjectively raise the value of blue’s ore positions, since the third ore spot is a twelve which no one has. If you want you could instead think of the ore values with a 50% bonus. In this case, red and blue are the clear outliers and placed strongly with placement values of 24 and 22.5 respectively.

… to be continued in Settler’s of Catan Strategies Part 2.

Picture of Max at 5 Months

Here’s a picture of my beautiful Maxie at 5 months.  He is certainly a handful, from his bad sleeping patterns at night to having to be carried all day, he is truly a very demanding baby.  In the months since his birth, he made me struggle and really feel my age.  I have to admit that I am too old to raise babies, but one look at him made it all worth it.  You can say I am indeed deeply in love with Maxie.  I love the sparkle in his eyes and the funny things he does.  To me, everything about him is magical, from the wiggles of his toes to slobbers of his drool.  My love for him is like a drug, it makes me forget my age, my tiredness, and any other trouble on my mind.  All I want to do is to be with him and grab onto every precious moment I can.  He reminds me everyday that I am lucky to be me.

Max at 5 months

-Flo.

Max, You Are 5 Months Old Today!

Dear Max,

You are 5 months old today!  As I was going through your pictures since birth, I was amazed at how big and grown up you have become.  I can’t wait to be there with you as you learn to sit and crawl in the coming months.

You are now eating solids.  Since we got the okay from your pediatrician at 4 months check up, we have been feeding you solids.  So far we have given you plain rice cereal, mashed banana with rice cereal, and mashed sweet potato.  Most of the days you only eat one solid meal a day, but two on the weekends.  Mommy and daddy are so excited to introduce you to new foods.  In the coming weeks, we are going to try avocado, nectarines, peaches, and pears.

You are now a pro at turning around.  You can easily turn onto your stomach, and then onto your back again.   It may be this reason that you are not sleeping very well.  Some nights we find you turned onto your stomach and woke up crying.

For the first time since you came home from the hospital, you have spent the night away from your own room.  We finally made our first trip back to grandparents’ (Mom and A-Pa) home for labor day weekend!  The most wonderful thing was your cousins and their family were able to join us there.  It was so much fun.  You were the center of the attention.  With everyone playing with you, you giggled all day long.

You are very opinionated.  When you wake in the morning, you couldn’t wait to get out of your room to be surrounded by our family.  So you would cry in short bursts to show that you are done being locked up in your room.  You love meeting new people and being outdoors, it always bring lots of giggles out of you.  Mostly, you prefer mommy over everyone else.  When you are unhappy, it is only mommy’s embrace that can stop all your tears.

My dear precious Max, mommy loves you so much and that love can only grow as you do.  When you are away from me, every cell in my body craves your touch.  So my happiest moment comes when I rush home from work and finally have you in my arms.  Happy 5 months birthday!

-Mommy.

Max, the Dish!

Ever since Ravi was an infant, I’ve always volunteered to eat last during meal times.  This way I can let the nanny, my mom, or Mario enjoy their food undisturbed while I take care of the baby.  Once they are done and can take the baby from me, I would then sit down to eat myself.  I have been doing this for years now and somehow it became a tradition.  Sure the food gets a little cold, but I feel it is a form of respect for other people that help take care of my children, and also it allows me to eat calmly without the need to rush to a crying baby. 

Even though I have been asked numerous times to put Max down so I can enjoy a good meal with my family, I always refused.  Max is a high maintaince baby, he can sit in the swing for about 10 minutes straight, but that’s not enough time for me to enjoy a meal.  So this tradition continues till this day.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to put them down during meal time once in a while.  Back a few weeks ago when I finally put down money for an infant chair, I put Max in it and place it on top of the dinning table while I had my meal with my family.  Lets ignore the safety hazards for moment, and note that I sat in the chair right behind Max and had a hand on him the entire time I was eating.  I was surprised at how well it worked.  Max was young enough that he couldn’t move in the chair but just old enough to hold his neck straight.  So the entire time he was in the chair, his body remained motionless while his neck turned around and around allowing his eyes to look at everyone sitting at the table!   He’s obviously a very social kid, he laughed while we smiled at him, he even gave Ravi a special giggle when Ravi tried to climb up and touch him.  My mom called him “the dish,” because he blended in so well with the dishes placed on the table, and he’s so cute sitting there staring at us.

 

 

We have only tried this one other time after the first attempt.  By then Max was already getting strong enough to move his body in his infant chair.  So we decided not to place him on the dinning room table again.  However, I would always have these pictures to remind me how much fun it was to have Max join us at a meal.

-Flo.

Weekend without Nanny, 9/8th-10th

I never thought two weeks can pass so quickly.  Before I blinked, it was time for the nanny to go home again.  This time, due to Mario’s trip leaving Saturday, we arranged for nanny to leave for home Thursday afternoon and return on Saturday afternoon, just in time for us to complete packing and send Mario off to the airport.  By shifting her time off to the week days, it also lessen my work load to only one kid (Max) since Ravi attends day care.  On this weekend, Max was  a little over 4.5 months old.

Since a week ago, we finally made nanny to put Max down for naps whenever possible.  This was harder than it sounds, as we have been trying to have her do this for months now, but she always end up holding him through out his naps.  I guess this was easier for her.  She didn’t mind it because she gets to sit in an extremely comfortable rocking chair behind closed door of her room without having to do anything else.  The turning point was the Labor Day long weekend when we were at my parents’ house.  There wasn’t a comfortable chair for her to sit in.  Unless she was going to hold him for hours standing up, She had no choice but to put Max down to nap .  I am glad that became a habit. Now I just hope she will keep it up.  So for both days she was away, I put Max down to nap whenever I felt he was in deep sleep.  I considered this a major improvement, because I held Max through out his naps previously.

A recap of what happened last time nanny went home.  Each night Max cried at least once every hour so I had to get up and rock him back to sleep again.  He was also awake each night around 5AM for an hour demanded to be entertained.  The worst part was Max refused to be put down to sleep on his own pass 6AM, so I had to carry him to sleep in the rocking chair till he woke up at 8:30AM.  I am happy to report this time around Max slept much better at night.  Like clock work, he went to bed at 7:30PM and woke up 8AM, with no waking up for more than a few minutes in the middle.  He slept in 1.5 hour stretches, and with some comforting I was able to lured him back to sleep temperarily.  So I was able to stay in bed for two hours each time.  I was thrilled!  I know that still doesn’t give me much sleep, but that’s tremendous improvement for me.  Max behaved beautifully during the day too.  He didn’t cry or complain.  H was happy to be a part of the family.

After this weekend, I think I am almost ready to take care of Max myself.  Though I would still have a hard time taking care of both Ravi and Max, but it is definitely do-able with a little help from grandparents.

-Flo.

 Other posts in this series:

Weekend without Nanny, 8/26th-28th