HOT: Data Driven Parenting

Being that I work in IT (and am an all around gadget geek) and Joyce is a fan of structure and organisation in the home, we’ve decided to try to take advantage of the age of technological wonder in which we live and adopt a data driven approach to parenting.

No, I’m not taking the piss. Bear with my while I explain.

As I’ve written about in other contexts, increases in both digital data storage capacity and the mobility of technology has dramatically reduced the cost and difficulty of collecting and storing data. Parallel increases in processing power has also made analysing this data much more straight forward. This has made it feasible to collect and analyse data about a whole range of subjects that wouldn’t have been worth the hassle in the past.

One of these areas is parenting. Believe it or not, there’s a niche community of geek parents who are utilising the proliferation of smart phones to collect data about their babies’ daily routines in the hope of taking an evidence based approach to parenting.  The idea is that by looking at a data set containing the details of your child’s feeding, sleeping and digestion, you can work out what patterns of activity are conducive to keeping your baby happy and settled and identify any changes in routine that have upset things.  It also provides a detailed and accurate record of your child’s bodily functions which can be very handy when it comes time to visit the doctor.

Joyce and I have decided to give it a go. To this end, since we got home from the hospital, we’ve been using the Total Baby iPhone app for real time data collection and analysis.

So far, it’s been great. Total Baby can collected A LOT of very granular data about basic functions in simple drop down menus eg the last time a specific activity (ie sleeping, feeding, nappy ect) was undertaken and  details of the  activity (eg the characterisation of scat by colour, consistency etc). Very usefully, it also contains a series of timers that enable you to record the length of time spent on an activity with a touch of the screen.  It also offers the ability to add customised data collection points and timers so that you can track niche issues that might be specific to your child.

At first we were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to remember to keep up the data collection process – especially once sleep deprivation set in. However, it’s been surprisingly easy. Joyce almost always has her iPhone in hand for email/twitter while she’s breast feeding, so it’s a built in memory aid. Plus, we spend so much time thinking ‘I wonder if it’s time to do XYZ?’ that we’re frequently looking at the app during the course of the day too.

Having a handy record of things like how long it’s been since the last feed and which breast was used for the last feed has been great for keeping us organised and allowing us to plan ahead. Similarly, Total Baby has become our first point of call when trying to work out what’s perturbing NKOTB at any point in time. It’s been a great anxiety reliever in his regard. Instead of just feeling our way in the (metaphorical) dark trying to work out what the problem is, we’re able to engage in some data driven problem solving. It’s not always successful obviously, but the feeling of control you get from having a data set to analyse is reassuring (even if it’s just an illusion).

At only $4.99 – Total Baby been one of the best baby purchases we’ve made.

HOT: Youtube Family Memories

Well, the New Kid On The Block is five days old, we’re back at home and Joyce and I are slowly settling into the responsibilities of parenthood.

My areas of responsibility are basically “Things unrelated to Breast Feeding” ie  nappy changes, burping, settling and most importantly from the perspective of the extended family; official historian and public relations manager.

Unfortunately, Joyce and I live a long way away from most of our extended families. Which is difficult, not only because we miss out on the practical help that nearby family members can offer, but also because while we’re geographically isolated, we’re both emotionally close with our families and want NKOTB to have the same experience growing up.

So, we know that we need to make a concious effort to ensure that distant families members are involved in NKOTB’s life. We’ve got a few plans in store in this regard, but the one that has worked the best so far is Youtube.

As I’m sure it the case for most people, I’d watched a lot of videos on Youtube, but I’ve never had occasion to upload one myself, but NKOTB’s arrival has spurred me to move from ‘long time viewer’ to ‘first time uploader’.  It’s worked a treat and is amazingly simple.

While we were still in the hospital, we recorded a few ‘firsts’ in High Definition on Dad’s trusty iPhone4, transferred them to my laptop equipped with my trusty Telstra NextG wireless dongle for uploading (yes, I work for Telstra, so I’m biased) and fifteen minutes later we had a Youtube channel that we could share with our distant relatives. It couldn’t have been easier and the relatives have loved being able to share NKOTB’s early days.

Ain’t the Internet amazing?

HOT or NOT? Elaborate Paternal Photography

So I’ve labelled this one a “Hot OR Not?” because while I know that it’s something that I would enjoy,  I’m not so sure whether Joyce or the New Kid On The Block would endorse it.

The popularisation of high quality digital photography and the Photoshop revolution  has really broadened the horizons of what a dad (or a mum) with a penchant for  photography can do with their kids.

As Jason Lee shows, it’s now possible to transcend the ‘Kodak moments’ of the past and create some truly awesome family photos:

As you can see, a little bit of preparation and digital magic can create some really striking family pictures (Ok, so maybe it helps if your kids are really smiley and cute).

I think that it would be a fun and educational Daddy-Daughter project to plan and produce some elaborate and creative family pictures.  However, I suspect that Joyce has reservations about the potential for it to degenerate into an Ann Geddes-esq mess of twee. It’s a fine line, but I think I’m going to be able to win her by showing her that’s it’s possible to be creative and hip as well as cute….

Via: Geekosystem, My Modern Met

NKOTB arrives!

via Allan Peters, AIGA Minnesota

You may find that blog posts are not as frequent in the next few weeks due to some exciting news.  We had a little baby girl, Miss A,  on at 5:45am on Saturday 13/2/2011 (the day before Valentines’ Day )! The New Kid On The Block has arrived!

She’s 3.7kgs of Eurasian cuteness. Blue eyes, double eyelids and thick dark hair.

Everyone is healthy and happy and thank you for all your good wishes and congratulations.

HOT: Cycling while pregnant – Part 2

Earlier on in my pregnancy I wondered out loud via this blog whether it’s a good idea to cycle whilst pregnant.

Well, having now reached 40 weeks + 5 days I can say unequivocally the answer is YES.

The photo above was taken at 40 weeks + 4 days in front of my obstetrician’s surgery. Yes, that’s right, despite my doctor’s suggestion to stop riding at 20 weeks, I have been riding to almost every appointment and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Most people seem shocked or bemused when I tell them that I’m still on the bike and I have never seen a pregnant woman on a bike myself. So for those of you who are unsure about whether or not cycle whilst pregnant, I want to encourage you by saying that it’s absolutely possible if you feel comfortable with the idea and if you’re used to day to day on-road riding.

Cycling has allowed me to be mobile even in the last throes of pregnancy.  Since 36 weeks I’ve developed a bad case of cankles and walking isn’t much fun, what with the swelling and the weight of the baby in the front. Even walking a couple of blocks to the tram stop is uncomfortable. With wheels I can just roll my way door to door from home to the supermarket, the post office and the movies. My panniers also mean that I’m able to carry heavier stuff around, even if it means leaving it at the bottom of the stairs when I get home and getting my husband to carry it up for me.

Cycling to do my errands also allows me to fit a little bit of exercise into my day. While I know that swimming is great exercise for pregnancy, I really don’t enjoy swimming, but I do love cycling and I think it provides the same ‘weight-off-your-feet’ benefits as swimming . I’m sure that cycling has helped keep my energy levels up even when heavily pregnant and I’m hoping that it will help with bouncing back from 9 months of weight gain.

I haven’t felt unsafe on my bike, either from traffic or a lack of balance. As you can see, I ride fairly upright so it’s a very comfortable position with a big belly and I haven’t found pregnancy to affect my balance at all. As for traffic, I do a lot more travelling on the footpath now. I know it’s technically illegal but I figure who’s going to stop a heavily pregnant lady from cycling off the road.

There are a couple of concessions I’ve made to my normal cycling routine. I no longer wear heels as I need to be able to have a firm grip on the pedals or the ground if need be. I travel only short distances eg less than 20 minutes at a time. I avoid big hills at all costs and ride very, very slowly. I carry deodorant and a water bottle everywhere as I get hot and puffed (and a bit smelly) a lot quicker.

Will I be cycling to the hospital? Hard to say. I don’t think so, mostly because my hospital bag is a wheelie suitcase and having never had a baby I’m not sure what my tolerance for contractions will be. But I do take inspiration from this Montana woman who biked to hospital the day her daughter was born.

I somewhat reluctantly got on the bike and, to my surprise, enjoyed every minute of the ride, even when I was having a contraction. Despite all the dire warnings that I would crash my bike when the pain hit, I found that I could power through it. In fact, the contractions on the bike were the easiest to bear because I was distracted and doing something I love.

HOT: Teaching Daughters to Love Science

The video above garnered quite a bit of attention in the Nerd/Geek/Parenting blogosphere recently (now there’s a niche community!). And why not? Any two year old who can pretty well remember all of the Periodic Table is an impressive sight to behold. In fact, a two year old who is able to focus anything, let alone  the Periodic Table, for close to ten minutes straight is impressive in itself!

But the thing I liked the most about this video was that it showed parents being rewarded for making a concious effort to encourage their daughter to engage with science. As someone who’s working IT/telco for most of my career, I’m very concious that for whatever reason, relatively few girls go on to study or have careers in science/technology. It’s difficult to work out why, but I suspect at least part of the cause is cultural/societal. So I want to pay particular attention to nurturing an interest in science and technology in NKOTB from a young age.

I’m not sure that I’ll go to the extent of deploying Periodic Table flash cards, but I salute the intent!

The Periodic Table of Elements flash cards in this clip are available here.

Via: Nerdist and Boing Boing.

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