I'm starting a new segment called "Monday Must Haves." In it I will spotlight something I have found to be incredibly useful or downright cool. Most of these will have to do with parenting, but expect me to come across some other things that I happen to really dig. Also, I will almost always be including a link that will take you to the Amazon page for that item. Feel free to click on it. If you buy it, Amazon will send a little cash my way.

I want to put a disclaimer here. Every item I highlight will be something I have used and liked. I will not be getting paid for the review (unless you buy the item from Amazon) and any swag I may get will be noted in the reviews. I promise to keep these reviews as honest as possible.

Now, getting on with it:

This Monday's must have is the Ergo Carrier.

The Ergo Carrier is an organic cotton, heavy duty baby carrier. This carrier is simply comfortable. I've been using it for about three months now and I really enjoy wearing it. As with all carriers, it takes some getting used to, but once you figure it out, it is really a pleasure to wear. And based on how the kid ends up sleeping on every walk, I'd say that it is pretty comfortable to ride in as well. Our little girl is only just now getting to the point where we can think about removing the optional Ergo Organic Infant Insert so I don't have a lot of experience using all the different positions that it is capable of but if they are anywhere as comfortable as using the insert it is well worth the money. (The insert is to give neck stability to younger babies that haven't developed their neck muscles yet.

The Carrier is able to be used in four different positions. (The literature says three positions, but I'll explain what the fourth is). You can wear it chest to chest on your front side, chest to back like a backpack and as a side sling. (Though the sling requires a little bit of complicated restructuring of the carrier. I'm sure it isn't hard once you figure it out though.) The fourth position is that, at least while they are still little, you can sit your child in the carrier in the same way you would if you were still using the infant insert (their side to your front) even if you don't use the insert. This offers great versatility.

There are three big features this carriers have that many others do not. First, it is designed to have the child sit on their bottom instead of suspending them from their crotch. This is more comfortable for them and you can carry them longer without it bothering them. Secondly, the waist belt puts most of the weight on your hips and not your shoulders. I've tried the Baby Bjorn and frankly even after all the training my back has gotten from using the Ergo Carrier I still found myself in pain after a short walk without the waist belt. These two reasons allow you to use the Ergo Carrier much longer than many other carriers because the weight limit (for the child, not you) is much higher. Finally, it is made from Organic Cotton. This last one won't be important to all of you, but I'd much rather that my child not suck (and they will suck) on fabric that was treated with pesticides (even if it was several steps up the chain).

There is one problem I have with this product and that is with the instructional DVD that is included. First, the video is pretty ridiculous. I dare you not to laugh out loud at the video. Secondly, the DVD was made using the first generation Ergo Carrier. In the later generation they have made some changes that are not shown in the DVD. It isn't hard to figure out what they mean though.

All in all the wife and I are incredibly happy with the Ergo Carrier and that is why it is the first Monday Must Have.
In which our hero takes some time to brag...

Just because I have a little girl doesn't mean that I can't take time to brag about how tough she is. The funny thing is, I didn't expect her to cry. In fact, I almost expected her not to cry, despite previous results.

I just haven't been able to find any one to brag to about how tough my little girl is. So I find myself writing it here, where I have a captive audience.

My little girl didn't cry getting her vaccine shot.

Just one slight whimper and then on with her day. "What's that? Mom wants jeans at Old Navy and we need to deposit checks at the bank? No prob. Oh, and don't forget to fill up the gas tank on the way home. Don't worry about me, I'm cool."

If any of you parents are looking for someone to commiserate with about how hard it is to be a parent, don't come looking here. This little girl is a piece of cake.
In which our hero travels...alone...with the kid

So we decided to make an offer. With that decision down, the next quest would be to get signatures on the forms and turned in before the bank makes a decision.

"No problem," I say, "I can drop you off at work, run some errands hang out with a friend and then pick you up when you get off work and we can head up to our agent's office and get that paperwork signed. Hold on, let me take this call. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Ok thanks. Tom says he is busy tomorrow from 11am until 7pm."

Regardless, I was already starting to want to spend some time with grown-ups and not just the kid all day. So we decided that I would still run the errands and hang out with friends but when I picked up the wife from work, I would already have the paperwork for us to sign and then scan and email to his office.

Good thing I spent the time hooking up the new scanner/printer before she started work again.

So I packed up everything I would need for a day out with the kid (and did a darn good job of it too) including a container of milk and some bottles from which to feed her. The next morning I woke up waaaaaaay too early (Sidenote: did you know that they make a 5:30 AM now?) and hit the road.

At this point I realized the first of two problems I was going to have with the day. The stores don't open at 7am. Damn. Ok, I'll get to them later we can just head up to the potential new neighborhood and do some exploring. Which we did. Drove around the neighborhood, checked out the downtown area. I even walked every aisle in the grocery store that is less than a block from the potential new house. Very nice.

I know what you are thinking: "What was your second mistake?" Wait for it. It's coming.

The second mistake, or rather the fatal flaw in the days plan is that I had everything I needed for the day if the baby girl liked her milk cold. Which she doesn't. And we were fast approaching the time where she likes to pretend she wants to eat and then not eat.

So I went over to the friends house and waited as long as I could for a reasonable hour to knock on the door. Luckily they were awake, though not ready for guests. They at least understood my situation, and besides, we go way back.

Really, that is the end of the story. The rest of the adventure wasn't all that hectic. We had a great time hanging out, picking up the offer paperwork and getting some FroYo. Later, I picked up the wife and we ran the errands together, which she preferred and the kid was the angel she usually is.

Later that night we had some trouble with the scanner, but got it all figured out and got the offer in. Not really worth going into all the details.

Now you think: "Great story, but that was last Wednesday. What has happened since?" The answer to that is: "Nothing too exciting really." Just a bunch of the work that pays and recovering with the wife from the week that was and preparing for the week that comes.

Mostly, I'm trying to figure out what to do for the kids three-month photoshoot. I have a few ideas, but nothing that really blows me away yet. When I do it though, I'll post some.
In which our hero contemplates a major purchase

Remember what I said about waiting to find a routine? I'm starting to wonder if no routine is the new routine. The plan, as it stood, was to settle into a routine quickly after the wife started working again. Life has a way of messing with your plans.

Some background: We have been looking to buy a house. We started looking in February, though we slowed down in late May and pretty much since then due to the new kid. The area we've been looking in had been getting us down. While it is not an especially expensive area, it is surrounded by higher tier neighborhoods. It is also where my wife works and where I grew up. You can see it had a lot going for it. Unfortunately, we were not the only people that thought so and we were seeing 30-60 offers being made on every house we thought might work. Meanwhile, the number of new houses coming on the market slowed to a trickle.

Suffice it to say that we were starting to accept that we might have to look in other neighborhoods.

Visiting some friends last week, we noticed that the house right next door was for sale. We called our realtor (who, coincidentally was also their realtor and even more coincidentally lived on the same street) to ask about this house. "Couldn't hurt to find out the situation," we thought.

"Riiiiiiiiiiight..." he says now through a haze of stress and lack of sleep.

At first Tom (our realtor) looked up the data about the house and found that it was a short sale and though the asking price was in our range, it appeared to have an offer and be working its way through the bank labyrinth. He left a message with the selling agent.

Now, as you probably can tell, based on my mad writing skillz, we are reaching the breaking point of the suspense. The story is about to get crazier and I don't want you to miss it. So keep reading.

While visiting family last Saturday Tom let us know that he had heard back from the selling agent. "She told me that if you want to make an offer that is better than the offer they have there is a pretty good chance you could get in," he said "but you probably want to see the house first, oh and she thinks the bank could wrap up it decision making in the next week so there might be a time limitation."

"Are you free now?" we asked.

It is those four simple words that brought about this whole whirlwind.

We looked at the house and liked it enough. It didn't blow us away, but we could see the potential underneath. Not to mention the potential around it. I mean, it was literally right. next. door. to some of our good friends. This part was a big deal. I'm not ashamed to admit that while I can be a very sociable, jovial and extroverted guy when I'm around people I know, I do have trouble meeting new people. To have a jumpstart in building a community to live in would be an incredible stroke of luck. Not to mention that our friends had been talking about starting a family, an endeavor that we had recently undertaken ourselves. Talk about building a community!

Of course, this probably wouldn't be a whole long story with out a downside. This house is slighter farther from the wife's work than where we live now. Any other problem or question could be argued or answered away. Crime in the area? No more or less than everywhere else we've looked. Child Molesters? Only really one to be concerned of and that is an extremely low probability anyway. Are the schools good? Turns out they are. Isn't it hot there during the summer? Two part answer: 1. The house has newer double-paned windows and a whole house fan. 2. You are going to spend most days in A/C at work, and I can handle the heat.

I refused to take on the commute problem though.

See, I work at home. I watch the kid. I don't drive the commute. I would look up the data she asked for: how far is it? what are the traffic patterns like? how long does google maps say it will take? but she needed to decide it was worth it herself. If she spend every drive home hating her commute, it was going to ruin at least the first hour she was home (the kid does WONDERS towards brightening your mood) and slowly poison her against the house. However, if she came to the conclusion that it was the "price of admission" for this house and this community then she might view the drive more charitably and that would vastly improve her overall mood and happiness.

Like they say: "Happy wife, happy life."

It is at this point I would like to remind the reader of what we had planned to do this week. You forget? Go ahead and scroll back up to the top, I'll wait. Yes, that is correct we were supposed to be finding a routine.

Meanwhile, back in reality, we are trying to get a handle on our new roles (her a full-time working mother, me a full-time caretaker) and also make what might one of the biggest decisions of our lives. This causes lots of stress and a lack of sleep. Not ideal conditions for routine.

And not a good way to try to work your still recovering body into the rigors of the 40-hour workweek. You see, I love my wife. She is intelligent, talented, beautiful, great company and fiercely loyal. She can handle stress. She can handle a lack of sleep. Unfortunately, she has trouble handling stress while lacking sleep.

So what and how did she decide on the commute issue? Basically we punted. We knew that if we put down an offer we could back out if we decided this wasn't the right place for us. We also knew that we couldn't put in an offer once we made the decision, if we made that decision too late. So we decided to make and offer and forget about it until we learn whether the offer was accepted. If it is, then we will make a final decision then. Of course the real adventure happens to be the manner in which we acquire the paperwork to sign and get it turned in to the realtor.

Stay tuned for part II where the real adventure takes place.
One day down.

Today was my first day at home alone. My wife returned to work after her 12 weeks of leave. She was sad to go, but being the main bread-winner, she had little choice. Throughout the 12 weeks of our family, I've been refusing to allow myself to find a rhythm or get into a system. I knew that I would soon be home alone with the kid all day and I didn't want to have to break any habits.

Of course, I couldn't really spend any time developing habits today either. We had guests coming in tonight so any free time I had was spent preparing for the evening. That being said, I think I did a pretty decent job. Besides keeping the kid both alive and relatively happy, I managed to clean the apartment (luckily, we have doors on the bedrooms so I could just close the door and call that room clean) have dinner ready to go in the oven, bake a loaf of bread, and even spend an hour and a half actually working.

For the record here is how I wish for the days to go (knowing full well that since it is what I want, it will never happen): Get up with the kid around 9. Get her and myself fed. Some playtime, possibly including a walk (will become a bike ride once I can safely put her on my bike). She naps while I troll about the internet and maybe do a little cleaning. More playtime, hopefully with some reading. Another nap where I make sure that I have everything ready to work later in the evening and possibly even get some work done. Play time until mom gets home. When mom gets home, I get free time, which will likely be spent either working, reading or working on dinner. Short walk after dinner, get the wife and kid into bed and then 3-4 hours of working before I crash myself.

I know, it is nice to have dreams.

Regardless, I got through today. Only 1250 more weekdays until she starts school.