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Category Archives: Family

Does your camera enhance or interfere with life?

Babies are cute. There’s no doubt about it. And with the integration of multimedia tools in everyday technology (read: iPhone) it’s easier than ever to spend your time documenting this cuteness, instead of living in it.

A friend of mine recently wrote:

“It’s very cool that we can capture photos and video via mobile on the fly–no more missing those little moments. At the same time, I can’t help feeling it turns us into voyeurs in our own lives, more intent on capturing the moment than being in it.”

And so that got me thinking – this need to capture every moment and post every photo and tag and check in – does it get in the way of life, or does it enhance life?

Over the holidays, I captured this video of our precious little twin babies and posted it to YouTube. Yes, it’s cute and yes, they’re adorable – but unless you’re in my will, you probably don’t care. Go ahead, have a look. But I’m just warning you now, it’s 2 minutes of babies on their tummies, cooing, and trying to roll over.

For me, there is a certain pressure and obligation to document enough of these “moments” not only for posterity, but to share with family members not in attendance. We recently even harnessed technology to live videocast a private event for my son to his godfather who lives in another state.

It used to be that families would get together over the holidays, sit around and watch the old Super 8 silent family films as they flickered across the white dining room wall. Nowadays, you can stream your turkey dinners live to faraway places. So it’s a battle between being in the moment and capturing it in a way that doesn’t interfere with it (the Hawthorne effect, from my psychology days).

Does anyone else encounter this issue?  What ways do you have to strike the right balance?

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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Family, Random, Thoughts

 

Read my lips: No new boxes

Despite over-filling the massive city-issued recycling can every week, and sending just as much to the land fill, we have a lot of stuff. Stuff in the living room. Stuff in the bedrooms. And especially stuff in the garage. I’m not bragging. Actually, it’s obscene. It’s embarrassing. I’m pretty sure we could feed and clothe a few third world countries with the stuff that we have sitting around.

And I’m not sure where stuff comes from. Does it multiply like a bad virus? Come out of the woodwork? Or simply a bi-product of our lifelong hoarding habit?

20111230-165900.jpg

It's not quite this bad. But almost.

Wherever it comes from, I’m laying down the law for the new year with a new rule in the Brody household…

NO NEW BOXES!

What does that mean? Well, I’m thinking inside the box. By enforcing a zero-sum box game.

In other words, for every box that comes into this house, the same box has to go out of the house within a week — filled with stuff — and donated to charity.

I’m not talking about mac-and-cheese containers. I mean anything that is bigger than a bread “box.”

So that’s the plan anyway. We’ll see how it goes. Got any better ideas?

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Family, Thoughts

 

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Five baby items I wish existed

As a father of four-month old twins, I’m thankful every day for modern technology that helps us raise these miniature humans. Video monitors, portable bassinets, heck, even disposable diapers…I can’t imagine how they do it in third-world countries or even America, say, 100 years ago.

Still, could it be easier? Yes. There are things that should exist but don’t. All parents who’ve survived the baby stage can relate to the sheer madness of a fussy baby who won’t stop crying. But with multiples, it’s literally Whac-a-mole. Oftentimes, as soon as you get one fed and settled, the other one’s head pops up — screaming at a decibel level exceeding a jet engine, for someone, apparently in China, to come rescue her.

So, with that in mind, I give you my top five baby care items that need to be invented…

Mother's 3rd Arm

This is NOT what I'm talking about.

1) The third arm. Granted, there actually is something with this name already out there. As a matter of fact, we have one. But it’s more like a flexible bottle holder than something you can control. What I really need is something connected to you that would cradle a baby around your body, freeing up your two real arms. Things like slings and Baby Bjorns come close, but don’t position the baby in a way that makes feeding or caring for him possible.

2) The Starbucks bottle washer. Sure you can wash bottles by hand, but when you’re dealing with two times the normal volume of formula preparation, feedings, and cleanings, the job gets overwhelming…quick. What I envision here is a device that connects to the kitchen sink with a Christmas-tree shaped rotating brush that dispenses soap and water and spins like the Tasmanian Devil when the bottle is held over the device. In a few seconds, voila…a clean bottle that’s ready to be sterilized and reused. The closest thing I’ve seen to this concept is the pitcher washer at Starbucks that the baristas use to clean out their containers. (Like how I got a coffee reference in another blog? 😉

Baby Bidet

Even the dog knows this doesn't look right.

3) A baby bidet. Do I really need to explain why? Yes, the Diaper Genie has made diaper changes slightly more tolerable, but again – twice the feedings equals twice the poop. Enough said. And, of course, any proper baby bidet wouldn’t be complete without the corresponding diaper-changing robot.

4) A Baby-to-English translator. Nothing breaks your heart more than when you know your baby is in distress but you can’t figure out the cause. That’s why the military uses recordings of babies crying as a quasi-torture technique. There’s something hard-wired in our DNA that forces us to act when we hear that sound. But what if we actually could know exactly what was going on in that little head when they can’t express it? Hey, Apple, there should be an app for that.

5) A female-shaped harness thingy. OK, I admit this one is a little crazy, but it’s not about some weird cross-dressing fetish. One of our twins, I won’t say which one, seems fully comforted only when mommy is holding her. Actually, mommy is preferred, but apparently any woman will do. If I try to soothe her or hold her for more than a few minutes, she fusses for someone else. Am I doing something wrong? No. My physique apparently just won’t do. To test this, I rolled up a baby blanket and placed it in, er, a strategic place and attempted to hold her again while she was fussy. Low and behold, she calmed down and fell asleep. I’m sure it’s just a phase that she’ll grow out of eventually, but for those nights when mommy is working or unavailable, it sure would be nice to have another option to stop the midnight madness. Until then, rolled up blankies will have to do.

Don’t get me wrong. Nothing can replace the joy of parenting and raising children. I mean, just look at these faces! But that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to make things easier, right? What baby products do you wish existed?

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Family, Thoughts

 

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Yo, mama: we’re proud of you!

I know an extremely talented author who lately has been picking up a lot of steam — as well as accolades. In fact, I happen to be her son.

20111214-101703.jpgMy mom, Marjorie, who retired as a psychotherapist several years ago to pursue her dream of becoming an author, now writes full-time. She’s constantly jotting down ideas, developing plot lines, meeting with other local authors, and sending manuscripts to publishers.

Recently, the publisher of the Short Story America Anthology, which contains two of Marjorie’s short stories, nominated her for the 2012 Pushcart Prize. According to mom, the Pushcart is the “Oscars” of the writing world. We’ll find out the winners soon, but it’s a huge honor just to be nominated. Congratulations, mom!

“The Pushcart Prize – Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976 – is the most honored literary project in America. Hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in the pages of our annual collections.” – pushcartprize.com

If you want to learn more about this fantastic up-and-coming author and see a captivating performance of one of her works, watch the following video.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2011 in Family, Thoughts

 

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Three tips for baking the perfect loaf of bread

There is nothing like the smell of freshly baking bread. It fills the air with four hours of warmth and coziness that few things in this world can match. But while getting the aroma to waft through the house is easy, making a decent loaf can be a challenge. I’ve created more than my share of hockey pucks and mushroom cloud loaves, so here are my tips for getting the highest-quality results from your flour-filled fun.

Tip #1: Choose the right machine. Baking purists will say you should knead the dough by hand and bake the loaf in your oven. But with today’s technology, you can achieve more consistent results and more precise control using a good bread machine. But not just any old machine will do.

My first bread machine was given to me as a wedding present almost 14 years ago. While it served its purpose, the results were always hit or miss, and I wanted something that I could rely on to produce consistent high-quality bread. So I recently purchased the Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme 2-Pound-Loaf Breadmaker from Amazon.com. At around $250, you might say that it’s overkill. But trust me, the results speak for themselves.

Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme 2-Pound-Loaf Breadmaker

The dual-blade Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme makes rectangular-shaped 2-pound loaves.

Two things make this machine awesome. First, it makes rectangular, horizontal loaves, rather than the vertical rocket ships that most machines produce. This result is even baking and a nicely shaped loaf that more closely resembles what you would buy in the store. Second, it pre-heats all the ingredients to the exact right temperature before beginning the process. This is critical, as you’ll see in the next tip.

Tip #2: Use the right ingredients in the right way. With only four basic ingredients (flour, water, yeast, and salt), you’d think this would be pretty easy to get right, but bread is a surprisingly tricky thing to make.

The key ingredient is yeast, a living organism related to fungi that eats and breathes just like us. It’s this breathing (actually, the process of fermentation) that gives off carbon dioxide gas, which is in turn trapped by the gluten in the flour, causing bread to rise.

But it’s also the most finicky of all ingredients. Heat the yeast too high or too low and it won’t rise. You’ll end up with a dense, heavy dough ball. The ideal temperature is usually between 75-85 degrees F. In addition, you must add the ingredients in the proper order. Since water causes the yeast to activate the fermentation process, if the water and yeast come into contact too soon, you’ll get a bad loaf. Generally, you place the water (and any other wet ingredients) into the pan first. Then you cover the water with the flour, and finally add the yeast on top of the flour, being careful not to get the yeast wet.

The proportions of the ingredients to one another are also extremely important. Be sure to follow the baking directions from your recipe precisely. Even a tablespoon of water or flour can make a huge difference. Beginners can use an off-the-shelf bread mix with nearly flawless results. As you get more experienced, you’ll want to start experimenting with different flours such as wheat or rye, and tasty add-ins, like fruit or nuts. Note that non-white flours will not rise as much as their traditional counterparts, and most sweet add-ins will also weigh down the loaf. Experiment with different ingredients, realizing that your result may not look perfect but might still be delicious.

Tip #3: Let the loaf cool. This last one may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to ruin a good loaf by attacking it too soon. Once the bread machine is done with its thing, gently shake the loaf out of the pan onto a cooling rack. Use a soft plastic spatula to help get sticky sides off the pan. Once the bread has rested for 15-30 minutes, use a long serrated bread knife to cut the loaf into 1/2-inch slices. If you try cutting it when it’s still hot, you’ll crush and disfigure the bread.

Bread making and golf have a lot in common. You can miss the fairway all day, but it only takes one good chip-in to make you keep playing the game. So whatever results you get, be sure to take notes. Just like your golf swing, once you get that perfect loaf, you’ll want to be able to reproduce it every time.

I’m sure there are many other ways to achieve good bread baking results – what are some of your tips? Let me know!

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Family, Random, Thoughts, Uncategorized

 

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Not phoning in my resolution this time

A new study is out that confirms a rising trend: This will just take a seven…salmon…(damn you, autocorrect)… This will just take a second —

Texting and driving don’t mix.

Despite widespread awareness of the dangers that distracted driving can cause, and despite horrific viral video campaigns that will make you wish for a real-life “undo” button, drivers continue to text behind the wheel.

The new research, conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, shows that the number of people who thumb messages or email from the driver’s seat has risen 50% over the past year.

So why the disconnect between the absolute sheer danger and the real-life behavior?  You might think, as with most tragic events, people erroneously think it can’t happen to them.  But that’s not quite it.  What’s happening, the researchers believe, is that people just seem to think they’re better drivers than everyone else, and they can handle the additional distraction — but the other guy can’t.

“Everyone thinks he or she is an above average driver — it’s all the nuts out there who need educating,” said Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

But I’m willing to bet Mitt Romney $10,000 that there’s also some deeper psychological phenomenon at stake, and I hope that will be the next research study the government undertakes.  My hypothesis is that there is some sort of addictive rush that comes from sending and receiving messages. Something chemical in the brain that creates an urge too great to put off, despite intellectually knowing the dangers.  That could explain why so many people support laws banning texting while driving (now illegal in 35 states), yet so many continue to do it.

Some of the other findings from the government study:

  • 90% said that when they are passengers they feel very unsafe if the driver is texting or emailing.
  • In 2010 there were an estimated 3,092 deaths in crashes affected by a wide range of driver distractions.
  • Big majorities of drivers surveyed support bans on hand-held cellphone use and texting while driving — 71 percent and 94 percent, respectively, yet 20% of all drivers and 50% of drivers 21 to 24 years old regularly text or email while driving.

If these numbers aren’t enough to jolt you into changing your behavior, perhaps the video below will. (Fair warning: it’s very difficult to watch.)

And that’s why one of my 2012 New Year’s resolutions is to put the kibosh on cell phone distractions in my car. That means, no texting, no browsing, no Words with Friends.

It can, and it will, wait.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2011 in Family, Thoughts, Travel, Work

 

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Having a bad day?

Just look at these faces!

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2011 in Family