Our car seats

Now we have 2 kids (one 7 month old baby, one almost 5), we also got quite a few car seats. First the infant car seats, we got a Graco snug and ride car seat for Serenity our old daughter. Something like this one, the seat has travelled to China and is still at her grandpa’s home. We are reusing the base with similar Graco car seat we got for younger daughter Sophia.


Looking back not buying the travel system like we got for sophia is a mistake. Because travel system is quite handy.


For toddler car seats, we got 2: the cheaper evenflo and the more expensive britax.



We like both: the former is smaller and easy to move around, the latter is sturdy. All these seats are easy to fit in my cars: 2001 nissan altima, 2006 subaru forester, 2012 camry and sienna.

I will talk about boost seat in the future :-)

The rodents are back to my Sienna Minivan

I talked about this last year, in this post and that post. The bad news is, they are back. Couple weeks ago, when I went to dealership and install the new battery on Sienna, the service advisor mentioned there are some biting on the cables, and I said “yeah I know, last year I have been here 3 times to fix the squirrel biting cable problem”. Looking back they already visited this year (2015).

My wife noticed the problem on Thursday afternoon when she saw the check engine and “Trac Off” light are on. So I brought the minivan to dealership on Friday, and they were able to fix it on Saturday. Needless to say, I am annoyed again. Service advisor’s advice is to put moth ball in the hood. This was essentially what I did last year. Not fail-safe and there is this moth ball smell which could be harmful to human. I did a little more research and reading (1, 2, 3), but I have not seen a perfect solution. Another possibility is the laundry dryer sheet, or spicy sauce. I may try the dryer sheet tomorrow. Here I wanted to summarize some of the possible approaches to prevent the rodents coming back. I hope this might be helpful for people in similar situation like me, last year once I recall the service advisor told me a customer came back multiple times due to this problem, in other words I am not alone.

1) Use repellent such as spicy sauce, moth ball (this is unproven and has side effect according to some);

2) Power wash the engine compartment, to get rid of the smell from rodents’ previous visits. Note there is different opinions on this topic (see one discussion here). I also noticed Waterway Car Cash offers this service. I never did that before and don’t know how they do this.

3) Don’t park in the same spot when parking outside. Keep in mind do this both in winter and spring: the rodents get in in winter because it’s warmer inside, and they chew the cable for fun, in spring it’s mating season for squirrel, the make nest there.

4) Last but not least, trade in the problem car or minivan. I did give it some thought, and I think if the problem persists, and since I could not buy a townhouse/single family house with car garage, that’s one option I may pursue.

Yoyo got sick : some thoughts on seeing doctors in the US

(2-6-15) So I guess this is common phenomena in 2 kids family. My older daughter recovered, and my younger daughter got sick.

(2-2-15) Yoyo got sick today. She has been coughing for a while, mostly dry cough, but it got worse last few days, and last night (this morning) she just could not fell back to sleep due to cough. Took her to see the pediatrician early morning as they now have walk-in option between 7:30 ~ 8:30 am for urgent (acute) condition. Personally I feel this is a bit like Urgent care centers. The cost is also the same ($50 per visit, this varies by insurance I think).

From Yoyo and my own experience, I felt seeing doctors in the US is really a hassle. In recent years I felt sometimes it’s more convenient to visit urgent care if it’s a really acute condition. Because to see regular doctor, we need to make appointment, and by the time we go to appointment, sometimes we already got better. But I think there is still benefits with regular doctors, in terms of medical records, and knowledge of medical conditions. More recently with my never ending cough, I feel a need for us to have more knowledge on medicine and health, as this is really our own body, and we have the most stake.

Also, not to pick on any one, just like to talk about the efficiency of this healthcare system. So the doctor prescribed something and since the nurse verified the pharmacy in the beginning, I did not ask for the paper prescription when we left: assume there will be an electronic message from the doctor to the pharmacy. Apparently it got lost. So when I went to Schnucks, and ask for it, they told me they did not receive anything. So I had to call the doctor office again, talk to receptionist. She told me nurse will call me back. I waited for a while, got the call. Verified with the pharmacist again, he said he got it. But appears he still need to dial a number to verify. About 15 to 20 minutes later, I finally got the medicine for Yoyo. The medicine (anti-biotic) is free, courtesy of Schnucks.

Last but not least, I recall when Yoyo was little (probably a year and half old), she got fever, and I could literally hear she breeze hard when she laid on the bed. Not a good feeling from a father’s perspective. She is much bigger now. Today even she got fever in the evening, her activity level is almost same as usual, her only complaints is she got headache and stomachache :-(

Got CT Scan yesterday

I have been coughing for over a year. It’s very hard to get insurance pre-authorization to get CT scan in the US, according to my primary care doctor. She said if I am willing to self-pay, it’s not too expensive. So yesterday I took the plunge, I went to Metro Imaging directly, paid the fee from my credit card, and got my scan. I used to see this CT scanner on movie/TV, and see my daughter Yoyo did it once. Now it’s my turn. A bit of mixed feeling though as I did not want to hear the bad news. The scanner looks something like this. It’s also interesting I used to work for Siemens :-)

Siemens CT Scanner

The good news is the results is negative (I got results right away, I think this is the way medical testing should be). The bad news is I still need to figure out why the cough persists? There are two theories: allergy or acid reflux (from stomach to throat).

    Couple deals : Charmin bath tissue and Huggies diaper

    Charmin and Bounty at Target
    $4.50 off regular price for 30 double rolls, $5 eGiftcard when one buy 2 (can mix and match). Here is the link to get to Charmin. Use Target Redcard to get 5% off and free shipping.

    Huggies Snug and Dry Plus at Costco
    $6 off large box (was $38.99 for size 3), here is the link to size 3. I ordered one box a week ago, and it arrived today. So far it seems work for my younger daughter. I recall we used mostly this diaper from Costco for our elder daughter. This promotion runs till Jan 25. Limit 2 boxes per order. Costco offers free shipping for this.

      Diapers, diapers, diapers

      Baby Sophia is almost 5 months old, and she is on size 3 diaper (16 to 28 lbs). I recall she was born at 7 lbs and 3 oz, quickly reach 10 lbs which also outgrew new born size diaper. Similar thing happened to size 1 diaper, she reached 14 lbs at 2 month mark, and now we have both new born and size 1 surplus diapers :-)

      Things slowed a bit since 2 month, she was about 15.5 lbs at 4 month checkup. Nonetheless we used all size 2 diapers (12 to 18 lbs), and started size 3 (16 to 28 lbs).

      As to diaper brands and type, we used huggies natural new born, pampers swaddler new born, huggies snug and dry size 1, a store brand size 1, huggies little smuggler size 2, and pampers swaddler size 3.

      Thinking switch to huggies snug and dry size 3 in the future, that’s what our elder daughter had most of time, and it sells for $39 per 210 at Costco. A bit cheaper than pampers swaddler.

      How to set bluetooth on Toyota Sienna minivan

      2012 LE, basic radio.

      Set the language from Spanish to English
      (it says Corolla, but it works for Sienna as well, as they have very similar audio equipments).

      Setup bluetooth

      My tip: so I followed the instruction 1 and set up bluetooth audio for my iPhone 5s with the minivan, and later on I tried to add the bluetooth phone, and I was not successful during the step where the phone tries to connect to the bluetooth audio (car multi-media). The fix is to forget the car multi-media in the iPhone, and set up again for both phone and audio (“device type” in the car audio prompt).

      Trying to be frugal, ready for Kindergarden

      I have been in “austerity mode” since late Sept., and so far my main approach is “shop at Aldi, and global food market”. I found Aldi has most of the grocery and basic daily stuff, while global food market has the fresh veggies and sea food. Occasionally I shopped at Sam’s club, Target, Trader Joe’s and Chinese grocery store for specific stuff: bottle water, paper towels and fruits at Sam’s, Hawaii King rolls and baby diapers at Target, pot sticker and beans at Trader Joe’s.

      Aldi has changed quite a bit in recent years, when I first came to the US as a “poor” graduate student, sometimes we joked Aldi is for the “poor people” (it seemed we excluded ourselves”). Not anymore. I found a lot of people shop at Aldi nowadays, in the Aldi near our home (Olive and 270), which is previously a Borders’ book store. It was mostly busier when I go there. Sometimes I go there too much (like 3 times in one afternoon). It was almost like some people indulge on the trip at Costco. I do have the Costco membership, but found myself have not been there for months :-)

      On a separate note, my elder daughter is 4 years and 9 months old, and we are getting ready for her to go to kindergarden in public school next fall. The school will be very close to our home (school boundary map). Our younger one, is already 4 and half months, and can stand her head up. In this holiday season, there are always friends gatherings, and we always talked about kids, education etc.