Baby Luka joined the world on July 16th, 2020. Leading up to his birth we prepared. We read books and articles (especially my wife), we learned from our friends, and we got the house ready. Everyone tells you that no matter how much you prepare you have to learn on the job, especially because every baby is unique. This is absolutely the truth.
Six weeks into our journey I am reflecting. This is my way to both remember this moment in time and guide others so that they can be just a little more (mentally) prepared.
I won’t tell you about particular techniques like the 5 Ss or other principles and tactics. There’s plenty of well-documented materials on these subjects already out there. And while I will argue that no amount of books will fully prepare you I do encourage you to read up so that you have a base level understanding. I personally found the courses and books to be informative.
The stuff they say you need and the stuff you later discover
There’s so much stuff that people say you need and we did extensive research prior to our birth date so that we could have the house armed and ready for the little terrorist. We were lucky to receive a ton of hand-me-downs and gifts, and our friends and family helped us understand how all the various tools work.
First, here are all of the items we had ready before the baby arrived:
When it comes to free stuff, besides hand-me-downs we also received a ton of goodies from the hospital. Make sure to bring an extra bag with you, kind of like what Michael Scott did on The Office when he went to on his business trip and brought an extra suit case just for souvenirs. Here’s some of the great stuff they hooked us up with, much of which you will want to get if you aren’t as lucky:
So we looked prepared, right? Well, there’s more stuff we later discovered we needed (or at least very much wanted). Here’s the list:
The falsehood of sleeping when the baby sleeps
You’re going to receive a lot of advice that won’t always pan out. Take it all in and recognize that not everything will work in your favor. And likewise keep in mind that something that works one day won’t necessarily work the next. You’ll experiment in search of the holy grail just to discover that there is no perfect recipe. This isn’t a mystery to be solved. This is a marathon. This is about endurance.
People will tell you to sleep when the baby sleeps. That this is your chance to make up for all those interrupted moments late at night. What they won’t tell you is that it’s not as simple as “baby sleeps, so I sleep”. In reality, babies grunt a lot when they sleep, so at night when you sleep near them, your quality of sleep will decrease. Plus, if you’re like me, that sound machine that soothes him will have the reverse effect on you.
When it comes to you trying to nap during the day, even with two parents working full time to serve the tyrant king, you can’t expect to always be on break when he goes down because while you were spending all that time cleaning, feeding, changing, soothing, and agonizing over the baby, a multitude of chores have amassed. So you scramble. You clean all of the bottles, empty the diaper pail, toss in a load of the baby’s soiled laundry, scrub that spit up from the couch, and reset the pumping station. And that’s just the baby’s stuff. There’s plenty to still do for the house. Perhaps the house is in disarray and you accept this as a temporary state of turmoil. Even still, you need to empty the dish washer, get groceries, satisfy the grand parents with photos texted their way, feed yourself, use the bathroom, and, if you are lucky, try to squeeze in some exercise. All this is to say is that his down time does not 100% equate to your down time, so mentally prepare for this. And if you are like me and my wife, telling your brain to shut off for a nap, despite how utterly tired you may be, holds no guarantees.
There’s another factor: the baby doesn’t always sleep on its own, particularly in these early months. The first 3 months of life are what are known as the 4th trimester where the baby is most at peace when you emulate womb like conditions. When it comes to sleep during the day, this may mean that he just wants to be held. Since it’s unsafe to sleep while the baby is attached to you this means you might as well use the time to get those previously mentioned chores done. Thankfully there is a cheap and effective device to make this a hands-free operation, and that’s the Boba Wrap. For us it works like magic, as it essentially mimics the womb which makes the baby king very pleased. Very pleased indeed.
I’ll keep this brief, as there’s just too much to say here and the journey isn’t over yet. Long story short, our baby is an inefficient eater. He takes far too long to get full, is a fussy eater, and the advice we received from various professionals would fall flat time and time again. We ended up having a tong-tie procedure performed that may or may not have helped a little.
We received lactation consultation over the phone, email, and Zoom, due to COVID-19, and needless to say this is a service that can only go so far via virtual means. After hitting many dead ends we finally were able to find an in person LC, though we remain to see if their advice will reap any benefits.
The good news is that our baby is growing. We just have to feed him longer and more frequently than one should, which is frustrating for both the parents and the baby.
I’m sure I have more to say. I just can’t remember or think clearly any more. My brain is mush. Even now I write this as quickly as possible as the time-bomb ticks in his stroller that we were too scared to take him out of prematurely.
Despite the complaints it is worth it. You will be frustrated and exhausted, and then out of nowhere he will surprise you with a smile that will melt away all of your anxiety.
My top advice is to be patient. Be patient to your partner, to your baby, and to yourself. A wise man once said “Take care of yourself, and each other”.
Good luck out there.
More quick reviews.
I usually don't think to capture a screenshot when deeply immersed in a game. From time to time, however, something strikes me enough and I hit that capture button. Here's just a few of my favorites.
The Last of Us 2 is an incredible narrative masterpiece. It’s difficult to put into words the range of emotions that this experience whipped me through, and how it left me feeling scene after scene. I gasped, jumped, smiled, and cried. I found myself hating then empathizing with characters, and likewise, completely siding with others to later question their motives. By the time I came out the other end, the deeply complex character motivation was grounded to my core, and I took on the burden of their affliction. I felt battered and scarred, identifying with characters for the deep pain of their experiences. It’s easily one of the absolute best narrative experiences I have come across.
The writing was extremely clever. They inserted parallels in a way that only enhanced the story, never cheapened. They artfully employed “show, don’t tell” in a way that unveiled information in the most engaging rhythm. And while I was a little hesitant at first to be playing as Abby in the second half, I came to realize this wasn’t just to tell the other side of the story, but to have you feel how complex the situation and people are in this series of painful events. It allowed me to go from initially hating Abby to just feeling hollow and sad for everyone.
As for the gameplay, I found the enhancements and additions to the original title to be sufficient. Yes, it was similar. That’s ok. The prone position added a new dynamic to stealth that I enjoyed, some new weapons kept combat feeling fresh, and hand to hand fighting (and dodging) felt gritty and real.
The environments were truly magnificent. The Naughty Dog artists and designers continue to blow my mind. The joy of gazing on the environments, by itself, is enough reason for a second play through.
And then there is the polish. I always felt immersed into this world. Sure, you can tell it’s linear and “level based” when you run up against the edges of the environments, but there isn’t not much to be done about that.
In the days that followed my completion of this experience I continue to ponder the story. A true sign of a great work of art is when you have a lasting impression. It’s that feeling of when you walk out of the movie theatre and you spend hours rehashing what you just witnessed, and consider the deeper messages. When it comes to The Last of Us 2, there’s a ton of narrative elements one could parse out and overanalyze until the (real) world ends. Here are a few stand outs that really struck me:
Do you enjoy video game reviews but hate to read? I have you covered with these quick snippets. Enjoy.
Want more? Check out the previous sets of rapid reviews:
Rapid reviews is where I write quick snippets on games I've recently played, and use the word "rapid" as an excuse to justify bad writing. Also check out parts 1-5.
Check out parts I-IV for more rapid reviews.
Quick reviews of games. Short and sweet.
TL;DR: It's essentially a 2.5D Symphony of the Night lacking a level of polish that holds it back from greatness.
Since I’m playing on PS4 I can’t speak to the frame rate, performance, and resolution issues reported on the Switch. I can say that on PS4 there are many instances in which the frame rate will drop when enemies drop loot, as if the game itself struggles to calculate what the drop will be.
There’s a boss battle deep in the game with an inexcusable performance hit that occurs each time he issues his dozen or so projectiles. The frame rate would drop to about 1 FPS.
Sadly, the game has crashed about 4 times for me. It being rooted in classic game design, this means losing progress since my last save point. What a horrible night to have a game without autosave.
Some of the environment layouts are rather bland, and that includes many of the first areas of the castle. Entry into the castle is a moment to wow the player, and was a missed opportunity.
There’s an inconsistency to the level of quality in the art, ranging from environments to characters. On one hand you have some incredibly detailed areas, and then you have these low quality tattoo textures on Miriam that are cringe worthy when viewed from the pause menu.
The distinction between art and intractable can be muddy at times. My eyes would need that moment to adjust to many of the environments, taking time to make the distinction between enemy, platform, and background elements. There’s just a level of crispness that gets lost in 2.5D games like this. In contrast, Mega Man 11 was able to pull off this style because of the pops of color.
I wish it was 2D.
There were multiple occasions where I felt lost, and I would back track through areas until finally discovering that there was an obscure action I had to perform or item I had to equip. A few more subtle yet helpful nudges would have made me feel less frustrated, and this is coming from someone that has ample experience with metroidvanias.
Making contact with enemies and other targets, especially with small monsters and lanterns, is an incredible chore. I felt as if I was swinging through small enemies and candles. The weapon collision could be a little more forgiving. This is an area that, design wise, would benefit from a higher level of generosity and refinement. As it stands, swinging at a toad or torch is laborious.
The farther I got in the game the more enjoyable the game became. The combination of the various shards, weapons, and attribute upgrades made me progressively feel more and more like a true badass.
The music, while good, left me with no lasting impression. That is, no desire to revisit it, as I will from time to time with the Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse soundtrack or Bloody tears from Castlevania II: Simon's Quest.
The real pain, in terms of audio, comes from the townspeople that repeat the same lines at noisome. “Kill those murderers dead!”. OK, I said I will, take it easy.
It’s a good game that is rough around the edges. And it’s faithful to Symphony of the Night, seemingly giving what fans want in the process. I’d love to see a sequel that feels less bound to the classics this title is so strongly tied to, adding more depth to the story and mechanics, and growing beyond its Castlevania origins. This is a great start, so please carry the torch forward.
Too many games, not enough time. Let’s be brief.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (3DS)
The best of Zelda with a unique, new mechanic, and all within the revamped familiar world of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Pure joy.
RE 2 DLC (PS4)
The remake to Resident Evil 2 proved how a remake should be done. Everything about it just felt right; It’s a near perfect game. The first DLC, on the other hand, is sloppy and unnecessarily difficult.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS4)
Spells, morphing, gothic music, library cards, and a game after a game. It’s glorious.
Just Breed (Famicom)
When I discovered that a game like Shining Force had existed in Japan for the Famicom I jumped on the opportunity to play. What has the bones to be a great tactical RPG is ruined by exhausting battles that are drawn out by two primary factors: 1) enemy respawn hubs and 2) a movement limitation on your army to always stay in a nearby cluster.
Rolling Thunder (Micro Player)
Rolling Thunder has a special, nostalgic place in my heart. While the micro version isn’t quite the arcade experience, both in terms of physical size and graphical quality, it’s close enough to pull me back to that place in time. This mini machine delivers on one of Namco’s best.
Beautifully designed, smooth animations, enjoyable story arch, and enthralling music. The extreme difficulty feels right since each section is so short. A died a lot on my way to the top and loved every minute of it.
Hollow Knight (PS4)
Brutally difficult to the point of massive frustration at times. The pleasure derived from a successfully slain boss mostly stems from knowing that the moment is finally done, rather than a delight one normally feels in a moment of accomplishment from a more moderate level of difficulty.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA)
A short yet enjoyable addition to the Castlevania series.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)
Dawn picks up where Aria left off, adding additional depth to the story, characters, and mechanics.
Final Fantasy Tactics: Advance (GBA)
There’s so much to dislike about FFTA: a new judgement system that slows the pace of battle and travel with a layer of complexity that never should have made it beyond a brainstorm meeting, a laborious equipment UX, and a “game within a game” story that cheapens the experience.
Metroid: Fusion (GBA)
It's mostly great. There’s an Alien like atmospheres complete with an enemy to run away from. There’s environments that change over time. And tons of secret areas to discover. The ability to jump as a ball and easily jump upright and grab into a tunnel is a nice touch. Save points feel appropriately spread out, the music and animations are great, and there’s some solid music throughout.
On the negative side, it feels rather linear and you are constantly told what to do. That plus the combination of the DS Lite hardware and the shooting mechanics makes for frustrating boss battles. For example, my giant hands struggled to hold R for missiles + L to aim at an angle + down to aim downward + press B to shoot.
Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA)
Metroid: Zero Mission exceeded and blew away my expectations. I came into this anticipating a simple remake with a few minor improvements and was so pleasantly surprised to discover a completely reimagined experience. ZM is drenched in polish, intrigue, and joy.
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (GBA)
It fits the typical mold of the games that followed LttP, in a good way, with just enough differences and fresh elements to keep it fun. The only real negative is that my hat friend is rather irritating, playing the part of the tutorial I never needed and never seems to end.
I particularly enjoyed the fusing of stones as a way to get you to return to previously explored areas (both to do more fusing and to collect rewards). Simple yet pleasurable.
I was a little shocked that there wasn’t that moment near the end where you realize Ganon was involved all along. Nope, no Ganon. And that’s perfectly OK.
My favorite “dungeon” was actually Hyrule Town. From the moment you step foot in the town you are teased with hints of secrets at every turn.
Chrono Trigger (DS)
Back in the mid-90s I had rented Chrono Trigger from a local video store, and never had the chance to complete it. With the DS version finally in my hands I was not only able to complete it a few different ways, I was also able to jump into the new content which added some extra depth.
Mother 3 (GBA)
I’m really torn on this one. The story is interesting at times, with curious oddities and strange conversations, and then other times the story just seem so predictable, the mood is juvenile, and the gameplay can be so utterly banal. On the gameplay front, there is an annoying, repeating formula: go to a location, grind in boring “dungeon”, listen to a boss ramble, fight, read a wall of text, and hope you grinded just enough so that you don’t have to grind some more. There’s some cute animations and characters, however, overall, I’m simply not a fan of the art style.
Ninja Cop (GBA)
A ninja that is also a cop...that’s also a ninja. It just works. The only downside is the game ends just as it gets going.
The Messenger (PS4)
A subpar action-adventure platformer that borders on tiresome. If you want to play a far superior throw-back Ninja Gaiden then check out Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (and as a bonus enjoy its Castlevania goodness).
Brian Riggsbee lives in San Francisco CA. He enjoys gaming, writing, creating art, practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, chasing adorable dogs, and spending time with his wife and boy.