Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

Category: Baby

now we are four

Hello readers! It’s been awhile.

This happened:


Some other life happened as well!

  • I was promoted to senior software engineer at my job
  • We sold our house and bought another one about a mile away, which we are sharing with my mom
  • Kiddo #1 is in pre-school, if you can believe that

Our family is now four people (plus bonus Grammy), and this fall is my 4 years of experience in the software industry anniversary. I’ve been meaning to write about the transition to a senior role, what it looks like and how it happened. So why haven’t I? First off: it’s complicated. Secondly, I’ve been pregnant all year, which means TIRED ALL THE TIME. This pregnancy was rough on me, but thankfully resulted in a pretty darn-near perfect baby.

I’m on family leave through the end of the year, and recovery is going a lot easier than last time. Which means… you guessed it… I’m itching for a new programming project. Here are some ideas I’m floating around:

  • Build a Rails app using Rails 6 — my current work at job is all in a very outdated version of Rails 3, with little chance of an upgrade.
  • Make a project with React — I do a lot of this at work, but it’s all behind the company repo and I have no personal projects to show in a portfolio.
  • Update/document earlier projects with new technology. I think it might be fun to revisit some of my past projects with fresh eyes and experience, and document what I choose to do differently.

Help, I want to learn new tech, but I’m out of project ideas. Solution: re-make something that already exists.

I’ll leave it there for now. Maybe some more writing coming this year. Thanks for reading.

making a baby blanket (smaller)

sleeping baby in a baby blanket

I’m scheduled to return to work this week, which makes it the perfect time to pick up another project (not). Nonetheless, I’ve been wanting to knit something for Aurelio for some time, and Ravelry’s declaration that they won’t steer away from “political knits” inspired me to go check out some patterns.

I found a simple baby blanket with a repeating pattern that adds some lacy details — baby loves this because he can stick his lil fingers in the holes. Here’s the pattern:

CO 107 st
Row 1: knit
Row 2: purl (and all even rows)
Row 3: k3, * k2tog, yo, k2 *
Row 5: knit
Row 7: k1, * k2tog, yo, k2 *, k2
Finish with row 1 or 5.

The elements in * are repeated for the remaining stitches in the row.

Now, I want my blanket to be smaller than the pattern. A mini-blanket. But the thing with knitting is you can’t just pick an arbitrary number to cast on or else you’ll break the pattern and wind up ☠️. So how do I figure out how many stitches to cast on?

Option 1: Overengineer a ruby solution to visualize the pattern, then guess and check at cast-on numbers to figure out which ones work.

What an EXCELLENT idea. Let’s do just that.

I started with some nested functions, like this:

…then realized I was breaking the rule of DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself). Let’s get a bit more object-oriented, shall we?

that’s better, now I don’t need to pass on the width to all those functions, I can use the object’s instance-accessible @width property.

Coded correctly, the pattern passes with the default cast-on width, and breaks when a width breaks the pattern.


Doesn’t work:

I used the guess and check method to find a variety of cast-on options that don’t break the code, including 107, 99, 87, 75, 63, 51, 55, 7, 11. What do all these numbers have in common?  And how can we identify them without testing via an elaborate visual chart?

There must be a more mathy way to solve this, right?

Option 2: Ask Mary’s Mom

My mom is a skilled seamstress and knitter/crocheter, not to mention a Mensan, so I knew she would know how to reduce a pattern without all that hub-bub above.  I sent her the pattern and asked her what my cast-on options are. She said:

Looks to me like the pattern is just 4 stitches +3 on the edges, so you could cast on 7 or 11 or 15 or 51.

4 and 3… going back to our tested numbers, we find that they are congruent modulo 4, meaning they give the same remainder (3) when divided by that number. Put another way, any multiple of 4 (the pattern), plus 3 (the stitches on either side), will work (4 * 10 + 3 = 43 = works).

Don’t forget to remove the blanket from the crib once baby falls asleep.

If you all have any additional knitting or math questions for my mom I am happy to pass them along.

hurry up and sleep

Dear Readers,

Happy December! It’s December now, I think. I don’t know about dates or days of the week or time anymore — I just go where the calendar tells me, which is usually to a doctor — but I know it’s cold, and the baby needs a hat, and I know when he ate last and when he will probably want to eat again (immediately).

Readers, our son is two months old tomorrow and I am here to tell you that the first two months are HARD TIMES. So tough that honestly I am inclined to beg you child-rearing couples to please reconsider. Traveling the world is wonderful and very rewarding. So is going to the theater and museums and dance parties and restaurants and not seeing four different doctors to treat “severe nipple damage” and sleeping more than 3 hours at a time and not spending 75% of one’s income on childcare.* Every single parent I know says the same thing: these are hard times, but you will get through them, and it gets better — not easier, but better. Many of these parents have gone on to have MORE children, which tells me one of two things:

  1. They have all experienced permanent brain damage from 2+ months of no sleep;
  2. They’re all right.

Look my money is on the brain damage, but I’ve been in a lot of physical pain for a long time and that colors one’s world view. The alternate title to this blog post was going to be “oh honey, you’re brave” — which is what the last lactation consultant said before my angel baby child chomped down on the aforementioned severe nipple damage.

The days are shaped by a sense of urgency bookmarked by feedings and sleep. When the baby goes down for a nap, I usually get between 20 minutes and three hours to pump, eat, go to the bathroom, do chores or sleep. This means that whatever I’m doing that’s not sleeping is compromised because I’d rather be sleeping, and the sleep sucks because I’m racked with guilt about not doing all the other things.

Fun fact: missing a meal now means not only do I go hungry but also my breast milk supply will probably dry up and I will no longer be able to feed my child. So eat/drink up!

My mom is here to help and I’ve taken advantage of her presence to take a course on React. Yes I know I just told you I have zero free time but I needed something to remind me that I am more than a (flawed) feeding machine, so we’re making it work — and I’ve wanted to add React to my developer toolbox for some time. So maybe one of these days I’ll write about that. Maybe in month four. I’m holding out big hopes for month four.

I should probably end this post on a positive note so I don’t bum you out, or at the very least give you a cute baby picture. I mean, the kid is really very sweet and cute and I love him, but that does not make these times less tough. And, this blogging is taking away time when I could be sleeping.

So toughen up, readers.

Yours in hanging in there,


*Did you know that to hire a nanny you have to become that nanny’s employer what with the health care and sick days and the whole nine yards? So get on the daycare waiting lists, parents to be. Do it now even though you don’t want to.

the worst fun

A few weeks ago, just before 10pm on a Tuesday evening, we welcomed our son Aurelio (Leo) into the world:


We had hired a birth doula to assist with the delivery, which was a great decision, but I was unprepared for how hectic the days and week(s) immediately following the birth would be. I had this idea that while the baby is young, we could just strap him in a carrier and go about our daily routines. Baby is hungry? Give him a boob. Baby is upset? Give him a boob. Dirty diaper? Change it. Crying baby? Sooth him. (Or, stick him in the Rock and Play.) Everyone said it would be hard, and we’d need help, but I still thought that labor was the tough part and recovery afterwards would be exactly that… recovery.

I was so wrong. What followed was a period of what my husband described as “the worst fun ever.”

We spent two nights in the hospital and were released on Thursday afternoon. During that time, a parade of nurses and doctors came through at all hours for various tests, to impart crucial information, and to help us with things like breastfeeding, staying hydrated, and using the bathroom (me). And then somehow, inconceivably, we were home with our 3 day old and little man would NOT eat and what was that nurse hotline number again?!?

We really struggled to get breastfeeding going, and he lost more weight than normal — it’s a huge stressor to be recovering from a major body trauma, operating on little to no sleep, and feel unable to feed your child. We’ve since gotten some help and made major strides with feeding and weight gain, and I’m feeling positively human again (like, 60%).

For all you moms about to give birth, here’s some things I wish I had known about the first week:

  • Call a relative who doesn’t annoy you, preferably one who has given birth, and bring them in to help as soon as possible. My husband and I wanted to “establish our routine with baby” before accepting help from family. No ma’am. If you can afford it, hire a postpartum doula. I needed help with baby stuff like breastfeeding, as well as things like staying fed, hydrated, and medicated. Laundry and dishes. There are lots of articles out there about how to best support new parents, but unless you’ve been there yourself or been around new parents, you may not know this stuff (I did not).
  • Order a double electric breast pump. Health insurance should cover this. I ordered through and it was easy — click “insurance orders” from the top menu. You can do this as early as a month prior to your due date. Various breastfeeding advocates may tell you that you should be exclusively feeding from the boob and there’s no need to pump for the first few months — fuck that. You may very well need to pump to feed your kid, and manual pumping sucks. You’ll want to have an electric pump ready to go (you can also rent from a hospital). I went with the tried and true Medela Pump in Style.
  • Same for a pacifier. We got some of these. Buy or register for a pacifier and if anyone tries that “nothing but breast” guilt crap on you, punch them right in the boob.
  • Get a bra designed for hands-free pumping, like this Simple Wishes bra. After pumping for a week, I also bought some fancy accessories, like flanges that point down (so you don’t have to sit hunched over while pumping) and bags that let you sterilize the equipment in a microwave.
  • Schedule an appointment, or multiple appointments, with a lactation consultant. Maybe for some women and their babies, breastfeeding is easy? That was not my experience. We used the Lytle Center at Swedish Hospital — they are great — or even better, look for someone who will come to your home.

INTERJECTION: NOT LEAVING YOUR HOME IS ACES. I’ve seen / heard of these new moms who are up and on the go and having coffee and social engagements on day 4. Bananas, I say. I plan to avoid all unnecessary social interactions outside my house for at least a month. Which is a good segway into…

  • Get a big plush cushy robe and just wear that plus a nursing bra and leggings/PJ pants (and some cozy socks). Don’t worry about spending a shitload of money on this, because you’re going to wear it for a month. Forgot those fancy nursing tops with the lift-up secret panels and etc. — maybe in month 2. Or 3.
  • Schedule an in-home massage with someone who specializes in postpartum. I’d venture that day 4/5 or after would be best for this. I got one this week and could easily do it every week. Your body is recovering from a MAJOR trauma. Don’t think of this as a luxury so much as a medical necessity. Also it helps prevent postpartum depression.
  • Schedule a meal train. We signed up for because several friends offered, and it’s been a great way to organize meals and allow friends and family to help and meet the baby while keeping the family fed. Out of town family and friends can also participate by having food delivered.
  • Buy a car seat cover. For some reason, it really bothered me to have strangers ogling my child when we had to take him out for any reason (doctor, lactation consultant, grocery store on the way home). If this is you, you can get a muslin car seat cover for under $20.
  • More about boobs:
    • This saline plus coconut oil trick helped with sore nipples
    • Get some Lansinoh Lanolin Cream — this stuff is great and not having to wash it off before baby nurses is key. I did not care for the reusable gel pads as much, but some people swear by them.
    • I had a good deal of nipple pain following the first few nights of feeding a very tongue-tied baby, and this prescription nipple ointment was a godsend. So, find someone who can write you a prescription for it.
    • Mother’s milk tea — the stuff with cardamom tastes great. It might help, it might not. I drank it anyway.
    • Fenugreek — the bottle says take 3 pills daily, my lactation specialist says take twice that amount. So, I take 6 pills daily and smell like maple syrup.
    • I got a Boppy pillow and a “My Brest Friend” — the latter helped a lot in the first few days, but now I just use a regular pillow.

A good friend told me that I won’t even remember the first week — a new mom is too exhausted to form long-term memories. I believe her because apparently some people go on to have additional children after all this.

It is the best worst fun a person can have.

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