Category Archives: Parenthood

No Map Between Us

I always been a fan of Tim Coyne’s ‘Unkempt’ series. Tim’s delivery and storytelling is honest, vulnerable, and funny. And, most of all, I can relate to his overarching theme: the challenges of maintaining long term relationships despite a parents’ divorce fucking it up from the start.

Tim’s drive to run away from the problems of a post-divorce home in Mirage map frighteningly close to the me of 15 years ago.

The latest Unkempt concludes with this line:

“I want my dad to know me….it shouldn’t be too hard. I’m him, if he had chosen the dream.” – Tim Coyne

It’s only been in the past 6 years that my dad and I have started to reconnect. It’s still hard, and we both can say, ‘yes, this is hard, let’s keep going’.

If memory and math serve me, when my Dad was my age, he decided to build a house for his family.

By hand.

In the woods.

Where even today, there still isn’t a paved road.

And that’s where my memory starts.

Opening Line

Over the weekend, when the boy and I were out and about, we shared the following exchange – on each and every occasion.

(automatic doors opens)

“Papa, are those doors magic?”

“Any sufficiently advanced technology, son…any sufficiently advanced technology….”

Putting the 'Fish' in AmigoFish

After 3-years of knowing what a fantastic idea it would be – I finally moved the Mac Mini into the living room and plugged it into the HDTV.

While the initial plan was to use it as a DVD player1, it piqued my interested in video podcasts 2. Not knowing where to start, I headed over to AmigoFish and loaded up a “Feed for Predictions of Video greater or equal to 1.0 stars with confidence of Wild Guess”.

Immediately, it sends me National Geographic’s Wild Chronicles, or as the little guy calls it “Wild Crocodiles”. They’re 6-minute, highly informative, segments on cool animal stories that are a blast to watch with a toddler. This afternoon, we caught a segment on re-introducing monkeys back into the wild and learning how octopuses eat. Cool stuff.

And it’s great to have something on hand when I hear, “Papa, I wanna see fish.”

1. The mini replaces a sub-$100 Philips Upconverting DVD player that I can’t say anything good about.
2. As much as I dislike iTunes for podcast management, it’s far better than Tivo.

Introducing Baby Waverly

Waverly, my new baby girl, was born in the wee hours of the morning on Dec 30.

Everyone was home in time to ring in the new year. Couldn’t ask for more.

Oh, the reason her eyes are closed in the photo: when open her eyes emit a light as blinding and entrancing as the sun. Even a few days old, she understands that with great power comes great responsibility. :)

The New Dad Book Needing To Be Written

We’ve Got Money, What We Need is You
A New Dad’s Family Handbook

The first time around, we picked up the stereotypical new parent books. If any of you are having your first child – you only need one of those books. Go to the bookstore, page through them all, buy the one that makes you smile.

Chances are, it won’t be The Expectant Father or any other of the “serious” New Dad books. As my college roommate warned – all those books do is amplify the sense of financial inadequacy (all?) new dads feel and the need to double the instinct to “provide”.

Unhelpful.

There needs to be another book – one encouraging being present in the new family.

Any candidates?

UPDATE: Dan Brown recommends Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads. A second?

License Recalled

Mattel Inc, recalls 9 million toys after recalling 1.5 millon.

All the recalled products are licensed – Barbie, Batman, Big Bird, Cars, Dora, Elmo, Thomas (shakes fist).

Back In My DayTM, very few licensed toys were allowed in the house. I’m sure it was a combination of the ickyness of branding your child, the sensitivity of a developing imagination, and because I remember them being more expensive.

These days, I’m sure the products are subsidized by the license-owner’s marketing budget, making the toys cheaper, more plentiful, and hazardous to your health. Makes me confident in my position to severely limit licensed products in my home as well.

Baby Talk Less

“The most important fact to come from this study is there is no clear evidence of a benefit coming from baby DVDs and videos, and there is some suggestion of harm” – Frederick Zimmerman, University of Washington

While I’d like more info on the study methodology (phone interviews with 1K families in MN & WA) – it follows – when time with real, live, talking people is replaced with mumbling, sound-effect-laden non-sense, smaller vocabularies result.

Spanking is Striking

There, I said it.

Spanking a child is child abuse. There, I said it again.

For three reasons:

  1. If same action anywhere else on the body would be considered abuse – it’s abuse.
  2. It shows children that bigger, stronger people have the right to hurt smaller people. So, big brothers think it’s OK to strike their little brothers.
  3. Not putting spanking on the list of disciplinary options – even as a “last resort” – doesn’t make it an option.

If adding spanking into the definition of child abuse isn’t possible, then yes, striking a child under 4 should be punishable by a year in jail and $1,000 fine. Kudos to California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber for initiating an anti-spanking bill.

I learned about this from NPR’s Day to Day: California Lawmaker Pushes Anti-Spanking Bill

The Problems with School Choice

Seems to me, programs that encourage parents to send their kids to schools outside of their immediate neighborhood is a bad idea in a number of ways:

  1. Gives parents no incentive to improve their schools or neighborhoods.
  2. Makes bad schools worse by reducing their resources.
  3. Redirects education dollars into fuel tanks to bus kids further away and back.
  4. Increases the strain and demand on “good” schools, making them less good.

Disclaimer:
My kid isn’t school age yet, the schools in my neighborhood are pretty good.

LATER:
There’s a parallel in here with immigration. Until Mexico is a place worth staying at, borders will continue to be jumped. This only helps the bus drivers.

Some Post-Pre-Dad Thoughts

Daddy Types is collecting thoughts for Soon-to-Be-Dads.

Mine:
Everyday, take your family for a walk.

And a bonus story:
One of our neighbors rang the doorbell one night back when Little C was just a few months old. Jen and I were watching TV and I was giving Little C his early evening bottle.

The neighbor asked if I could help him unload a new swingset from his car.

The he noticed what I was doing and said: “No rush. Enjoy this time. It doesn’t last that long.”

5 Tips on International Travel with Toddlers

Here are a few things I thought I’d share with you on traveling internationally with toddlers.

  • Backpacks are better than strollers.
    It’s far easier to get through airports, old European cities, and tour castles with Little C strapped to my back than in a terrain-sensitive stroller. As ill-fitting as our current Kelty is, I couldn’t imagine making the same trip with a stroller. That said, I was skeptical of the backpack when we left. Plus, he loves the view – you can see it in the eyes of the people we pass on the street.
  • Regular schedules aren’t.
    It shouldn’t go without saying that after traveling across 7 time zones our regular like-clockwork schedule wasn’t. Little C required quite a bit more cuddling and personal contact during the 3-4 days he took to adjust. We picked up a couple new board books for him and a few old toys he could rediscover. He slept on our shoulders and spent a lot more time in our arms. I’m good with that.
  • They have babies there to.
    Diapers, baby food, clothes, and all the stuff a toddler needs exists elsewhere – even in foreign countries. Only pack what you need for the travel itself. Our hosts’ car even had the LATCH system for Little C’s car seat. Just cause a place isn’t home don’t mean it isn’t civilized.
  • Walk whenever you can.
    Jen and I would take turns walking Little C around the gates at the airport and Jen walked him up and down the aisle on the trans-Atlantic flights. Sure kept him happier.
  • Have them try the new foods.
    Little C likes spicy interesting foods. On this trip, we discovered he loves pesto, taai-taai, calamari, and still doesn’t like cheese.

Smells Like Home

We’re back in Minneapolis. Probably the least eventful trans-Atlantic journey I’ve ever taken. A couple minor hiccups leaving BRU, but nothing that slowed us down. In fact, despite sitting on the tarmac in the rain for 45 minutes on departure and 20 minutes on arrival while the jet-way wouldn’t connect, then going through customs and security in ORD, we nearly made our original flight to MSP. But, we decided not to stress it and take the next one. Half our luggage went on the first flight and half on the second.

Little C held up like a champ. After 15 hours of travel, he still had a ‘vrooom, vroom’ left in him for each and every truck at the airport.

This time, it wasn’t the car seat with the TSA sticker, it was our mid-sized checked bag, with a sticker saying only: ‘Suspicious’Suspect on slapped to the outside – and a TSA pamphlet on the inside.

Stepping outside of MSP, I got my first whiff of the winter. Cold. Pure, clean, unapologetic cold – like an ice cube to the lungs. Refreshing.

Cherishing the Unrecorded Moments

As many photos we take of the little guy, none of them capture his laugh. As many times I try to record his laugh, it never captures the joy in his eye. Handing him the phone to talk with Grandma is the surest way to make stop talking.

I have a memory of playing with a reel-to-reel recorder as a kid, maybe 6 or 7. Just the memory. Not the tape or the player.

Perhaps all our recording devices are really good at is capturing the special moments, the big moments, the when-we-know-something-will-happen moments. Freeing us to really enjoy the wondrous banality of the unrecorded moments – when things really to happen.

Inspired by: Eric Rice’s chilling thoughts.

Lifehack: Put Empty Garbage Bags at the Bottom of the Garbage Can

It started with the Diaper Champ. After forgetting to replace the plastic garbage bag liner, dropping in a fresh, full diaper, and hearing a empty thud as it splats against the bottom of the bucket.

After the third or fourth time of kicking myself for not replacing the bag, I put a few empty garbage bags in the bottom of the Diaper Champ. Now, when I pull out a full bag – look, there at the bottom, another bag – ready to go.

I’ve done the same in the kitchen garbage can.

Sure makes collecting the trash go just a little bit faster.

What a Difference 3 Blocks Makes

We’ve been in the new place about a week now, and I’m amazed at the difference 3 blocks makes. Seriously, from 2700 block of 31st to the 2900 block of 30th.

All week, there’s been kids riding bikes, shooting hoops, and we’ve met half our neighbors. Rock on.

Speaking of rocks. We’re deep into the road construction. Both streets have been stripped of their asphalt, and there’s some pretty big machines sprinkled up and down the street.

Yea, Cooper’s loving the new place. Lots of space to roll around on the carpet and do this weird crawling thing he’s doing right now. Here, you can practice at home:

  1. Get down on your hands and knees
  2. Flatten your feet against the floor and straighten your legs
  3. Fall forward
  4. Repeat

What I Want from Diapers – At a Glance Color Indicators

There are a number of indicators to determine if Cooper’s diaper needs a changing:

  1. Is he screaming?
  2. Does the front of the diaper feel and look full?
  3. Are his clothing, blankets, or crib wet?

As you can see, all the items in this list are what economists call lagging indicators. In addition, two of them have fairly unpleasant consequences.

Continuing my thoughts that diapers should be made for parents, not kids (i.e. 86 the cartoon characters) – I think diapers should change color based their ‘status’. Yes, exactly like those dorky Generra Hypercolor shirts from the late ’80s.

Then, I can see – at a glance if this is why Cooper’s alarm is going off.

Sure, the entire diaper changing color would be nice. I’d also be up for geo-political trivia, where the answer is displayed upon saturation.

Huggies, Pampers, Anything in R&D along these lines?

UPDATE 26 March 2007
Along the same lines:

“I was surprised at changing time with a message on J’s diaper: “My Last Diaper!” — a message from one of her teachers that we needed to bring in another batch of diapers”Sara Brumfield via Parenthacks

Sam's a Genius – National Geographic Lullabies Before Bedtime

A couple weeks after Cooper was born, Sam sent over National Geographic Around the World Lullabies. Of course, it went straight into Cooper’s playlist on the iPod.

Tonight Cooper was inconsolable. None of the usual settling down techniques were working and we were scratching our heads with what to do. Attempting to think strategically between screams is a very useful skill in times like this.

And when the going gets tough, the tough…refresh their RSS aggregator?

Well, I’m glad I did – in it, a well-timed reminder from Sam:

“…we played a National Geographic lullabies CD for him, both for his afternoon nap and at his bedtime”

Brilliant.

I cued up the lullabies in iTunes, flipped the speakers to the radio (thanks to the Airport Express) in Cooper’s room, then ran down to rock him into it.

Update: Cooper slept through the night. Rock on.

Yes, Sam’s a genius.

Oh, and Sam on your cassette-to-MP3 problem: try connecting the cassette players output to the audio input of your iBook using a common 1/8″ jack (might need something like the Griffin iMic) and record into Audio Hijack Pro.

AHP can automatically start a new track when it hears the silence between tracks in whatever format you’d like. After that it’d just be a matter of burning the CD.

My Mom Reads This Blog

Just thought you (those of you that aren’t my mom) should know.

I don’t know about my other blogs – so you should be safe commenting there. ;)

Aside from making me think I should stop posting some of the more technical topics, I’m happy for it.

Blogging is shorthand – right. Those of you that keep up with this site know what’s on my mind when you bump into me at the bus stop and vice versa.

Mom, seriously, when you want to start blogging, gimme a ring.

Newborn Diaper Review

We started with a couple packages of Huggies newborn diapers. Worked well enough. Though odd things would happen – say, Cooper’s back would be wet. How’s that happen?

I wrote it off to our model being slightly smaller than Huggies’ newborn model. Then we mixed in a couple packages of Pampers newborn diapers. Despite their new car with baby powder smell, they perform better than the Huggies.

Tonight, we got a pack of Luvs newborns – with their Ultra LeakGuard. Unless Luvs are installed differently, something is seriously odd with these diapers. I had to check the package twice to verify they were for newborns. Pulling the sides all snug in front leaves a half-inch gap up front. With a little boy – this is like staring down the barrel of a loaded gun. Tick Tock.

We tried 2 before switching back to the Pampers.

On a unrelated note – I don’t understand why Muppets and other children’s characters are on the front of newborn diapers. The kid can’t focus that far – and well, I see a huge opportunity for helpful hints like – in the case of the Luvs – installation instructions. At least something entertaining like George Carlin quotes.

“What if there were no hypothetical questions?”

It’d be a nice moment of Zen.

Things That Mean Nothing to Cooper

My mom has this great collection of 45s. I remember spending some fantastic afternoons as a kid spinning Joan Jett, the Beatles, and so many other classics.

This lazy Saturday afternoon, we had the 89.3 the Current on for Cooper and they played a song by the Pixies.

Jen to Cooper: “This was the first CD your mom bought. At the music store in the mall….Back when there were music stores….and malls.”

I’m sure that CD is in one of the many boxes of CDs, cassettes, and VHS tapes in the cloest. I know my first CD – They Might Be Giants – Flood is up there. I have a hard time imagining Cooper ever digging through those boxes – especially when he’s already got a playlist on my iPod.

Obviously, Cooper also doesn’t know anything about Sept. 11, 2001 or the Iraq War. I feel real good about that. Hopefully, those events will end up meaning the same to him as the Korean War does to me: it happened and it’s over.

3 July 2007 Update: We inherited an old early Little Tikes kitchen, circa 1980. With a wall-mounted rotary phone. I don’t know that Cooper’s ever acknowledged it as a phone. Though he’s already racking up the minutes on his green Parent’s flip phone.