Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dad tip #42: Beware head-butting babies

Tonight's advice will be in the form of a haiku:
Head-butting babies
They are shockingly common
Shield your proboscis
The end.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Dad tip #41: "Sleep when the baby sleeps" cliché is true

The old cliché advice "sleep when the baby sleeps" is typically given when your child is a newborn. During that phase of your life, every 15 minutes of sleep you can steal count.

There are times even now, six months in, where I think that cliché is relevant advice -- say, on a day where you got up early for a business call to India (they're nine and a half hours ahead of us) and the Celtics are in Detroit trying to close out the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in six games and tip off is at 8:30pm (which means the game will end after 11:00pm). I certainly could and should go to sleep early because yard work and Home Depot await tomorrow. But you're positively insane if you think I'm missing this game.

Anyhow, I got to thinking, could there be alternate yet equally sound bits of advice that I could squeeze out of "sleep when the baby sleeps"? Let's try these on for size:
"Drink a bunch of breast milk and spit up when the baby drinks a bunch of breast milk and spits up."

"Grab anything within arm's reach and jam it in your mouth when your baby grabs anything within arm's reach and jams it in his mouth."

"Accidentally roll on to your stomach and have a red-faced fit when your baby accidentally rolls on to his stomach and has a red-faced fit.

"Poo yourself and have it erupt out of your pants when your baby poos himself and it erupts out of his pants."
Honestly, I thought about this and struggled to find a bit of advice structured like this that I really believed in. What I did come up with was: "Find joy in the ordinary simple things in life when your baby finds joy in the ordinary simple things of life." Hmm ... the more I think about it, the more I like that!

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dad tip #40: The only pattern is that the pattern changes

We're almost six months into our baby boy's life and we've found that the only real pattern we're able to count on is that the pattern is constantly changing. When our son was a "newborn", we found that the patterns lasted only days whereas now they seem to last weeks.

When the patterns only last days, you don't get used to anything and you don't particularly miss anything when they change. That and the fact that the patterns of the first couple months usually involve some form of sleep deprivation. When the intervals are weeks and you've gotten into a good groove with something, you find yourself REALLY missing whatever it is that you'd gotten used to.

So, the advice here is enjoy it when you've got a good thing going on and don't be too distraught when you've got something less than desirable -- like a nearly six month old baby who's suddenly decided that naps are for wussies -- because, inevitably, it's going to change.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dad tip #39: Consider shifting your work schedule

Tonight's post is going to be a quickie. Why? Because I got home just in time to catch my son's bedtime routine. And now having just finished dinner, I'm going to immerse myself in the Game 5, Eastern Conference Finals experience.

So, tonight's advice simply is: Consider shifting your work schedule so you can leave early enough to have dinner with your wife, to spend some time with your kid, and to decompress a little. Take traffic into consideration, too if you live is a major city.

Now I'm going to go watch the Celtics game and lose my mind if they lose to Detroit.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dad tip #38: Use's 4-for-3 promotion for stuff you plan on buying anyway

Did you know that there's all kinds of crap on that you can buy four for the price of three? The Amazon 4-for-3 promotion obviously includes all sorts of select books, but it also covers certain home & garden products (cookware, bedding, pet supplies, etc.), some single issue magazines, as well as some CDs & DVDs (like Adventures in Babysitting, which is listed on the 4-for-3 DVD page but doesn't actually seem eligible for the promotion). And, you're more than welcome to mix and match, but be sure to try to group things in batches of similarly priced items as it's always the cheapest of the four items you purchase that ends up free.

So, as a new parent, you maybe planning on stocking up on children's book by the likes of Dr. Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown, or Sandra Boynton. The 4-for-3 promotion covers all those authors and more.

Alternately, you could pick up something for everyone in the family at once. For baby grab copy of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (for future reference); for your wife some stainless steel chopsticks (for fashion or for eating); for your cat a plush opossum (for playing or terrifying your wife); and for you ... umm, maybe the Sports Illustrated, Swimsuit Issue 2008 (for reading).

So, I now challenge you the reader to go find cool 4-for-3 combos and post your finds to the comments! (Oh yeah, save even more money by using Amazon Prime!)

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Dad tip #37: Some poo-splosions require more than one person to handle the diaper change

Hypothetically, let's say your child just recently started on rice cereal. Let's also say, hypothetically, that he hasn't pooped in three days. And let's add, hypothetically, that as a result he poops so vigorously that poo ninjas are not only lurking in every imaginable hiding place, but they're also aggressively seeking all possible egresses from the Pamper. For good hypothetical measure, your kid is also playing the "I'm going to pee on you no matter how hard you try to avoid it" game.

Y'know what? It's okay to admit that you need help. When there are too many poo ninjas to deal with on your own, you need to bring in reinforcements. If you don't, you risk making a bigger mess.

You can't expect to handle the situation single-handedly the way Kurt Thomas did kicking the poop out of Eastern European ninjas in Gymkata. Yes, that entire statement is ridiculous. If you've never seen Gymkata, you ... must ... go ... buy ... it ... NOW!!! It's one of my top ten favorite movies of all time because of how unintentionally funny it is.

Uh, what was I talking about again? Oh yes, getting help with poo-splosions.

Yeah, you should do that.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dad tip #36: Help stay-at-home moms escape baby prison

I'm sure there will be a number of overly sensitive people out there offended by the title of this post. The notion that babies could possibly be perceived as wardens of a home prison for stay-at-home moms should be absurd, but when you really think about pre-baby freedom versus post-baby limitations, the metaphor kind of works. And equally obviously (but being stated for the overly sensitive), for 99.99% of mothers out there it's the most joyous "prison" in the world that they'd never want to escape from.

That said, moms should be paroled occasionally. And you, as the husband and governor in this increasingly elaborate metaphor, are the one who should not only ensure that parole can logistically happen, but you should also encourage it.

If you're working 40+ hours a week and your time with your kid is limited, by all means encourage your wife to take some time to herself or take some time to hit the Christmas Tree Shops (BLEEEARGH! Eww ewww ewwwwwww! Barf!) with some of her gal pals. It'll give you that extra precious one-on-one time with your kid that you need.

And in the end, it'll keep everyone much saner and you curb the risk of your wife going all Shawshank Redemption on you.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dad tip #35: There's something to be said for brand loyalty in diapers

We've heard that parents of boys prefer Huggies while parents of girls prefer Pampers. For whatever reason, the design of the diapers supposedly favors pee and poo containment by gender and anatomy.

However, we've been using Pampers almost exclusively since day one. The hospital diapers were Pampers and we received a whole bunch of Pampers at the baby shower. We also received a couple of packs of Huggies that served us just fine, but we just preferred the Pampers. (By default, that also indicates that we prefer Sesame Street characters to Winnie the Pooh.)

We've also received some leftover Luvs diapers from a coworker after his child outgrew them. He did the smart thing and didn't fall into the "baby vanity sizing" trap. For the record, I think Luvs displayed Blue's Clues characters and again, Sesame Street reigns supreme.

Recently, in an effort to be more cost-minded, we tried a box of BJ's brand diapers. I think the brand is actually Berkley & Jensen; and in case you're wondering, the graphics on the diapers are generic yellow ducks. They're actually kind of cute.

Well, what we've found is that the BJ's diapers have some sort of strange funneling effect that drives large quantities of pee and poo up the front. In particularly large poo-splosions, the sack is even more covered in poo than "usual". And my wife has also been the victim of two instances where urine has shot up the front of our sons outfit when he's multi-tasking by eating and peeing at the same time in his high chair.

In a quick Googling of BJ's diapers, I found that the reviews are generally quite positive. I stumbled across a very thorough review complete with diagrams at the Paternity Chronicles. The review was very positive but the stay-at-home dad/blogger amended the article with incidents of leakage that were hypothetically caused by user error.

So back to brand loyalty ... long story short, we're probably going to go back to exclusively using Pampers because we've had a much better ratio of hazmat containment vs. accidental leakage.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Dad tip #34: Babies don't need vanity sizing

Technically, the title of this post is something of a misnomer. Vanity sizing is typically when a clothing line designer will change the size-numbering of their clothes to read smaller than the actual size to make people feel better about themselves. But the title sounds better than, "Babies on the cusp of outgrowing their diaper size will have 'accidents.'"

Anyway, misnaming aside, when adults choose to pack themselves into clothing a size too small, they may get muffin top, low sperm count, camel toe, and maybe even chaffing. When you choose to pack your baby into a diaper size that he's outgrown, you get pee leakage, poo-splosion overflow, moistened clothing and/or furniture, and quite possibly an unhappy crying baby. (And it should go without saying that an unhappy crying baby can lead to unhappy crying parents, too).

I've said it before, "Chicks do not dig poo on the sack." They also don't dig it on baby furniture or on the inside of a onesie. Just because you have some spare diapers in the old size does NOT mean you HAVE to use them.

Actually, now that I think of it, I kind of do like "Babies on the cusp of outgrowing their diaper size will have 'accidents.'" as a title.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dad tip #33: Got culture?

So, as I mentioned in my last post, I'm in London. What I found interesting is how diverse our London office is. Among a couple dozen people, only a small handful are actually British. It makes my office back in Boston seem boringly homogeneous.

Furthermore, the diversity got pretty complex with one UK co-worker being half Egyptian, half German and another being of Chinese ancestry, Canadian citizenship, and UK residency. How frakkin' cool is that?

It also got me thinking, as the Chinese/Canadian/Brit is currently taking French language classes to improve upon his Quebecquoi French and as a child was forced to take Chinese classes on Saturdays: What's the right answer in terms of "forcing" your culture on your kids?

Without question, your kid will be ahead of the game if he/she is bilingual. And yay for the cultural depth it provides if you're not a standard American mutt whose family has been in the USA for generations. But, what's the right balance?

Again, like the previous post, I'm not suggesting ANY solutions. I'm just saying it might be a good idea to think about it early.

(If only they made Goodnight Moon in phonetic Mandarin Chinese ...)

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Dad tip #32: Think about explaining stuff to your kid in the future

So, my wife and I have this pseudo-game where we'll ask the other person a question -- in a voice meant to mimic that of our son when he's old enough to speak -- about a topic that you wouldn't ordinarily think about discussing with a child. For example, out of my mouth (in a bizarre falsetto) might come: "Mommy, what's 'Beating hookers?!'"

But in reality, kids are curious and will inevitably ask questions. And I am notriously bad at this pseudo-game as my inevitable first response, when my wife asks me a question, is "Ask you mother."

However, I was watching the news this morning in London and the very British newscaster began speaking about how there are some Playboy licensed products appearing in stores next to Winnie the Pooh licensed products in some stores and how that may give children a sense that Playboy is a safe and trusted brand in the same way that Winnie the Pooh is without really understanding what Playboy really is.

Then, the segment went on to quote a school teacher in the UK who claimed that she banned all Playboy products from her class room and that when students would ask about them, she would explain to them what Playboy is. I believe she said her students were approximately ten years old.

THAT'S what got me thinking. Holy crap, I better start thinking about how I'm going to explain stuff. I already know that I'm going to need to watch what I say and that I'm a bit of a ways off from having to tackle the tough topics, but it couldn't hurt for me to start thinking about proper responses other than "Ask your mother."

So, I'm neither supporting nor condemning Playboy; however, I do find it suspect that Playboy bunny-emblemed merchandise can be found next to Winnie the Pooh. Winnie wants honey (or hunny), but not the kind that Playboy offers.

I think.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dad tip #31: The art of buying a "business trip gift" for your child

I have a tendency to sometimes over think things. The item I'm currently over-thinking is "what 'business trip' gift should I buy my son?"

Sure my kid is only five months old and won't particularly remember that I was even on a business trip at this point in his life, but I'll remember. And given that I'm currently on my third business trip since he was born, I'm starting to get agitated that I can't seem to conceive of some good "theme" to adhere to in my gift selection.

I've thought about all the cheesy usual souveniers: t-shirts/onesies, spoons, magnets, snow globes, thimbles, etc. None of that stuff seems particularly fun, interesting, or meaningful. And so, I'm still in search of a good gift.

It's too bad that The Vader Project isn't an ongoing city-by-city commercial art project! (Actually, it's probably a good thing that it isn't, because it might lose a great deal of its cool factor, but it COULD be awesome if done "tastefully"!)

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Dad tip #30: It doesn't hurt to be picky about what video games you play in front of your baby

Okay, I'm REEEEEEALLY curious about Grand Theft Auto IV. It's being hailed as the best video game ever made. However, I can't imagine the sounds of killing cops and beating hookers for their money are particularly soothing to a baby.

I hold some weak hope that playing Tetris Evolution with my wife in front of our son will some how give him some sort of advantage as he develops his spacial reasoning ability. But then again, I did just post an entire entry about reducing chaos for your baby.

I suspect if I do end up buying GTA 4, I'll end up playing it after my son goes to sleep. Heck, I'll also probably end up playing it after my wife goes to sleep, too, because I'm pretty sure that the concept of the game offends her sensibilities ... and rightfully so, the game really is morally bankrupt.

(But I keep hearing how much fun it is from all my co-workers! GAH -- the curse of working with so many geeks!)

I suppose I'll make a decision later on whether or not GTA 4 is worth sacrificing some sleep.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dad tip #29: Babies don't need as much chaos as you do

Growing up, I have pretty clear memories of my father at his desk working on his computer, while reading articles on cell biology, watching the news on television, and sometimes also listening to some NPR-ish or classical music AM radio station. I suppose I am my father's son, except you'd swap "articles on cell biology" for "Geek Monthly Magazine", "the news" for "Lost" or "Celtics game", and "listening to the radio" for "playing guitar".

I'd like to think that in some fashion, this sort of media over-stimulation has made me a stronger multi-tasker. But, I'm also the first to admit that I think I'm a little ADD and not always the best listener.

That all said, with research out there showing that exposure to pretty much anything and everything can lead to your child developing ADD or ADHD, it certainly can't hurt to limit how often your baby is exposed to stuff like television and also how many different things you expose your baby to at once. I'm not saying ANY of the research is 100% correct or even 10% correct, but it does make you think.

Sure your kid needs stimulation to help with development, but isn't the best and most fun stimulation the kind that you're better off personally supplying as a parent? Now that I've said that, I'll try to do a better job walking the walk now that I've talked the talk. Hopefully I'm not doing too badly right now, but I can always do better.

On the other hand, if as a result of all the chaos, my kid turns out to be a geeky musician who loves the Boston Celtics, that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dad tip #28: Spend as much time as you can with your baby before you leave on a business trip

What I'm finding is that it gets harder to leave on business trips the older my son gets. Since he's becoming more and more aware of everything around him, I get the sense that this time he'll know I'm not around. That kind of sucks.

So, I recommend spending as much time with your kid as possible before you have to leave. Secondarily, maybe have your wife do some things that may give your child the impression that you're actually there.

For instance, while I'm gone, my wife might play every Star Wars DVD (in the order of their original release), cook up something garlic-y and spicy to fill the house with that familiar aroma, repeatedly make some complaints about how the Celtics are playing well below their ability right now in the 2008 NBA Playoffs, and then play the new Jason Mraz CD We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things non-stop with any time left over. (I've been singing the song "I'm Yours" to Connor as his lullabye for a couple of months now -- I included Jason Mraz's video for the single below.)

Okay, here's the part where I expect anyone I know who's reading this blog to fill the comments with all sorts of other unflattering stuff I do on a regular basis. And ... GO!

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Dad tip #27: Video baby monitors good for monitoring more than babies

Okay, I don't know if the title of this post is actually true because we've only ever used our baby monitor for monitoring our baby. However, we have a cat that definitely spends way more time on the kitchen counter and the dining room table than he should and it would be great to catch him in the act more frequently (and then *SQUIRT* with the water bottle!).

That said, the real advice of this post is that video monitors may or may not be overkill and they may or may not make you saner or crazier; it really all depends on your personality. We were originally planning on using a hand-me-down audio-only baby monitor from my sister (thanks sis!), but discovered that the static was ridiculously loud.

I think I already harbored some latent desire for a video monitor -- I like gadgets -- so, I did some research and decided to pick up a video baby monitor by Summer that seemed to rate pretty well for reliability and relatively low levels of static.

If you're like me and my wife, the video monitor is great because it gives you the chance to look in on your cute sleeping child, it prevents you from disturbing your child when he may well be perfectly fine, and it answers the "what was he doing to make that noise?" question. However, I could totally see some more OCD-inclined, paranoia-prone, and just-plain-nutty parents having their lives taken over by constantly looking at the monitor.

And you've got to figure that humans have been making and raising babies for a loooooong time without ANY kind of monitor. So, I guess the other real piece of advice here is evaluate what personality type you and your wife are before determining whether or not you even need a baby monitor and, if so, what kind you want to get.

Just to set some people's minds at ease: a.) we love our cat dearly and do not really take enjoyment in squirting him with the water bottle when he's naughty and b.) video baby monitors are NOT creepy a la George Orwell's 1984 ... unless you're actually really creepy like that.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dad tip #26: Save every plastic bag you can and bag poo separately

Today's post is the sequel to yesterday's commentary on the Diaper Champ versus the Diaper Genie. I had originally intended to make this post the second post in a trilogy all topically related in some fashion to the disposal of poopy diapers.

HOWEVER, my friend Jean stole my thunder with her comment in yesteday's post. If I were to complete my poo trilogy at this point it would be like making your kid watch the original Star Wars trilogy in the following order: A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, The Empire Strikes Back. What the heck would be the point in that? On the other hand, today's post wouldn't have been the same comparable quality of ESB anyway. It would've been much crappier ... pun intended.

Today's dad tip was going to be "Save every frickin' plastic bag you can" because you'll end up using it for something.

Tomorrow's post was going to be "Frickin' bag and dispose of poopy diapers separately" intending to guide the reader into not storing a feces-filled Pamper in the nursery for a couple of days. No matter how good your diaper disposal unit is, it'll still smell in the end ... pun intended again.

Okay, now I've got to go pick a topic for tomorrow. Dad tips don't grow on Giving Trees, y'know?

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dad tip #25: Diaper Champ versus Diaper Genie

If for some reason you don't have a waste receptacle dedicated to the disposal of soiled diapers in your nursery and you're thinking of getting one, this post is for you. While there appear to be a few knock-off products in this arena, there are essentially two major options from which you'll be choosing: the Diaper Champ and the Diaper Genie.

The Diaper Genie essentially makes what I like to refer to as "Giant Poo Sausages". The Genie uses these really long plastic bags that basically get twisted off in to segments into which you've placed a dirty diaper. So, no, it's not an entire sausage made of poo; it probably only has periodic poo links. The "gotcha" here is that you HAVE to buy their bag "refills". Once you marry into the Diaper Genie family, you're there for life. Or at least as long as you're changing your kid's diapers.

The Diaper Champ, on the other hand, will use any old plastic bag that will fit in it. Plastic bags that you bring your groceries home in work FANTASTIC. And yes, I know that's not the best solution environmentally, but for the time being, those bags are free and convenient. As opposed to the twisting motion required of the Diaper Genie, the Diaper Champ uses a flipping motion to hide away the stinky diaper.

My wife and I have only had limited exposure to the Diaper Genie. I seem to recall being marginally confused about how to properly use it once when babysitting our niece. We own the Diaper Champ and are perfectly satisfied with it. So, clearly I'm biased.

On the other hand, I suppose you could ignore all of this and just use a trash can ... an R2D2 trash can!!!

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dad tip #24: "Do the babies have sharp talons?"

A not-so-wise man named Napoleon Dynamite once asked:
"Do the chickens have sharp talons?
Mr. Dynamite could just as easily have asked:
"Do the BABIES have sharp talons?"
And the irrefutable answer would most definitely be: YES! Well, they can if you don't cut their finger nails regularly.

Cutting baby fingernails can be something of a daunting task. Those friggin' things are tiny and damn if your kid doesn't squirm around like a hyper-caffeinated octopus with ADHD. And if you're anything like me, you're paranoid because the last thing you want to do is cut the nail too short and hurt your child.

That said, if you leave a corner on a baby's finger nail or if you let the nails grow out too long, those suckers really do become mini-talons. You really want to take care of this quickly because a.) you don't want your child to scratch him or herself; b.) you're probably already tired and the notion of having your child repeatedly scratch you while you're toting him around is an irritant that you don't need; and c.) you don't want to get a severe nose bleed.

Nose bleed, you ask? Just yesterday my five month old son somehow jammed a finger up my wife's nose. In an accidental flourish that would've made Edward Scissorhands proud and left Wolverine shaking his furry head in dismay, he must've torn some kind of membrane up there and gave my wife a nosebleed that she didn't even initially notice until she tasted something salty in the back of her throat.

So, consider yourself duly warned. The babies have sharp talons.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Dad tip #23: Homemade cards from baby are cute

What's that? Your five month old can't make a homemade card? The frak he can't! Until your kid can smear a bunch of finger paint all over a gigantic sheet of white paper and until your kid can glue a bunch of random crap -- and why does the crap alway include macaroni? -- to a piece of construction paper, it's up to you to make the cards and sign your kid's name to it.

You've got to get into your kid's head before you make the card. You can do it up simple or complicated. For this Mother's Day, I inserted a pop-culture-related inside joke into the following Photoshopped masterpiece:

It's makes your kid look good. It makes mom happy. And, in this case, it's way fun to make references to The Karate Kid.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dad tip #22: Pay attention to your wife on Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day. So you should be paying extra special attention to your wife and not reading this blog. For that matter, I shouldn't be writing it either.

Fortunately for me, my blogware allows me to change the post date and time. So, while the post may say that it was posted at 6:00am on the 11th of May, I'm actually writing it at 10:20pm on the 10th.

Happy Mother's Day!


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dad tip #21: Don't squander the "spare" time

Okay, there are two ways to look at the title of this post. The first is through the eyes of a parent-to-be (or someone eventually planning on becoming a parent). You never realize how much time you're pissing away on trivial things until that time is filled with parenting. Don't get me wrong ... becoming a parent is the best thing in the world, however, it does make you a little sad when you look back at how much more you could've accomplished in the free time you had.

The second and potentially more challenging way to look at this is through the eyes of an exhausted new parent. You and your wife may literally be awake for 20+ hours a day. Depending on how you do the math, that could be in the neighborhood of 10+ more wakeful hours a day between the two of you compared to your pre-baby days.

Granted, you'll be completely wiped out in those hours and many of them will be filled with baby stuff, but there will still be "spare" moments here and there (that aren't really long enough to sleep during) that you can use for ... well, stuff.

For example, in the first couple of weeks after we brought our son home, I managed to squeeze in a few extra chores in the early morning hours including things like tossing a load of laundry in the washer, emptying and filling the dishwasher, sterilizing bottles, tidying up the living room, emptying the diaper champ, scooping the cat litter, and other little random stuff like that. I think I also managed to make it in to work early on some of those days simply because I was up.

However, now I'm admittedly less productive because our son is sleeping in longer blocks which allows us to sleep in longer blocks. Also, I'm returning to my old ways and filling those nap times with more trivial things (like this blog).

Oh, I should also admit that not all of the "spare" time early on was spent on chores. In some cases, when our son only wanted to sleep ON someone, I'd spend a decent amount of time playing Mass Effect on the Xbox 360 with him resting peacefully on my chest.

For the record, Guitar Hero III was NOT nearly as good a game in that scenario.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Dad tip #20: Wills are morbid, necessary, and not nearly as much work as you think they are

In case you haven't gotten it done yet, you should get a will. Yes, it's morbid, but it's also incredibly necessary. And it doesn't have to be some crazy thing with all kinds of blood-sucking lawyers involved and whatnot.

According to the title of a LegalZoom press release:
"Three out of Four Parents Have Not Prepared a Last Will, Leaving Children Unprotected"
Yes, that title sounds like it was written by an all-star writing team from Fox News, but at least it's a valid concern with a distinct point -- unlike Fox News teasers that lead off with things like "Something you use occasionally or everyday, inside or outside of your house may or may not be killing you slowly. Find out what it is ... NEXT on Fox News at 10:00!"

But I digress. One option you may want to consider for your will is LegalZoom. (Yes, the people from the press release I just mentioned.) You can run through a wizard-like questionaire that will generate a will for you for somewhere between $69-119, depending on the bells and whistles you want (ie. unlimited revisions for five years, secure electronic storage, etc.). I researched it, tried it, and liked it.

That said, if your estate is particularly large or complex and your wife keeps offering you Gatorade and you've noticed that there are a bunch of empty canisters of anti-freeze in the garage, you may want to consider going to a human attorney who might be able to help you deal with unforeseen "gotchas" better than something like LegalZoom.

Seriously though, go do your own research about what the right fit is for you. Regardless of what solution you choose, a will is a good idea.

Also seriously, that image of Nosferatu above, reminded me of the time we played Charades and my friend Missie managed to get two people (who had absolutely no idea what the heck Nosferatu was -- including my wife) to guess "Nose-four-bite-you". Sooooo close!


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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dad tip #19: Grab email addresses and domain names for your kids

Back during the dotcom boom, I registered a few domain names, but despite the fact that my name was available, I stupidly chose not to register it thinking, "What the heck would I do with that domain name?" Now, nearly a decade later, I'm kicking myself for not grabbing it when I had the chance because now some dude in Hong Kong has been squatting on the domain for a number of years and seems to have no intention of doing anything with it.

That said, when you can register a domain name for $9.99/year at Go Daddy, why wouldn't you grab your kid's name if it's available? It's just a "nice to have" and definitely not a "need to have" and you're almost certainly not going to be in a situation like the dude who's auctioning off in a couple of weeks (projected to sell for approximately $5.5 million).

And while you're at it, why not grab a couple of email addresses for your kid? You've got to figure that Google's Gmail and Yahoo are going to be around for a while and they don't cost ANYTHING. So, even more so than registering a domain name, there's absolutely no reason not to do this.

Oh, in case you're interested in getting in on that auction, there are a bunch of other domain names being auctioned off at the same time:

In case you're wondering, the most expensive domain ever sold was for $12.5 million.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dad tip #18: But yes the Kiddopotamus (SwaddleMe)!

Another quick hit for tonight's post, this time on the topic of sleep deprivation. Or perhaps more accurately, the battle AGAINST sleep deprivation.

When our son was about three months old we were hovering precariously around four hours of sleep a night. There were some good nights, some bad nights, and the constant waking up made the light at the end of the tunnel seem very very dim and very very far away. We tried having him sleep in the papasan, the bassinet, the crib, upstairs, downstairs, facing north, facing south ... you name it, we probably tried it. But something obvious that we'd dismissed because weeks before it seemed like something our son no longer liked, was swaddling.

More specifically, we broke out a Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe. Sure you can go lo-fi with an old school swaddling blanket, but if your kid turns our to be some kind of Houdini, you want what's essentially the equivalent of a baby straight-jacket. Keep in mind that if your child is a master escape-artist like ours is, even the velcro-powered SwaddleMe won't be enough to contain him all the time.

And certainly, swaddling isn't the answer for every baby, but let me tell you, after swaddling our son again, he's been sleeping 8-10 hours a night on average straight through. So, I'd feel remiss if I didn't throw this product recommendation out there.

Oh yeah, if you don't get the title of this post, check out Sandra Boynton's But Not the Hippopotamus. Fo' shizzle, I love that book!

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dad tip #17: Why buy Carter's baby clothes at Macy's when you can get them at BJ's?

Carter's makes some some pretty decent baby clothes. But on the whole, I'd rather pay $5 for a pair of PJs instead of $15 -- particularly when the clothes use about as much fabric as a glorified handkerchief and are likely to be outgrown within a few weeks.

I figured I'd make this post a quick hit and warn people away from purchasing Carter's baby clothes from department stores like Sears and Macy's and instead consider places like BJ's and Carter's Outlet. You can literally buy three times as much clothes for the same price.

As a side note, Carter's Web site is just about the worst one I can remember seeing from a publicly traded company. Maybe that's why their stock price is worth about half of what it was a year ago.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Dad tip #16: Record the cooing

The cliché that we've found most true is that "babies grow up so fast". We're just five months into our journey as parents and our son is noticeably different every week in the way he looks, moves, and sounds.

One recommendation my sister gave me was to make sure that we video recorded our son's early cooing noises. Because babies develop so quickly, that ultra-cute, tentative, and quiet cooing rapidly turns into still-cute, but loud cooing with occasional shrieking tossed in for good measure. You still love every noise he makes, but the new noises aren't quite as melt-your-heart-y.

If you don't have a video recorder of some kind, I suspect your digital camera or even your phone have the ability to record limited video. I think the important thing is just to get some record of that cooing regardless of the quality, just so you can look back on it some day. We used our Nikon Coolpix 7900 digital camera. The camera is several years old now, but is a great point-and-shoot that allows us to take as much video as there is space left on the SD memory card.

I suspect we'll eventually upgrade to some HD digital video recorder at some point. But I figure upgrading can wait until our boy has a recital, performance, or sporting event of some kind that we'll want to record in its entirety.
Those hi-def camcorders are still pretty expensive, but I figure in four or five years, they'll be half the size and half the cost. As a random side note, I wonder if George Lucas went back and made Special Editions of his kids' early cooing videos.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Dad tip #15: Ways to break the monotony of Goodnight Moon

So, you're getting your kid settled into his night-time routine and you've decided to make the classic Goodnight Moon a part of it. Two months and dozens of readings later, Goodnight Moon and its comb, its brush, and its bowl full of mush have lost some of their charm.

You're not the only one this has happened to. I suspect that there are parents all over the world who've felt similarly. A character in a recent episode of The Young and the Restless (yeah, don't ask me how I know this) sarcastically joked after putting a child down for the night, "Goodnight Moon: just as good after the 50th time." Well, here are some recommendations that will allow you to stick with your routine, but mix it up a little...

Margaret Wise Brown (author) and Clement Hurd (illustrator) collaborated on books other than Goodnight Moon. You could try mixing up your routine with My World, Runaway Bunny, or Goodnight Moon 123: A Counting Book. But be warned that My World is nearly as trippy as Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves which is most distinctly NOT a children's book. On the other hand, if you're a stoner who enjoys the likes of Teletubbies and SpongeBob Squarepants, then it might be right up your alley.

My other recommendation would be to investigate what other languages Goodnight Moon is available in. So far, I've found Buenos Noches Luna, Bonsoir Lune, and Goodnight Moon (Hebrew Translation). If you're wondering, we've only actually picked up the Spanish version. I'm holding out hope that I'll find the board book version of Bonsoir Lune and I'm pretty certain that I wouldn't even be able to mispronounce my way through the Hebrew Translation.

And for the record, no one in this household is even remotely a fluent Spanish-speaker -- not me, not my wife, and not our cat. The limit of our Spanish is being able to ask for margarita and a beer and then a bathroom afterward if necessary. But damn is it fun to read Buenos Noches Luna! Look at it this way:
In the great green room
there was a telephone
and a red balloon
and a picture of --
The cow jumping over the moon
... becomes ...
En la gran habitacion verde,
hay un telefono,
un globo rojo
y un cuadro ...
... de una vaquita que salta sobre la Luna
Anyhow, give it a shot. You might enjoy it. And please reply to the comments of this post if you happen to find a board book version of Bonsoir Lune or any other translations.

Buenos noches, lector de mi blog.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Dad tip #14: "Chicks do not dig poo on the sack"

You'll find that you'll start to say all kinds of bizarre stuff to your baby to keep him/her and yourself entertained during mundane tasks like diaper changes. Cleaning up after one particularly large poo-splosion, I found myself giving my son the very practical advice of "Chicks do not dig poo on the sack."

I mean, really, can ANYONE dispute that? However, that in itself isn't the lesson for the day. More so, the lesson is that you really need to look in all the nooks and crannies to find where all the poo hides after your child fills his diaper with a steaming hot pile.

It's almost like there are poo ninjas, skilled in the arts of stealth and trickery, attempting to evade detection. But for your child's sake, you must be the Snake Eyes to the poo's Storm Shadow.

Did you check behind the scrotum in your son's crotch jowls? Both sides? How about the space between the bottom of his penis and his ball sack? How about the space between his sack and his taint? How about in the chubby fold of flesh between the back of his leg and his butt? Yep, poo ninjas in ALL of those hiding places.

Hmm ... In retrospect, I suppose the secondary lesson here REALLY is "Chicks do not dig poo on the sack."

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Dad tip #13: Baby music doesn't have to drive you bat-s**t crazy

Is there some secret rule I don't know about that baby music has to sound low budget, annoying, and quite simply crappy? Certainly any song written for kids has the potential of being annoying on its own -- hello anything that comes out of Barney's big fat yap -- but what about classical music that's positively beautiful in its intended format but instead gets bastardized into something soulless like a deranged tone-deaf Jack-in-the-box made up of spare parts from a 1980s Casio keyboard?

So, let's say for some reason you'd prefer easing your child into "real" music but you'd like something contemporary. And for some reason you'd prefer something more evocative of lullabies and babies, but you'd rather not hear the same old songs over and over again. Well, I found something that may keep you saner: Rockabye Baby CDs. Think lullabized versions of must-have greatest hits albums. Take a look:

In addition to The Cure, The Rolling Stones, U2, Metallica, and The Beach Boys, you can also get your lullaby fix of Bjork, Nirvana, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Bob Marley, and many more. Fundamentally, these albums are also bastardizations of modern classics, but at least they're somewhat more tolerable bastardizations. Maybe it's the novelty factor.

But really, I don't see the issue with playing the original albums in most cases. Oh, for the record, the Nine Inch Nails Rockabye Baby album is waaaaay creepier than the original tracks.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dad tip #12: This crib's too far away, this bassinet's too flat, this baby papasan is just right

As a parent, you'll end up buying all kinds of crap that does essentially the same thing. You'll buy any combination of crib, bassinet, cradle, and/or Moses basket all to have a nice cozy place for your baby to sleep.

Perhaps you'll find that the nursery is too far away for your newborn to sleep, so the crib will go unused for some number of months. And perhaps your baby will find the bassinet in your master bedroom just to expansive for his/her tiny little body. And just maybe the Moses basket is too old-fashioned and frilly for your hipster baby. Now what?

Well, you may have also purchased a number of things for your baby to sit in like a baby papasan, a car seat/infant carrier, or a swing of some kind. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) for you, your baby might prefer to sleep in any one of those things.

I say fortunately because as long as you find ANY place that your baby is happy to sleep, you should consider yourself lucky, blessed, and more well-rested than a lot of other parents out there. I hint at "UNfortunately" because I have a co-worker who's spent many a night sticking his kid in a car seat (yay for Graco SnugRides!) to drive around the block for a few hours to let his wife nab some precious sleep. But hey, you can always sleep in shifts! Don't give up ... you've bought more than enough redundant baby stuff that hopefully something has to work.

For the record, my son preferred the Fisher-Price baby papasan above all else for the first couple of months. Good luck!

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