Monday, June 30, 2008

Dad tip #72: Beware the over-tired baby

Tonight's advice will be in the form of a haiku:
Smiling happy kid
Uh oh, awake for too long
Cranky crying kid


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dad tip #71: You need a copy of Baby Bargains

More than likely, your wife bought a copy of Baby Bargains the day after you confirmed she was pregnant. But if by some chance you don't own it, you should definitely pick up a copy. (Amazon lists the full title of the book as Baby Bargains, 7th Edition: Secrets to Saving 20% to 50% on baby furniture, gear, clothes, toys, maternity wear and much more!)

You might be asking, "Why would I want to buy a book? Can't I just Google anything and get the answer that I want?" Well, yes I suppose you could, but Denise Fields does such a good job of boiling down the goods and bads of pretty much EVERY product you need to buy for your baby that it'll save you a ton of time and hopefully it'll save you some money, too.

I was about to write a list of all the things we used the book for, but when I asked my wife to confirm which products we used it for, she replied: "Everything! What didn't we use it for?"

Uh, I don't think I could write a better endorsement than that.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dad tip #70: Babies love Jason Mraz

Okay, the title of this post really should be "MY baby loves Jason Mraz" but whatever, I'm tired and struggling for a more widely useful piece of advice for other dads and failing to come up with anything. So instead, you get a personal anecdote that will most like be inapplicable to you in any way.

That all said, I suspect all parents at some point in time struggle to find good ways to keep their babies entertained at all times. Our boy almost has "stations" in the living room that include a Tadpoles Basics Crib Coverlet that we use as a play mat where we read books, a Tiny Love Gymini Super Deluxe Light and Music play mat, and a Bright Starts Around We Go activity center.

I have an extra "station" where I sit my son in front of me and sing and play guitar for him. I've noticed a few patterns regarding his preferences. For example, he generally prefers songs in major keys unless the song in minor can be played in a jaunty fashion. I've also noticed that he seems pretty keen on just about any song by Jason Mraz.

Yesterday, I did a set consisting of "Geek in the Pink", "Live High", and "I'll Do Anything". Today I did "Plane", "You and I Both", and "I'm Yours". It's pretty cool because he's fully focussed and entertained. It's amazing to watch his eyes go from my left hand to my right hand and to my face. He even tries to sing along and I have to say that he does a pretty darn good job of it for a six month old!

Take from this what you can and what you will. Tomorrow, I think I'll learn "If It Kills Me" and see how my son likes that one.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Dad tip #69: Beware the drooling baby

Tonight's advice will be in the form of a haiku:
Gallons of baby drool
Slime covers every surface
Like in Ghostbusters
Hmm, I suppose there was no real advice in that haiku. So, let me add that it would be a really good idea to keep burp cloths in the nursery, the living room, wherever you feed your baby, and anywhere else that your baby spends significant time.

I'd also like to mention that I was originally looking for a screencap of the scene in Ghostbusters at the library where they find the card catalog covered in slime and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) says "Someone blows their nose and you want to keep it?" But, I couldn't find one and anyway, snot and drool are two different things.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dad tip #68: Beware the spoon-holding baby

Tonight's advice will be in the form of a haiku:
Spoonful of mashed peas
In baby's hand, baby's mouth...
On hair, chair, and floor!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dad tip #67: Leftovers are INCREDIBLY convenient

Tonight's post will be another quickie. I'd just like to recommend that when you cook, cook way more than you intend to eat in one night and save the rest for leftovers. Cook like you need to feed the entire Bolivian Army for a week and pack your freezer tight.

On those nights that you just don't have it in you to cook or even to leave the house to pick up take-out, leftovers will be your lifesaver.

(And no, I have no distinct knowledge that the Bolivian Army is larger or more hungry than any other army -- it just sounded good at that moment.)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dad tip #66: Beware the grabbing baby

Tonight's advice will be in the form of a haiku:
Reach, grab, make a mess
Octopi have fewer arms
What? Human babies.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Dad tip #65: Amazon Gold Box is chock full of treasures

Atop the hustle and bustle of every page on is a mysterious link labeled "Today's Deals" with an icon of a locked treasure chest next to it. You may have clicked on it before and found a "Deal of the Day" and "Lightning Deals" on a page titled " Gold Box: New Deals. Every Day."

You probably looked at the "Deal of the Day" and found a really great deal on set of cutlery or an electric shaver or the complete DVD collection of some random television series. And you probably looked at whatever limited-time "Lightning Deal" that was available at that time and found yourself more curious about the deals that had expired or the deals yet to come. Then you may have scrolled impatiently through a section of "Best Deals" that, for some reason, always look essentially the same.

But did you ever scroll even further down the page and really take a look at what else was there? If you haven't, then you missed the "<insert your name>'s Quick Picks." If you're an avid Amazon browser and nothing else on the page caught your attention, the personalized Quick Picks is where you'll be in heaven. While I don't know the black-box algorithm behind what gets displayed there, I do know that it's all related to other stuff you've looked at.

For example, I've recently seen Nintendo Wii video games, Xbox 360 accessories, some manga, Star Wars books, stainless steel canteens, and baby products ... lots and lots of baby products. In fact, for about as long as I've been paying attention, children's books have dominated my Quick Picks. Of course, Amazon does a great job at recommendations. Most of the books are by authors that we like in particular like Margaret Wise Brown and Sandra Boynton.

The best part (for you and Amazon) is that many of the items listed in your Quick Picks are probably things you would've eventually purchased at some point in the future anyway. While Amazon gets a more immediate sale, YOU get an extra markdown on the price (I think it's usually about 5% off of whatever the current prices is). It's a win-win-win situation. Amazon wins, you win, and in this scenario, your baby wins, too.

The only thing that would make it an even better deal is free shipping and if you were an Amazon Prime member, you'd get that too.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dad tip #64: DVR is your friend

Last night, I watched game 7 of the 2008 NBA Eastern Conference Semis between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers. At this point, that games is really just a footnote in the tale of how the Celtics won their 17th championship. However, it was a game I never actually watched due being in London for a business trip. So, it's great that I can go back and enjoy that game now because my lovely wife (who gave me a live play-by-play of the the last three minutes of the game) DVRed it for me.

I suspect 99% of the people who read blogs (or even know what blogs are) must know that DVRs are Digital Video Recorders. Apart from scenarios like the one I just described, there are many situations for parents of babies where a DVR is a luxury that we'd have a hard time doing without. Let me run down some examples:
  1. Your baby is make louding noises and you missed some key dialog in an episode of Boston Legal ... no worries, just rewind and replay.
  2. Oh no, the bedtime routine is running long and right into primetime or the middle of a Red Sox game ... no worries, with a DVR, you'll probably miss just enough to fast forward though all the commercials.
  3. Awww man! They shifted Lost to a 10:00pm time-slot and that's too late for us to stay up ... no worries, just watch it tomorrow.
DVR is your friend who can help you through all of these scenarios. HOWEVER, I will warn that Boston-area Comcast subscribers who are testing the Tivo software "upgrade" on their DVRs may find that while DVR is their friend, Comcast is just an incompetent jerk. But that's a story for another time and another blog.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dad tip #63: Watch where you step

I'll just be making a quick post tonight -- inspired by my throbbing toe.

Yesterday, I tripped on my boy's baby play-center-thingy and stubbed the crap out of my left pinkie toe. Today, I re-stubbed the same flippin' toe! (I can't remember what I stubbed it on this time, but I think it might've been the high-chair.)

I suspect as my son gets older, there will be even more random stuff laying about for me to step on or trip over. So, I'm thinking now would be a good time to get myself in the habit of watching where I step.

And yes, an image from Riverdance is the best joke I could come up with ... get it, watch where you Irish-STEP-dance?


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Friday, June 20, 2008

Dad tip #62: Prunes perform as advertised

Our beautiful baby boy recently expanded his diet beyond rice and oatmeal cereals to include apples and bananas. Do you know what cereal, apples, and bananas all have in common? They all have the ability to make your baby uncomfortably constipated with rock-hard poo.

So, we temporarily cut back on the apples and bananas and introduced prunes to help our little guy out. Based off of the two major poo-splosions that my wife had to deal with today, I'd say that prunes definitely perform as advertised.

When your wife says, "It looked like someone took a paint brush and painted his legs with poo," you know that it was no ordinary bowel movement. There was some kind of supernatural force urging those poo ninjas out of there.

Do NOT underestimate the power of prunes.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dad tip #61: Beware teething babies

Tonight's advice will be in the form of a haiku:
Tiny Sarlacc pit
With no teeth on baby's face
Toothless bites still hurt
Okay, I don't know definitively that our baby boy is teething or even close to teething right now. However, he has been more and more inclined to actively gum/chew anything he can put in his mouth as opposed to just passively drooling on it.

Also, with his coordination improving every day, he's able to grab my fingers and jam them into his mouth and then ... CHOMP!!! Now, those toothless baby bites are REALLY starting to hurt.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Dad tip #60: Beware flailing babies

Tonight's advice will be in the form of a haiku:
Chubby arm-windmills
"If do right, no can defend!"
Bye-bye daddy's teeth
I've previously copped out of writing full posts by warning fathers of head-butting babies and kicking babies with haikus. I'm being a lame-o tonight because I'm preparing to attend the parade in Boston tomorrow celebrating the Celtics' 17th NBA Championship!

And yes, I realize that I quoted Mr. Miyagi from the first Karate Kid when I'm obviously thinking of Daniel LaRusso's movie-ending "drum technique" from Karate Kid II. I figured it was close enough to get the point across. Anyway, I'll be the first to admit that I'm always looking for a cheap excuse to lift quotes from Karate Kid.

P.S. The Celtics TOTALLY squished the Lakers like grapes (131-92).

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dad tip #59: Expect to have at least one conversation about poop a day

Guess what? Now that you've got a baby, you have a being in your house who poops his pants regularly. Sometimes you'll change the diaper. Sometimes your wife will. Sometimes it's a two person operation. No matter which scenario, you'll end up with a conversation about poop. The conversations may include phrases like:
"Oh my god, I can't believe how bad that poop smelled!"

"Ewwww! I got poop on my finger!"

"Did he poop today? No? When was the last time he pooped?"

"I went through five diapers because he just kept pooping!"

"There's poo erupting out of his diaper in the back AND the front!"

"I'll go do a load of poo-laundry..."
And on and on and on. But you know what? The last thing I'll say about poop tonight is that I hope the Celtics kick the poop out of the Lakers and close out the finals tonight!

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Dad tip #58: Keep some post-baby-bedtime goodies around

I typically get home from work around 6:30pm. My boy hits the sack around 7:45-8:00pm. And we usually manage to sneak dinner in just before or just after his bedtime routine.

After he's down for the night, that leaves just a little time for me to spend with my lovely wife and then it's off to bed for the both of us.

While I'm spending time with my wife, I like to sneak some kind of a treat in. Lately, that treat has been either Friendly's Blueberries n' Cream Ice Cream or HaverAle Cream Ale by the Haverhill Brewery.

I highly recommend either and/or finding something else to help you unwind while catching today's DVRed episode of General Hospital. Hey, if my wife can occasionally tolerate an episode of Battlestar Galactica, I can do the same for General Hospital. But, if I'm being completely honest here, I pay way more attention to General Hospital than she does BSG and I can actually see why General Hospital is entertaining.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dad tip #57: Enjoy your first Father's Day

So, today was a great day! My wife (and my son, obviously) made my first Father's Day really special. I'm REALLY lucky and thankful to have them.

What made today extra nice is that there were absolutely no distractions from spending time with my wife and son. The entire focus of today was to enjoy being with both of them. No chores, no errands, no obligations, and no expectations. It's nice sometimes to just BE.

And also, it was nice to reflect on the amazing journey that the last six months comprised. Cheesy and cliché, but true.

Now that my son is down for the night, it's time to enjoy game five of the 2008 NBA Playoffs. My Celtics are up 3-1 on the Lakers and I'm prepared to go absolutely insane (in a good way) if they manage to close out the series tonight in LA. But I'll do it quietly so as not to wake my boy up.

Happy Father's Day!

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dad tip #56: Watch what OTHER people say in front of your kids

During the first week of this blog I posted an article about how what you say in front of your kids will come back to haunt you. The post was inspired by an anecdote about my wife when she was a child.

Last night one of our friends called and told us that her four year old son had picked up the phrase: "Bros before hoes" from somewhere unknown.

After about ten minutes of hysterical laughter it dawned on me: "Holy crap, we need to watch what OTHER people say in front of our kid!" After all, it's bound to have the potential of being far worse than anything that would come out of our mouths, right? At least, I hope it would be worse. Uh, not to say that really terrible thing are coming out of our mouths or that we hope other people should have bad tings coming out of their mouths either. Or something like that.

In any event, who know what other verbal-ticking-time-bombs are going to come out of our friend's son's mouth? "Bros before hoes" will be hard to beat.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Dad tip #55: Rioting is not a proper form of celebration

So, last night's Celtics game went from being a total disaster to being one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Finals history with the Lakers blowing a 24-point lead. The series now stands 3-1 with the Boston Celtics needing only one more win to clinch the 2008 title.

This afternoon I stumbled across an article detailing security preparations in Boston, should the Celtics win their 17th NBA World Championship. With the New England Patriots' and Boston Red Sox's recent success, the local police have experienced their share of incidents where something that should be entirely positive turns horrifyingly negative. The anxiety factor is such that:
Bars will be instructed to close their blinds if they have televisions facing windows that look out onto the street so passersby are not incited by the game.
Wow! Sounds a bit marshall law-ish, but there have been a couple of post-championship deaths in recent years.

So, my advice is more of mental note for myself to make sure that when the time comes we teach our son that rioting is not a proper form of celebration. Or perhaps it's that we should simply just teach him how to both win AND lose gracefully.

On the other hand, while I've never seen my wife riot, she does like to give a good taunting when she wins anything. Tetris? Yep. Blokus? Yep. Phase 10? Yep. Boggle? Yep. PathWords? Yep. Thumb wrestling? Yep. etc. etc. etc.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dad tip #54: Cloth diapers make perfect burp cloths

Babies spit up, throw up, pee, and spill food. In general, they're incredibly capable of making wet messes in just about any situation.

As opposed to using things like paper towels (not particularly environmentally friendly) or designer burp cloths (not particularly economical), consider using cloth diapers. I'm definitely not suggesting you replace your Pampers (or Huggies or Luvs or whatever) with cloths diapers ... that's just more effort than I'd be willing to invest and more effort than I'd ever even propose to anyone else. I'm just suggesting that if you're considering buying actual burp cloths, consider using cloth diapers in their stead.

They're cheap, durable, convenient, and super-absorbent. We keep a stack in the living room and a stack in the nursery. It's allllllll good.

(Now I'm going to go resume SCREAMING at the television because the Lakers are kicking the POOP out of my Celtics in the first half of game four right now of the 2008 NBA Finals.)

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dad tip #53: Ask yourself if your credit card rewards are really that good

My wife and I were talking about switching to a different credit card. Why? Because our current credit cards don't particularly have great rewards. Call us narrow-minded, but because we don't travel that much and because "points" in non-travel programs are frequently mysterious, we only really care about cash back.

We've got a baby, we're rockin' BJ's on a regular basis, gas is like $8 billion a gallon, and we're buying tons of groceries. Cash back could be relatively worthwhile. BUT, what I discovered is that there are cards that have yearly limits on how much cash back you can claim. There are also cards that don't give rewards for purchases at discount warehouse stores like BJ's. And there are cards that don't give you higher rewards (2%+ versus the usual 1%) on everyday purchases like groceries and gas.

With gas clearing $4/gallon, you could really be making a killing. With a 5% cash back reward, that makes it seem like only $3.80/gallon. Hey, that adds up if you figure you could save up to $0.20/gallon. For a car with a ten gallon tank, that's $2.00 each time you fill it up. And if you're doing that weekly, that could be $104 in yearly savings!

But that's neither here nor there, because we still haven't made a final decision. Bankrate does a killer job of breaking down all the similar cash back credit cards. It's worth thinking about with a baby because that could be $104 into a 529 account ... but that's a topic for another day.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dad tip #52: Baby still wants to hear you sing!

Waaaaaay back in April when I first started this blog, I posted an article about how "Baby wants to hear you sing and doesn't care how bad you're messing up the song."

About a month and a half later, I'm finding this to be even more true than before. Heck, I'm finding that it's even better when I play guitar and sing, but I'll save that for a post on another day. Anyhow, I figured I'd reiterate that tip and post my wife's verses for the "Hush Little" lullaby (I have no idea what the name of that song actually is):

Hush little {insert child's name} don't you fret,
Daddy's gonna buy you a brand new jet.
On that jet you'll go real far,
Faster than in any car.

Hush little {insert child's name} don't you wail.
Daddy's gonna buy you a boat to sail.
On that boat you'll have some fun,
Playing all day in the sun.

Hush little {insert child's name} don't you boast,
Daddy's gonna make you a slice of toast.
On that toast he'll put some jam,
And perhaps a side of ham.
I figured that was totally worth documenting. I also figured tonight was the perfect night to do it since it's an easier topic to cover. I got home late from work and game 3 of the 2008 NBA Finals is on tonight so a faster post was on the docket. And if you've been following this blog, you'll know how insane I've been about the Celtics.


(P.S. If you're looking for that "Frakkin' Toaster" t-shirt, go to Glarkware.)

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Dad tip #51: 5:00 am is the perfect time to exercise

Okay, I have no idea if the title of this post is true, but I'm going to try to get my @$$ up tomorrow morning to find out.

It's been more than six months since I've been on a regular exercise schedule -- no kung fu, no running, no basketball, no weights -- and I've got the JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge coming up in a couple of weeks. Sure it's just a 5k and you're only able to walk the first half mile because it's so crowded, but I still want to put in a respectable time.

When, I was in London on business, I managed to hit the treadmill for a few miles, but that's nothing like running outside. I've also recently caught up on some physical therapy on my ankles, but I don't think that's doing a whole lot for cardio or endurance.

And so, with my baby boy waking up at 6:00 in the morning and being busy at work until 6:00 in the evening; and then dinner, my son's bedtime routine, and then a few precious minutes with my wife, the day is over. By then I'm bushed, so 5:00 am it is.

I'll let you know how that goes. (Ugh!)


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Dad tip #50: Unless you've got a truck, get your crib shipped

More than likely you've had your crib purchased, delivered, and assembled for quite some time now. We got ours months before our son was born, but I suppose there are some people who wait.

If for some reason you haven't yet purchased your crib, my recommendation would be to make sure to have it shipped. We have a Toyota Rav4 and chose to pick our crib up at the store. We were JUST able to fit all the pieces in the SUV. The box was GIGANTIC; far larger than we were anticipating for some reason.

We didn't feel safe putting the whole box on the roof and we were concerned about scratching the wood when we put the crib in the back piece-by-piece. On the whole, it was just plain aggravating. The $20 shipping charge (or whatever it was) would've been worth it.

And if this post sounds like something of a cop-out, it kind of is because I'm settling in for the drama of game 2 of the 2008 NBA Finals where we'll see if Paul Pierce can come back from his knee injury to lead the Celtics over the Lakers.

Hey, at least I'm honest.

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dad tip #49: Suck it up and just deal with the drool

Tonight's advice will be in the form of a (crappy) sonnet:
I see your face glistening in the light,
Your mouth covered in mom's breast milk and drool.
From morn and breakfast to dinner and night,
On your high-chair tray the liquids do pool.
Your two hands, they constantly move and spread,
Much like wings distributing joy so moist.
Drool passes swift from mouth to hands to head
And back to your mouth with coos so well voiced.
Your shirt, your pants, and your bib will be soaked.
Somehow, my clothes will also be drool drenched.
Drool flows freely all around unprovoked.
It is all because you need your thirsts quenched.
For my son's comfort I'll get him re-dressed.
Drool bothers me naught for he is the best.
Yeah, I'm totally going back to haikus the next time I do something like this. In case you didn't get the point, babies drool and you just need to deal with it.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Dad tip #48: Consider the BJs Rewards membership

Without question, you're going to need to buy a lot of crap for your baby. You'll be hemorrhaging money for clothes, formula, diapers, wipes, bibs, and all kinds of tangentially related stuff you'd never think of (like an aesthetically pleasing alarm clock with nature sounds for the nursery).

One thing that you might want to consider is a membership to something like BJ's (or Sam's Club or Price Club or Costco). You know, one of those big bulk warehouse-y kinds of places that require memberships.

You may want to consider upgrading from the standard $45 BJ's membership to the $80 Rewards membership. Why? Because you get 2% "payback" on purchases in the form of BJ's gift certificates. So, if you intend on spending AT LEAST $1,750 in a year, you'll at least break even with what you would've paid for a standard membership. There are some other benefits, but let's focus on the 2% payback.

$1750 does sound like an awful lot to spend in the course of a 12-month period, but let's think about what it's like to have a baby ...
Babies go through diapers like crazy. Let's say you'll end up using (AT LEAST) one-BJ's sized box of Pampers a month. For easy math, let's say each box costs $30. That right there is $360.

While you're changing diapers, you'll need wipes. Let's estimate one giant box for every two months. At $20 a box, that'll come in at an extra $120 for the year.

And let's say you're doing one canister of powdered Similac formula a month, too. Let's call that $20 per can for a yearly total of $240.

Oh, your baby needs clothes. I already mentioned that Carters clothes are available at BJ's. Let's be conservative and say you buy 10 outfits a year at $5 a pop. You're in for another $50.

What's that? You need batteries for the mobile, the swing, and the playcenter? Let's add in a lowball estimate for the year of $30 on batteries.

Coffee. You need Dunkin' Donuts coffee. Giant bags that you'll tear through in just a few weeks. You're in for ten $15 bags ($150 for the year).
So, if my math isn't off, you're already at $950 for the year on JUST baby necessities. (Yes, coffee is a necessity when you have a baby.) We haven't even talked about car tires, flat screen televisions, Black Forest Gummy Bears, non-baby groceries, tissues, garbage bags, Xbox 360 games, photo printer paper, etc. etc. etc. If you can spend about $65/month in random stuff like this -- stuff that you'd already be buying somewhere else -- you're already at the $1750 total you'd need to justify upgrading to the Rewards membership. After that, it's all gravy.

And before you shady folks get your hopes up, you don't get to earn or spend any rewards dollars on cigarettes or booze.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dad tip #47: Stop, breathe, clear your head, and balance

We're thankful. EXTREMELY thankful. Our baby boy is wonderful for any number of reasons, but one reason that we're particularly thankful for is that he's been sleeping through the night for a while now. [Knocking vigorously on wood as I type.]

However, that wasn't the case four or five months ago. Back then we were lucky to get three and half hours of broken sleep a night. When you're running on that little sleep and you're getting woken up every 15 minutes, you're dangerous. No matter how careful you are, you're just not operating a 100% efficiency. I recall waking up in the semi-darkness -- I think we kept a bedside lamp on all the time; what was the point in turning it off if you needed to turn it on a couple of minutes? -- and being so exhausted, that I literally wobbled out of bed.

Wobbling is NOT a good thing if you're about to pick up a baby.

So, I'd stop, lean against the dresser, take several deep breaths, clear my head, and get myself balanced. Sure, this sometimes took a minute or two and the baby was crying the whole time, but I'm sure it was worth it.

And now, I'm planning on using the same technique as I prepare myself for game one of the 2008 NBA Finals as my Boston Celtics take on the LA Lakers.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dad tip #46: Be prepared when your baby only wants to sleep ON you

Anecdotally, it's incredibly common that babies go through a phase where they will only seem to want to sleep physically ON someone -- that someone, of course, being YOU.

The advice for today is: Be prepared. Yes yes, that's ambiguous and vague, but it should be because there are many scenarios you should be prepared for when your baby falls asleep on you. For example ...
Scenario #1:
You've been trying for a solid two hours to get your kid to nap and you've just managed to get him to fall asleep in your arms while sitting on the couch. You've been savoring your victory for all of two minutes when the phone rings ... loudly ... from across the room. WAAAAAAHHH! Game over, you lose.

Scenario #2:
You're home alone with the baby for the next four hours. You've decided to lay on the floor and bond with the baby. Your baby (un)expectedly falls asleep on your chest ... and the only thing within arm's reach are a moist burp cloth, a moist pacifier, and a moist, but mostly empty, glass of water. Now you're thirsty, bored, and unable to fall asleep yourself, because that's pretty much not safe.

Scenario #3:
You've been drinking coffee non-stop to keep yourself awake. Your baby finally falls asleep in your lap for a nap. There's a nature sounds CD playing softly in the background of a babbling brook ... babbling suggestively. The pressure in your bladder is growing stronger at an alarming rate. You're regretting that your baby is the only one in the house wearing diapers.
In scenario #1, it would've been good to think ahead and either turn down the ringer or leave the phone in a place you could reach it. In scenario #2, you could've left the TV remote, the Xbox controller, a book, a magazine, a glass of water, or pretty much ANYTHING you could've entertained yourself with closer to where you were laying. In scenario #3, you should definitely have peed before settling in.

Get the picture? Don't go overboard, but be prepared.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dad tip #45: Don't forget your four-legged babies

I recently resolved to reduce our baby's exposure to television. I'm proud to say that I haven't flipped on the boob tube in front of him once since doing so.

I've decided that another resolution is in order. Assuming our cat is interested, I'm going to play with him every night. If you know me and my wife personally, you know that we're OBSESSED with our cat. But, we're both guilty of not giving him nearly as much attention as he was used to getting before our son was born.

Hopefully, this course of action will prevent "Pet DSS" from showing up on our doorstep to start some kind of inquisition. More importantly, I hope our cat will forgive us for any neglect we've unintentionally inflicted upon him.

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Dad tip #44: Babies move faster than crappy cameras

About three years ago, we bought a Nikon Coolpix 7900 point-and-shoot digital camera. It's proven to have been a brilliant purchase (if I do say so myself) and has more than made up its worth in memories captured in all their seven mega-pixel clarity and glory.

I recently praised the Nikon 7900 for its secondary ability to shoot continuous video with whatever space is available on the SD memory card. The camera is light-weight, rugged, and attractive. Generally there's been very little to complain about ...

... Until our son was born and we discovered that babies aren't inclined to hold still for pictures. We made due for about a month, but found ourselves using the flash more than we wanted to with a newborn (particularly in low-light situations) and ended up with somewhat washed-out ans/or blurry photos.

On the recommnedation of a co-worker, I looked into the Nikon D40 digital SLR camera. If you don't know what an SLR is, Google it; but for the sake of this post, think of it as a "traditional" big camera with a separate body and lens. After looking over the research, some sample photos, and the price, we decided to go for it and venture beyond the realm of the point-and-shoot.

We were not disappointed. We saw an immediate improvement to the quality of our photos. Better color, sharper images, -- and heck! -- even superior composition! The Nikon D40 has less delay between the time that you press the button and when the camera actually reacts, so you're more inclined to catch that "perfect shot" as it happens. Additionally, since the lens is bigger, you'll also get more light, making the use of a flash less necessary.

However, within a month, I discovered that the D40 wasn't the perfect solution by itself. There were still situations where we needed more light. So, I added two key items to the arsenal: a Nikon SB-400 AF Speedlight and a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM Lens. The SB-400 Speedlight is great because you can angle the flash and bounce the light off of the ceiling for more "natural" lighting when you can't do without a flash. The Sigma 30mm lens maybe more muscle than most people want with less flexibility, but the hefty fixed lens really enables you to get some great lower-light shots without a flash and cool depth of field effects. I'd say the speedlight is a must whereas the Sigma lens is a nice-to-have if you're REALLY getting into photography.

Lastly, if you're feeling overly ambitious and spend-thrifty, you could also go for the Nikon D40x which gives you 10.2MP to play with instead of the 6.1MP of the Nikon D40. But keep in mind that you'll never be inclined to lug the SLR around with you all the time, so there's always still a use for a point-and-shoot like a Nikon Coolpix P60 (which appears to be the current equivalent of the Nikon Coolpix 7900 we have).

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Dad tip #43: Beware kicking babies

Tonight's advice will be in the form of a haiku:
The legs kick kick kick
Your cute baby laughs and smiles
Kickball is not fun
The other lesson here is that babies are generally stronger than you think and can easily and accidentally inflict some pain.