Take your kids to McDonald’s, or else…

This is what I get for not taking my girls out to McDonald’s for lunch:

20160226_133011

Yeah, book-case emptied, stuffed animals flung, toys and their respective parts strewn about. All because I didn’t take my girls to McDonald’s.

Well, that might not be entirely correct…

This whirlwind struck while I was making lunch. That would be a home-cooked soup and handmade egg salad sandwich lunch. So technically, this is what I get for making my girls lunch. If we had gone to McDonald’s, someone else would’ve worked on the food. I would’ve monitored their behavior and the storm would’ve never touched down here.

Now this isn’t some rant post about the destructive nature of a toddler (times 2). This is more of a notice to new Dads and potential Dads-to-be. The point of this post is to send home this message: sometimes you need to be away, you need to leave your kids “on their own”.

That’s right, sometimes you need to go downstairs to change over the laundry. Sometimes you need to hole up in a room to clean. Sometimes you need to go to the bathroom…without an audience. Sometimes you need to prepare a meal. So figure out how to do it wisely. Make sure rooms are as safe as they can be (like using outlet covers). Make sure you know the sounds of “normal” kid activity, and stay aware of silence (the telltale sign that something is going on). Try organizing an activity before stepping away. Try making a game where you can pop in and out of the room so you can keep tabs, but still accomplish a task in another area. And for goodness sake, try to keep your absence to an absolute minimum.

The seasoned parents out there will recognize that this room mess was not that bad. In fact, three minutes later, with the help of a few choice big-boy curse words and we had this:

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So again, to the new Dad or soon-to-be Dad, some parting wisdom: keep the messes in perspective, they come with the territory. So much of parenting is a juggling act, just keep trying and learn from the day’s adventures. And sometimes take the kids out for lunch.

Xmas Holiday Prep – Part 1: The Tree

We have had our tree up since the day after Thanksgiving, so I figure it’s time to share. Yes, it’s an artificial tree. But it’s pretty, no? We think so.

Oh Tannenbaum!

Oh Tannenbaum!

Before you beat me up in the comments, let me point out what is most obvious: only the upper half of our tree is decorated with ornaments. For those of you out there who are “parents of toddlers”, the reason for this is obvious and necessary (as it turns out, pet owners will also recognize this style of decorating). To the unenlightened, let me share with you the magical attraction that ornaments possess. Much like all things sharp, electrified, high up or generally dangerous, ornaments emit a siren call to human beings shorter than four feet tall.

So the entire tree was decorated. But as grabby hands explored the lower branches ornaments moved up. So I share this in solidarity with my fellow parents, and put it out there as a general warning to would-be parents. Have a Christmas tree, or any holiday decorations for that matter? Prepare to put them much higher than your pre-toddler levels. They just want to touch all the ornaments and play with them and remove them from their assigned branches.

I am not really sure how many installments of Christmas adventure I’ll end up posting here. The D-3 Christmas Preparation and Survival Guide is very much a work-in-progress. Stay tuned for our next post though – toddler holiday cards!

Less terrible when lit!

Eh, less terrible when lit

“Ditching your Dad Belly”

I found this article while flipping through an online media reader app on my phone. It comes directly from the Men’s Health Thrive section and deals with busy Dads* fitting in some exercise:

http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/ditch-your-dad-belly

Like many of you, I have completely changed my daily routine since taking on at-home duties over two years ago. When I was managing the body shop I ate most of my “meals” (really just glorified snacks) while running around dealing with our workflow. Now I sit down and eat a complete breakfast and lunch, and sometimes throw in a snack. So my caloric intake is way up. These days I drink 1-2 cups of coffee a day. When I was working it was more like 1-2 cups an hour…for 10 hours. Yeah, I was hydrated, and definitely caffeinated. And now if I “run” from one end of the house it takes about 25 steps. End-to-end at the shop was about 225 steps and I ran it many times all day long. So this change in my daily habit has also changed my body shape. Now add to all of this the time crunch of parenting, which cuts out a lot of workout potential, and we get a Dad Belly. Again, I am sure many of you can relate.

For a while I was waking up at 5:00AM to do the P90X series, but that only lasted 30 days (yes, just 1/3 of the program). Sleep became too important. I considered joining a gym and going after the girls go to sleep, but I have other things I want to do…again, sleep. So I am out of shape and I own it. But in my defense, to-date neither Jillian Michaels nor Bob Harper have popped over to my house to simultaneously train me and babysit so I can get a workout in(I don’t know, sounds like a great new reality show-hint, hint).

So in this parenting context, body weight exercises have become my go-to (okay, it helps to have dumbbells too). They are easy enough to do in the house without a bunch of gear or set-up. And while I have yet to build my “Ultimate Stay-At-Home Dad Workout” (be sure to also check out the link below!), this seems like a good place to start. 20 minutes meant to give you a basic total body workout. Check it out and see what you think. Oh, and if you have some ideas for that ultimate at-home/on-a-child’s-schedule workout, or some great workout motivation, post them up in the comments section.

PERFORMANCE-BOOSTING WARMUP: 5 minutes

Do this: Perform all four exercises in a row without rest. Repeat.

  1. Bear Crawl, 20 yards forward and backward
  2. Body-Weight Jump Squat, 10 reps
  3. Farmer’s Carry, 20 yards
  4. Body-Weight Squat, 10 reps

MUSCLE-BUILDING CIRCUIT: 10 minutes

Do this: Perform all 5 exercises in a row. That’s 1 round. Rest 30 seconds, and then begin again. Do as many rounds as possible in 10 minutes.

  1. Goblet Squat, 12 reps
  2. Push-up, 30 reps
  3. Overhead Press, 12 reps
  4. Plank, 30 seconds
  5. Rest, 30 seconds

FAT-FRYING FINISHER: 5 minutes

Do this: Sprint 20 yards, and then perform a side plank for 15 seconds on each side as an active rest. Repeat. Continue this for 5 minutes straight.

  1. Sprint, 20 yards
  2. Side plank, 15 seconds on each side

I stumbled on this little gem while getting ready to publish. When Wife laughed hard enough to cry I knew I had to include it. Just a bit of humor to lighten all this serious exercise talk.Be sure to watch the workout video…it’s all about the burn!

*While the title of this article specifies “Dad” belly, we here on the detour support all parents in their exercise endeavors. Bellies grow on Moms and Dads – they are not sexist and neither are we.

Creating a genius-Fathers’ Reading Matters!

Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit in the title here, but I’m pretty stoked out on an article that I recently read. Steve Kilpatrick, a National Representative for the National Children’s Study, wrote about research studies that highlight the importance of fathers reading to their children. He points out that the studies find “Fathers’ reading matters for children-A LOT!” And how much reading are we talking about? Just 20 minutes a day. As a quick aside, I am sure that when mothers read to their children it is also important. But I’m pattin’ my Dads on the back tonight.

Kilpatrick cites three specific studies. The first, from America, found that fathers boost their child’s expressiveness and language development when they read to them regularly. Again, just 20 minutes a day. A Swedish study found that when fathers read regularly to their elementary-aged girls, it helped to prevent depression and improve their mental health later in their lives. In Britain they found that when fathers read regularly to their school-age children the child’s reading level advanced faster than children whose fathers only read them once a week. So this is all a bit heady…what’s the point?

The point is that reading with your kids is great for them. It boosts their mental development and improves their mental health. Overall, it sounds like reading to children helps make them into well-adjusted, competent little people. Sweetie and I spend hours reading together. From Highlights to Frog and Toad, Dr. Seuss to Shel Silverstein, she loves sitting together to read a book. And it has been fun to watch people gifting her books that they loved when they were kids (Captain Jack is especially good at that).

Steve Kilpatrick also points out that any Dad who has read with his children knows “how wonderful those moments are!” So that’s good news and a little boost to all the Dads out there, not just the “Stay-at-Home” ones. Know that time spent with your child in a good book counts in so many ways. And just in case you don’t have any good books lying around, let me humbly recommend Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too by Anna Dewdney. Sister Scales-of-Justice gifted this to me for Father’s Day and we have read it no less than 80 trillion times. No llama drama there, just more with the exaggerating.

Take a break from that Project, Dad. Get out from behind this computer, or put down the phone/tablet etc. Go read to your kids knowing that you are doing something that is great for all of us.

A House Favorite

A House Favorite

The “instead of…” re-direct

Here’s a little gem that has proven useful around our house. I hope it gives some respite to those of you out there attempting to communicate with a toddler.

Sweetie is just about two-and-a-half years old. A while back, about eight months ago, she went through a gnarly and thoroughly frustrating biting period. No big shock, many toddlers experiment with biting. Wife did some online digging and found a method for diffusing the situation by re-directing the child’s behavior with an “instead of” scenario. When Sweetie would make like she was going to bite Wife would tell her, “Instead of biting Mommy, why don’t you give me a kiss?” I was a skeptic at first, and it took some getting used to, but we saw good results quickly. And got a lot of kisses.

As we have moved into the full-blown, second-year-of-life toddler existence I have applied this re-direct to just about everything. If Sweetie throws a fit over eating, I give her an “Instead of getting upset, let’s just take the bite.” What? She doesn’t want to stop playing to pee? “Instead of arguing about going to the bathroom, let’s just go real fast and get back to playing.” And it is working well enough that I thought I should share it with the rest of you (like 8 times out of 10).

Some of you out there probably already know this parent mind-trick. That’s great, just give me a “Duh” in the comments section. Others might point out that the “instead of” re-direct provides the child with an option, a choice. This empowers the child to exercise their agency in a situation while still reaching the parent’s goal. You can fill the comments section with heady child psychology type stuff. For those of you that might need this tidbit, please try it. You can leave your success stories in the comments!

That’s all for now. I will continue to share as we see successes in our house. Please feel free to do the same – I can always use the help!

A little neurosis, a lot of sanity

I found these notes while going through some things the other day. Written back in November they are just as relevant today – now about a year in to this detour (and there’s a whole different entry!).

13 November 2012:

I find that my days are filled with little reminders that I am not in control of many things. Despite schedules, Sweetie sleeps when she is ready. Despite standard mealtimes and seemingly delicious food, Sweetie eats when she is ready. After days filled with unwarranted crying, Houdini poop that escapes from diapers, games with three minute entertainment value and countless other moving targets I needed something to pin down. So much of care giving is organic and like life in general, things are constantly moving and changing. Just like trying to influence the “input variables” at my previous employment, I tried to find something that I believed I could control.

The answer came in the day-to-day chores around the house, in particular, the laundry. Well, not just “the laundry”, but specifically the towels; and not just any towels, but particularly the bath towels. I found that if I folded all of our bathroom towels in a particular way that they all took on the same size. When they were the same size then they all stacked in same-sized units. And those units stacked neatly on the shelves designated for the towels, even where they shared the shelf with the sheets. It doesn’t describe well, but here goes: in half lengthwise, then in half lengthwise again (making sure the decorative stitching shows), then folded in thirds from the outsides in.

I found that this folding method did not work when Sweetie was awake and “helping” me with the laundry. That usually goes “fold one, chase two, re-fold one, chase child, repeat”. So I started folding the towels during her nap times. And I found that it was just me quietly folding towels.

This became my thing, my little neurosis, and one aspect of my life that I can control. I demand a particular fold, I work on it until it’s correct and I deliver my little bundles to their shelves. I change the towels on the same day each week. And I hang the fresh towels a particular way on their bars. These activities are simple accomplishments, small victories (and sometimes the only ones in my day!). I also found that once I set up this routine I was able to process while I was folding, shelving and hanging. I solved small problems, worked out home projects and planned meals. Focusing on something so common helps to ground me and definitely gives me back a sense of control. And focusing on something so UN-important helps me maintain perspective. I am better able to sort out the battles I will fight. Without sounding too esoteric, I think of it as a type of meditation on my day. Yes – a meditation while folding bath towels.

I don’t think this is a unique experience. I bet that plenty of you also have a little neurosis that helps you find a lot of sanity. I definitely don’t think it is as strange as it first seemed, and I highly recommend looking for it. Now it is part of my routine, and an important part at that. I completely acknowledge that having your towels folding a particular way is neurotic, but it is also nice. And on the rough days it is good to have something solid to fall back on. Hopefully it’s also going to help me prepare for the future. Sweetie is just as human and just as fickle as the rest of us. She is bound to stray from the standard and do her own thing. I don’t know how much the towels will cool my temper when she breaks curfew and comes home at a late hour, but I like to think that they will help keep me centered on what is important.

Sleep Schedule

After two days with marathon naps I was inspired to write about Sweetie’s sleep habits. Momma Z and I were recently comparing notes about how the girls’ sleep and at one point she asked straight-out, “So how did you get her to do that?”. “That” meaning nap twice a day and sleep from 7:30PM to 6:30AM (roughly since the 6 month mark).  The short answer is a sleep schedule – a firm sleep schedule. The long answer starts at the hospital the day after Sweetie was born.

Nurse Rita worked on the recovery ward at our birth hospital and taught the new parent class. She was a gentle but firm “whisperer” able to calm a crying child with a few words spoken directly. She had a couple of simple steps to teach your child how to sleep well. Nurse Rita said our first job was to wear our children out so they are ready to sleep at bedtime. We quickly experienced the truth in this step, seeing that if we did not sufficiently entertain Sweetie while she was awake, then she would wear us out when we tried to put her to sleep. Next Nurse Rita encouraged setting up and following a schedule to get your child in a routine. We went with a 6 PM dinner, 7PM bath, “spa” time afterwards, fresh pajamas and a final nursing with Wife. And finally, Nurse Rita stressed that bedtime is sleep time – “no goo-goo, gaa-gaa stuff” at bedtime. No matter how badly you want to stand at the crib and coo –let ‘em go to sleep.

Compadre has also weighed in on the subject. His background is in early childhood development and he spends his days making Chicago’s pre-school situation better. He stressed that young children respond to structure. I’m fairly certain he said they need it. So we try to stick to the routine, the schedule.  And so far Sweetie has followed the example, despite the occasional fight.

Of course we have consulted the interwebs and read multiple books as well. Most also suggested some type of sleep schedule and sleep routine. So we have kept it up and modified Sweetie has grown. The naps have shifted every couple of months. And we stopped the nursing/final bottle at 1 year so now Sweetie just has a final cuddle with Wife before going down. The schedule continues to develop with Sweetie’s needs.

So a sleep schedule has worked for us. Nurse Rita’s advice stuck with us from the beginning and our resolve is strengthened by what we have read and by other peoples’ input. And that’s been important for helping us stick with it. Over the past 13 months we have left family events early, we have shut down the house with guests still visiting; we have bowed out of some social events. So in some ways we have compromised our schedules to keep Sweetie on hers. And I guess that sums up parenting as a whole; the sleep schedule is just one specific example. I know some people think that any sort of “schedule” is rigid, especially one without “goo-goo, gaa-gaa” time. But when I wake up on Saturday morning after a solid eight hours of sleep, I’m okay with that.

How sweet it is...

How sweet it is…

Nailing the diaper routine

One of the many things that we had to address when preparing for Sweetie’s arrival was diaper choice.  Both wife and I were cloth-diapered and we turned out well, so we were inclined to go with cloth.  Add the economic factors, the environmental factors and the health factors and we were sold.  The decision was straight-forward and did not become complicated until we tried to buy our supplies because in the cloth diaper market place there are many options.  So I want to take a minute to break down the cloth diaper “system” to try to save some of you Dads the frustration that I dealt with.  (On a funny note, Sister Older-Older thinks it is hilarious that it is a now referred to as a cloth diaper “system” when they used to just be called diapers – how pedestrian.)

We went online to look at our cloth diaper options.  I quickly become tangled in the terminology, trying to sort out a cover and a hybrid and a pocket and a soaker and so on.  We eventually placed an order with a diaper boutique (again, S.O.O. thinks that is too funny) for a few different styles.  We figured we wanted to try a little of everything.  When we went to the store we were invited to a class to learn how to use the diapers.  I was hoping for some clarity and explanation, which there was.  But there were also comparisons and anecdotes and even a mention of the wool diaper movement which only muddied my understanding.  Many people have asked about the cloth diaper system and we have explained it many times.  And one day Wife and I were standing at the changing table and the explanation became clear:

There is a cloth diaper and a cover (see Photo 1).  The diaper traps the waste.  The cover is waterproof to prevent the wet diaper from touching anything else.  Done.  That is the story, everything else is extra.

DiaperNCover

Photo 1: tri-fold diaper and cover

One of the confusing things that I found in the online information was the different names for the stereotypical cloth diapers.  They are also referred to as “tri-folds” or “pre-folds”.  This is not a different type of diaper and makes more sense when you see the stitching on the diaper (there are two stitches running the length of the diaper, dividing it in to three panels).  The options branch out quickly: bleached or not, organic, etc.  And the covers are even more varied.  Some have hook & loop tabs for closure, some have snaps.  Some are sized others are adjustable.  Covers can be “just” covers, but they can also be hybrids and pocket diapers also.  I will leave it up to you to keep digging and asking if you want to go that deep in to diaper systems.

One side note here about pocket diapers.  Pocket diapers are a cover with a fast wicking liner permanently sewed in (See Photo 2).  The liner is open on one end so you can add “soakers” as needed.  The soakers are inserts that wick or absorb moisture to dial in the diaper according to your use (like overnight).  When these were introduced at the boutique they were also referred to as “Daddy” diapers.  It was meant as a joke because historically Dads are bad about diaper changes.  I get it and I know Dads who fit the image.  Hey, I have already admitted I have an issue with feces.  But I regularly use a tri-fold with a cover for Sweetie.  I tried it, got used to it, and now it is routine.  Dads – part of my motivation for writing this blog is to change the perception of Dad as a bumbling fool.  If you and your partner decide to go cloth, don’t get stuck on all the options.  Just choose a style and get used to working with it – make it routine so it is not the butt of someone else’s joke.

Photo 2: pocket diaper w/ "soakers"

Photo 2: pocket diaper w/ “soakers”

After multiple test drives we settled on unbleached, organic cotton tri-folds with an adjustable cover for our everyday use.  This works the best for us.  We do use them when we leave home and have invested in the supplies to carry the soiled diapers safely.  We do wash them at home and we have the hardware for rinsing them before they hit the wash machine (more on that later).  We have found that a pocket diaper, with hook & loop tabs, is great for doctor visits.  The pediatrician is able to easily work with it for the exam since it is similar to a disposable diaper.  We have tried disposable inserts and sometimes even use disposable diaperss.  And I can use them all so all of our diaper options are “Daddy” diapers.  Again, find what works for you and make it a part of your routine.

In trying to make the cloth diaper system accessible I know that I am over-simplifying it. If it helps, remember it as Sister Older-Older puts it: you have the diaper and the “rubber pants” (I know, “The what?”).  I have tried not to go in to too much detail, so I did not talk about the “Snappy” bands (no more pins), wet bags or soap choices.  I will get in to some of that stuff in other entries.  I have already said it a couple of times, but like everything else in the parenthood adventure, this is about finding the routine that works for your family.

In general, our society prefers disposable diapers.  They can be very quick and easy – our family even makes use of them.  Wife and I decided that we were not going to use them all the time, that’s all.  That was our decision.  And as I mentioned, we bought different styles of cloth diapers from different systems so we could find what worked for us.  Overall, I hope this is helpful to anyone out there trying to make a diaper decision and considering trying cloth diapers.  The online information about this stuff can be overwhelming and make it seem like a big deal, but it’s not.  It is a lifestyle choice, however, and worth the time to investigate.  I suggest also talking with your local diaper boutique.  The employees know what’s up and will probably give you more information than you expected.  And of course, ask other parents.  I can’t tell you how many times I land in a dirty diaper conversation.  Unfortunately, in the end there is one crappy reality: no matter which route you go, you still have to deal with a dirty diaper.

Owner’s Manual

My older brother, an accomplished 35 year mechanic and single father, is fond of saying that unlike cars little girls do not come with owner’s manuals.  Dads who are raising sons can chime in the same thought.  Thankfully, my niece is 20 years older than Sweetie, so when my brother speaks it is like reading an owner’s manual.  He inspired this section.

This is the “how-to” part of the conversation.  I want to share some details on things that help me in raising Sweetie.  If you have something constructive to share, please add it.  We are raising the future, men, let’s work on getting it right.