Lee S Parsons

A New Dad
Syracuse, NY


Introduction

My wife and I were married in June 2005, and then subsequently moved from Minnesota to Syracuse, NY. Our move was primarily for furthering both of our careers, although we fully intended to start working on a family while out here as well.

Then in the fall of 2009 we conceived our first child. The usual deluge of emotions overcame the both of us, and we knew there were some significant changes ahead of us as we prepared to go from a married couple to a family of three. What follows is a collection of some of my observations as a new father; or my collection of some of the "things they don't tell you".


Baby Seats

March - April 2010

First off, I am all in favor of keeping children safe. The car seats we have today are leagues better than what I rode in as a child, and of course cars themselves are a lot better as well.

However what I didn't expect to learn in the process is why people buy such enormous cars after their first child. The answer to this is simple; infant seats are enormous. Prior to having a child my wife and I both drove what I considered to be "reasonable sized" cars - she a VW Jetta and myself a Ford Mustang. Fortunately we purchased an infant seat well ahead of the delivery date for our son so we could figure out how to fit him and the two of us into a car.

What we learned was that we could not fit all three of us resonably into either car. In the Mustang - with its absurdly small back seat - it simply could not be done. A child seat has to go into the back, however in a Mustang that is only possible behind the passenger seat, as the seat in front of the infant seat must be all the way forward. That means that my wife could not sit in front of the child seat, and she could not sit behind me either.

However the situation was not much better with the Jetta. Most (if not all) infant seats have handles that are used for carrying the infant in the seat. Said handle must be in a forward position when the seat is in the car, which requires a few additional inches of forward clearance. This meant that the seat could never be in the middle position in the rear seat of the Jetta, as the handle would require the driver's seat to be in an un-drivable position. So we instead put the infant seat behind the passenger seat. However this made the front passenger seat unusable. The only thing that made this "almost" reasonable was that the rear seat behind the driver was large enough for an adult to sit in - hence in the Jetta I could drive, my wife could ride behind me, and our son could sit on the passenger side in the rear. Not ideal by any stretch but at least it offered some possibility of working.

In the end, we decided to trade in the Jetta. Several factors drove the decision to trade in that car over the Mustang that I will not go in to in this blog entry. Ultimately we decided to buy a used Ford Freestyle.

The moral of the story is that an infant car seat currently takes up more space in a car than a 400 pound man.


The Bottle Racket

April 2010

We first became aware of the bottle racket when we started a baby registry at our local Babies R Us store. The people at the store were very helpful getting started with the process, however that did not help the larger problem of there being too many options for baby bottles. Your local store probably carries at least the three most common bottles:

What we found for differences between them probably should not have surprised us. Amongst the three main bottles there is essentially no cross-compatibility. They come in different volumes with different nipples, different rings, and even different ways to set up. They all have some sort of "venting nipple" apparatus that is intended to limit the amount of air that is taken in to the baby's stomach. Naturally every manufacturer claims to have the best version of this "venting nipple", and I'm not sure that I believe any of them. Furthermore they all claim to be the "most natural" nipple, to prevent "nipple confusion" (nipple confusion, as best I know, only matters if you are breast feeding).

So we started with the Nuk bottles because someone suggested it was the best first choice. Then we tried breast pumping for a while so we went to the Medela bottles because those are the only ones that connect to a Medela pump. Then we switched to Avent bottles when we were having problems with Medela nipples with our son.

Now we have a kitchen cupboard full of nipples, bottles, rings, etc that we aren't using.


Bringing my Laptop to the Hospital

23 May 2010

The date we went to the hospital to have labor induced was May 23rd. Most hospital stays are a couple days after delivery here in Upstate New York, depending on how it goes (and how the baby is delivered). I was warned ahead of time that at the hospital we were going to we would have to pay for outgoing calls on the phone in the room, so I planned ahead. My wife and I both have cell phones but of course I knew we would be talking quite a bit and wanted to avoid overage fees if at all possible.

However I also knew the hospital had free WiFi available in all the rooms. Hence the answer to my problems was clear - just bring a laptop and make VOIP calls. The solution I currently employ for that is MagicJack, which unfortunately runs only in Windows or Mac OS. More specifically, it runs only in Windows XP or newer, or Mac OS on an Intel Mac. So that tied my hand - I would have to bring my Windows latop rather than my slightly more powerful BSD laptop. This had the fortunate consequence of also being able to easily charge my blackberry and download pictures from my phone from the same system so it wasn't all bad.

So the moral to this short story is simple; know your communications options. We still ended up going over on our cell phone bill (almost doubling our normal bill) but we saved quite a bit by using the dramatically cheaper magicjack. People did think it looked a little odd that I was using a regular phone in the hospital when one was already in the room, but that didn't matter as it saved me a lot of money (and the regular phone I brought with was easier to hold on my shoulder while holding the baby anyways).


Infant Tylenol Does Not Exist

3 June 2010

Most likely if you just read that heading you are thinking I am wrong or lying. Every pharmacy, discount store, and grocery store in the US sells "Infant Tylenol" of some sort. However, the concept of "Infant Tylenol" is a lie.

Infant Tylenol is not made for infants

Next time you are looking at a box of "Infant Tylenol", take a look at the dosing information on the box. Every box I have ever seen has dosing for 2 years and up - which are of course not infants. If you look under the "children under 2" section the box says to consult your doctor. However when you consult your doctor they will tell you that they generally do not advise administering Tylenol to children under 1 year of age.

So while you can buy "Infant Tylenol", it is not actually for infants. Rather you are actually buying "Children's Tylenol" but without more precise dosing information for older children.


Diaper Nonsense

30 May 2010

We are all aware of the large number of options for diapers currently. The main contenders are still Pampers, Huggies, and Luv. However each of those companies make a variety of diapers under the brand name to target different price points (and of course store brands are available as well).

The difficulty with diapers ends up being not in the variety but rather in trying to comparison shop by price. Currently my wife and I are favoring the "Pampers Swaddlers" diapers for our son. I honestly don't know what makes them better than any other diaper, and I'm not sure I can contain diaper comparison data in my head right now anyways. However even when you only want one specific diaper it can be difficult to shop for it and determine whether or not you are getting the best deal. For example, pampers swaddlers are sold in three different box sizes:

Can you guess which one has the most diapers? If you guessed "Value Box", you're right. If you guessed one of the other ones, (or had no guess at all) you are only more reasonable than a Pampers marketing droid.

However the fun doesn't end there. Apparently Pampers (and it looks like the other manufacturers are doing the same) has decided to standardize on box sizes rather than diaper count for their packing methods. So a "Value box" of size 1 diapers has more diapers than a "Value box" of size 2, which has more than a "Value box" of size 3. While this probably helps their shipping bottom line, it doesn't make it easy for new parents to plan their diaper purchasing and consumption, when they can't count on a box to always last the same number of diaper changes.

Oh, and while we're at it, some diapers have half-sizes as well. Pampers Swaddlers for example have "1", "1-2", "2", "2-3", etc. Which have overlapping weight ranges for seemingly identically sized diapers - go figure.


The Bottle Racket Part 2 - Nipples

9 June 2010

I previously commented on the lack of interchangeability among infant bottles. I also discussed the fact that someone can't be truthfully able to back up their claims if they were reviewed by the same group of people at any point in time.

However the bottle nipples deserve a calling out for a specific failure that is all their own. While nipples are available for specific flow rates (usually "low" or "high", sometimes with a "medium" option from certain manufacturers as well), the labeling is terrible and uninformative.

I say this because infant bottle nipples are labeled for flow rates by infant age. This is a terrible and meaningless metric. If anything they should be listed by infant weight, which is a far better gauge of how much formula the infants need to take in at a single feeding. When our son was born at 10 pounds 10 ounces the "low flow" nipples from some manufacturers were woefully inadequate for his needs.


Cell Phone Problems

18 May 2010

I recently became aware of a cell phone problem that I had not encountered before. My wife and I share a family plan on T-Mobile which works pretty well for us in terms of cost. We have known for the 5 years we have lived in Syracuse that the reception for T-Mobile is often spotty at best in our area, and we have learned to deal with it (the previously mentioned MagicJack is great at home). I have called T-Mobile to complain about the crappy signal but have not noticed any difference so far.

However this problem is not signal related. This problem is time (as in calendar) related instead.

When we were in the hospital we both received quite a few phone calls, some of which we simply weren't able to answer for various reasons at certain times. Many of those calls were of course congratulatory calls from friends or relatives, many of whom left voicemail for us. When we left the hospital we each expected we had quite a few messages; my wife tended to hers quickly and I not very quickly at all.

Therein lies the problem. If found out more recently that voicemail messages on T-Mobile are automatically deleted after 2 weeks, whether they were listened to or not. So when I finally sat down with a pen and a pad of paper thinking "I will listen to my voice mail now" I found that all the messages that were left for me while we were still in the hospital were already deleted.

I don't know if this is standard practice across carriers or just something that T-Mobile does. I have been with them for over 5 years now, I don't have any relevant experience with any other carriers anymore.


Growth Spurts Hurt

14 June 2010

The first couple weeks after we got home went very well with Zack and the two of us. Then when we entered week three things became a little more difficult. Zack developed a seemingly insatiable appetite and we were worried we were overfeeding him. Eventually we moved from breast feeding to feeding only formula so we would have a better idea of how much he was eating; at which point we were almost certain we were overfeeding, even though he wasn't spitting up much of anything.

Then we found out that the first big growth spurt out of the womb comes around week 3. Our baby really was just very, very, hungry. We collectively sighed and said "to hell with feeding guidelines, we have a large baby and we will feed him when he is hungry". Sometimes this meant 3-4 ounces every 2-3 hours, but he took it fine and kept doing what he was doing.

In short, growth spurts hurt. They can be taxing emotionally for us as parents, and who knows what it feels like for the baby. On the bright side individual growth spurts only last so long, and then you're back to business as usual (or some variant thereof). Although of course infancy is somewhat a series of growth spurts...


Philips Avent Bottles Suck Ass

30 June 2010

There are quite a few choices for bottles for feeding a baby. Many of them are pretty good with some drawbacks, and they each claim to be the best at what they do. However, one is outirght lying.

I hope the sadistic bastards who designed the Philips Avent bottles enjoy their time burning in hell. We started with the Gerber Nuk bottles, and they worked OK. We switched to Medela later on because we tried breast pumping for a while. Then we switched to Philips Avent, apparently because we hate ourselves. We have spent over $200 on Philips Avent products now and I wish we had set that money on fire instead.

The Philips Avent system simply sucks. The instructions tell you that you have to assemble nipple, ring, and bottle while wet. What they don't tell you is that it will most likely still leak after you do that. What they also don't tell you is that if one leaks there is nothing you can possibly do to stop it from leaking. I have one more than one occasion ended up with a Philips Avent bottle that has put more formula on my son than in my son, and that is excluding the amount that he spat up. The Philips Avent bottles have ruined a couple of my shirts, irreversibly stained one of my pairs of shorts, and forever stunk up my living room couch. The only thing that consistently works with the Philips Avent bottles is they will consistently fall to the ground when you throw them across the room in anger, although I suspect their engineers are working on a way to defeat gravity as I type this.

In short, don't ever buy this terrible product. They also make it more confusing than need be when you are at the store, they have two different nipple systems that are interchangeable. I'll save you the time right now and tell you that the more expensive one is terrible and the less expensive one doesn't work either. If you are in bottle desperation, go back to the Medela bottles, you'll thank yourself for it later.


Bottle Compromise

11 July 2010

We may now have a winner for a bottle that makes all of us (close to) happy. Previously we had the following problems with bottles that we have tried (going from first to most recently tried):

Now, we have tried a new brand that works pretty well. We are using Tommee Tippee bottles and they seem to work pretty well. The mouth is extra wide for making formula. The bottle capacities are very good (up to 9 ounces). The nipples have anti-colic valves. The bottles don't leak at all.

However we have seen one minor problem with these. The nipples have a tendency to collapse while feeding. By this I mean we will pull the bottle out of Zack's mouth and the nipple will be bent down inside, hence shorter than it's usual height. I did find that a quick shake of the bottle with the nipple pointed up will correct this easily. It appears that the plastic is just a bit too soft to hold it's form.

The only other problem is that these are not very common bottles with retailers currently. Hence any time we need more bottles, nipples, or rings, we need to go to Babies R Us. Thankfully we started with a 6 pack of bottles which has worked quite well so far.


You Want a Price For What?

28 July 2010

Other people probably already knew this, but today I went shopping for baby formula and confirmed what I already suspected. Many important baby items are simply not priced on some store web sites. For example, we are currently using Gerber Good Start Gentle Plus formula for Zack. This is becoming a rather common formula now, and we can easily buy it at Target, Babies R Us, or most of our local grocery stores. I suspect Wal-Mart may carry it as well, although I haven't looked there yet.

However, if you search the Target website, you will find Good Start Gentle Plus only in can six packs - which aren't carried in the stores. In the stores, you will find individual cans which aren't sold on the website. Interestingly enough, Babies R Us will happily tell you the price of individual cans for that product; and it happens that on this, Babies R Us is cheaper for the same size can.

However the story doesn't end there. Target often has the "20% more free" cans in the store (although you have no way to know ahead of time if they will have it). Target also often has register coupons for those cans - most often $5 off of three cans.

I have also noticed this to be the case with other baby items. For example, searching for bottle nipples is infuriating (not that bottles themselves are much easier to find on websites). I don't know if the prices of these items are too volatiles to index on the websites, or if they vary too much across markets, or what the problem may be. I just find it very irritating (and wasteful regarding time and fuel) that for some items the only way to find the price is to go to the store - and this is with items that I need regularly.


Fun With A Crying Baby

31 July 2010

First, a disclaimer. I acknowlege that crying babies are generally not funny. Babies usually cry because they are hungry or uncomfortable. If your baby is crying you need to check to see what is wrong. That said, sometimes babies just cry because they have no other way to vocalize anything at all. Sometimes, you just have to wait it out for them to stop crying, this method works somtimes...

My wife pointed out an amusing opportunity that presents itself when a baby is crying. This is particularly true if they are in a "wailing" type cry, where they are crying continuously rather than in a stuttering manner.

When a baby is crying, you can pat your hand softly and rapidly on their open mouths to change the sound made by the baby. In our case, we like to use a frequency similar to what was used by cartoon Indians (back in the days when Saturday morning cartoons did not have to be PC), which breaks up the cry with a rather hilarious result. A few times I've done this and found myself crying at the same time - though myself crying with laughter.


The Pee-Pee TeePee

2 August 2010

This is a product that we use occassionally at home, and was recommended to us by some friends who have also recently had baby boys. The premise is simple - a little fabric cone to place over your little boy's boy bits to prevent him from spraying all over the room during a diaper change. Indeed, most parents - both moms and dads - get sprayed by junior once or twice during the course of the diaper years.

I mention the Pee-Pee TeePee because I ran into it recently as item 21 on the "Ridiculous Parenting Products" list at parenting.com which I find, well, a bit ridiculous. Sure, these take some skill but for the uninitiated they can be well worth while.

That said, I already learned several weeks ago that having the fresh diaper ready ahead of time is even better. If you change the diaper with good technique you can minimize the total amount of time that the boy bits are exposed - and hence reduce the chance of being sprayed.


Air Travel Brings Out The Worst In Everyone

14 August 2010

We just took Zack on his first flight, going back to MN to visit relatives. Because Syracuse is only a feeder airport, we have only a very limited set of cities we can fly to nonstop (and of course Minneapolis is not on that list anymore). Hence it meant that we had to take two flights to get where we were going.

The first flight went fine. Zack was the youngest on the plane and rode in Ingrid's lap. He barely made a sound for the one-hour flight from Syracuse to Chicago O'Hare. He did fine with security in Syracuse and the layover didn't bother him either. There were other screaming children on the smaller plane (2 seats on each side of one aisle, maybe 15 aisles - a Canadair Regional Jet [CRJ]), but he was not screaming.

However the second leg was very different. We were corralled into a larger (Airbus A319 - three seats on each side of one aisle) plane to fly from Chicago to Minneapolis. The plane was rather warm when we got on board and warmed up until we were airborne - I think this bothered him (I know I didn't care for the heat). On this flight he started screaming. Then, he started to really scream. We heard sounds from him that we had not heard before. We previously thought we knew his "boody murder" scream, but this new scream was louder and higher in pitch. If he had a tail and someone ran it over with a Mack truck, this is the scream I would expect.

And of course, once behaviors are learned they are rarely unlearned. Our visit has now on more than one occasion been met with the new scream.


Grandma And The Dog

16 August 2010

This week brought two losses for our family. In the span of less than 4 days Zack lost both his dog and his grandmother. On Friday - the 13th of August - we had just come to terms with our decision to euthanize our dog who my wife had been with some 16 years, when the news of Ingrid's mom came down on us.

Friday we learned that Igrid's mom had reached a terminal state in her second fight with breast cancer. With a heavy heart we booked bereavement fares for first thing Saturday morning to fly back to Minneapolis to see her one last time. Less than two hours after putting our family dog to sleep we were 30,000 feet up on our way to Minnesota.

Saturday evening we arrived in Minnesota. The three of us met with Ingrid's brother and then went to the hospital to see Ingrid's mom and dad. By the time we arrived, and Zack met his grandmother for the first time, it was clear that the situation was close to its end. That was the first time Zack saw her and the last time we saw her smile. We saw her again Sunday morning and Sunday evening, and by Monday morning she had passed away.

One thing she specifically asked for in her last week was to see her grandson in person. It makes me feel a lot better knowing that we were able to grant her that. We would have much rather been able to introduce them under better circumstances but meeting once is better than not at all.


Avent Bottles Find a New Way to Suck

18 August 2010

My well-meaning mother bought us some additional Avent bottles for when we visited recently. There are two different types of Avent bottles sold at Target that use the same nipple / nipple ring combination; we have always purchased the less expensive bottles. My mother bought the more expensive bottles and we found out the hard way that they leak just as much as the less expensive ones.

The main difference in the bottle types is the top of the bottle itself. The original bottles have threads most of the way up, followed by a threadless portion at the very top. The more expensive bottle omit the threadless portion and instead give you a rubber/plastic ring to set into the bottle (which also means an additional part to wash). I presume the ring was designed to improve the seal between the bottle and the rubber nipple.

However as you may have guessed the rubber ring does not improve the seal by any dramatic amount. We just ended up giving our son another milk bath, courtesy of the great design done by Philips.

I think they should seriously consider going back to just making televisions, they were a lot better at that.


Air Travel With An Infant

21 August 2010

Have you ever notice that families traveling with infants never bring expensive strollers to the airport? Yeah, we didn't, either. However in the course of our recent travels we discovered the reason why.

Perhaps this is a rookie (parent) mistake, one that we had to make for ourselves. If someone else can learn from our mistake and save some money, then this entry will be worthwhile. I'm sure some advance research on the matter could have saved us from experiencing this problem first-hand, however we recently had to travel on very short notice.

In short, our stroller was significantly damaged by the baggage handlers at United Airlines. Specifically, it was damaged either at Syracuse airport or Chicago O'Hare. We handed a perfectly intact and working stroller to the handlers at Syracuse, and the handlers at O'Hare gave us something that was in poor shape. Considering our return flight into Chicago resulted in yet more damage, I am inclined to pin the blame on the United baggage handlers at that facility.

However we may have little to no recourse for this problem. After all, the stroller (and car seat for that matter) are items that travel with essentially no liability on behalf of the airline. If the airline destroys your luggage they have some liability, however apparently if they do the same to your stroller they have none. It is no small wonder people bring cheap umbrella strollers into the airport instead.

So knowing this, you might ask why we brought our stroller with to begin with. Well, one reason was the time constraint; we did not have time to buy another stroller before leaving. Another was that we were not expecting it to be damaged. Yet another was that the United Airlines website told us our stroller and car seat did not count against our luggage allotment - which was true although it seems now to have cost us in other ways.


Another New Bottle

21 August 2010

We recently found another bottle type that we had not previously tried. We are now using the Playtex Ventaire Advance bottles. The first obvious difference in these bottles is that they have a bend near the nipple, so that the bottle is held more vertical while the baby is feeding. The other big difference is that these bottles vent through the bottom (or top depending on perspective - either way, the end opposite of where the nipple is). The idea behind this is to allow the baby to drink without air passing through the nipple.

The vent works quite well. It is a bit different to see no air coming back through the nipple. However the mechanism seems to work quite well; indeed almost no burping is needed after feeding with these bottles. This bottle may even allow our son to feed a little bit faster, thanks to the bottom-venting.

We do like these bottles, although we have one minor complaint. These bottles do have quite narrow necks, which is sub-optimal for loading formula powder. We have seen that there is a version of the same bottle with a wider neck, although those are only for lower-volume bottles.


Sleeping In The Crib

1 September, 2010

Labor day weekend was the first weekend we put our son to sleep in his own crib. This was just after he reached three months of age. I'm not sure when "most people" do this, or how we compare to that, but this seemed like a good time for us. We reached the decision because, amongst other things, we figured the three-day weekend would give us more time to adjust to it if it proved difficult. We already had set up the nursery, and we had a wireless baby monitor so we could hear him from our own room.

This actually worked quite well. Prior to this, he was sleeping through the night fairly often in our room (in his own bassinet next to the bed), so we had reason to be optimistic. We also have a glider in the nursery for helping to soothe him to sleep, which we have used a few times.

And for anyone who is worried about setting up for their baby to sleep, rest easy. It really isn't as hard as you might think. A lot is said about "don't let them sleep with X, Y, or Z" and the like. All good advice, for sure. But in the end if your baby doesn't sleep then you don't either. Truth be told, our son slept his first few weeks in his car seat. Granted, we had the car seat sitting in his bassinet, but the car seat was the best compromise for us for those first few difficult weeks. Then after those passed we removed the car seat and let him sleep on his back in the bassinet, which worked very well. Now he sleeps very well on his back in the crib.

So there you have it, one of those "little secrets" your friends never told you about their kids. Most likely most - if not nearly all - of your friends with children did this, too. One of our friends told us that one of their children slept in their swing for the first several months. Truth be told, where your child sleeps isn't as important as ensuring that they sleep. Obviously, they need to sleep someplace safe, but a lot of places can be made safe.


Another Flight

28 September 2010

Our son is about to have his second flying experience of his young life. Last month we flew back so he could see his grandmother, this time the flight is more about him. Next weekend Zack will be baptised back in Minnesota. This flight is slightly more complicated than the last, however:


So this has the possibility of being a more exciting trip than the last. We have taken some additional precautions this time, though. We just purchased a smaller (and lighter, less expensive) stroller for this trip. We also will buy some OraGel to help soothe Zack. And I will make sure to keep my migraine medication handy for myself this time as well.


Road Trip

10 October 2010

Our second trip to Minnesota with Zack began with a plane ride, although with more preparation time than the first. The second flight was a bit longer for a shorter "as the crow flies" distance due to its routing. While in Minnesota for this second trip we were given a very nice surprise, in the form of what was previously Ingrid's mom's car. The car in question is a 2002 VW Passat W8, or as I like to call it, "the four-headed monster".

The pleasant surprise then changed our return itinerary, as we knew we needed to drive it back. The drive from Minneapolis to Syracuse is right around 1,000 miles if you stick to the interstate highways all the way (I-94 from Minneapolis to I-90 to Syracuse). Driving, of course, offered a few distinct advantages over flying, but we knew that it would be a very different experience for the three of us; previously Zack's longest drive had only been about 2 hours from our house to Rochester Airport (where this trip's flight out originated).

I will add more to the summary of the road trip later, but at this point I would especially like to point out one thing we learned not far into the trip - make sure to pack your formula (or any other dried, canned foods) strategically. We placed our formula cans in the trunk, which was not a problem for the weather. It was, however, a problem with regards to the cans and everything else in the trunk. Eventually, at least one can was crushed enough that the lid popped off and formula powder was spilled into the trunk. Of course, that probably isn't as bad with powder as it could be with liquids, but it could have really been a problem if we were more than a day or so away from getting home to unload (and vacuum) the trunk.

That said, over all the road trip went very well. The car performed beautifully (as expected). Zack slept most of the time and we stopped every 2-3 hours to change him, feed him, and give him some time outside the car. He did, of course, occasionally get stir crazy; which leads to one more hint - try to avoid heavy traffic if you can. Rush hour traffic with a screaming infant is so taxing that time almost seems to move backwards. Of course, if it occurs somewhere that you are not familiar enough with to know an alternate route through, that makes the situation that much more difficult.


Magic Jack, Again

20 October 2010

I've mentioned before that we use MagicJack for some phone calls in our house; in part because our cell service is nothing short of horrendous at our house. So far it has worked pretty well; a while ago I even picked up another WindowsXP PC to just run MagicJack for us so I wouldn't need to have my regular laptop running Windows. When we travel, we have found it handy as well; I can boot my laptop into windows then and make phone calls anywhere we have high speed internet access, without using cell phone air time.

However today we ran into some problems with MagicJack. More specifically, we ran into some consecutive problems. When I got home today I tried to make a call as I usually would; I think the most recent call I made on MagicJack prior to this was on Monday October 18th. As I mentioned we have a WindowsXP desktop (made by HP/Compaq) that does nothing other than run MagicJack for us currently. However when I tried to make a call I had no dial tone.

When I set up the WindowsXP PC I installed TightVNC Server on it so I could log into the system from across the network and hence not need a monitor on it. So I checked to see what was going on with the MagicJack. I found that the software was not running, although Internet Explorer was up, showing a MagicJack Customer Care page. This page ended up being completely, 100%, useless and utterly irrelevant to my situation. Apparently, a lot of people lose their MagicJack connectivity due to bad firewall settings, but that was simply not the case here. I confirmed that by restarting the MagicJack software from the link it setup on the Windows desktop.

When I started the software - which took a lot longer than usual - it eventually gave an error in large red capital letters - error broken storage. This error was, to say the least, not very informative. Some google searching lead to a few forums where that error has been discussed, although the suggestions didn't pan out.

So then I thought I would try the classic Windows approach of uninstalling and reinstalling - in this case, removing the MagicJack and reinserting it into the USB port. At this point things came apart a bit more - physically. When I attempted to pull the MagicJack out, the USB plug stayed in the USB port! This left four pins coming out of the MagicJack. Unfortunately it is quite difficult to tell which direction is which on the pins so getting the plug back on is no small feat.

However, plug reinstallation soon became impossible. When I tried to get the plug back into the MagicJack, two of the four pins fell out. The four pins appear to be soldered on to the circuit board on the MagicJack so at that point it was game over.

My next step then was to contact MagicJack support. They apparently don't like to talk to people over the phone (go figure), but the MagicJack website does allow you to get a support person over a chat interface. I started with one person, who then sent me to someone else for further assistance in getting a new MagicJack sent to me. One additional bit of information here is that when I setup the MagicJack initially it asked me if I wanted to pay more for coverage on the jack should something happen to it (frankly this looks like a defect to me but whatever), which I did. I then had to point out to the second person that I did that in order to not have to pay the full replacement cost for the jack - I paid $10 (just shipping & handling) instead of $30 ($20 for the jack and $10 s&h). Although as today is Wednesday I might well not see the new jack until next Monday or later as they said "3 to 5 business days to receive".


A Game For Baby and Us

5 November 2010

On an earlier entry I described Fun With A Crying Baby - where I mentioned my amusement at interrupting his crying with brief pats of my fingers in front of his mouth. Sometimes we still do this when he's crying, especially if one is holding him while the other is preparing food for him.

Lately, though, he seems to have caught on with the game, and even seems amused by it himself. We have seen that if we tap our fingers in front of his mouth while he is sitting quietly on our lap, he will start to make a humming sound to hear it interrupted. Once he hears the series of interruptions he himself starts to giggle in amusement. We have noticed that at times we can accomplish a similar sound by bouncing him lightly on our knees.

Ahh, the simple joys of parenting...


Teething Begins

12 November 2010

This day was the first time we saw a tooth pop through Zack's gumline. He is almost 6 months old, and the drooling and gum pain started at least a solid month or two ago. But today is the first time we see a tooth. Keeping in tune with what many people say, the first tooth through for Zack is a lower front tooth.

As this was a Friday night that we first saw the tooth, we were beside ourselves with what to do. We wouldn't be able to show it to our daycare provider until the following Monday, but we found an excuse to call her anyways and tell her about it. I actually suspect she likely noticed it but didn't want to tell us of it until we said something (to preserve our "firsts" for ourselves). Hey, that's the kind of child care expertise that we pay for :)

Of course, we also told our family members. My wife posted it on facebook as well. I don't recall exactly what the order of events was at this point as far as who heard what when. The whole night was a bit of a blur for us.

The biggest surprise to this teething event was that indeed, the tooth did seem to relieve the pain for Zack quite a bit. After the tooth came through, we got by for quite a while with a lot less orajel, and we found that Zack's demeanor improved dramatically.


Another Road Trip - And Another Tooth

28 November 2010

For Thanksgiving this year, we went to State College, PA - about a 4.5 hour drive from Syracuse NY where we live. In State College, a cousin of my wife runs Otto's Pub and Brewery - if you are a fan of craft brewery and local food, you should stop by there if you find yourself in State College. And if you stop by, ask Charlie (Ingrid's cousin) about bicycle night!

That said, Thanksgiving was fantastic. We saw family and extended family. We had great food and great conversation. We even had the forethought to bring Zack's high chair with, since at this point he didn't yet have the strength to easily sit in a regular (restaurant) high chair. However, Zack didn't sleep very well on Thursday and Friday night while we were staying in a hotel.

And of course Zack not sleeping well meant we didn't sleep well, either. Zack woke up screaming almost every three hours through the night. We quickly ran out of infant Tylenol and found ourselves washing a lot of bottles in the hotel room sink. I even made a 3am (Saturday) run to buy more infant Tylenol.

On Friday, though, we found the source of Zack's trouble. Early while we were in PA, another tooth came through! Now Zack has both of his lower front teeth coming through; he'll be looking for food to chomp through with those before we know it...


A New Behavior

13 December 2010

This week brought a new behavior that I had not seen from Zack before. For some people this is a pretty minor behavior, but it is significant to us.

This week, Zack grabbed the rails in the shopping cart seat for the first time. Being as he goes with on most shopping trips, this is a big help to us. A while ago we moved from the infant (car) seat to the convertible (car) seat, which has the disadvantage of not being something that is carried into stores (as it has no separate base to detatch from). When we placed him in the shopping cart seat the first time, he didn't seem to know what to do. He had sat in Bembo seats, high chairs, and car seats before, but they were not like a shopping cart. At first he didn't want to bend at the hips, he would half-lay in a very uncomfortable-looking position. Eventually he figured that part out, but the horizontal stability was a problem - even when belted in. Fortunately many of those intermediate trips included purchasing milk and/or juice, which could be used to bolster him on either side.

But now, he grabs the rail in front of him and is able to hold himself up for much of the ride. This is a very positive change, especially for times when one of us is shopping alone with him.


Vote For Zack!

21 December 2010

This is a pretty late notice, but I'll add it here anyways. Shutterfly.com is doing a Holiday Photo Contest, and Ingrid entered a picture of Zack into it. I'm not sure how much longer the contest runs, but you can see the photo and vote it up if you have a chance. You do have to sign up for a shutterfly account, but I think that is free (of course they'd love to sell you stuff).


Rollin, Rollin, Rollin

25 December 2010

Zack's Christmas present to us (other than just being there) is increased mobility. On Christmas Day while enjoying a meal with the neighbors, Zack rolled over on his own for the first time. Well, to be specific he rolled half way (front to back) and then rolled back. So far he seems to strongly prefer to roll on his left side, almost never rolling on his right side.

Clearly, it is time to start babyproofing the house now.


Knowing Your Prices

25 January 2011

My first entry to this blog for 2011 regards the retail pricing of common baby items. In our case, the most common items that we buy repeatedly are things like diapers, wipes, and formula. While the prices don't fluctuate radically, small variations can make a noticeable difference.

And perhaps just as importantly, sometimes advertised prices are indeed worse than regular retail prices. But of course, you need to know the "normal" price of an item to know whether or not the price you are being charged is reasonable. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, this is not always aided by the internet.

My first example for this is this week's Target "sale". I put sale in parentheses because some of the items that are in the circular - and even in a special section of the store outside the usual baby items - are not actually good deals.

For one, when we go to Target, we usually buy Gerber Good Start formula in a 25.7 ounce can. This can normally costs us around $20; which is 77.8 cents per ounce. However this week Target has a "value can", which is 32 ounces, for $25. This works out to 78 cents per ounce. While this is not dramatically worse, it is by no means any better of a price than the usual price. In a related vein, they have a diaper offer where you can buy two different sized boxes of Pampers where the larger box has 20 more diapers, but the price per diaper is identical.

In other words, with baby stuff, you need to know the correct price to pay for an item in order to know whether or not you are getting a good deal. This reminds me a lot of shopping at Sam's Club; sometimes you get a really good deal, sometimes you get a pretty good deal, and sometimes you end up paying more per unit size.


Our Wordpress Site

19 February 2011

I just installed the wordpress blogging suite on our web server, and may move this blog to that setup (instead of this boring text-only setup). Right now almost nothing is on there, but you can view our wordpress site and see what it looks like so far. For now, entries will go first to this (original) site, and later to the wordpress site.

Wordpress is also available through wordpress.org, where you can download the system for yourself to setup on your own web server (as we have done) or you can have your blog hosted through their website.


Pushing Away The Bottle

9 March 2011

Wow, it's been a while since I last updated this. Things have been pretty busy for us, and Zack is growing like crazy. We just had his 9 month appointment and his growth is still impressive; he's over 32 inches long and 24 pounds.

But today's entry is about another new behavior. It seems that Zack's interest in eating from bottles is rapidly waning. He used to take at least 3 or 4 8 ounce bottles every day, now sometimes he barely finishes one full bottle. This morning might be the first time he rejected a bottle completely in the morning; I used half of his usual bottle to make oatmeal for him instead which he was fine with. The doctor said that this might happen, although I'm not sure we were expecting it to be this sudden. Apparently it is another one of those highly variable changes as well; some kids will stop the bottle on their own, others have to be weaned.

Nonetheless his appetite is healthy, he's happy, and he's growing. So I guess we're still doing something right.


More Travels

26 March 2011

The three of us have just returned from another trip. This time our destination was Raleigh, North Carolina - by way of Rochester, NY. The primary reason for going to Raleigh was for the US HUPO conference (HUPO is the Human Proteomics Organization) which was held there this year. We went by way of Rochester NY because as often happens we were able to get better airfares and time tables by using that airport instead of the Syracuse airport. As Rochester is only a two-hour drive from our house, it made sense to use that option.

Zack fortunately travels quite well, both by car and by air. It has been a while since he last went to an airport but the experience didn't seem to phase him. One thing we learned this time was the regulations for bringing infant food with you; which like many airport "security" measures varies wildly by what airport you happen to be going through. On our flight out though Rochester the TSA agents insisted on patting down one of us (I volunteered for that) since we had sealed containers of baby food (Gerber vegetables in our case) in our carry-on baggage. Our connecting flight was through Dulles Airport (Washington, DC) for the way down; the distance between our arrival and departure gates was such that we needed to make a bit of a sprint to reach our departure gate - I blame this in part to the rather bizzare way that the airport is laid out. At least we made everything on time and with no significant problems on the way down.

The return, however, was not quite so easy. The good news is that we returned to Rochester some 2 hours earlier than originally scheduled; the bad news of it was how that happened. We received a call from the airline (United) around 4 or 5 hours prior to our first departure telling us our first flight of the day was cancelled. They claimed the flight was cancelled due to aircraft maintenance or some such thing; I spent some time on the phone with a United representative with a think Indian accent who was unable to help us. The United employee suggested we go to the airport ASAP to see what could be done for us. We arrived to a mostly empty airport where a United employee at the counter was able to place us on a flight with US Air to get us to Rochester. The only complication of that was we had 20 minutes to get from the counter to the gate after being reassigned, which we just barely pulled off for the three of us. Had security insisted on a pat-down there, we might not have made it at all.


Teething, Round 3

30 March 2011
Tooth Count: 4

It appears we are starting another round of teething. We are getting used to most of the symptoms - although they are quite variable. Nonetheless, Zack is drooling (both snot and droll), shoving his fingers in his mouth, irritable, pulling at his ears, etc. The nice part of this - aside from the fact that it gets him even closer to eating "regular" food - is that some times it makes him extra "clingy", so we get to hold him more during these teething phases than some other times. He currently has both front, on both top and bottom. His first teeth were front top, so I'm expecting these teeth that are about to come through will be up top as well (although we know better than to count on that).


Don't Buy These Gates

1 May 2011

The idea behind the gates made by Summer is a good one - a gate that installs without hardware, that stays in place, and allows you to pass through with a fairly easy-to-use mechanism without having to take down the gate. And indeed they do install without hardware or drilling, and they stay in place quite well.

However, passing through is questionable. Actually, passing through isn't bad, but getting it to stay closed is a whole other problem. Unfortunately, if you buy gates at babiesrus, you'll be hard-pressed to find many other brands that are available in store that are reasonably priced and don't require to you drill into your doorway.

Hence, like an Alzheimer's patient, I bought one, and then another one. Someone should commit me to the nut house if I ever consider buying a third.

The problem is in the gate's swinging (and latching) mechanism. Specifically, it doesn't work. The instructions tell you how to get it to work, but for the love of anything that has ever been deserving of love, don't bother with the instructions because they won't help. They probably would have been better off left in the original Chinese, or perhaps just supplied Ikea-style with no printed words whatsoever. I followed the instructions to the letter, and then took down each gate several times to start over.

Yet in the end it still doesn't work right. I have one gate that never closes on its own, and other that closes on its own randomly (naturally it is more likely to close on its own when it is the least useful for it to do so).


A New Era of Mobility

8 May 2011

Day care warned us about this one, and we knew it was approaching. Nonetheless, it surprised us. Today Zack started climbing up on things. He isn't walking yet, or even really crawling - the "commando crawl" as we call it works very well for him - but he is starting to pull himself up on things. Furniture, gates, us, etc.

This morning I was in the kitchen getting my lunch together while he was in the family room; he startled me by looking at me from the gate - standing up! Of course he was able to do that by pulling himself up using the gate, but he was nonetheless standing. Then he lost his grip and fell down on his behind. That is another thing the diapers are good for; extra padding for that fall.

I have been told by my grandfather that going from the commando crawl to walking - skipping over the traditional crawl - is not without precedent in my family. Apparently a second-cousin of mine did the same many decades ago.

Good thing we have those gates up, he'll be moving quickly very soon. If we hold his hands and guide him along, we can get him to take a few steps, though he can't do it unassisted at all yet.


Pay More, Get Less

12 May 2011

We recently purchased a new can of formula for Zack. Ordinarily this is a very mundane activity, he's eaten pretty well the same formula now for most of his life. However, the formula in question (Gerber Good Start Gentle Plus) recently changed packaging. We used to buy it in 25.7 ounce (by weight) cans. Now it is instead sold in 23.2 ounce (still by weight) plastic containers. At some locations the size change was accompanied by a price increase; hence we are paying more for less.

Part of the container change is welcomed - we used to have to throw away the cans; now we have recyclable plastic containers instead. That is nice, but the extra cost is not-so-nice. At one local grocery chain we used to be able to consistently buy the 25.7 ounce cans for $19.99, now we see $21.99 for the smaller container.


Car Seat Reversal

22 May 2011

Today was a big day for Zack's transportation experiences. We turned both of his car seats around, he now rides facing forwards in both vehicles. Our Ford Freestyle is equipped with a pop-down mirror in the ceiling console for viewing middle and rear seat passengers, we are looking to find a clip-on mirror for the Passat to to the same.


Happy 1st Birthday

24 May 2011

Today is Zack's 1st birthday. We'll keep today simple, just the three of us. At the end of next week we'll be flying back to MN for a week, so Zack can see his relatives. Then we'll have a party with our Syracuse friends some time after that.


Formula M

13 June 2011

We recently returned from our trip to MN, to celebrate Zack's birthday with our family members there. Amongst many things that we did there, one of the more significant on an economic standpoint is that we weaned Zack from formula.

We already had the OK from our pediatrician to do this, but we hadn't pulled it off completely before this point. We had been making bottles half milk / half formula for weeks or longer (since the OK), but we had some difficulties along the way and still occasionally were doing full-formula bottles. However by the time we made it back from Minnesota Zack was happily drinking full bottles of whole milk.

Warmed gently in the microwave, of course ...


What Goes Up

12 June 2011

What goes up, must come down, right? Well, in the case of a young child you would generally prefer they not come back down, at least not on their own.

Something else Zack learned while in MN is how to climb stairs. Apparently he learned that he really enjoys climbing stairs, as now he naturally goes to any set of stairs he can get to. Our steps at home are in a house that is 100+ years old, so the pitch is a bit steeper than most newer houses, but he doesn't have much difficulty with them.

Thankfully, the room we usually let Zack play in is not the room where the stairway leads to or from. The play room (previously our family room) is a nice and flat room, controlled by gates and doors to keep Zack from wandering off on his own. The stairs in our house lead down to the living room, which is adjacent to the family room (separated by a door, the only door on our first floor).

On a related note, people who like me waste a half hour or so per month waiting for elevators also know that in some cases what goes down must go back up.


First Restaurant Tantrum

25 June 2011

This weekend was my wife's birthday, so we went to Red Lobster for the occasion. I don't care for fish and seafood, which leaves one item on the menu for me, but this entry isn't about me. This entry is about how different it is to eat out with Zack since he passed his first birthday.

When he was younger we made a point of taking him to restaurants - he's even been to Red Lobster at least once before (not that it's a fancy restuarant or anything). He did very well even from very young; in some ways we miss carrying him in, in his infant seat and setting the seat with him in it, into a sling next to the table. Before he was able to eat food from the table, he would usually sleep through our meals, which always amazed the wait staff.

But he certainly didn't do that this time. Granted, we were out a bit later than usual, but not dramatically so. We got our table around 6 or so, and thankfully they seated us near the rear of the restaurant so he wouldn't be so distracted (or distracting, depending on your perspective). When we put him in the high chair, he didn't want to sit still. Thankfully we had a large supply of coasters to distract him for a while, but that only lasted so long. We had brought some toddler macaroni and cheese with us, and tried to feed that to him first.

The mac and cheese - which he usually loves - was a total failure. He took a couple baby spoons of it and spat out the rest. I would give him a spoonfull and he would promptly give it back. We had a few other things with us - cracker-type items in particular - that were also total failures. Our biscuits came and I gave him a few bites, but he spat those out as well.

Against my inclination we ordered him a kid's meal, with chicken fingers. We would have been better off feeding him a napkin, as he didn't want them either. He has been able to drink water for some time, but he wanted nothing to do with water either. We had mashed potatoes with the meal, and he didn't want those. He was getting increasingly loud and boisterous as the meal went on, crying more for no obvious reason. Eventually I gave up on my own meal to hold him on my lap, although that didn't help much either.

We brought home leftovers - his entire meal plus half of mine - and apologized profousely to the waiter. He told us he had previously experienced a 5-year-old having a tantrum in the restaurant that included intentionally knocking over the food tray (with everything on it) and throwing glassware around. It did make us feel a bit better, but of course Zack doesn't have the coordination or strength to do such things yet. Hopefully we'll get this worked out well before then.


More Teething

1 July 2011

This week has been punctuated by teething. But this hasn't been just the usual teething. I've probably mentioned before some of the varied symptoms of teething, and how I found it interesting how varied they can be from one round of teething to another. What makes this round different is we seem to have all of the symptoms we've seen previously, at once.

This includes

We can see some teeth very close to coming through, so we know that this will pass. That doesn't make it much easier though, especially when none of us are well rested.


Teeth, Out of Order

31 July 2011

This entry can also be an addition to the "nobody told us that" file. While it is at heart another teething entry, it also has a nugget of information that I don't recall hearing before.

This week we saw Zack's first molar. This is of course very good news as much of human mastication is dependent on grinding surfaces (such as molars). Now Zack will be able to eat even more solid foods that he simply couldn't chew previously.

However what surprised us is that the molar came through before the tooth that is closer to the front than itself. We always expected that teeth would come in in the usual order, but apparently this molar skipped that health class lesson and came through a bit early. That, or Zack was just really yearning for some beef, so he willed out the molar ahead of schedule.

Unfortunately, one molar on its own isn't very helpful. You really need the opposing molar in order to chew since a gum isn't worth much in terms of chewing. And this molar has been a particularly difficult round for teething, so we may have some more interrupted evenings ahead of us as the rest of the molars come though.

That said, I think one of his next words might be "steak". And that will make daddy very happy :)


Pitter-Patter

8 August 2011

Indeed we are starting to hear pitter-patter as Zack learns to walk. Except his pitter-patter is pitter-patter in the same way that you would use that term to describe an elephant walking through an upstairs apartment.

This may be another of those things that pepole don't tell you, or perhaps it is something that disproportionately occurs with large children. Either way, Zack doesn't walk quietly. He'll take a few steps and then crash down to the floor. Thankfully, the crash - spectacular as it is - doesn't seem to bother him any. Perhaps the crash is more controlled than it looks, as he isn't falling far and hence catching himself with his arms is no big deal.

To this point the most consecutive steps we've seen from Zack is around 5 or 6. And for those waiting for a video clip, we're working on that. However getting him to walk on queue is no small feat. If we call for him to come to us, he is more likely to get down and crawl it. I can't say I blame him for that, he's easily faster on 4 right now than he is on 2. I suspect once he's able to get around more quickly on 2, he'll do that a lot more often.


Our Children Is Learning

16 August 2011

Yes, that statement is an intentional grammatical disaster, mocking one of the many infamously badly worded statements of George W Bush. Zack is fortunate enough to have been born after the end of that presidential administration.

That said, Zack displayed an interesting spark of memory yesterday. Some time ago one of his favorite things to play with - not actually a toy, but something he was interested in playing with anyways - in the family room was a vent diverter we had installed underneath where his pack-n-play used to be. It was a clear plastic diverter that held on to the vent by long magnets; not very interesting, right? For some reason Zack was fascinated by it. It was well made enough that he could safely handle it supervised without a problem. Eventually, we took down the pack-n-play and took the vent diverter away as well.

We placed the vent diverter on top of an old hutch on the opposite side of the same room. The hutch is about 2.5 feet tall and on the opposite sie of a toddler fence as well. Yesterday Zack went to the hutch, and took down the vent diverter. I then watched as he took the diverter back over to the vent where it used to be, and placed it on top of it.

As it had been months since the diverter was last on top of that vent, I was more than a little surprised that he remembered it went there. Of course he doesn't have the dexterity to place it in the precise location it was previously in, but he certainly had it specifically on the vent.


ToddlerCam!

17 August 2011

This is not my work, but yesterday I saw a link to what is being called ToddlerCam. As the link title implies, a guy strapped a video camera to the head of his 2-year-old daughter to record part of her day. There is a pause near the middle of the video that shows her wearing the camera - attached to a bicycle helmet - while she's at the park. Very fun to watch.


On Convertible Child Seats

25 August 2011

There is one big downfall of moving to convertible child seats - particularly when you set them forward-facing.

An infant seat, and to a lesser extent a rear-facing convertible seat, are places where a child can easily fall asleep. Plenty of times Zack fell asleep in the infant seat and we detached it seamlessly from the car and carried him into the house without him waking up. With the convertible seat it is not nearly as easy, though the rear-facing position still reclines a fair bit.

However the front-facing position is pretty upright. In fact, almost as vertical as an adult seat in a car. Some of the positions I have seen Zack sleeping in while in the front-facing seat are almost painful to look at; it is no wonder he doesn't easily fall asleep in the seat now.


Downside of Cheerios

26 August 2011

Cheerios - or any of the store-brand versions of the same - are great snacks for kids for several reasons that aren't important to this entry. We give them to Zack, as does his day care. He has been able to self-feed with Cheerios for quite some time now, which makes it a very convenient snack to give him in his high chair while we get something else ready for him.

The downside, though, is that they are also one of his favorite new toys. Like many parents we find Cheerios all over the house. And all over the cars, And all over Zack's clothes. And sometimes even in places where he isn't allowed to go. They stick to our clothes and get tracked around; if we don't find them they get eaten by bugs and mice in our house.

It does seem though that Zack sees a small number of Cheerios as food, and a larger number as a toy. Of course, pouring cheerios from a box is a less than perfect technique. And if we try to use a self-feeding tray for Zack to give himself Cheerios, we end up with the problem I've already mentioned.


Kitchen Locks

18 September 2011

The childproofing is in full swing now that Zack is much more mobile. We have been rapidly covering, locking, concealing, etc, everything that might be dangerous to him. Needless to say our house looks a fair bit different now than it did not-too-long ago.

It seems that the biggest challenge by far is the kitchen. The variety of locking mechanisms for drawers, doors, and whatever else is impressive. We did find a good magnetic system for the doors, but of course we can't find a source to buy it from locally. That, however, isn't the purpose of this post.

Rather, this post is about the drawer locks we are using. We opted for the simple locks that come in packs of 8; they screw in to both the drawer and the frame and are defeated by pressing down on the part from the drawer. Seems like a perfectly reasonable solution for now.

However, the installation of these is more difficult than I expected. Or, at least, the installation is more difficult than the instructions indicate.

Actually, even more accurate would be to say that the instructions are needlessly complicated and waste more time than they ought to. They are so poorly written that if you try to follow them you will inevitably not get the job done quickly. I did, however, find a very simple trick that makes the installation go quickly and painlessly.

All you need is a tape measure or ruler. A power screwdriver helps, too. First, take the drawer out and measure the opening in the cabinet (this is of course narrower than the front of the drawer itself). Find the halfway point inside the opening, and mark it on the bottom face of the top of the opening with a pencil. Then use the double-sided tape that came with the locks to hold the catch to the opening, centered on that spot. Screw the catch into position.

Then, attach the drawer part to the inside of the drawer. If your drawers have single knob pulls on the front, this is super easy, just attach the drawer part of the mechanism an inch above the screw for your pull.


Thats Not Chocolate

16 Oct 2011

One thing that is surprisingly common in Upstate New York is pumpkin patches. Just driving from work, to Zack's daycare, to home, I pass at least 2 or 3 pumpkin patches. Even more patches are advertised in the area with various types of signage.

This weekend we took Zack to get a pumpkin. We did this last year as well, at a different patch and in possibly slightly better weather. Nonetheless the experience was similar as we still opted for the "U pick" experience. This time that meants sludging through very muddy fields and paths to get to the good pumpkins. We eventually selected three pumpkins from the field ($2 each) and one small pumpkin from near the checkout ($1, but they let us have it for free). The small pumkin was slightly larger in diameter than a softball, though of course pumpkin-shaped.

We loaded the large pumpkins in the back of the car, and let Zack hold the small pumpkin in his lap while we drove home. While we were driving for gas we heard Zack licking something but we didn't check until we reached the gas station (~2 miles down the road). We then found that Zack was licking the mud off the bottom of his pumpkin. By the time we made it that far his pumpkin was quite clean and he was ... not.

Well, I guess he would have eaten dirt sometime soon anyways.


Travelling Zack

19 October 2011

Today was day whose importance Zack won't realize for some time. Zack's passport arrived today in the mail. While he's already been across the US-Canada border once by car, the passport is the required documentation for crossing by air, as well as going anywhere else.


The World Is So Cool!

8 November 2011

Today was a fortunate combination of unseasonably nice weather and a very happy Zack (at least for the drive home from daycare). While the first week of November in Syracuse can bring just about any kind of weather imaginable, we happened to have mostly clear skies and temperatures around 70F. The weather was so nice that I drove from work to Zack's daycare with the sunroof (or is a moonroof? I always forget the difference. It can slide all the way back, or tilt up from the back) open. When I picked him up and belted him into his car seat, I waved at him through the open roof, which he thought was hilarious.

I kept the roof open until we reached the grocery store. We had to pick up a few things before continuing home. I placed him in the shopping cart as usual and we began going through our list. Then I noticed that the handle on the cart had a hard plastic wrapper of sorts on the grip. Essentially the wrapper was a cover that had the store's new(er) logo on it, to cover the older logo that was already on the cart's handle. I found that I could easily turn the wrapper on the handle all the way around. When I showed that to Zack, he thought that was also hilarious.

Towards the end of the shopping trip he was getting a little stir-crazy. Since I'm not exactly the most organized guy in the world - even when I have a shopping list as I did this time - I sometimes end up running back and forth across the grocery store at the end as I remember what else I needed and where it could be found. At one point to settle Zack a bit, I handed him my blackberry. He then proceded to hold it to his ear and "talk" into it. I thought that was hilarious!


A Kitty, For A Little Bitty

1 December 2011

Back on November 13 we had a little furry surprise in our yard. It appeared that a young cat had adopted us. A brown/grey cat with black "tiger" stripes walked up to me in the back yard and came right to me. I picked her up easily and held her with no fight, and carried her to my wife in the front yard. I'm not really a cat person, and I am allergic to them, but for some reason cats have a certain affinity towards me. She wore no collar.

At any rate, we gave the cat some water and some old baby food, all in the garage. I guess in hindsight that might not have been the best way to not take in a cat, but I'm a bit of a sucker like that. That was mid-day. That evening after we had put Zack to bed we could hear a "meow" outside the door. I opened the door to see if it was the same cat, and sure enough she let herself right in to our house.

That was definitely not my plan. She didn't exactly run from us while in our house, but I didn't know what she might do inside. So we took some pictures to post online as a "found cat" and then took her to the garage for the evening. We left the garage service door open so she could come and go as she wanted.

The following morning she met us in front of the garage when we opened the door to leave for work. We came back from work and she was there again. We gave her more cat food that day and hoped that someone would claim her soon. We left her in the garage that evening as well, and saw the same pattern the next day. Since she seemed to be taking a fondness for us, we decided to get her checked out. We made a vet appointment for "Hazel" (later "Gracie") for that Friday to check for all the usuals (including, hopefully, a chip).

Once the vet gave her a clean bill of health we allowed her in to the house. Naturally, we hoped she would help with the mice, though no evidence of that happening was ever seen. But her company was nice and she was well behaved. The vet also trimmed her claws for us which reduced the hazard potential some as she had all of her claws.

Some time later - a little more than two weeks later - I received a response to the found cat ad I placed on craigslist. Apparently the cat we had come to think of as ours was actually missing from a house not far down the road. I was glad to hear she had a home, though I'd be lying to say I wasn't a little sad to see her go.
Cat in my arms, back facing the camera
Cat in my arms, belly facing the camera
Cat in my carms, side facing the camera

Although I do look forward to not needing to take all the additional allergy medication.


18 Months and 36 Inches

16 December 2011

Zack had his 18 month check up this week (a little late, but pretty close). Most of it wasn't very eventful; he's growing as expected for his trajetory - 36 inches long now at 18 months age. As he was around 22 inches long when born, that is 14 inches in around 18 months. The 18 month checkup has the benefit of not including any vaccinations, which is a relief.

Oh, and he has an ear infection. Actually, two ear infections, as they were both infected. We would not have suspected that before getting there, as Zack wasn't doing anything unusual at the time. But the pediatrician checked and found both ears infected. So begins Zack's first ever round of antibiotics.


Do Not Buy These Cabinet Locks!

29 January 2012

Last night I was planning to fix the magnetic locks that we installed on our kitchen cabinets a while back. We tragically purchased the "Kidco Magnetic locks", as they claimed to have adhesive strong enough that you did not need to screw the latches in to your cabinets.

Lies, lies, lies, terrible, terrible, lies. This product is awful. The first few months it worked as advertised, but the situation rapidly deteroirated. We purchased a four pack - which conveniently did not come with a magnetic key - and the adhesive of two of them failed immediately. A third lost it's hold this week so I figured I would screw the latches in to the cabinet frames and life would be back to how it ought to be.

Except that doesn't work, either. The latches have holes in them for this purpose, except the holes were designed by someone on heavy drugs. The holes have slots next to them that theoretically allow for lateral movement, except that they don't allow for lateral movement. That, and moving the latches laterally is likely the least useful thing you could possibly do with them anyways. This means that you get one, and only one, chance to install the latches. If you have them mispositioned, you won't be able to reposition them because you now have screw holes in your cabinet that are too close to any other place where you might want to screw in the latches, hence you cannot reposition them.

The problem is made even more frustrating by the fact that the side catches, which are supposed to guide the door part of the catch to the latch, are made of some of the lowest quality plastic I have seen in a long, long time. Hence if your latch is positioned off just a little bit by accident, the catch will warp and break the catches, after which the mechanism has no rightful place but in the trash.

I cannot stronly enough not endorse this product. It is a miserable failure, packaged in terrible lies. I wouldn't give this to anyone who I liked, and frankly I'm not sure I would even want to give it to someone I don't like.


He Ate That, Too

3 February 2012

We try to make a habit of feeding just about everything we eat to Zack now. Obviously some things he won't care for, and some things he will. He actually seems to be a fairly adventurous eater, really, often seeking to try whatever we are eating. This morning was no exception.

I was putting salads together for Ingrid and I when she brought him down for the morning. The last thing I usually put on our salads is croutons, and Zack saw me pulling them out of the bag and putting them on the salad. I wasn't actually eating them at that moment but he figured out they were food. I figured I'd give him one and that would satisfy the curiosity for him.

Much to my surprise, he happily ate the sourdough crouton. Then he asked for another one. Eventually when I was done putting the salads togher I gave him the rest of the bag of croutons and let him go at it. I'm not sure exactly how many he ate that first time but he put a serious dent in the bag for sure.


First Broken Toy

7 February 2012

I guess I shouldn't be hugely surprised that this happened already, though I am a little disappointed in how little time it took this toy to go from being a favorite to being broken.

Zack recieved a Pound and Roll Tower Learning Game (Melissa & Doug) for Christmas. Presumably in the name of safety, the toy is held together with glue instead of fasteners. Unfortunately, some of the glue has already started to give. The tower has 8 small wooden ramps that help guide the balls down to the exit, and they are all held in my glue (and, apparently, some paint). At least two of the ramps are now loose enough that they can be removed. Needless to say, I'm not terribly impressed with the build quality of this toy.

For that matter, the paint on the balls themselves have started to wear off. The green ball is the worst offender, you can see streaks of green paint on the ramps themselves.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this toy - like the majority of the ones sold under this name - is made in China. I seem to recall hearing that Melissa & Doug used to do more of their manufacturing in the USA, now they do almost none of it here. Not that poor assembly cannot occur in the USA, but this seems pretty subpar for a child's toy.

If anyone is looking for American-built kid's toys, I highly recommend Holgate Toys, who make most of their toys in the USA. We have several toys for them, they are well made and very nice looking.


Ants On A Log

21 Feb 2012

This might count as Zack's first "cooking" experience, or at least his first self-made sandwich. Our daycare provider clued me in a while ago that Zack really likes raisins, so I picked up a box. As we try to make sure Zack gets a healthy amount of protein in the evening, we always have peanut butter on hand for the nights when he doesn't seem to want any meat that we offer him.

So I thought I'd make "ants on a log", though on a slice of bread instead of a stalk of celery. Maybe that could be "ants in sand" or something? Anyways, the first night I tried it, I gave him a slice of peanut butter covered bread and then placed raisins on it for him. This went quite well, he ate most of it.

The second night I gave him the buttered bread first and then grabbed the box of raisins. Raisins, of course, clump together in the box. I pulled a couple of clumps of raisins out and set them on his tray, then got his cup of water. I figured I'd be breaking up the clump of raisins for him momentarily.

I was happily proven wrong in that part. By the time I got back from the other side of the kitchen, Zack had already started breaking the raisins from the clump and placing them on his buttered bread. I never told him to do it, or how to do it, and he only saw me do it once.

While not exactly calculus, I was certainly happy to see my son learn a new skill this quickly. Very proud, I am.


Lights On Lights Off

17 March 2012

As Zack has been growing, he has found more and more of our light switches to be within his reach. (On a side note, I'm not sure I realized previously how many different heights our light switches are positioned at) Some time ago - well before Zack was born - we switched most of our downstairs light switches from the classic switch type to the decorator "rocker" switches (in our case we used the Aspire line from Cooper) just to better fit our decor. It so happens that these rocker switches are also a lot easier for kids to use, as they just push on them, there is no contemporary switch to pull.

To make this long story less long, for some time Zack was able to turn off most of the lights downstairs (if they were already on) as he only had to push the bottom of the switch. Now, as he has gotten taller - and learned how to use tools to extend his reach or small stools to stand on - he can push the top and turn the lights on as well. Needless to say, he seems quite happy with himself on the matter. When we first get home from daycare the first thing he does is run through the house and turn lights on and off.


Little Daredevil

30 March 2012

This could also be called "extra low-tech skating". We try to let Zack play with as many reasonable things in the kitchen as possible so we aren't shutting him out more than necessary. Obviously pots, pans, lids, and wooden utensils are all fair game. He often likes to play with various plastic containers as well; putting things into them, taking them back out, etc. We have a fair number of containers that are the size used by well known processed meat companies to sell deli meats; we use them for various things after properly cleaning them when they are empty (the meat ships in a plastic bag inside the container to start out).

Zack has more than once forgotten to put these containers and lids back in their drawer (yes, toddlers will do that, I know). More than once he's stepped on a forgotten lid and lost his footing. But this time, it was a little different. There were several lids on the floor and he found that his feet slid when he stepped on one. I figured he wouldn't care for that, so I put the lids away so he could walk normally across the floor.

Then he went back to that drawer and grabbed more lids to put on the floor. Sure enough, he wanted to slip on the lids now. Soon he had each foot on a different lid to see what he could do. He wasn't exactly Wayne Gretzky across the kitchen floor, but he wasn't falling over either. He didn't keep it going for too long, but it was something to watch, for sure...


The BRAT Diet

29 April 2012

Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast. That is what we were told is the BRAT diet, to use when your youngster is ill. On Friday Zack came down with something, he vomited at day care at the end of the day and gave us a very sizeable package in the evening in his diaper. Diarrhea followed most of the day Saturday and intermittently Sunday.

But enough about his symptoms. Really, in spite of them he was pretty much his usual self. Though as expected, his appetite wasn't much. Oddly enough, we found the brat diet was pretty useless. We picked up the Pedialyte as well, and he wasn't very fond of that either. For those who haven't tasted Pedialyte, it tastes like gatorade, only saltier. My wife says that Gatorade tastes like sweat, Pedialyte tastes like sweat even more so.

We just waited it out, and eventually Zack started eating again. By Monday he was back to eating granola bars and other regular food. Oddly enough we bumped in to his pediatrician on Sunday at the grocery store; I didn't think it was professional to tell her anything other than "OK" when she asked how he was doing. We'll be in soon enough for his 2-year checkup anyways.


The Zack Diet

8 May 2012

No, our son is not on a special diet. This entry is just to describe what he has been eating lately. It is nice to be over with the diarrhea that I previously wrote about (lasted about 2.5 days, and it took longer than that for his appetite to fully return to norma). In fact, based on how much he's eating, I think it may be better thank normal.

When I picked him up from daycare, he ate a granola bar in the car on the way home. He used to eat peanut butter cracker sandwiches but he seems to prefer the granola bars now. Then we got home and he pulled the bag of hot dog buns off the counter and showed it to me; he then ate a full hot dog bun (no hot dog). Ingrd wasn't home yet at that point but he grabbed the box of granola bars that were on the counter, so I gave him another granola bar.

That all happened before dinner.


Mother's Day

14 May 2012

Yesterday wasn't Zack's first mother's day, though it was his first Mother's Day when he could talk. And talk he did. Or rather, say "mommy" he did. While most likely coincidental, he never asked for mommy so many times in one day before. He was constantly looking for and calling out for Ingrid.

Well, it was her day, after all.


First Sentence

20 May 2012

Not long prior to his second birthday, Zack gave us his first sentence. And many, many, times he gave that same sentence to us.

"[I] need [to] get out"

Most often he'd say it in a car seat, a booster seat, or some other position where he was strapped in. I can't blame him for it, really. We do find it interesting that he latched on to the word need rather than want. Not real sure how we put these particular words together, but he certainly knows what they mean and when to use them.

In a way, it is almost like he has been reading my mind, as I need to get out, too. The difference is I need to get out of grad school and in to a career.


Another Toy Repair

23 June 2012

I just had another of Zack's toys that required some minor surgery to restore to operational condition. This time the toy wasn't wood, but rather plastic. The toy this time is the Cars 2 Holley Shiftwell Transforming Vehicle. This toy suffers from an unfortunate design flaw in that the hood which is supposed to pop up doesn't like to close, and then of course ends up breaking off while it is up.

A fair number of people had the same observation in the reviews on the Disney site. Eventually the map that pops up from under the hood was lost as well, so I decided to glue the hood shut so the car would at least look intact.

However even the glue job required some additional work. I had to take my dremel to two areas - one on the car under the front of the hood, the other on the rear of the underside of the hood itself - to make a hood that could be glued down. Now the hood is fixed in place, at least.

And as noted in the reviews, the button is hard to push. Zack can't push it yet on his own to pop out the wings. That might not be all bad right now though, as the wings don't always go back in very well, there is a technique and an order to getting both wings and the rear spoiler to go in and stay in.

However, as wikipedia points out Holley appears to be based on the Jaguar XJR-15 (more rare and expensive predecessor to the better-known though still exceptionally rare and expensive XJ220). So it's worth preserving for that. And, of course, because Zack so lovingly refers to her as "Hawlll - eee".


You Said What?

28 June 2012

One day I pulled Zack out of bed and was surprised - to the point of being shocked - at what he said. Could my two year old really know that word? Really? Where did he learn it? What do I do to make sure he doesn't repeat it?

Thankfully I didn't give any great response to it that morning. Later on I realized the word he actually was trying to say was FROG.

We're working on that "G" sound now...


Daddy's Junior Car Nerd

21 July 2012

This day was the first full day of this year's Syracuse Nationals car show, which is primarily for cars built before the 1970s. This was Zack's first car show, though the story starts before then.

A while ago while we were re-arranging the family room - where most of Zack's toys are - I pulled down a toy car that Ingrid gave me a few years ago. Specifically, it is a radio-controlled, red, 2006 Ford Mustang GT. It was something of a gag gift from her to me, as she knows how much I pine for a Mustang of that era. It is similar to this car from toysrus, though the one I pulled down is cherry red with no stripes. Zack was thrilled with the new car. His previous favorite started collecting dust soon, he was even sleeping with this new car. He didn't have much interest in the RC function, but that was OK.

Fast forward then to the car show. Zack and I were there with my grandfather Jim. We were walking down the road with Zack in his stroller and a circa 1966 Mustang coupe in the same cherry red drove by down the street. He hadn't paid much attention to many of the other cars, but he saw that one, pointed and said "my car!". While the car he pointed at was around 40 years older, the newer version was clearly a tribute to the old styling and he had the make and model right.

That's Daddy's little car nerd.


Car Nerd Part 2

4 August 2012

Currently I drive a 2003 VW Passat W8, black exterior and black leather interior. Ingrid drives a 2005 Ford Freestyle Limited, Red exterior and black leather interior. These two very different cars become important to the story soon.

We were out to dinner this evening with my aunt and uncle who were visitng from Minnesota. We ate BBQ around the corner from where we parked Ingrid's car, unable to see the car from where we sat. After dinner we walked back over to the parking lot, and I was holding Zack's hand and allowing him to walk once we were in the lot. We had to walk most of the way across the width of the lot to get to Ingrid's car. However, on the way to Ingrid's car, Zack stopped and stated "Daddy's car!".

The car he stopped at - and seemed to want to go home in - was a newer VW CC. The CC is actually a slightly longer, lower, version of the Passat, made on the same chassis. The one he stopped behind was not just a black sedan, it was a very similar black VW sedan. To date, he has never stopped at a black Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Honda, or even Mercedes or Audi A4 (the A4 being over 50% shared with the Passat - and quite common in upstate New York). He has only stopped behind black VW's and incorrectly called them "Daddy's car".

The kid's got a sense for this...


Doorknobs

4 September 2012

Our downstairs bathroom has only one door, which leads to the kitchen. When Zack and I are home alone I tend to leave the door open so I can keep an eye on him while I'm in there. Today he came in to the bathroom while I was in there (not unusual) and closed the door (slightly more unusual). Then, with the door closed, he reached up, grabbed the knob, turned it, and let himself out.

That was unusual. Indeed, it is the first time he's opened a door on his own. Guess it's time for more safety equipment.


Story Request

7 September 2012

Tonight Zack requested a very specific story. We nearly always make a point of reading to him at bedtime, and recently I've been reading Dr Seuss stories to him. We currently have two different volumes of Seuss - "Six by Seuss" and "Sneetches and Other Stories". Two nights ago we read "Sneetches" for the first time, including the last story in the book - "What Was I Scared Of?".

For those not familiar with the last story, it involves the narrator encountering a pare of pants that are able to move around on their own without anybody wearing them. It initially scares the narrator, until he realizes the pants are just as scared of him - afterwards the narrator and the empty pants become friends.

Well, tonight after reading two other stories, Zack asked for "Pants!". He pointed to "Sneetches and Other Stories", and I started with The Sneetches and didn't realize until after completing that story which one he wanted.

Naturally, we read "Pants" after that, and then went to bed. He even said thank you when I was done.


Five Days in September

13 September 2012

I traveled to Boston from 9-13 September for a proteomics conference. Unfortunately it did not work out to bring Ingrid and Zack with me, so I traveled alone this time. While I didn't miss anything monumental while I was away, I certainly missed being with them. I couldn't put my finger on it, but Zack did look at little different after just being gone for five days; he really is growing fast now.

I guess like they say, they grow right in front of your eyes. Or in this case, in front of my wife's eyes when I'm not there to see it.


Potty Training

15 September 2012

We've been working with Zack on this for a while now, getting him used to the idea of sitting on the potty. We've watched a sesame street video with him about using the potty and I generally sit on the toilet when he's on the potty to get him used to how to manage the equipment.

Today, though, was a milestone. Today he actually went in the potty.

We're getting there :)


Toddler Electronics

5 October 2012

Indeed, some times electronics are better managed by children. Our TV setup in our living room includes a 42" plasma TV with a blu-ray, HD cable, and a stereo receiver. The oldest component of those, by far, is the receiver. It can be controlled with the remote, though not completely. It is also Zack's favorite toy, as it has a huge dial that he can play with.

Naturally, Zack has a knack for finding the buttons on the receiver that cannot be undone with the remote. Some time ago he found a function that made it so that we couldn't get the receiver to play the sound from anything. That wasn't all bad, as the remote didn't work that well with the reciever any ways - hence we used the speakers on the TV instead.

Then, a while ago he found the button again. And turned the volume all the way up for cable TV while the cable box was off. I turned on the cable and then was greeted by Top Gear at ear-splitting volume after Zack was already in bed.


Pull-Up Blow Out

18 October 2012

We tried pull-ups training pants this evening - actually, he used them at daycare and came home wearing a pair. Unfortunately something very much disagreed with him tonight after dinner time.

We knew that the pull-ups are supposed to make the wearer aware of the fact that they have just wet themsevles, to encourage use of the toilet. At first it was slightly amusing to see Zack squirm in his seat as he felt his package coming out. We repeatedly asked if he wanted to use the potty, and he kept responding no.

Then we took him upstairs and found he had explosive diarrhea. This was, of course, an epic and terrible mess in the pull-ups. We threw not only that pair of pull-ups away, but also the pants he was wearing and his socks as well.

We knew this part would be tricky, but were hoping for a more gentle introduction...


First Bed Conversion

9 November 2012

Zack has slept in a conertible crib since we moved him to his own room. As we needed to pull all the furniture out of his room - and he has begun potty training - we thought this might be a good time to try converting said crib. When we brought the crib back into his room, we intentionally re-assembled it without the front piece (this crib is made to be stable without it). The result is somewhat of a small "day bed" structure. This also has a benefit for us, in that we no longer need to lift him in and out of the crib, he can fully do this on his own now.

The downside is when he first got in, he proclaimed "my bed is broken". We had to convince him that this is how big boys sleep in their beds...


First ER Visit

13 November 2012

Nobody looks forward to this. In our case it was an accident in the house, with all three of us in Zack's room, that brought it about. It was bedtime for Zack and he and I were horsing around. I would wave his blanket in front of him and he'd run for it, then I'd pull it out before he grabbed it. Ingrid called it "Matador".

Unfortunately in my fantastic clumsiness I managed to do that right in front of an outside corner in his room. Poor Zack ran straight into said corner, head first. He never lost consciousness or had any obvious problems, though he cried quite a bit and swelled up dramatically. Less than a minute later he had a goose egg the size of a ping-pong ball, which was bright red. He didn't care much for us to ice it, either.

Even though he was mobile and coherent (a bit tired, of course!) we took him to the emergency room as a precaution. A few hours later (and now well past his bedtime) the doctor at the ER agreed, it was a fall but not serious based on the neurological exam. No scanning required, they just urged us to keep an eye out for any exciting new symptoms and check in later with our regular pediatrician.

They did warn us it could take some time for the swelling to go down completely...


First Stitches

26 November 2012

We didn't expect to make another ER visit so soon. Granted, this one was not at all of our own doing. Ingrid got a call from day care this afternoon telling us Zack had a cut above his eye and needed to be taken to see a doctor. This time we went to the other ER nearby - not because we didn't want to return to the one we went to before, but rather because this was is closer to daycare - and spent a few hours waiting there.

Once the hospital cleaned and examined the cut, they determined he indeed needed stitches as it was rather deep. Zack now has three stitches above his left eyebrow.

The accident that occurred at daycare and caused this involved several kids playing on couches that were set up as a fort. The couch ended up tipped backwards, which knocked Zack into a small piece of furniture. Our daycare lady says this was the first time in 34 years a child had to leave her daycare to get stitches.


Strawberry Snow

24 December 2012

Syracuse had a White Christmas this year - not a guarantee around here. We don't have a hill that Zack can reasonably sled on, but our neighbors across the street do. Hence the three of us went over there on Christmas Eve (day) to use their hill. Zack was a little under the weather but doing OK overall so we thought we'd go for it.

He did really well for quite a while. We went up and down the hill several times. We built a snowman complete with plastic carrot and buttons. Then Zack was starting to slow down, we thought it was getting close to nap time. He was also sounding phlegmy so we figured we'd get him home. He was standing next to Ingrid when I looked over and saw him cough up a very large amount of snot. No big deal, that happens in the winter.

Then the next was a pile of red vomit (ate berries that morning). While it looked terrible he didn't sound to terrible from it, barely even cried. Ingrid remarked to the neighbor "sorry about the strawberry snow" before burying it in more non-colored snow. We then proceded to get Zack ready to come home.

Then, when we were leaving, Zack repeated to the neighbor "sorry 'bout the strawberry snow!"


Tracks on your Shirt

14 January 2013

My sweater has horizontal stripes on it - or, to Zack, "tracks".


Car Guy Downside

16 January 2013

Zack has been able to identify our cars - with almost no cases of mistaken identification, even in large parking lots - for some time. Today, though, we found a down side of that acuteness.

Ingrid was traveling for work, and left her car at home before going to the airport. I then drove my car to pick up Zack at daycare. When we got home, he saw Ingrid's car in the driveway and was immediately convinced that she was home. I tried to tell him "we'll see mommy later", but he wouldn't have it. When he got into the house he ran all over looking for her.

If we could park both cars in the garage, we could avoid this (we have a two-car garage half-full of junk). Next time I'll drive her car and leave mine in the garage so he doesn't notice it.


Cheese

20 January 2013

We often keep a variety of cheese in the house, for various purposes. When Zack asks for cheese for a snack, I often give him whatever kind of sliced cheese I have available without thinking too much of which kind I'm giving him. Generally, the kind I end up giving him is sliced Colby Jack because I always have that on hand. These are the regular sized slices of cheese from the grocery store, which are larger than standard Kraft American slices.

After Zack had a slice of Colby Jack and asked for another slice, I thought I'd give him a slice of American cheese instead. That did not go over well. I pulled it out and unwrapped it, and when I gave it to him, he said "I want that cheese!", pointing at the drawer where the Colby Jack was kept.

Maybe I should have started him with American cheese instead.


Sing The ABCs

30 January 2013

While I have been in job hunting (and hence unemployed) I have been keeping Zack at home part-time to save money. This means I get some of the moments that I would otherwise miss out on with him in day care. Today was one rather impressive moment.

Zack was watching Sesame Street (I was actually rather surprised when I realized how much it is still the show it was in the 1980s) this afternoon when a girl came on to sing the alphabet. The girl was probably six or so. Watching very intently, and keeping time with the girl, Zack sang the full song! Granted, he couldn't sing it on his own, but going with the song he knew the letters.

He also identified the number 10 (as in, "this episode brought to you by the number 10") on the screen at the end of the episode!


Cereal With Milk

14 February 2013

Zack naturally observes what Ingrid and I do on a regular basis, and of course knows that my breakfast most days is cereal with milk. He has been eating cereal for quite some time now, though we haven't generally allowed him milk on his cereal - primarily to make the cleanup easier.

Now, he has started asking for milk on his cereal, rather than just in a cup with his cereal. While he likes this new way of eating cereal he is not always crazy about having to to eat at the table when he eats it that way; sometimes he still asks for dry cereal so that he can eat it on the couch instead.


Rock The Casbah

27 February 2013

A while ago, Zack started paying attention to commercials on TV. In particular he has taken a fondness for a commercial on NickJr which features Dora (from Dora the Explorer) singing into a microphone; this is part of a set of various music-centric commercials on that network. Zack then found that he has a toy that is similarly shaped to a microphone and started singing into it. I don't recall what he tried to sing into it at fist, but somehow the word "rock" came out.

I then filled in the words, following "rock" with "the Casbah". Of course neither Ingrid nor I really know all the words to that song from The Clash, but Zack latched on to those three words as well. Now when he picks up his "microphone" he often says "Rock the Casbah" on his own. Even better, his sense of emphasis is more or less accurate relative to how The Clash sang that song.

Then today, while driving home from daycare, I was flipping through radio stations and found a station playing Rock the Casbah on the radio. That was the first time he had heard it in the car. Perhaps more amusing, after it was over (notably, he didn't mind having it at a louder volume than usual) he then asked for his other favorite song - "Baby Beluga" by Raffi.


Running Pace

1 March 2013

Fresh snow can often bring opportunity, and sometimes in unexpected ways. I was bringing Zack to the car this morning to go to daycare and he took off on a run through our driveway while I was putting his things in the car. The fresh snow allowed me to measure just how long his pace is while running.

45 inches

That is 45 inches, from the front of one shoe to the front of the same shoe the next time it leaves a track. That is a rather impressive pace for a kid who is not a lot more than 36 inches tall. Of course the running pace is longer than the walking pace, as you can often have both feet off the ground momentarily while running.


Big Boy Bed

6 April 2013

Tonight was the final conversion for Zack's convertible crib - now it is a full-sized bed. A few things:


The Move Is On

20 April 2013

Today was not as much of a developmental milestone for Zack as it was a time point in our lives. In preparation for hopefully leaving Syracuse for Ingrid and I to both further our respective careers, we have signed a lease on an apartment (due to close the sale of our house on May 11) so we can be more ready to leave. While I have found the job market to be terrible, this move saves us some money on a monthly basis and makes it more possible for us to move quickly if we can find work.

I'm not sure if Zack realizes yet the full magnitude of what is about to change, but he enjoyed his first visit to the new place. We'll see how he does once we've slept there a few times. Thankfully this move we don't have to do alone.


The Climbing Phase

26 April 2013

Ingrid and I were awoken earlier this morning (as in, 4am early) by something that did not awaken Zack. This was close enough to our usual wake-up time that we figured it wasn't worth trying to get back to sleep. I suggested we take advantage of the quiet and sit in our hot tub for a while. The hot tub is well within range of the baby monitor, which we brought with us.

We didn't hear much on the monitor as we watched the sun rise from the hot tub. When we were getting out of the tub, I noticed a light come on downstairs. I hurried to the sliding glass door and found that Zack had gotten out of bed on his own, come downstairs, and proceeded to attempt to climb our bookcases.

I would like to say it was clever, as they are after all "ladder" bookcases. However he was just after the monster trucks on the top shelf. Thankfully I got to him before he got too far up.


Toddler Perspective

29 April 2013

I wouldn't suggest it to be a case of Zack lying, as that implies that he did it on purpose. However lately I have noticed that he sometimes says things happened that did not. I really think this is just a case of how sometimes the world is more exciting to a child than it is to an adult; for example he will sometimes describe us doing things that we did not do. Lately he will at times tell one of us that the other read him various stories at bed time that we did not, this is puzzling at times but interesting to observe.


Skinned Knees

8 May 2013

Skinned knees seem to be almost a hallmark of being a young boy. Lately, Zack has skinned his knees quite a few times (sometimes even while wearing long pants). It's not easy as a parent observing his tattered knees, but it is certainly interesting seeing how he responds to them. Naturally, we have stocked up on band-aids for the summer.


Two Toddler Moves

20 June 2013

It has really been a long time since I last wrote anything here. We've been quite busy with a number of things including packing, moving, loading, driving, and such tasks as go with relocating our family 1,000 miles away.

I will start by saying though that the move was not nearly as difficult for Zack as I expected at his age. Indeed, neither move was as difficult for him - first from the house where as far as he knew we had always lived to an apartment, and then from the apartment to a rental house - as I thought it would be. Indeed one could make a claim that the moves were more difficult on Ingrid and I than they were on him.

The first move was less than 10 miles. We moved from our house - which we sold in May - to an apartment while we figured out what we were going to do next. When we signed the lease for the apartment the only thing we knew for sure was that we had accepted an offer to sell our house which we had lived in for over 7 years. By the time we really moved everything from the house to the apartment I had accepted a job offer in Minneapolis and we were working out terms for Ingrid's job as well. This move almost seemed more difficult for Zack in a way, there were times when he would ask to go "home" and would not be satisfied to go to the apartment. Whether or not it helped for us to know that the buyers did not seem to be in much of a hurry to move in I'm not sure.

The second move was a much larger production - right around 1,000 miles. While we were still in the house in NY we loaded a lot of our belongings into a "pods" storage container to be shipped to our new location. We thought this would really reduce the total amount of stuff we needed to transport ourselves - of course it did, but we still had more stuff than we realized. This second move was done in two parts, first I moved with Zack and signed the lease on our rental house, and then a few weeks later I drove back alone (with Zack staying with my mom) to bring Ingrid and the rest of our stuff back. The interim period included many skype sessions with Ingrid so Zack could still see his mom as much as we could manage.

Ultimately we realized that the volume of stuff we still owned was much, much, larger than we estimated. The final drive from Syracuse was originally planned to be done with a pickup, a medium size UHaul trailer, and our Passat. Instead it was a 14' UHaul, a car carrier, and a pickup; with all this we barely fit everything in. But at least we got everyting out here, and our family is back together. Now we can try to figure out what normal means to us again.

For those who might be contemplating a long drive with a toddler, I do have a few things to say. One, Zack made the drive with me in the Ford Freestyle. The car did fine for the long drive with the two of us in it, and carried quite a bit of stuff. We purchased a portable Blu-ray player for him to watch movies on while I drove, this seemed to help even with my not allowing him to just watch movies continually. I would advise anyone who is considering a portable blu-ray (or any other such movie player) to make sure to test out the bracket first, we did have some issues with the one we bought not doing a good job of holding the display at a useful angle. I also kept the remote for it up front so I could turn it off when I wanted it to be off - particuarly so he would take naps while I was driving. Second, do plan to make regular stops - I probably stopped every 2-3 hours - so that your child can get out, walk around, use the bathroom, etc. It does make the drive time longer but it is well worth it. Soemtimes you'll even get surprisingly good photo ops in the process. Third, I would advise against setting a distinct distance goal each day if you know you are doing a mutli-day trip. Pushing for a specific destination at a specific time can be risky. We didn't quite make our initial first-day goal but we did just fine by the end of the second day. You will have lots of unplanned variables in your journey; don't let them ruin your day because you wanted to arrive at point X by time Y.


Preschool

5 July 2013

It is hard to believe we have reached this time already. On Monday July 8th our son will start at a preschool / day care program. We interviewed two Montessori programs out here and found one we liked that had space for him; we signed the papers for it today. For a few weeks we have had some help from relatives during the work day, but of course we knew as soon as we got here that he needed to be with kids his own age ASAP.

I'm sure navel gazing and other such backwards-looking observations are a bit cliche' for blogs such as this, but the time really has flown by. It really doesn't seem like it has been that long since we were looking at ultrasounds and painting the nursery. It seemed to take very little time to go from that to the OR where he was birthed by cesarean. We joked that he was so large he could walk out of the hospital on his own, and of course now he can almost walk as far on a good day as either of us.

Zack is now over 37 months old, and coming on 3.5 feet tall. And some of the things he says, does, and asks for are amazing. We are very, very, lucky to have such a wonderful little boy.

There will be more entries to this, but they might not be as regular. Now our parenting has reached a whole new level of activity as it is less difficult for him to run fast enough to make us run to catch him; he really can wear us out at times if he tries.


Words

20 August 2013

The way that young children pick up words is amazing at times. Of course, some times they pick up words that you might not want. We try hard to not use words in front of him that we don't want him to use himself, but sometimes they just slip out. And of course, there are times that he will encounter such words while out in public, we can't do much about that other than to try to minimize the significance of such words.

Of course I'm writing this because Zack recently tried out a word on us that we didn't care for. We were all in the car together, and suddenly from nowhere in his usual content voice he stated "I hate you". He didn't seem to really grasp the weight of what he was saying but he did repeat it for effect. There was a part of me that wanted to slam on the brakes to really make it clear how much I despise the use of the word hate, but that didn't seem appropriate.

While I sometimes disagree with the notion that so much of what toddlers, pre-schoolers, and young children do is really to get attention, I think this was actually one of those cases. Once Ingrid started talking with him about how we don't like that phrase and how it makes people feel, he stopped using it. We haven't heard that phrase again since; although he still sometimes uses the phrase "I don't want you"; which I will say isn't quite as bad though it does still hurt. I guess sometimes the child just has a strong parental preference.


Kids and Buffets

1 September 2013

Buffets are brilliant.

I say that not in the usual sense. A lot of people think that buffets are a good idea for parents because they tend to offer a lot of food choices in one place, and hence a really good chance that they'll find something that their kid will eat and hopefully something palatable for themselves as well. In some cases a buffet can even be a good deal.

That isn't what I find brilliant about them. What I actually find brilliant about buffets now is the clever pricing that brings parents in the door with their kids and simultaneously improves their profit margins dramatically. The last time I came to this conclusion I thought it might have been errouneous on my part, perhaps due to a poor signal-to-noise ration of that night. However, I conducted the same experiment tonight and I feel confident in my conclusion now.

I have concluded that the kids pricing helps the buffets because while the parent's part is the largest part of the check, the kid's part is often the largest part of the consumption (and the kid's part isn't much!). This happens because when the parent (you) takes the child to the buffet, the first plate is for the child. The second plate is for the parent only if there is another person with the parent and child to hold the kid at bay while the parent is getting their own food. That first plate of course had small portions for the little kid; the second plate often ends up having small portions in part because the parent expects to end up with some of the child's leftovers. Not long after it is time for dessert for the child. At no point did the parent likely get a full plate of their own food; even if they went up for a plate for themselves they were taking bits for the child to try.

I expect the buffet could have actually given the parents a discount for bringing in a kid with them (rather than an additional minimal charge) and still come out well ahead in comparison to what the adult's regular trip would have otherwise cost.


Regression

8 September 2013

I have come to the conclusion that most childhood training occasionally goes through periods of regression. We saw it when learning to walk (sometimes going back to crawling), when learning to talk in sentences (stuttering), in discipline at the table (spontaneously running away from the table during the meal or otherwise misbehaving). Now we see it in potty training as well. It is interesting the difference in time between learning a new skill and the period of regression; there doesn't seem to be an obvious relationship yet.


Songs In The Key Of Zack

16 October 2013

Zack has a few radio songs that he likes to hear, which sometimes he requests in the car. Of course we can try to skip through the stations in hope of finding them, but that often doesn't work out. In that interest, I have compiled his first CD; something of the 21st (or very late 20th) century equivalent of the mix tape that was so important back in the 80s. What follows is the track collection for the first release of "Songs In The Key of Zack". "Rock The Casbah" has a special place on there, while the rest of the tracks have a particular musical - not lyrical - commonality.

We're also in the process of compiling a new version with a few changes to the track selection.


More Words

30 November 2013

I remember this phase with at least two of my younger siblings. I didn't enjoy it much with them and I don't enjoy it much right now. We have reached the phase where some times Zack will use (and repeat) various phrases just to get a reaction from us. Indeed his selection is even the same as at least two of my younger siblings when they were young.

Suddenly, every third sentence from him includes some varition of "butt". For added effect he sometimes expands to "poopy butt". I know that when something like this comes up you are supposed to ignore it as best you can, but when he starts yelling it in public that can be difficult. I usually just try to change the subject of discussion as quickly as possible to something else that he can talk about; although sometimes he'll go right back - "what did you have for lunch at school today, Zack?", "poopy butt!".

So what are you to do? Apparently just wait it out. You can't really prevent them from picking up these things, and there are worse things they can pick up.


Lyrical Zackypus

16 December 2013

The "Songs in the key of Zack" album has been growing quickly, and is on its third iteration now. There are roughly 15 tracks on it now, and he is starting to sing choruses to several. Zack also often asks me the names of the songs when they are starting, which can be interesting.

One song I am happy to see him enjoy is Dire Strait's "Money For Nothing". Today he asked me the name of the song while we were in the car; I said "Money for Nothing", and he immediately followed with "and chicks for free".

I think this means it is time to remove Bruno Mars' "Locked out of Paradise" from the track list.


Three Year Old Lawyer

30 December 2013

We've reached the age whre Zack loves to argue with us. Nearly everything we say, he responds with a "why". He often is trying to get his way, but his logic doesn't really hold up. As Ingrid said, sometimes it feels like we are talking with "a drunk three year old lawyer".


TV Dinner

19 January 2014

This week, in a bit of a hurry to get us through dinner, I opted to let Zack try a TV dinner - I think it was a Kid's Cuisine entree. His dinner had chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, corn, and some pudding. It took a little bit of convincing to get him to select that one from the grocery store as he really wanted the one that was just macaroni and cheese with vegetable and snack, but I wanted him to get some protein. I pointed out he was still getting macaroni and cheese with this one, which helped him towards my side of the argument.

More important, though, he ate nearly the entire thing. I did discover the big downside of these, though; it is hard to time them so that everyone can eat a warm meal at the same time. A TV dinner isn't terrible for a single person, but for a family trying to get more than two people to a table at once, they are not so great.

The important part, though, is that he ate it. I'll tell myself it might have even been reasonably nutritious for him as well.


Zack Played Us

28 January 2014

I'm rather embarrassed to admit this, but it is an event that we likely ought to make sure to remember. This morning, our son played us. He really, really, fooled us.

This past weekend, Zack had a cold or some such transient bug. He had a fever, runny nose, etc. He didn't sleep or eat very well during that time. We kept him out of school on Monday (January 27) because he had a fever that morning. Today came around and his temperature was normal but he was not excited to get up.

Actually, not excited is an understatement. He fought the whole process. The process was not made any easier by the fact that his school was scheduled to open late (8:30 instead of 6:30 - we usually bring him in around 7:15) today due to the inclement weather (today's high was -1F).

By the time we finally had all his winter attire on, and we were sufficiently late even by 8:30 standards, he started crying that he wanted to sleep. He really, really, fooled us into thinking he was tired. He was running away from us - and towards his room - when we were trying to get him ready, and now he was sitting down and pouting like he was genuinely tired.

We then figured out a plan for him to stay with Ingrid for most of the morning, and then go to my mom's later in the day. He liked that plan, and I left for work. My wife told me later that he basically played the entire morning; he just apparently really did not want to go to school.


Booster Seat

10 March 2014

While the recommendations for a booster seat are usually to start a kid at four years old, Zack has officially outgrown his previous convertible seat. He reached the point recently where his head was even with the highest setting for his seat, and the belts were stretched to the furthest they could go. At a little more than 2 months prior to his fourth birthday, Zack has moved to the "Big Kid LX Booster Seat".

It is probably a more interesting change for us than for him. Now his seat is no longer anchored to the car, and he uses the regular three-point seat belt with his booster instead of the five-point harness. He also has a lot more flexibility in the car, and is able to reach things he could not reach before.

And even more so, we are supposed to remember to buckle the seat in to the car when he's not in the car with us, so it doesn't become a projectile in the car if we need to stop quickly. We'll see how long it takes us to remember to do that.


Fourth Birthday

24 May 2014

This was in some ways as much a milestone for us as a family as for Zack on his own. Yeah, he's four years old now, but this is a significant one for us in various ways. This is the first birthday we've had for him with all of us in MN after we moved here. This was also the first time we've thrown a party for Zack and his friends - and it seems that he is quite the popular guy at his school!

If you're reading this looking for tips on throwing a birthday party for a four-year-old, I'm happy to say that ours went quite well. Here is a general description:

As for attendance, we had 7 of Zack's friends from school, along with the daughter of some friends of ours, and the children of our neighbor, who are close in age to Zack as well. Every parent stayed for the party, too. We went through 17 hot dogs and 12 hamburgers, along with a large number of cupcakes. Our party favors went in small plastic bags, and included wooden spinning helicopters, temporary tattoos, and small foam gliders.

One thing we particularly lucked out on was the weather; it was sunny and 70s for the entire party. We had spotty winds (sometimes enough to fly a kite) as well. We didn't have a plan for inclement weather, which could have been really really bad.


Bicycle Number One

3 June 2014

I also decided to give Zack his first bicycle on his 4th birthday. The previous summer we started riding together with him on a pull-behind (single wheel, attached to the seat post of my bike) setup. He loved that, aside from one small mishap where he slid off the rear of the seat. It generally seemed that he was as excited about the ability to get around on a bicycle as I was when I was very young.

But I realized he really should learn to ride a bike on his own, so off to Target I went. I purchased a bicycle with 16 inch wheels (and training wheels in the back) for him. On the first voyage he loved it. He even went so far as to direct me to disconnect the pull-behind from my bike as he seemed to feel he wouldn't be needing it any more.

We probably made it to the second or third ride before he crashed it. We were essentially home and I tried to encourage him to ride it up the driveway. It really was a very minor crash, he caught himself with his own feet but found the bicycle sideways. We're still working on getting him out on it again.

A side note - the bicycle is a Huffy. I hadn't ridden a Huffy in around 20 years. Back then they were junk; some people called them "BSOs" for "Bicycle Shaped Object(s)". Unfortunately things don't seem to have changed much for Huffy, they still seem to be doing silly things to reduce MSRP. This bike will be fine for Zack - I don't expect he'll ride it much more than a year before it will be too small for him - but the quality was so low that I wouldn't want to give it to someone for much longer than that. One example of the poor quality is the wheels themselves; the 16 inch wheels are not really reasonably close to being true. This is not a big deal when you use a coaster brake but it shows poor manufacturing. There were other silly problems with it that I noticed while assembling it in the living room (the night before Zack's birthday, naturally) but I can't recall at the moment what they were.


Zack On Color

12 August 2014

The past several months have brought a few times where it seems that Zack may have started to think about diversity. It is interesting to get these glimpses from him, to get a sense of how he sees the world.

One thing we really love about the preschool that we have Zack enrolled in is the diversity of students in the school. He has friends who are from a variety of cultures, speak a variety of second languages, and have a variety of beliefs. We were very fortunate to have this diversity well represented at his fourth birthday party as well; and I have often seem him playing with a variety of different kids at school when I pull in to pick him up.

Several months ago we were in the car and Zack said to me - and I don't recall anymore the context - that he was "white". I had a hard time getting him to go further into what he was talking about (this is rather difficult when he is in the back of the car and I am driving with nobody else in the car) so I was really never sure what he was trying to say. As my wife and I are both white, and he is our biological son, it was certainly not an inaccurate statement, but I never really knew what he was going for.

More recently though he used "white" and "brown" in a way I wasn't expecting. His class recently obtained a small play sink for washing (doll) babies. No water is involved, and the dolls are just realistic enough to not offer up any anatomical features that could offend some people. The first time I saw it the baby was designed to look like an African-American. The second time I saw it, the baby was white. I didn't offer any labels, but Zack volunteered the term "white" for the latter one, in contrast to "brown" for the former. When I gently pushed a little harder what he meant by "white" and "brown", he showed me that he was talking not about skin color, but hair color.

For the record the hair was molded, non-flexible, plastic on the top of the dolls' heads. It was, however, certainly in the colors he described.


Wrong Finger

30 August 2014

We've noticed for a while that Zack has been preferring a certain "wrong" finger for pointing. We're not sure what caused him to favor it, but he uses it far more often than not. More recently, his pre-school told us that he has been using that finger fairly often for pointing.

Then this week, his teacher quietly told me that he recently was running around the preschool playground waving both wrong fingers in the air and smiling. The teacher was rightfully concerned about what passing motorists might think of that.

The challenge, though, is how to bring it up to Zack. We can't really tell him what the middle finger means in an age-appropriate manner. But on the same note we don't want him running around waving it in public, either.


Ice Cream Truck

14 September 2014

We recently moved again, though not far. When we first relocated (back) to Minnesota we moved in to a rental house in Plymouth. We started looking for a house to purchase once our lease was up, and eventually found one that was roughly 2.5 miles west of the rental. Still in Plymouth, but a different neighborhood. Perhaps more significant to this entry, the new house is in a neighborhood with lots of children, while the neighborhood we were renting in really was designed more to cater towards retirees or bachelors.

Not long after our first nights in the new house, Ingrid and I noticed a familiar sound, that we hadn't heard in some time. Indeed it was a sound that we hadn't heard in such a while that the first time we heard it we looked at each other to see if the other had heard the same. The nieghborhood where we lived in Syracuse when Zack was born would never have had ice cream trucks in it, so it had been quite a while for us.

Then one Sunday Zack and I got home and I heard the familiar tune of the ice cream truck. I knew Zack had never heard it before, so I quickly brought him outside to listen for it. He could hear the music, but had no idea what it was. I wasn't sure what route the truck would follow so I quickly got Zack on his bicycle and we went off in pursuit. Zack was rather surprised to see a van selling ice cream.

As an aside, I chatted briefly with the driver. He informed me that some time recently licensing changed for ice cream trucks in MN, in particular there is now either a state or county-wide license for the trucks, while before the drivers needed separate licenses from each city they wanted to sell in. This suggests we might see more trucks in the future, as it reduces the cost of business quite a bit for them.

We bought a three-dollar ice cream sandwich, wished him well, and walked back home.


Tee-Ball

21 September 2014

We signed up Zack for tee-ball this year. In our city, tee-ball is available for four and five year old kids, and runs for a few weeks in the late summer / early fall. This is Zack's first team sport experience, and also my first experience as a volunteer coach.

The first two Sundays (September 7th and 14th) were "practice" days, where the other coach and I (for a team of 12 kids) worked on trying to familiarize the kids with some of the basics - throwing, hitting, catching, where the bases and positions are, etc. Although I did feel a lot like Emilio Estevez in the first Mighty Ducks movie, the practices really went quite well. The City of Plymouth also provided us with a useful binder of tips for how to introduce kids to the game and how to try to keep them interested.

This Sunday was our first game. At this point it becomes a cat-herding exercise with two differently-colored groups of cats. Each team's coaches (who were all parents volunteering as coaches) were on the field at different places and times throughout the game, mostly directing traffic.

Clearly, some kids - including Zack, were generally bored with being in the field waiting for the ball. Our other coach did a great job of moving kids through different positions throughout the game; however Zack mostly lost interest in playing the field by the time his chance to play first base came around. That innning, Zack was much more interested in pickig up sand from the infield and showing it to the other players than in following the ball.

Indeed, at times, four year olds will behave like four year olds :)


Reading Words

15 October 2014

Zack has known his alphabet for some time, and has been able to recognize both capitalized and lower-case letters for a while as well. Tonight though I thought I'd try something else to see how well he could recognize words.

We were reading Fox in Socks (I'm a big Dr. Seuss fan), which is a book we have read since Zack was an infant. If you're familiar with the story you'll know that it ends with a few dramatic AND statments, as first the fox and then Knox describe increasingly complex situations of "tweetle beetles". I've always over-emphasized these for effect, but tonight I thought I'd see if Zack could recognize the word "and" on the pages where it came up towards the end of the story. It is, after all, a pretty easy word to find - being only three letters long.

This worked quite well. Our first pass through on just the last few pages I would tell Zack how many times I saw the word on a single page and have him find it. He could find it, regardless of whether it was all single-cased or not. He then asked to find it on other pages, and we did the same exercise.

He and I were both very pleased that he could recognize full words (even if only short ones).

The downside is that it does bring us that much closer to not being able to obfuscate words by spelling them aloud when talking in front of him.


Mail

3 December 2014

This is about the mail that is delivered by the US Post Office.

Today was a rather busy day, in part because I have "Mr. Mom" duties most of this week while my wife travels for work. Tonight when Zack and I got home for the last time tonight I told him I would bring in the mail and the (trash and recycling) cans while he went inside. He helpfully wanted to come to the mailbox with me. This then created a 4-item / 2-hand problem once we passed the foot of the driveway on the way back up.

I thought the best solution might be to have Zack carry the mail while I pulled the cans with my two hands. The mail load was not particularly heavy today and it seemed to work for him. Then I opened the door to the house for him and he went in with the mail while I put the cans in their place and parked the car.

The problem though is now I have no idea where the mail is. Thankfully this time of year >90% of the mail is junk anyways so the likelihood of anything important being in there is extremely low. Really, the main downside here is that Zack is as bad with handling mail as I am.


Zack Plays Trivia

4 January 2015

Ingrid started playing a game called "Trivia Crack" during the off time between Christmas and New Year's. The game is mostly general-knowledge questions on a variety of topics, presented in a cute flash-like format. I guess there is an online multiplayer component of it and it seems to be cross-platform.

More to the point, Zack likes to watch her play. The questions have all been family-friendly so that hasn't been a problem. Today an interesting one came up; interesting in how Zack quickly and confidently responded to it.

The question was "what pH is neutral?". Ingrid read the question to me from across the room and before I could answer, Zack quickly - and correctly - stated seven. This was a multiple choice question and seven was neither the first nor last option in the list.

We still don't know how we got that one right...


Bad Dreams

19 February 2015

Zack came in to our room very early - around 2-3 am - and wanted to share our bed with us. This is rather unusual for him, as he usually sleeps through the night. He told us he was having bad dreams but wouldn't tell us more than that right away.

In the morning he told me a little more. For whatever reason he was willing to tell me, but not Ingrid. The themes were interesting, he mentioned two bad dreams in particular.

One involved a building falling down or being taken down. The other involved a skunk looking in to a garage (perhaps ours?). A couple weeks ago he also woke us up when he had a dream that he had thrown his toy airplanes into the toilet.

I guess in a way this is relieving, to see that his bad dreams don't have the thematic elements that we (adults) have.


Zack Gets Promoted

25 April 2015

Today Zack was promoted - to big brother. Just under one month shy of Zack's fifth birthday, we welcomed his little brother Lucas Edwin into the world. Lucas was born around 3:30 pm, weighing in at 9lb 12oz and 22 inches in length. Lucas was originally scheduled to be delivered on May 4th, but due to some health issues our obstetrician opted to deliver a little over a week earlier.

Mother and baby are doing fine.


Two Boys, Two Weeks

10 May 2015

On Tuesday, April 28, Ingrid and I left the hospital with Lucass. It was a joyous departure, even with Ingrid still recovering from the c-section that was needed to safely bring Lucas into the world.

Now, we've had some time to recover at home. We gave Zack a couple days off from (pre) school to get a sense of what goes on at home with a newborn. I took two weeks off from work, as well. It is certainly a bit of an adjustment to get used to having an infant at home again. We had time to get out old baby stuff and get the nursery ready, although not a lot of time.

So far, Zack has done quite well. One advantage to having a pre school older sibling - rather than a toddler or younger - is that their linguistic and functional abilities are quite good. Zack has been able to help with a number of things, which has been very valuable for us. While he is not old or strong enough to safely carry his little brother, he can bring many useful baby supplies around the house for us.

Clearly though, it has been a bit of a struggle for Zack to get used to not always being the center of attention. Perhaps even more difficult for him may just be how it changes our availabilities; Lucas effectively dictates the sleep schedules for himself, Ingrid, and me. This some times means that when Zack expects the most of us, we are quite fatigued. Hopefully soon we will have Lucas on a schedule closer to our own so we can be more available.


Bottles, Take Two

15 May 2015

It does seem that some bottles have changed a bit in the past five years. This is probably a good thing, in general. I'm not sure that the new design for the Playtex bottles (our previous favorites) is great, but they work "well enough" for now.

The bit that is bothering me more right now though is with Medela. Medela is, of course, the most commonly seen manufacturer of breast pumps. They are particularly well entrenched in hospitals and clinics, where you see all kinds of stuff with their logo on it (including noticeably on the "I'm a breast fed baby" name tag that was used in Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, where Zack was born). Indeed, their pumps do work and they are a solid product.

So what bugs me about Medela, then? Two things, actually - and they both connect to the nipples for their bottles. First, the Medela nipples are senselessly hard to read. I know that I have three "slow" and three "medium" nipples at home, but I can't tell by looking at them which is which. There are no sensible distinguishing marks on them to help you with this. By comparison, Playtex marks their nipples in no less than three languages in big friendly letters that are easy to read. Second, while you can buy Medela nipples at the store, you cannot buy Medela bottle rings at the store - at least not any store I have ever been to (including Babies r Us). The only way to get the bottle rings is to buy the bottles. The reason why this bothers me is that the pump kit comes with 2 or 3 bottles with caps. The threads are the same for the caps as they are for the rings (which are used to put nipples on the bottles) which means that you can put a nipple on the bottles that come with the pump - but you'll never have enough rings to do so. Even worse, no amount of money will solve that problem.


Scales

19 May 2015

This is a bit late, but worth noting. Not long after bringing Lucas home from the hospital we had a day where he had two appointments in the same day, in different offices. More so, these offices were of the same practice but different locations (~15 miles apart from each other).

At the first appointment, Lucas was weighed and came in a little under his birth weight. This is not surprising as newborns tend to lose weight before rebounding. His birth weight was 9 pounds 12 ounces; on this first appointment he showed 9 pounds 4 ounces. The nurse practitioner we saw asked us to come back the following week for another weighing. She did suggest that his birth weight may have been artificially high due to the fluids that go with c-section that cause babies to have artificially high weights.

Then we went to the second appointment. It was about a half hour or so after the first - about enough time to drive to it. The scale there reported his weight at 9 pounds 1/2 ounce. If both scales were to be beleived, he lost 3.5 ounces in a half hour car ride.

A little basic math shows this corresponds to about 2% of his body weight. Some published research suggest this is not necessarily abnormal to have that large of a swing in accuracy with clinical scales (and of course, home scales can be even worse!).


Zack's Fifth Birthday

24 May 2015

Today was Zack's second - and final - birthday as a pre-schooler. We scheduled his party at a local indoor bounce house place called "Pump it Up", which is a popular place for parties for his age group.

There is a part of me though that found the party a bit bittersweet. Certainly I'm very excited to have Zack going in to kindergarten this fall. However he has made several very nice friends at preschool and none of them will be in his kindergarten class (primarily due to where we live and which school that puts him in, in comparison to where most other families with kids at his preschool live). Soon it will be his last day of preschool and some of these kids he likely won't see again any time soon, if ever.

That said, I moved through a few different schools in my younger years and turned out just fine. I don't remember the names of anyone from my kindergarten class and that didn't prevent me from moving on and becoming a reasonably well adjusted person. I'm sure Zack will do just fine as well.

On a positive side note, we went to Ingrid's dad's home after Zack's party. Lucas surprised us there by rolling over. Not just once, but a total of four times - twice in each direction. This was only front-to-back - no rolling back to his stomach from his back side - but nonetheless it was done on his own. I guess we'll need to start babyproofing pretty soon. By comparison, Zack didn't roll over until closer to 6 months of age. I should really plan to lower the crib mattress for Lucaas as well, as the mattress at its top height (where it is currently) would potentially allow him to roll right out.


Formula on the Go

5 June 2015

Much like Zack, Lucas was breast fed for about a month before we switched to formula. Lucas was a little smaller than this big brother (9lb 12oz vs 10lb 10oz) at birth and seemed to be slightly less furiously hungry at the beginning, but eventually formula won out again for us. Kudos to those who make it longer with breastfeeding, but it didn't work out for us.

However this isn't about the breast vs bottle debate. There are positives to each approach and reasons for each as well. This is about one thing we didn't notice before now about the availability of formula.

When in the hospital (or pediatrician's office) usually 2 ounce bottles of enfamil are available on request, with sterile nipples, all ready to go. At your local grocery or discount store, you can buy the same bottles with nipples as well - however there is one big catch.

The bottles in the stores come in packs of 8 bottles and 2 nipples. Those two nipples are the only sterile nipples you can get in the store. There are other sizes of infant formula in pre-mixed bottles, but they don't come with nipples at all. You can of course buy nipples for your favorite bottles, but those are not pre-sterilized.

So what are you to do, if you have a hungry baby, forgot your diaper bag (with bottles in it) and you're at the store? Apparently you get to buy the 8 pack of bottles, and reuse the nipple. Obviously sterilizing bottles and nipples is not a big deal (boil for around 5 minutes) but if you need food immediately that is a big problem.

Perhaps since this is a rather short phase of life - it isn't long before you can start feeding your child cereals, using sippy cups, or even handing them food - the industry doesn't see this as a significant problem.


Bicycles

18 July 2015

Bicycles were a big part of my childhood. Admittedly, I was probably a bit old before I gave up training wheels, but it was hard to keep me off a bicycle once I finally did. My grandfather was my teacher for the transition from training wheels, and my riding buddy for many of my first rides.

I've been trying to get Zack to two wheels for a while now. There are several reasons for this:

I'm trying to go from training wheels for him to having him on two wheels - the same way I did it. After all, if it worked for me, it should work for him as well, right? It has been a little challenging. Before he had his own bike with training wheels, he was mostly my companion on the pull-behind that was linked to my bike. He did great on that, but I may have overestimated the relevance of that. It doesn't seem that the pull-behind gets him the balance confidence that he really needs in order to progress to riding on his own, which in hindsight makes sense. This is also the most common fault cited for training wheels as well.

Our neighbors whose kids have mastered two wheels early on have almost exclusively used "balance bikes", which are basically two-wheel bikes without pedals. The strategy certainly seems to have worked out well for them, I see 3 year olds cruising the neighborhood on two wheelers who were taught this way. I have tried pulling the pedals off Zack's bike, but I'm not sure if using multiple strategies - and hence being inconsistent with him - is a good idea.

In all honesty, though, I am a little afraid to let him go on a two-wheeler on his own (even with me running next to him). My bicycles were such a huge part of my growing up, seeing him get better with them just becomes a more direct statement to me of how much he is growing up.


Last day of Preschool

14 August 2015

Today is Zack's last day of preschool. We could have chosen a later day - as late as the Friday before Labor Day - but it made more sense for us to pull him a bit earlier.

We love the preschool that Zack has gone to since we moved out here. The things our little guy can do are incredible, and we owe that largely to the excellent teachers they hire. We're glad we went with the school we sent him to.

It will be sad to go back to his school after Friday, to drop off and pick up his little brother, and not be doing the same with Zack. However pulling Zack out a few weeks early does make it possible for me to spend some time with him before he starts Kindergarten, which should be great. And clearly it won't be long until I will be picking up Lucas as a preschooler just as Zack has been - at the same school.


Travel With Two

24 August 2015

Today was the first day of Lucas's first international trip. We made the journey from our home near Minneapolis, MN to just north of the Minnesota - Manitoba border to visit with relatives in and near the town of Piney, Manitoba. Google maps suggests this drive takes 6 - 6.5 hours each way. We expected the drive would take a bit longer with the two boys in the cars and the needs that go with them.

We departed around 7:30 in the morning, I believe we reached our destination around 5 or 6 at night; stopping for both breakfast and lunch on the way (McDonald's both times).

Zack spent most of the time playing on his iPad while Lucas mostly slept. This sounds great at first. The problem with the first is that Zack didn't get much of the time in the car (and wanted to do anything but go back in the car once we got there) and Lucas slept so much that he didn't sleep particularly well at night when the time came.

The challenges with each of those are that 1) it is hard to keep a 5-year-old engaged during a car trip (and I weaned Zack of off mid-day naps in preparation for Kindergarten so that wasn't much of and option) and 2) it is hard to keep an infant awake during a car trip. Add to that 3) nobody wants the driving part to take longer than necessary when you're driving through flat and sparsely inhabited parts of the state and the natural inclination is to get through as quickly as possible.

In other words there is probably a better way to manage this for the boys, but I'm not sure what that is. By the next time we do a trip like this they will of course be older and I expect the challenges will be different.


Second Kid First Tooth

26 August 2015

We were watching for this for a while, Lucas has been showing the same teething symptoms that Zachary showed before his first tooth. Today, the first tooth finally broke the gum line. Lower front tooth, on Lucas's right side. The change in demeanor wasn't as profound as it was for Zack, but still positive and noticeable.

This tooth broke while we were in Manitoba. Insert here jokes about conversions between American and Canadian currency, national health care, the use of "eh", or the metric system.


New Worst Gadget

28 August 2015

I wrote some time ago about the "pee-pee tee-pee", which others have criticized as a terrible gizmo. We owned it and used it sporadically, and I didn't think it was that bad (even though I've never used it for Lucas). This entry is not on the pee-pee tee-pee, however.

This entry is on a device that is likely bought by even more people. In fact it is made by far more companies than the tee-pee. I'm writing this entry on the device known as a "wipes warmer".

What makes this device so awful? Well, I think first we should look at what makes it so popular. A lot of people are told that a warm wipe is more gentle on a baby's bottom. This notion has brought no fewer than 6 companies to make wipe warmers that are sold at Babies 'r Us.

The truth of the matter is, babies don't care. And a warm wipe doesn't clean any better than a room-temperature one. If you have any doubt, think of how many times a baby has its bottom cleaned by a non-warmed wipe - which for many babies is any time they are not in their own home. Lucas has had a large number of diapers changed on the road (including every single diaper while we were in Canada) with room-temperature wipes.

The other problems with wipe warmers are notbale as well. First, the warmers lead to the wipes dehydrating more quickly. Even if you remember to close the lid on the warmer, they will dry out inside the device. Second, they constantly consume power for something that is not important.

I decommissioned our on the day listed above and things have been just fine without. I might reconsider in the winter if Lucas' room shows to be drafty.


Still No Perfect Bottle

10 September 2015

I should have written this one a while ago, but it comes up to me periodically and warrants sharing now regardless. As mentioned before, we tried quite a few bottles with Zachary before settling on one. With Lucas we have tried several bottles as well.

Our preferred bottle with Lucas has been the Dr. Brown's bottle. There is plenty to like about it; the design for preventing the baby from taking in too much air is novel, it is easy to clean, and it is Made in the USA (I have traditionally been leary about using bottles made in China in particular, due to the problems we've had with product safety in terms of Chinese made goods). These bottles are generally pretty easy to get, as well; available easily at Babies R Us or Target, and likely other places as well. Generally, the price is a bit more than the Playtex we were using before, but not a lot more.

However, they do have one big problem that we run in to from time to time - they leak. Even with the cap on them - and the cap is nice and appears to close tightly - they can still leak if left sideways or upside-down. This is particularly a problem when we place a bottle that hasn't been finished into the diaper bag or stroller. They do sell "storage caps" for the bottles, which would help with this problem, but that is even more parts to carry.

One other problem with them is similar to the old hot dog / hot dog bun problem - the bottles are sold in packs of three but the nipples in packs of two. As we currently have an odd number of bottles, this means we will forever have more nipples than bottles.


Magical Sleeping Beans

28 October 2015

Yesterday was Lucas' 6 month checkup, and we decided to go for the full run of infant food for him now. Tonight was his first vegetable, after having had a few different cereals in the past several weeks.

I opted for green beans for his first, which I'm pretty sure is what Zack started with as well. Gerber still sells these "first foods" in little plastic containers that can be nicely closed and refrigerated if you need to. (we did not need to, at least not tonight). He ate the full 2.5 ounce container over about an hour, and had some formula with it.

He then fell alseep around 7:30 and slept until after midnight. Not bad for 25 calories worth of beans.


Zack Discovers Black Friday

27 November 2015

This year was the first year Zack really noticed all the ads and commotion over "Black Friday". Perhaps because we are so used to it, Ingrid and I didn't really think much of it until the day came. Then, Zack came to us and announced he was relieved that the sky indeed was not black outside.

As a side note, as Ingrid and I both have retail experience from previous jobs, we generally try to take advantage of Black Friday as little as possible in person, in part out of sympathy for the people who work retail today.


Lucas Goes Rolling

4 December 2015

Just like his big brother, Lucas had his first self-powered transportation in the form of rolling. Today he discovered he can get pretty much where he wants by rolling around on the floor. Now we get to baby-proof the new house, which is a challenge when Zack is such a big fan of legos...


Sick Ward

28 December 2015

Zack just recovered from what seems like a possible case of norovirus. He almost certainly got it from me, as I had the same symptoms around the 23rd. I had the good fortune of having it simultaneous with a migraine, which made things that much more miserable. As is usually observed with this, noro tends to mostly come out of nowhere, suddenly hitting people and causing all kinds of GI havoc. Zack hasn't had vomiting like this in recent memory, which caused him to yell things like "call a doctor!" when he was at his worst.

More frustrating though is that norovirus is generally highly contagious - which is why noro patients are so quickly quarantined on cruise ships (no we have not been on a cruise in a long time) - so this leaves me waiting to see when Ingrid and Lucas get it. A couple evenings spent on the couch for me, with regular "rounds" through the house checking to see how everyone is doing. Thankfully while it is miserable, noro is almost never one to bring about dire outcomes.



13 January 2016

Lucas didn't come down with noro, nor did Ingrid. Unforuantely Lucas did come down with Pneumonia. Poor little guy was a bit of a puddle earlier this week; I took him to urgent care very early this morning (~2am) and he was diagnosed by x-ray and symptoms. He seems to be responding well to the combination of antibiotics and the additional pain meds (I suspect the anti-inflammatory property of advil really helps here). One week of amoxicillin and then to the pediatrician we will go...


Practical Reading

16 January 2016

Today we made a trip to Cabela's with the boys. Those who don't live in the area where Cabela's is best know would likely find it very similar to Bass Pro Shops. One thing that I thought the boys - particularly Zack - would enjoy there is the various animals on display; both the live aquariums and the mounts of game animals. Zack has seen these before at this same location, but it has been a while.

When we we near the largest display of game animals, I asked Zack what some of the animals were. I tried to pick both animals that we have seen other places (either in zoos or in the wild) as well as some that we had not. When he correctly identified a wild turkey, for example, I knew he had seen those before. The beaver, however, somewhat surprised me. I asked him how we correctly identified the beaver, and he told me he read the sign.

Then we were on the other side of the display - where other animals were visible - and he got those right as well. Goat, sheep, wolf, bear, etc. Again, he said he read the signs. A couple he misread the adjectives of (I don't recall now what he read "bighorn" as) but he always got the main part right.

His teacher told us that kids really "take off" in reading in kindergarten once they start to get it. Zack read several other words from billboards on the drive home as well.

The only downside is that I think we will soon be reaching the end of the era where we can spell words in front of him to obfuscate what we are talking about...


More Song Lyrics

30 January 2016

One album we've been listening to a fair bit over the past few months is Mandatory Fun by Weird Al Yankovic. I've been a Weird Al fan for decades, but this was really the first time Zack had heard him on CD. A few songs Zack has started to find amusing (though likely more for their delivery than anything). As usual, the album is mostly kid-friendly (although we do have to skip the sports song every time).

However, Zack didn't really get the idea of "Tacky" at first. One particular case is that when Yankovic is talking about things that are tacky he mentions walking up to a woman and asking her if she is pregnant or just "really fat". Apparently Zack tried this on either his mom or someone else while in her company. I then had to have a talk with Zack about what it means to be "tacky", and why the song is amusing even when talking about things that are not nice.

A while later, Zack told me he was concerned about the lyrics to another song on the same album (no, not the sports song). I asked him was song he was thinking of and he mentioned "handy" (though not by title). I wasn't sure what the concerning part was, and he eventually told me he thought that "grout" was a bad word.

I later realized he likely remembers me mentioning some time (months or perhaps even years) ago that I see "grout" as a bad word. Obviously I don't see it as a profane word, I just really, really despise grout (childhood memories). I had to explain to Zack then what grout is and that indeed, it is not a bad word.


Crawling Round 2

4 March 2016

Today our infant (Lucas) really started crawling. He's around 10.5 months old, which i think is around when Zack started crawling as well. Now that he's got the idea down he covers ground pretty quickly on all fours. It took him quite a while to get his legs under control for this - they kept splaying out under him up to this point.

Oh, and he has a double ear infection. And we're planning to fly with him tomorrow morning. We'll see how popular the world's loudest baby is on a plane.


Disney Vs Star Wars

25 March 2016

We recently got back from a family trip to Disney World. I am well aware of the fact that some time ago Disney bought all the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas. Indeed, for the parks Disney had held many of the right for years (especially at MGM / Hollywood Studios). Our trip had an interesting impact on Zack's understanding of Star Wars, though.

We were trying to decide which way to go through the Star Wars films with Zack. Ingrid and I have seen all six of the first two trilogies, in their theatrical order. We tried starting Zack with Episode IV a while back (weeks before the trip), but he wasn't terribly interested. Ingrid more recently picked up the I-II-III trilogy and suggested maybe going in numeric order might work better for the attention span of a 5-year-old.

I was concerned though that doing that would spoil the great moment near the end of V where the true identity of Vader is revealed. I remembered the "machete order" that many have taken a liking to, but I wasn't sure if it would suit Zack well - and while I don't love Jar-Jar Binks I don't hate him, either. In fact, I thought that Jar-Jar might be useful in getting Zack into watching the movies (many others have made similar suggestions that the character was created to draw children into Star Wars).

To preserve the importance of the end of V, I then suggested we go I-IV-V-II-III-VI.

This seemed like a great idea to me. Then I sat down with Zack at the dining room table to query him on what he knew about Star Wars. Ingrid suggested he might already be aware of Vader's identity. I carefully queried him on what he knew about Vader, and he eventually plainly stated that he knew Vader to be Luke's father.

I asked him how he knew that, and he said he saw it in a clip waiting in line for a Star Wars ride at Disney World. Specifically he said he saw the scene where Luke removes Vader's mask (in VI).

Rats. I was looking forward to seeing Zack's reaction upon learning that for the first time. I guess we'll have to look for other cinematic moments instead.


Toddler Formula

25 April 2016

On his first birthday we rather unceremoniously switched Lucas from formula to milk. As is common we went to whole milk (which contrary to popular belief is only around 3% milk fat, hence only abotu 50% more fat per volume than the 2% our family normally drinks).

I asked his day care about it briefly before making the switch. I also noticed the last time I bought infant formula for him a the store that the companies who make infant formula are now selling something they call "toddler formula"; I asked day care about this as well. They informed me that the toddler formula is most often used for babies that are below average weight on their first birthday.

Lucas was over 25 pounds on his birthday - which put him near the 99th percentile for weight. We clearly don't have that problem. Milk it is.


Teeth On Mother's Day

8 May 2016

Lucas recently had his first birthday, so of course he is teething quite a bit. However today also marked a dental milestone for Zack; he lost his first tooth. In his case it is a lower front tooth, on his right side. He came home with a loose tooth on Friday, and by Sunday it was out.


Critter Invasion

27 May 2016

We are living around 15 miles from Minneapolis currently; this isn't a huge distance but it does make a bit of difference in the assortment of wildlife. Most of what we see regularly at our house is pretty vanilla, though - mostly rabbits, squirrels, song birds, etc. On occasion we'll see foxes and various raptors as well; we've heard coyotes too.

What started a surprising invasion though was interesting. Today Ingrid found a nest just outside our front door that we had never seen before. It was very tidily made, and sitting atop one of our front lights on the house. It seemed to have been built from scratch in 24 hours or less, though when we saw it there seemed to be nothing in it.

I looked online and suspected it was likely a Robin. Not the least bit unusual for our area, and known for living near humans as well. Indeed, if you look up the American Robin on wikipedia one of the pictures is very similar to our own situation with a robin's nest sitting atop a house light. It didn't take long for us to start seeing the female going back and forth to the nest, once a couple days had passed there were 4 new eggs.

That was the front of the house. A day or so after the robin we had a different visitor at the rear of the house. This was also of the airborne variety though not feathered. One weekend evening I caught a glimpse of something flying in our screen porch. At the time our sliding door (to the kitchen) was open, which I promptly closed. Inside the porch was a Little Brown Bat, which I had not seen since coming back to MN. With the door to the house closed, I left the house (through another door) to open the screen porch door (from the outside) for him to leave. The bat eventually found its way out and returned to his regularly scheduled program. We didn't get any pictures of the bat, though we did get a good look at him.


Toddler Bottles

29 May 2016

We have also started reducing the number of bottles Lucas has in a day now, as we are working on getting him used to drinking from cups. Most days he has only one bottle - at bed time.

This seems like a good thing, but it actually complicates cleaning a bit. We used to use 3-5 bottles in a day. Now we use only 1 bottle in a day. This leads to bottles sitting out longer after use, as we still tend to only run bottles through the dishwasher when we have 3-5 ready at a time.

This can lead to a stinky mess. The whole milk seems to curdle more quickly at room temperature than the formula (or 2% milk, for that matter) did. We've had more than a few bottles that had the precursor to cottage cheese (or worse) in them by the time we wash them by hand.

This also means I am boiling bottles much more often now than I was before.


Bye-Bye Blankie

1 June 2016

Zack has had the same security blanket almost his entire life. My grandparents gave him a blanket with a print of a Norman Rockwell painting (possibly called "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" - which apparently is very popular for blankets) on it when he was still a young infant. This blanket has been all over the place with him, travelled with him, etc. We have put quite a bit of time in to finding it on various difficult evenings.

We've heard various efforts that other parents have put in to separating their kids from their blankets. At times we called Zack our "Linus" for how attached he was to his blanket. We figured it really wasn't worth putting too much effort in to this early, though; he isn't that old yet.

Then a couple weeks before his 6th birthday Zack had his first sleep-over, at a friend's house. His friend was in 1st grade while he was in kindergarten. Zack packed his blanket but didn't want to use it in front of his friend, apparently. It seems the peer pressure to go without was significant enough; he hasn't asked to use it since.

I guess we'll be washing it soon and putting it away for him. It's nice to see him outgrow it, but it does mark a sort of end of an era for him.


Luke's First Steps

21 June 2016

It's been a busy couple months for Lucas. We turned his car seat around right around his first birthday (by which time he had passed 25 pounds). His seemingly never-ending runny nose seems to have finally ended. He has a whole bunch of teeth and some strong preferences on what he likes to eat.

But today, he took perhaps his first actual steps. For a while now he's been pulling himself up from the ground without holding on to things. Today though - while we were outside and he was standing on grass, no less - he actually toook a couple steps while standing unsupported. He's been able to walk a bit either with one or both hands held, but this is the first time I've seen him walk without either hand held. He really only took two steps before he lowered himself back down (and proceeded to crawl all over the place) but it was two real steps.


Budget Balance Bike

6 July 2016

Zack outgrew his original bike, but wasn't quite ready to go without training wheels. We found a used bike on craigslist of the appropriate size, and figured we would start with it. We tried to get him going on it without training wheels but it didn't seem like we were quite ready for that.

From this was born the budget balance bike. Our neighbors are big fans of the balance bike, it got their kids on two wheels by the age of 3. I took the pedals off the new bike, and this seems to work really well for the same concept.

Oddly enough, they don't generally make kid's balance bikes with 20 inch wheels...


Bad Wipes

18 July 2016

Here's another product I definitely do not endorse. We purchased wipes on a trip to Sam's Club a while ago. The price seemed good, but the wipes are not. The wipes themselves are fine, but they are digustingly wasteful. I'm not sure how they did it - specifically what they did that was different from what other manufacturers do - but these wipes are almost impossible to remove individually. Nearly every time we try to pull one out we get at least 3 or 4. With no realistic hope of getting them back in to the container in a way that would allow them to be used later, the wipes end up going in the trash as they dry out before they are useful.

In other words, you save money at the register and lose it at home.


Diaper Fail

25 July 2016

A rather inglorious problem today. We've had several diapers in this lot that have had defective adhesive (for closing the diaper). This one unfortunately was on Lucas while he was sleeping with only a t-shirt on. The diaper failed, poop was everywhere when he woke up. The cleanup was a mess, and to make matters worse it was on a day that he needed to get to daycare.


On Pedals!

6 August 2016

Today was a rather monumental day by my opinion. After quite a bit of practice, today we put pedals on Zack's new bike and he successfully rode with them! As mentioned under "Budget Balance Bike" I decided to take the pedals off of Zack's new (used) bike and use it as a "balance bike" of sorts. We used it like this for several weeks so Zack could get used to balancing the bicycle; now today we put the pedals back on, and he did great! We've been using the basketball court at the local park (approximately a half-court_ as his practice ground, now he can pedal his way across the court!

Daddy is very, very, proud.


Smoke Detectors

10 September 2016

Our current house was rather lacking in working smoke detectors, so I decided to do something about it. Our favorite big-box home improvement store had an almost bewildering selection of detectors, but I eventually settled on one with an included "10 year battery". The brand isn't terribly important, as this seems to be a rather common idea now; an included battery that is supposed to last the life of the detector itself; you throw it all away at once when 10 years is up.

Then it occurred to me, after I put it up. In 10 years, Zack will be old enough to test for his driver's license.


Avent Soothie Pacifiers

4 November 2016

The "Soothie" pacifier is quite ubiquitous. It is the standard pacifier for hospitals seemingly everywhere. Some time ago Avent (the same Avent that makes the bottles I so thoroughly despised years ago) bought out the rights to the Soothie pacifier and started making them under their name.

I'm happy to say that Avent (a brand of Phillips) did not make the Soothie pacifier any worse. The quality did not change; we saw this when Zack was growing up as that was when the acquisition occurred. Really, I can't fault them on this.

When Lucas was born, the hospital naturally gave him some Soothie pacifiers, and he took well to them. So we have continued to buy more of them as needed.

And we have bought A LOT more of them. I don't recall buying this many for Zack, though it is possible we did. It seems that Lucas manages to lose them at a staggering rate.

I can, however, blame the high loss rate on the design. The Soothie pacifier is completely round, which makes for something that rolls really well. Really, really, really well. Once Lucas learned how to throw them, the hunt was on. While the time between him being able to throw and being able to go after them (either crawling or walking) was mercifully not long, it was still a challenge. Lucas also finds it amusing to throw them from shopping carts or other places, which can make it very difficult to find them as he is restrained and I don't always see it go.

The real tragedy of this is that there have been times when Lucas has been out of pacifiers at day care, and they have used loaners that were other manufacturers. He does not seem to mind those other pacifiers. Yet as if I have amnesia every time I am a the store, I buy the Soothie anyways. Lucas has easily gone through 30 of these already, probably more. Where are they? We might never know.


More Thoughts on Tee Ball

1 December 2016

Admittedly, this is an odd time to be thinking about tee-ball - even when one considers how very little snow or winter-like weather we've had so far this year in Minnesota.

The thought came back to me just because I still have pictures from both of Zack's tee-ball seasons on our fridge. Zack did summer tee-ball two consecutive summers, and I volunteer coached both of them. I mentioned one of them previously in this blog.

Part of why I wanted to mention this now though is that I do tend to attack a lot of products here when they frustrate me. Here, I am endorsing a product that makes me happy. Even though we had mixed results with tee-ball (much of which was beyond our control and caused by the weather) we had a really great time. Unlike most sports that come up for older kids, in our city any parent can volunteer to coach tee-ball, and all the coaches are parent volunteers. It really gets parents a different opportunity to interact with their kids on a recreational level. It was really interesting to see how different kids took to it, as well as how their parents reacted.

There does seem to be a certain challenge in getting parents to get involved, though. I don't know if this is the pendulum swinging to the opposite end from the previous "helicopter parenting" model or if something else is at play here, but some times it was really difficult to get the parents to show much interest. Similarly, it was at times really difficult to get parents to communicate even over a very short season.


Neighborhood Conflict (of Interest)

4 December 2016

I had been meaning to bring this one up for some time, as it pertains to something that happened this summer. Only now I happened to recall it, and wanted to mention it here.

This is a story about three neighborhood families; one of which is my own. In this case we happen to not be the newest family in the neighborhood (our neighborhood is turning over rather rapidly in terms of home ownership). Strictly speaking we are not part of the conflict, but we were present when it happened.

The conflict is between a very new family and a much more established one. Really, neither of them sought conflict, it just happened upon them. It all came about one sunny summer day at our neighborhood park.

The more established family has a blonde German Shephard named "Odin". I am very much fond of dogs, and I have seen Odin in the park and in the neighborhood many times before. While the neighborhood park is not designated an off-leash area for dogs, Odin and others often are exercised in the park without leashes. My son and I have - with his owner's permission - played with Odin in the park before.

The new family is much like my own. I've only met the father of the family so far, but they have two young sons. The older is in kindergarten this year, the younger is still in diapers. They recently moved here from the east coast.

Tragically the conflict came between Odin and the younger son. I was talking with the dad at the park while our older boys were both on or near the swings. Odin came in with his handler - off-leash as he usually is - and was near the swings as well.

I don't know exactly what happened next. I was not facing the right way to see it. Suddenly I heard a noise from Odin and he was standing above the older boy. I don't know if there were claws, teeth, or both invoved but I understand there was blood drawn. The other father described it as a "mauling". What drove Odin to behave that way I will never know.

That other dad had moved in to our neighborhood less than a month before. He was, understandably, very unhappy.

I wanted to help, but I did not know how. I had incredibly torn feelings for both sides. I had a positive history with Odin and knew his owner. I have two young boys as well. My older son is often timid around dogs due to one other one from the park that once nipped at him without breaking the skin.

I have seen Odin in the neighborhood - on leash - since. I saw his owner at the grocery store once since then as well. I understand Odin was kept in isolation for a while to ensure that he was showing no outward symptoms of rabies or anything else (he has documented vaccination history).

My choice that day was to just walk away from the situation. I didn't feel I could help either much as I felt too sympathetic to both and didn't think I could convince either that I was not presenting an agenda in favor of the other. I'm still not sure I did the right thing. It certainly doesn't seem that I could have prevented this from happening but I still wonder if I could have done something different to make it better.


Euphemisms

9 December 2016

This actually happened earlier - a couple weeks prior to Thanksgiving - but I don't have the exact date and was just thinking about it recently.

When Zack and I were out selling Christmas wreaths (his fundraiser for Cub Scouts) we made several trips through the neighborhood in different directions to try to cover as many houses as possible. After all, he had some rewards (including throwing a pie in my face) that he wanted to accomplish. Some houses were more receptive than others, and we had to decide between us how to handle "no solicitor" signs on houses.

But one house in particular was a new experience for Zack. We rang the doorbell on a house a few blocks away from our own (roughly the furthest away from our house of any we visited) and it was answered by an older man. By older, he was likely over 80. His hearing wasn't great and he was a bit on the frail side. Outside the house was a riding lawnmower that was clearly awaiting repair, his garage door was open as well.

We tried to sell the man a Christmas wreath, with no success. He seemed a bit distraught and he volunteered a reason why - he had just lost his wife. I offered my condolences but it did not occur to me until we left his driveway that Zack had never heard that phrase before.

We weren't far down the block before Zack told me "I hope he finds her". I guess it was best that he didn't say that in front of the old man; I informed Zack during the walk what that phrase actually means.


On Skis

16 January 2017

Zack and I took advantage of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and went skiing. His mom was traveling for work, and his little brother was at day care while Zack and I had the day off, so it seemed a perfect opportunity. This was Zack's first time ever on any kind of skis; we had just purchased a used set of skis (skis, poles, boots) for $60 for him just before the start of the season.

One thing I learned while out with him is that it would likely be easier for me to help him learn if I am myself on a shorter pair of skis. I own a couple pairs of XC skis myself, and I happened to opt for my older, longer skis this time. It would have been easier to guide him along if I had less ski between the two of us - particularly when he needs a push to help get up a hill.

Probably more notable though was an encounter we had at the first park we skiied. Zack and I were going in to the chalet after a short loop, and were putting our skiis and poles at the rack. There was a fair bit of traffic there at the time as there was a local high school concluding their practice on a different loop. I tried to get Zack's attention by saying "over here, Zack" - only to have a very tall high school skiier turn around and ask me "what?". It was a bit like a glimpse into my future...


Mixed Blood

20 February 2017

Today was another day that Zack had off of school, so I opted to bring him in to work with me for the day. This was something of a trial run to see what options we might have for days like this in the future (ie, to see how much work I could get done when Zack is in my office).

We rode the bus in to work, the same bus I normally ride if the University semesters are ongoing. The bus goes through downtown Minneapolis without stopping, past several landmarks that Zack recognizes including the USBank Stadium.

One of the last buildings it passed before reaching campus was one that Zack had not seen before, though. A local theatre is called "Mixed Blood" and has that name in large letters near the top.

"Gross!", Zack declared, in response to the name Mixed Blood. It seemed to him that the name indicated actually mixing real (human) blood, which I'll admit does sound a little un-appetizing.

Then I explained to him what the theatre name actually meant.


Two For Two

21 May 2017

... for Strep Throat, that is ...

Thursday afternoon Lucas was sent home early from day care with a fever. This meant he couldn't go back the following day, so I took the day off to tend to him. His fever waxed and waned through the weekend, generally responding well to Tylenol.

Friday Zack started complaining about a sore throat, and seemed to find it uncomfortable to swallow any food that was harder than yogurt. I gave him Tylenol at first as well and waited to see how things went.

Then Sunday, after Zack had gone some time without eating much due to his sore throat, I took him to urgent care to get his throat examined. I had a suspicion it could be strep, but was hoping maybe it wasn't. Turned out my suspicion was right.

Then I dropped off Zack at home and brought Lucas to the same urgent care. He also tested positive for strep. That made it two for two. That was a combo I wasn't seeking to win.

Thankfully the MD who saw both of them said that they could go back to school or daycare after having their first dose, so we were well past that by the time Monday morning came around. Zack said he was feeling a lot better on Monday morning, and Lucas seemed a lot better as well. It's always amazing how much difference even the first dose of antibiotics can do for them.


First Bike Crash

28 May 2017

Zack has been on two wheels for a while now, and we took a nice evening to ride to a local park. The ride is just over a mile from our house, and I bought a seat for Lucas to ride in on the back of my bike. I checked our tires and off we went...

We made it about half way to the park and we were going down a gentle incline. Zack was enjoying the momentum from the hill and pedaling fairly well, eventually saying something expressing how much he was enjoying going faster...

Until he fell over sideways on his bike. It happened right in front of me, one of those classic moments where time seems to slow down but you can't do anything about what you are seeing. I don't know if something caused him to jerk his handlebars or what, but the bike jerked to the right and he went off over the left side.

His first words after were along the lines of "my helmet did what it was supposed to do". Indeed he wasn't hurt at all. While for him he was moving pretty fast he really wasn't going that fast. He did effectively dump himself off his bike in the middle of the street but he wasn't even scraped up. With some encouraging words I got him back on the bike and we rode the rest of the way. We even rode the way back as well.

I think he's getting the idea. And he's outgrowing this bike; he may need to move up to a bigger bike soon. I raised the seat not long after this but at the rate he's growing it won't be long until the bike is too small.


Socks

10 June 2017

Socks might be my new largest annoyance as a parent. This is certainly a problem that was not nearly as big for us when Zack was the age Lucas is now - and it is undoubtedly more of a problem with Lucas than it is with Zack.

The problem really is how socks for kids are sold. When I want to buy socks for myself I can go to the store, get a back of 8-12 pairs, pay and go home. All those pairs in the bag match, making it super easy to get socks on in the morning. Yet I cannot buy socks that way for Lucas. The socks are only sold in packs where you get 4-6 different pairs in one bag, only one pair of each style.

Now how much does my toddler really care about whether or not his socks match? Likely close to not at all. I've had times where in frustration I have grabbed two completely different socks, put them on his and sent him on his way and he could have hardly shown less concern if he tried. Really the problem here is that I want him to go to daycare with matching socks. However we have a drawer full of socks for him and in the case of the vast overwhelming majority of socks in that drawer each sock has one and only one match. This means that once I have changed his diaper, dressed him (sans socks, of course), and almost ready to get going I then have to waste time trying to find matching socks.

Clearly whoever from the sock companies thought this makes sense has not raised a toddler.


Tonsilectomy

25 July 2017

Lucas turned two at the end of April. For pretty well every day of his life up to now, he has snored loudly and had a runny nose. A while back we took him to a pediatric otorhinolaryngologist (ENT) to discuss surgery. A quick clinic visit was enough to convince her that his tonsils needed to come out (his mom had hers out at a young age, I had mine out in my mid-twenties).

Today is the scheduled day for his surgery. A rather early check-in, and an overnight stay in the Children's Hospital. I'm certian this is the right thing to do, though part of me struggles with the fact that I can't communicate well to him what is about to happen.


Post-Op Thoughts

10 August 2017

It took less time than this to notice a huge improvement for Lucas since his surgery. We are, without a doubt, glad we did this. His healing was relatively easy, he has been back to regular foods for some time now (this may be partially due to him being a rather stubborn toddler in general).

One positive - though unexpected - side effect of the surgery is the marked improvement in Lucas' demeanor. We suspect this was due to how poorly he was sleeping before his surgery, but now he is a much happier child in general. Toddlers, of course, throw tantrums from time to time but now they are less common. He is speaking much more than before as well, and better able to vocalize what he wants.


Thoughts on Fatherhood

22 October 2017

Ingrid and I went to dinner with some close friends last night, and they asked me how fatherhood has changed me (or what my favorite part of being a dad is). I don't remember my exact answer last night but I pondered it more after the night was over (not the first time I've found myself doing that over a response to something they asked or told me!) and a better answer came to me.

Fatherhood has made me more of an optimist. From my vantage point likely the most important duty I have as a father is to teach my sons to love the world. There is no shortage of chaos and terror in the world today, but I really feel I would do them a disservice to let them obsess over it.

This is particularly different from candy-coating things. If I hear news on the radio that I don't want them to hear I'll turn it off but if they ask about something I try to give the most honest answer I can based on the weight of the matter. I don't believe Zack currently knows about 9/11 (which happened before he was born) or the Sandy Hook shootings (he was about 2 at the time) or the Las Vegas shootings (he's now 7), but if he asks I'll do my best to answer his questions about them.

Zack also knows I am not a fan of Donald Trump. I make a point not to describe him in words I don't want Zack to use. I also make a point of telling him there are some places where in the interest of inclusion we don't want to talk politics (scouts, for example).

My recent trip with my boys to downtown Minneapolis is somewhat the embodiment of projecting optimism to my boys. Every year downtown is a little different, and I try to encourage them to enjoy the changes. This year a couple of our favorite things from last year were either unavailable (permanently) or closed (shorter term), so we found new favorites this year.

We had perhaps a couple lemons thrown our way, but we made really great lemonade :) Here's to many future years of great lemonade.


Camping With Two Boys

26 June 2018

This past weekend I took Zack and Lucas camping with my dad's family; the first time for the thrree of us together in a tent (Ingrid was out of town with a friend). This trip was about a month after Zack's 8th birthday and 2 month's after Lucas' 3rd. Lucas has been pretty fully potty-trained for a while now (side note the outhouses worked better with the boys than I had anticipated! - no running water at this campground).

One thing that really helped was to have air mattresses for each boy, so they could have their own space in the tent. We used an "8 person" dome tent for the three of us, with a total of 3 mattresses and 3 sleeping bags in there.

One challenge that I did not anticipate though was getting Lucas to nap in the tent. We arrived Friday early evening, and getting to sleep was not a problem by the time we went to bed. However getting Lucas to nap Saturday afternoon was not easy. The tent seemed to be too loud, too light, too warm, or some combination thereof. Eventually I put him in the car and we drove to town, hoping he would fall asleep in the car. He was asleep before we reached asphalt. We don't usually use the car to help him sleep but it worked like a charm this time. I then drove around on the country roads for about an hour and a half while he slept; even stopping for gas didn't wake him.


Parental Panic

9 July 2018

This week I was in Chicago for a conference for work. This doesn't sound like the most remarkable thing for this blog, but it so happened that the week prior I was also in Chicago; making for two separate trips (of roughly 1 week each) to Chicago in less than 3 weeks. Being as I hadn't been in Chicago for more than an hour or so prior to that for around 20 years, that was more noteworthy.

Which set up the panic. The first week I was in a hotel room with my sons all week. The second week I was in a hotel room alone all week. One night I apparently couldn't process it when I was partially awake. Around 3am I woke up and I couldn't find my sons. I realized quickly that I was not at home, and that I was in a hotel room away from home. What I did not realize as quickly was that my boys weren't supposed to be there with me. I started to panic in my half-dazed state, convinced I had lost them somewhere. In my mind they would never forgive me for forgetting them wherever they were. I very nearly called 911 to report them as lost.

Then I had a moment of clarity and realized that they were - of course - at home with their mom. Everything was fine. Eventually I was able to settle myself down for a couple more hours of sleep before getting ready for the conference.


Disclaimer

This page was written by Lee Parsons. This page has not been reviewed or endorsed by anyone and the opinions expressed herein are strictly my own. Anything resembling information in this writing is provided with no guarantees of any sort and I will not be held liable for anything you may do with this information.

Lee can be contacted via smoke signal, carrier pigeon, or probably more effectively by email to lparsons42 "at" gmail "dot" com.

All rights reserved, 2009 - 2017.


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