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Category: Fatherhood Friday

I am a big fan of podcasts; I listen to several as a way of keeping myself educated and informed on business matters. I’ve been searching for a good fatherhood podcast for some time, with limited success. It’s not so much that the podcasts haven’t been good, just that they haven’t really struck a chord with me. For example, the GeekDads podcast is very well done, but just didn’t really catch my attention.

A couple of weeks ago I visited Cast Of Dads and downloaded episode 7. Entitled “We Were All Morons”, I thought it was worth a listen. Unfortunately, it took me until yesterday to listen to the podcast – it was worth the wait.

The podcast consists of 5 Dads who are responsible for 13 children across a wide range of ages. The banter was natural, and really sounded like a group of guys just getting together and talking about the things that were on their minds.The podcast included a great discussion on dealing with bullying that I though was handled really well. All too often a group of guys would revert to bravado and deny that they or their children were ever bullied. Instead, these men offered up personal insights and workable solutions to the problem. Bravo.

So if you, like me, enjoy listening to podcasts, please check out the Cast of Dads. Their podcast is located at:http://castofdads.squarespace.com.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
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Several months ago I was interviewed by author Craig Baird for a new book that he was writing about becoming a dad for the first time. Craig is a well-established author, and I knew that he was interviewing many other fathers for his book, so I was really honored just to be selected for the interview process. I signed a release form so that my information could be used if my interview happened to be one of the few that would end up being selected.

Time passed and I had not heard anything about the book for some time, so I assumed that I had not made the cut. Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I opened my mailbox and found a copy of I’m Going to Be a Dad: Now What? Everything You Need to Know About First-Time Fatherhood inside of an envelope. Hurriedly, I flipped through the book, hoping to find my name, and I did. A two page spread chronicling some of my experiences leading up to the birth of Nick and the changes that he brought into our life. It felt great to be given the chance to share my experiences with so many potential readers, just as I share a lot of my thoughts with all of you here.

I wanted to post the story here immediately, but I thought it would be prudent to actually read the book first, to make sure that it was worth talking about. Featured in it or not, I try my best to provide only good information to all of you.

So, I took some time to read the book, and I was impressed. The book really focuses on first-time dads, and most of the information contained in it will be old news for anyone who already has children. However, if your significant other is pregnant right now for the first time, I would really recommend picking the book up and reading through it. If it’s been a while since you’ve had small kids in the house, the book could also serve as a refresher course on babies. It is well-written, and offers many different viewpoints through interviews with real-world dads.

You can buy the book from Amazon.com by clicking here.
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My son is becoming a thrill junkie. It all started innocently enough. Driving a truck on icy winter roads means that from time to time we would do a little fishtail when going around corners or when starting out from a stoplight. The ensuing giggles encouraged Dad to try a couple of donuts in an empty parking lot. This was greeted with a wonderful “Whee!” sound from the back seat. (It also led to my wife asking me why Nick asked her to “do some donuts” on a morning when she drove him to daycare. Oops.)

However, the thrill seeking reached its peak about a month ago. I took Nick to a nearby hill with his sled. Now, it’s not as if I went out and bought the boy a GT Snow Racer or a snowboard – he’s got a classic kiddie sled – wooden, with two ski’s, sides, and a curved back. The hill was busy that day, with lots of older kids sledding off jumps and racing each other. I got Nick seated in the sled, then took him part way up the hill. I turned him around and gave him a gentle push. He went sliding down the hill, coming to a stop a little ways away.

Hearing no sound, I ran up to Nick and asked him what he thought. No response. “Nick, was that fun?” I asked. He nodded. “Do you want to try again?” He nodded.

We repeated the experiment a couple more times. It didn’t seems as if he was really enjoying himself, so I asked him if he wanted to go home. The reply was clear. Mustering all the anger he could, he turned around, pointed to the hill and yelled, “No! I want to go to the TOP!”.

We continued sledding for a while, moving further and further up the hill each time until I was comfortable with how stable his sled was, and we eventually reached the top of the hill. By now, Nick was having so much fun that he was getting out of the sled by himself at the bottom of the hill and starting back up before I could reach him.

Since then we’ve gone sledding a couple more times, and each time he gets more confident. He now tells me the direction he wants to go and the path that he wants to take. He asks me to give him a push so that he goes faster, and now wants to race someone down the hill each time.

I think that’s pretty cool. It’s time for Dad to pick up a sled. Maybe that GT Snow Racer that I always wanted as a kid.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
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Last week I mentioned that Nick’s Mom had gone away for a few days, but that Nick and Daddy were doing just fine without her, thank you very much. We played all the time and had a lot of fun. We even had a chicken stir-fry for supper one night – how’s that for getting all of your vegetables?

Of course, I also mentioned “We miss Mom, but this isn’t an unbearable situation in the short run.” I was right, in the short run it was just fine. However, by Monday night both Nick and I were really missing Mommy. It’s not that we couldn’t do it for longer, it’s that we were happy we didn’t have to do it for longer.

Sometimes it’s so much fun being a Dad that we forget how wonderful it is to have a Mommy around too.

Thanks Mom, for all of your hard work.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
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My wife and I have been discussing when we should move Nick to a big-boy bed for some time. While he has never actually climbed out of his crib, we have caught him with his leg over the railing quite a few times. He is also becoming more and more independent; he now goes to bed with a couple of toys and a flashlight. It’s hard to believe this, but the flashlight is because we have had a few nights where Nick has asserted that the Cookie Monster is hiding in his room. However, the giant recall of Stork Craft cribs this week has given us the kick in the pants we needed to make a decision.

It shall be tomorrow.

Like most decisions, this one has not been taken lightly. Replacing a crib with a bed has several implications. From now on, when he doesn’t want to stay in his bed, he doesn’t have to. This means that a serious second look should be taken at just how child proof his room is.

For example, we have never installed drawer locks on his dresser, nor have we anchored his dresser to the wall. It is very easy to open the bottom drawer of his dresser and tip the dresser over. In addition, the cord for his lamp that used to be behind his crib, will now be at the foot of his bed. I don’t like exposed cords, because if they come partially unplugged they can pose an electrocution hazard for little fingers.

Now that he could be walking around his room at 2am with no supervision, we need to take care of these things. We also needed to be concerned with getting Nick prepared emotionally for this journey. A quick Google search revealed an Elmo book on this very topic:

I picked it up at a local bookstore earlier this week, and it’s perfect. Nick loves Elmo, and the book is short. We’ve been reading it a couple of times a day and he’s getting hooked.

We are also involving him in the process of converting over to a bed. He loves ‘fixing’ things with me, so tonight we are going to go to Toys ‘R’ Us and pick up a tool kit so that he can help me assemble the bed. We will also be assembling the bed on Saturday morning so that he can play on/around it all day.

Finally, I will be sleeping on the floor in his room on Saturday night.

Hopefully, all of these things will mean a seamless transition from crib to bed. I will try to post some more information about this process in the coming week.

Stork Craft & Fisher Price Recall 2.1 Million Cribs

I’ve got a few comments and extra information about this recall, but first, in case you haven’t heard about this yet, here is the link to the actual recall.

http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml10/10046.html

Note that this recall affects all of North America.

Getting through to Stork Craft has been almost impossible this week. However, I did manage to find a link to the Stork Craft blog that not only seems to work, but also provides the information that concerned parents need to get.

http://storkcraft.blogspot.com/2009/11/stork-craft-recall-information.html

The company has also issued a YouTube interview with the President of Stork Craft. You can view it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EuCV8f1ndc

Stork Craft has also posted a YouTube video showing how to install the recall kit. You can view it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2RUXYmipmU&feature=related

You should also note that this is not the first time Stork Craft has had a recall on these cribs. I covered the last recall here:

http://justcallmedad.com/2009/01/important-storkcraft-crib-recall/

While the repair kit has been approved by Canadian and US officials, one US official, Inez Tenenbaum, head of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, suggested on NBC’s Today show that “It is made of plastic, so if you can afford another crib that does not have a drop-side, or even if you can’t afford it, there are many charities in communities that can provide you with a new crib. That really is the safest way to handle this situation.”

This is the crib that we have; we have inspected it and have found everything to be in good working order. Nick is still sleeping in it for the time being.

Depending on the age of your child, you have a few options.
1. Replace the crib with a new crib.
2. Repair the crib as per the recall.
3. Replace the crib with a toddler bed.

Parenting is never easy, is it?

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
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Let me start out this post by saying two things:

1. I am not a doctor, just a concerned parent. This post represents only my opinion, and you should do your own research and consult your own experts before making a decision.

2. I live in Canada. This may seem insignificant, but my readers that live in the United States have many more, and in my opinion better, options available to them.

The Canadian government, like most other governments, has locked up the market on the swine flu vaccine. This means that if you want to get it, you will probably have to get it from a government clinic or vaccination program. This also means that the vast majority of the vaccines on the market today will have been chosen by the government in order to protect the widest cross section of people. Any pandemic prevention program is a numbers game; save the lives of the most number of people possible.

It is in that last sentence that things go from theory to reality for most parents, especially those that live in Canada. You see, the Canadian government has chosen two vaccines to distribute amongst its citizens. One is adjuvanted, one is non-adjuvanted. An adjuvant is a chemical substance that is added to a vaccine to quote “make it more effective” endquote. While that sounds like a good thing, it is a little misleading. See, the efficacy of the adjuvanted vaccine is around 98%, while the efficacy of the non-adjuvanted vaccine is about 95%. That hardly seems like a difference that makes it worth adding extra chemicals to a drug. In reality, an adjuvant does one other thing: it allows the drug manufacturer to use less anti-viral ingredients in the vaccine. Anti-virals are the ingredient that makes the vaccine work, and they are also the ingredient that is in very short supply. By adding an adjuvant to a drug, the manufacturer uses up less of the precious anti-viral ingredient and therefore increases the number of vaccines available to inoculate people. Thus, more people are able to get vaccinated.

At first glance, this seems like a great thing; more people get protected, and the world becomes safer, even for those who are not vaccinated. What’s the problem? Depending on where you live and what your government believes there is either no problem, or some very large concerns are raised. In much of Europe, adjuvants have been used for years. The adjuvant used in the Canadian vaccine is called AS03, and adults in Europe have been taking it or a variant of it for over a decade with very few side effects.

Notice two things: In Europe, and Adults.

In the United States, according to my research, the FDA currently has no approved vaccinations that contain adjuvants, despite their track record in Europe and approval by the World Health Organization. Why? Also, there has been very little data on their use in children. According to the drug information sheet, for children 6 months to 35 months “No clinical data are available for influenza vaccines with AS03 in this age group.”

Wait, did I read that right? There is no history of this drug being used in children from 6 months to 3 years old? Yes, that is correct. In effect, this vaccination program is going to be a very large clinical trial for the safety of adjuvants in children. Sounds creepy to me.

But, didn’t I just say that there are two vaccines, and adjuvanted version, and a non-adjuvanted version? Why not just request the non-adjuvanted version? Interesting. See, in addition to there being no research on the safety of this adjuvant in children under three, there is also no research into the safety of the adjuvant in pregnant women. So, even though the government claims that the adjuvant is safe for pregnant women, they also say that the preferred vaccine for pregnant women is the non-adjuvanted version. Because of this, the end-user does not get to choose the vaccine they receive. To me, that sounds like talking out both sides of your mouth.

Both versions of the drug available in Canada also contain Thimersol.

In the US, you have many other options, including Thimersol free versions, if you can find them, as well as a live-virus version that is inhaled into the nose as a mist.

I placed a phone call to my local health district, and was told that I could request the non-adjuvanted version, but that the decision on which version to give would ultimately be made by the person in charge of the clinic based on demand. There would be no guarantees.

What is a parent to do?

First of all, I’m not a Thimersol conspiracy believer. The drug (which acts as a preservative) is believed by many people to be a trigger for Autism, a disorder with whom any parent is well-versed in this day and age. The problem is, Thimersol was removed from almost every vaccine given to kids in 2001, and the rates of Autism continue to rise. This leads me to think that there is no Thimersol-Autism connection, and the vast majority of doctors agree with this. In my mind, there is no worry here.

Now I need to deal with the issue of adjuvants. There is a lot of talk about these chemicals on the internet, some of it correct, some of it sort of correct, and even more that is wildly wrong. The most glaring example of this is the claim that the adjuvant used in an anthrax vaccine is the cause of Gulf-War Syndrome. All of the actual research that I could find says that this is wrong, and that there was no adjuvant used in that vaccine. Other conspiracy options on the net include the adjuvant being used to sterilize our children for population control to the adjuvant causing a whole host of neurological disorders. I did not however, find any conspiracies relating to a zombie apocalypse, which is a good thing. Unless, of course, the lack of zombie conspiracies is actually a conspiracy in itself?

Even though I love a good conspiracy, I don’t believe that the government is going to knowingly sterilize an entire generation of people. However, I still don’t like the idea of my son being used as a test mule for the government or a drug company.

My available options were as follows:

1. Drive to the US for the nasal mist version.

2. Give my son the adjuvant-free version.

3. Give my son the dose and version reccomended by the government.

I strongly considered option #1. If I lived in the US, this would be my choice. However, the odds of being able to find it in the states near me, coupled with the fact that they probably wouldn’t give it to my son because we were from out of state meant that I had to let it go. My preferred choice was #2. I would gladly trade 3% in effectiveness for the reliability of a known vaccine (the swine flu vaccine anti-viral is created the same way that the seasonal flu anti-viral is created). However, I also decided that, if no other option was available, that I would allow him to get the adjuvant version.

In the end, we trekked to the swine flu vaccination clinic, stated outright that we wished for the non-adjuvant vaccine, and were promptly denied. There was only enough for pregnant women, period. Nick got the adjuvant version.

My decision process basically revolved around two factors. I did not believe that the government (and more importantly, doctors) would knowingly put an entire generation at risk, and also because I did not want Nick to get the swine flu. I have relatives in the medical field, and all of their stories are about how terrible this disease is. I know that there are a lot of anecdotal stories about the swine flu being milder than the regular flu, but in my experience many of these people are not being tested to determine whether they actually have swine flu or the seasonal flu. Doctors are treating everyone as if they have the swine flu to be cautious, but are not testing due to cost. The stories of confirmed swine flu cases I have heard all involve hospitals, very high fevers, and a lot of pain. In addition, the swine flu seems to be affecting younger children more, probably because they have been exposed to fewer viruses over their lives, while older people are more likely to already have some form of protection from the disease.

This was not an easy decision, and I know many will think me foolish for making the decision that I did. At last study, over 50% of people in Canada were not planning on taking the vaccine. I ultimately decided, based on Nick’s previous lack of reactions to vaccines and a (I can’t believe I’m saying this)  trust in the government experts, that my son would be safer taking the vaccine than not taking it.

Whatever you decide to do, please make sure that you thoroughly investigate all of your sources of information. There is a lot of great information out there, but there is also a lot of wildly inaccurate information floating around. Good luck to all of you in whatever you choose.

 Drug Data Sheet:

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodpharma/legislation/interimorders-arretesurgence/prodinfo-vaccin-eng.php

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
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If I could, I would probably live in a Norman Rockwell painting.

My family and I would live in a big white colonial home in Connecticut, and every birthday we would line the kids up against a door frame in the kitchen and mark their height off on the wood. When the time came we would do the same with all the grandchildren, and 50 years later when my wife and I were being moved into the old-folks home, the children and grandchildren would gather around the beat-up old door frame and touch the marks with a kind of love and fondness that only time can cultivate in our hearts. The house would be sold, and the new owners would move in, spackle over the marks, repaint, and restart the process with their own kids. The Circle of Life.

Of course, I don’t live in Connecticut, and despite the decorating that my wife and I do, our bungalow is not a colonial. In addition, the problem with marking heights on doorframes is that people sometimes move and you can not take a door frame with you. My solution? Double-sided tape. Let me explain.

While walking through the trim section at the Home Depot, I stumbled across a wooden corner bead, used to protect the corners of walls and various other things. This was not like the plastic corner bead that the rest of my house had, it was substantial, and an idea grew in my head:

Because the trim was so thick, it would not mate up properly with the crown molding or baseboard if I ran it from floor to ceiling. My solution was to cut it shorter than the wall, and bevel the top and bottom of the board. This piece served two purposes: first, it protected a corner that would get beat up, and second, it provided a place to mark the height of our children. Rather than gluing or nailing the trim into place, I secured it to the wall with two strips of double sided tape. In the event that we ever moved, I could simply pry the trim off the wall, paint a similiar piece of wood, and stick it back up. I like simple solutions, and this fit the bill.

There were a couple of other issues that I had to deal with. Because I was using tape to secure the wood to the wall, there was a possibility that the piece would move at some point when the tape got old. Also, if we ever did have to move it, because the piece does not go down to the floor, I would need a way to know how high to install the board in a new home.

My solution was to mark a line 12″ from the floor. This reference mark is checked every year to ensure that the trim piece has not slipped. If we move, I simply install the board so that the line is 12″ from the ground, and continue on marking it as usual.

Making the marks was easy. I took the measurement the hospital gave us on the day Nick was born, and scribed it onto the board. On his first birthday, I stood him up against the wall right before we had cake and made the mark. For his second birthday, he stood the day after and we drew the line. To ensure the marks remain after the Sharpie has worn away, I notched the board with a small file, and then marked over top of that. It should basically last forever.

There are now three marks on the wall for Nick. Only 47 more to go before I get sent off to the old-folks home. But in real-life, the board will come with me.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
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Nick loves Thomas and Friends, as I’m sure most two year olds do. The small, rugged trains are painted in bright colors, have strong magnets, and a world of television, clothing, and Internet promotion to keep the kids coming back for more. Obviously a huge marketing success, Thomas can also be used to teach our children about many things.

COLORS

One of the best things about the Thomas and Friends trains are the wide variety of colors that the engines and trucks are painted. No real life railroad would paint their locomotives red, blue, green, black, orange, purple, and brown, but it sure helps our kids learn about colors. As you play, ask your kids questions about colors like:

Nick, which engine is blue?

Nicholas, what color is Gordon?

NUMBERS

I’m sure many corporate fleets could learn something about the simple method that Sir Topham-Hat uses to keep his group of engines organized. There is no way that the local company my neighbor works for is so big that his truck deserves to have UNIT # 465C painted on the side of it. The Sodor Train Company keeps things simple: Thomas is #1, Percy is #6, Gordon is #4. This is great for learning numbers and counting. As you play, ask your kids questions like:

Nicholas, which engine is #6?

Nick, do you see the number 2 on any of these engines?

As a child grows older, you could even use the trains to teach addition and subtraction. Imagine making a long train, counting all of the cars together, and then removing two cars from the end of the train.

How many cars are left?

Or, try addition:

If Percy is pulling two mail trucks, and picks up one milk truck, how many trucks is Percy pulling now?

PHYSICS

 Alright, two is a little young to be thinking about my child becoming the next star student at MIT, but the fact is that the laws of physics control the way the world around us works. The sooner that our kids become familiar with these concepts, the sooner that they can move on to other things. Nick’s eyes light up when one train magically picks another up off the floor, or pushes another train down the track just by bringing them close to each other. Many people don’t know this, but the trains have opposite poles on each of their magnets. This means that the train cars and engines all have to be facing in the same direction in order for them to couple to each other. Place them in the wrong direction and the forces of magnetism actually repel the two cars. It’s amazing to watch my son place two cars together, realize one is backwards, and turn it around so that they both click together.

MANUAL DEXTERITY

 Those little wooden train tracks have connectors that are not much larger than many puzzle pieces. It requires a fairly high degree of dexterity to assemble a track.

IMAGINATION

Think about the considerable imaginative play that is required to create a story in your child’s mind and act it out on a set of wooden rails. Also consider the significant understanding of the world that a 2 year old needs in order to lay 10 pieces of track into a complete circuit so that he or she can drive a train completely around it. It requires a clear vision of what the end product looks like, and an understanding of cause and effect to place one piece in one way and knowing that the next piece has to go a certain way or the track will never work out. The individual pieces of train tracks are really an open ended game for kids; kind of like Grand Theft Auto 4 but without the shoot-outs (and drugs and prostitutes).

The best part? I like Thomas too. The toys are fun and simple, and I love playing trains with my son. Keep an eye on this blog for some other train news as Nick’s birthday approaches.

Interested in picking up some Thomas and Friends toys? Check out Amazon.com for a complete selection.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

I saw true fear last night in the eye’s of a mother.

Nick and I were at the playground trying out the “Big-Boy Swing” when I saw two little children run out of a back alley and down the sidewalk. I’ve never been particularly good at guessing the ages of children, but it struck me that these kids were way too little to be out on their own. I watched them for a few seconds and then they went back the way that they had come from.

As Nick and I played the boys came back once more. They made quite an impression on me. They were too small to be out running around in my opinion, especially up against a busy road. There was no parent nearby. I contemplated whether I should walk across the park and tell them to go home, then decided against it. They ran away again.

About 10 minutes later I saw a little girl (maybe 10?) running around on that side of the street. She ran across the park and asked me if I had seen two little boys. My heart sank. I told her that I had seen them, and the direction that they had run.

Nick and I left the park, and as I buckled him into his car seat I saw the mother looking around. I told her I was driving in the direction that she was looking, and asked her for her phone number in case I found the boys. She told me that she was going to be phoning the police for help, and gave me her address. She was obviously upset.

The good news: The boys were found. But it raised a few questions in my mind. Should I have talked to the boys? Should I have told them not to play there, or taken them home?

I pray that if Nick were ever lost that a kind stranger would rescue them. At the same time, I would be upset if some stranger walked up to them while they were playing in front of my house (remember, I didn’t know if the kids were right outside their house, or miles away from home).

I’d like to ask you: What would you have done? Left the boys alone? Talked to them? Called the police? Where do you draw the line when it comes to talking to other people’s children? What if they hadn’t been playing on the street, but instead running around in the mall, or hitting someone at the playground?

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
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