Friday, March 28, 2008

Easter Candy Clearance

I was pretty pumped this year to head out to the stores the day after Easter and reap the rewards of ridiculously discounted holiday candy. On Monday, I was disappointed to find that Cadbury Cream Eggs had already disappeared from the shelves of the three stores I checked. These were the only thing I was actually excited about, so I wasn't really keen on anything else available, what with 50%-off candy still technically costing money. Are the days of cream eggs being available on clearance after Easter over? Are the cream egg enthusiasts making a mad dash for the stores ahead of me? It would make sense, as these are one of the few holiday-specific candies remaining that hasn't made the effort to repackage itself for other holidays (I've never seen a Cadbury Cream Pumpkin). It also doesn't help that there is such a thing as Cadbury Orange Cream Eggs. Orange Cream? Has anyone tasted one of these (judging by the clearance shelves, the answer is no) and if so are they any good? They sound terrible, especially since the resemblance to cream eggs would inevitably invite comparison.

I did happen upon a bag of Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms, which was a rare and happy enough combination of M&M ingredients to be worthwhile. I'm hoping that today I'll stop by CVS after work and find everything to be 75% off, which just might be enough to induce me to buy a little, hollow, chocolate bunny. They have a little Peter Rabbit and he's holding a little, orange carrot. Aww!

Has anyone out there had any notable clearance Easter candy experiences this year?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kid-Safe Music You Love

Tonight, I was searching the internet, hoping to find out who recorded the awesome steel drum version of Gary Numan's "Cars" that I heard in some teenybopper store in the mall. I am happy to announce that the artist is "The Katzenjammers" and you can listen to the track on Hype Machine by clicking here.

Then I said to myself, "You need a Clever Dad post for today. Take this information and make it into something about having kids."

"Okay," I replied.

And this is what I came up with:

If you're like me, there's a lot of music you enjoy that contains expletives, glorification of questionable behaviours, or confusing levels of irony. Now you have a baby, and you know there's a large chunk of your music collection that you feel you really shouldn't listen to while the kid is developing language skills or trying to develop mature and well-adjusted ways to interact with other humans. (Note: No, I do not listen to things that are completely in-SANE. I'm just saying there are some things that are mentioned in music that you'd like to put off explaining to your kid until he is at least potty trained.)

One way to continue to enjoy these songs in the presence of your adorable offspring is to track down instrumental covers of the tunes in question. What fun! Imagine the little tot dancing around in your living room with you to a family-friendly version of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" (weird example - don't know why I picked it). How sweet!

This having been said, as far as I know anyone at any age can hear Gary Numan's "Cars" with no ill effects or awkward situations as a result. Nonetheless, have a listen to the cover above. It's steel drums. That is AWE-some!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Toy Review: Oatmeal Can

Here's a classic toy you might remember from your own childhood, which is still available in stores everywhere! We've found that so far in our baby's life this is the toy that has had the most staying power. Interest in other toys waxes and wanes, but the oatmeal can is always on hand for playtime fun. Recently, my boy figured out putting things into other things. He also takes things out of things. When you're looking for a larger thing that other things can go inside, look no further than an oatmeal can.

Good, bad, or okay: Good!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Cleaning, and an Epiphany Regarding Movies

I apologize for the unannounced absence at the end of last week. My wife and I took a couple of days off for spring cleaning as well as a genuine date. She's been reading the spring cleaning tips offered recently at MomAdvice's blog, which came in very handy as I tackled the fridge on Thursday.

We had a nice lunch and a matinee on Friday, and it was together alone time which we very much needed. One thing to note, though, is that the experience of going to a movie - though not unpleasant - made us rethink the economics of the whole endeavor. It cost us twelve bucks to go to a matinee. We didn't buy popcorn or candy or pop. It was twelve bucks for two people to go to a movie at one in the afternoon, and we still had to watch a steady stream of commercials before the previews started. And then the previews, instead of being a peek at movies we might actually want to see, were all advertisements for brutal torture porn. For less than twelve bucks, a couple could have an absolutely wonderful evening at a coffee shop or a nice drink and a game of darts in a pub. You could get a decent Netflix plan for twelve bucks a month. You could watch twelve RedBox new releases for that price. Yes, after this sudden realization, we may never again set foot in a movie theater.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What's the Matter with Teens These Days?

According to this article at Salon, maybe teens are doing okay - or at least not as badly as the older folks lament. In particular, this commentary explores how the internet has changed things for kids these days. Teens spend a lot of time on the internet and you can't throw a wireless mouse these days without it bopping someone on the head who is in the middle of explaining that the net is melting young people's brains right out of their skulls. But, the author says, like anything else new and revolutionary, there is good as well as bad. Teens are reading. Teens are socializing in a broader world. Teens are writing about themselves without being forced to in a classroom setting:

Or is it the older generation that the Internet has seduced -- into the inanities of leveling charges based on fear, ignorance and old-media, multiple-choice testing? So much so that we can't see that the Internet is only a means of communication, and one that has created a generation, perhaps the first, of writers, activists, storytellers? When the world worked in hard copy, no parent or teacher ever begrudged teenagers who disappeared into their rooms to write letters to friends -- or a movie review, or an editorial for the school paper on the first president they'll vote for. Even 15-year-old boys are sharing some part of their feelings with someone out there.

What's interesting about reading this is that I feel I fall somewhere in between the older and younger generations described here. I was in high school when everyone started getting internet access at home, so perhaps I identify more with the teens in question than with the concerned adults. I think the internet has enriched my life in many ways and encouraged communication with friends that I might otherwise have lost. I believe my overall ability to express myself through words has improved during the years I have spent keeping various personal blogs.

Though my inner curmudgeon does rear its head whenever I see a cell phone commercial that shows teens mindlessly texting "LOL ROFL!" to each other. I am still one who thinks sometimes silence is better than communication. We need downtime to process all this new information we have access to, and understand our relationship to it, and make some personal decisions about what information we will seek out and what is not worth our time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Solution for the Snot Moustache

Sometimes, when he has a bit of the sniffles, my baby boy wakes up with crusty, dried snot generously coating his nose and/or moustache area. You may know from experience that little kids do not have a lot of patience for having bits of their face scrubbed. You're short on time, but you don't want to leave the kid with this unsightly and uncomfortable mess on his face when you drop him off at daycare. I find that applying a bit of petroleum jelly to the area helps soften the crust. After a few minutes (get him dressed, get his shoes on) you should be able to wipe it off with a tissue or cloth.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Frozen Washcloth Makes Great Teething Toy

My baby has a couple of teeth and is probably working on more as I write this. An invaluable aid in this process has been the simple teething toy pictured above. Simply fold up a little washcloth, dampen one end in water and place in the freezer. Keep a couple on hand for those times when your little teether needs something to occupy his mouth and numb the pain.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Baby Food Cubes

We have been saving a lot of money on baby food (not to mention feeding our baby a far more appetizing and less processed diet) by making our own. I know you probably have your doubts about this one, but you really do not have to be an overachiever in order to do this. Here's what you need to do:

  • Dump a bag of frozen veggies into a microwave-safe bowl with a small amount of water and cook. It depends on your model of microwave, but I'd say try cooking on full power for about four minutes, stir, then cook another two minutes. My wife simply describes this step as "cook the bejesus out of them."
  • Grind the heck out of these using a food processor. You should make sure to have some water involved in this step too. You can also use a blender - those are just a bit harder to clean.
  • Dump the fine puree of veggie into a seperate bowl and get going on the next veggie. Meanwhile, a partner or friend can start spooning the puree into ice cube trays.
  • Freeze, remove from trays, store in bags.

You can also puree frozen berries into applesauce to make cubes of flavored applesauce. Just buy the big, giant jar of natural applesauce (not the stuff with sugar and corn syrup added). To keep this nice and easy, I feel I should provide another list of things you don't need to do:

  • You needn't use fresh veggies. I know the tremendous guilt involved in every parenting decision these days is making you think that you should only feed your baby fresh, organically-grown vegetables - and you can do this if you want - but you should know that it is unnecessary extra credit.
  • Once you've already established that your baby isn't allergic to any of the foods being used, then you don't have to clean or even rinse your food processor between batches.

When it's time for a meal, just put a couple of cubes of veggies into a little bowl and microwave for 30-60 seconds, making sure to break it up a bit with a spoon once it's been in there for 30. It appears that the fellow behind The Simple Dollar is also planning to do something like this, and a discussion of the merits of various methods has broken out in his comments thread.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On Managing Puke

I apologize up front for the lack of a post yesterday, but my baby threw up on me... and on himself... and on about an acre of carpet in his bedroom.

I'd like to provide a couple of quick tips on dealing with baby vomit that have really helped us navigate our way through some very troubling situations:

  • Agree upon a rule in your household: If the baby throws up on you, you do not have to be the one to clean it up (barring unavoidable circumstances).
  • If you are alone in your house and the baby throws up all over you, get the soiled clothes off yourself and your baby, then immediately call someone. You need to talk to someone about this. Don't feel bad. This is a disgusting thing that has just happened to you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Magnetic photography

With digital photography having come to dominate the home snapshot market, and memory getting more abundant every year, we take literally thousands of pictures of our baby. We went ahead and bought the 2GB memory stick so we could just snap, snap, snap away without concern. If you take this many pictures of your little tyke, you probably often print a few off for family, friends, and yourself through a service like Snapfish, Shutterfly, Walgreens, Walmart, etc. (I don't want to promote a specific one, though I think my wife usually goes with either Shutterfly, or the online photo service from HyVee: a local grocery chain.) This can lead to piles of photos building up in your house. Where do you put them all? I guess you could use the fridge, but that would lead to a mess of photos half-covered with a motley collection of magnetic fruit and other bric-a-brac, right?

What we've been doing is simply taping bit of magnet directly to the back of the pictures. You don't even have to go out and buy magnetic strips for this (though you can). Just cut up some magnets you've gotten from the bank, your realtor or some old magnetic schedules from a college sports team.

Pictured above: Our freezer door shows its enthusiasm for our photographic hobby.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Get a Free Toy With That Sandwich

Want an easy way to accumulate some of those fun, little toys that babies and toddlers use as fodder for their burgeoning imaginations? If you're one who takes the occasional meal at a fast food joint, get yourself the kids meal and ask to receive the toddler toy instead of the big kid's toy. Considering the concentration of calories in the usual fast food fare, you should probably be eating a smaller portion anyway. This is how we got the cute, little monkey above. Hey monkey! Put down that dang banana and drive, okay!

Friday, March 7, 2008

In the infirmary

(Cleverdad is not feeling well. He will return Monday)

The lovely ladies at daycare informed us that the baby has hand foot mouth disease, a common, mild illness that is likely almost over. The baby's doctors completely overlooked the symptoms that obviously pointed to this, and instead ordered chest x-rays and proclaimed it to be a combination of RSV (which he is too old for) and skin rashes due to poor babycare from his parents (which is insulting). And these clowns spent how much on medical school?

As for Cleverdad, he seems to have contracted some sort of nasty bug that gave him a fever of 104 degrees (he likely picked it up in the ER where the baby was getting his unnecessary radiographs). The combination of the fever and the body aches makes me very concerned that he has the flu. So far he hasn't shown any respiratory symptoms, aside from a slight cough, so hopefully he will wake up tomorrow feeling terrific. If not, Clevermom has a lot of work ahead of her.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

On Not Wanting to Find a Babysitter

I've been meaning to write something about babysitters, specifically how my wife and I haven't found an in-town babysitter yet. Not that we've been trying. We've tried to try, occasionally. We talk about how it would be nice if we could both go out with friends to a show or go to a movie just the two of us and leave the baby with a reliable person whose references we've checked. There is a desire on both our parts to get out and have a nice time once in a while without baby responsibilities, going places babies can't go: A nice, adult dinner-and-a-movie, or perhaps a burger basket in a downtown pub on a Friday night. However, there is also a lot of reluctance to actually spend that time away from our little boy.

So we'll talk for a while, whistfully remembering things we once did, lightly complaining about how we don't have family in town and it's hard to just take some time for ourselves, and planning possible dates. But then my wife expresses reluctance, and I can see on her face that she already misses the baby just by talking about it. I miss him too. I understand how she feels. This morning, she and the baby dropped me off at work, which is a change from our usual routine (another sick day from daycare, this time with his mom). As they pulled away from the curb, I watched my baby zip away from me in his rear-facing seat, craned my neck to catch one last glimpse of his face, and felt a brief pang of emotion, missing him already. I never really understood what the emotional connection to one's child would be like before experiencing it.

It isn't like we're really tied down with the little lad, anyway. We were both mostly homebodies to begin with, and he sleeps so well at night that we always have just-the-two-of-us time each night after baby bedtime. Also, it's not like either of us has a lot of friends, especially not nearby. And those friends we have are actually legitimately interested in the baby, so we don't really want to exclude him from the group.

I suppose we're eventually going to have to find someone we trust who can look after him. It's just difficult to start the process because we aren't in a hurry.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Easy Diaper Change Pack

I'm very much into simplicity, and the project below greatly simplifies the amount of stuff you have to drag along with you on short trips with your baby.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sick Baby

I'm home with the baby all day today after we took him to the emergency room with a fever of 102F and constant moaning. He looked miserable and felt miserably hot. They ruled out a lot of bad things, which is relieving, and said it's probably RSV or some other viral infection. This morning, rest and baby ibuprofin have him feeling much better and he's taking a nap upstairs.

Skimming through parenting/lifestyle blogs for a few minutes turned up this post in Parent Hacks, which I mention because I think it is the first moment in my life that I've even considered the possibility that my boy won't want to drink water when he's a toddler.

Update: Baby is happier and temperature is down, thanks to good care and ibuprofin.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Review: Ministar Baby Shoes

These Ministar Baby Shoes, available at Target look like stylish big kid shoes but slip on like booties. They're a less expensive version of Robeez brand shoes, and I don't know why anyone would pay Robeez prices when they can get the Ministars. These shoes are awesome for our little wanna-be walker, whether he's cruising around the furniture or practicing his stride while holding mommy or daddy's hands. In fact, from what I've read, these are preferable to the expensive, scaled-down versions of complicated athletic footwear that are available for babies. A baby needs to have a "feel for the road", and those mini-Nikes are about as useful for walking as if your baby had hooves.

Good, bad, or okay: Good!