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Timmy Tinpot

About a year ago, my family was stuck in traffic and my daughter asked me to tell her a story because she was bored.  What resulted was a story that she asked for over and over.  To make sure I could remember it, I wrote it down.  Over the next few days she continued to ask me to tell her the story and I began to think it might actually be a good one.  I shared it with a few friend’s kids and they also liked it.  I decided to try and turn it into a book, and jump forward, I have two books complete and a third in the works.

Timmy Tinpot and the Pirates is available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and several online retailers as well as via Kindle.  Order your copy here: https://www.createspace.com/4971105

A video version can be seen on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9WNrW-0yJ-e3eZpKu5lnJ0iMbsIR7-wn

Timmy Tinpot and the Cavepeople is available form the same sources. Order your copy here: https://www.createspace.com/5003846

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Seeking Contributors

Wanted: Full-time stay at home dads, part-time stay at home dads, single dads, step-dads, adoptive dads, etc. to contribute to a blog about being a dad.

Anyone who is in a unique situation, who is willing to share their perspective and outlook is welcome.

If you are interested, or know someone who might be, please contact me at: steelcitystayathomedad@yahoo.com

Please feel free to share this and forward it to anyone you think might be interested.

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The Road Trip, How to Survive with Kids

Clearly not a Kid Ready Car

Clearly not a Kid Ready Car

Traveling with children presents all kinds of problems and opportunities.  In general, I hate flying, adding children makes it even more of a headache. The alternative is, of course, the road trip. I personally love road trips. I do not mind the long hours driving, I like to see the country and when I do plan a road trip I like to plan little interesting stops along the way. However, when you add children to the mix many considerations change.

This coming weekend my wife and I have a road trip we have to drive 10 hours into America’s heartland for a wedding.  The nice thing is, the kids are not coming with us. However, in another month we have a road trip for which the children will be coming with us. This got me thinking about what we need to bring on a road trip to keep the kids occupied.  The longest road trip we have done to date with both children has not been more than two hours, and we are able to time those to coincide with naptime.  Unfortunately the upcoming road trip will be about five hours so unless we do it in the middle the night we cannot rely on the fact that the children will sleep through it.

Currently in my car, we have a variety of entertainment choices for the children. For the younger child we have toys that hang on her car seat. They jingle and make noise, she can chew on them and that keeps her occupied.  For the older child we have a magna-doodle, which works very, very well. Until she starts dropping the drawing implements and then wants them picked up while on the highway. In addition, we have a magnetic picture board. Ours is a zoo that comes with animals she can play with. Again, this works well, again lots of small parts that she can drop. She is not old enough to read yet, but picture books can work.

One of the main considerations in looking for “self-occupying” toys is the danger they might present to the smaller one. Anything that can be thrown or swung is out. You have to look at things as a potential weapon and understand the danger might represent. One activity that I have found that works well for keeping the older child occupied is a game of” I spy”. Looking for a red car, a white car, blue house, birds, or horse. It keeps her engaged looking out the window, not bothering her sister and most importantly, it does not cost anything. There is no equipment for her to drop, there are no toys to throw, nothing to break or be forgotten. The drawback to this game is that the parent has to fully engage. Sometimes when you are driving that is not possible. If you have two parents present its great, but at some point, she will become bored.  A new solution we have been looking at is the in car DVD. Our vehicle did not come with the equipped overhead DVD system so we looking at the headrest mounted movable DVD.  I like this because it is out of reach, and can eat up large chunks of time during the drive.  When the younger one is old enough to have an opinion choosing the movie might be a fight, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

The in car DVD has a lot of benefits, but also a few concerns. Just like the normal amount of TV watching that your kids have, you want to limit it. When you are looking at a road trip, your minutes turn in hours very quickly. The primary benefit of the in car DVD movie experience is that the kids are fully occupied, the parents do not need to be part of it, and you can pay attention to driving/navigating/whatever you need to. Just like at home one of the main drawbacks of having TV in the car is that you end up watching Tinkerbell’s Great Fairy Rescue or Brave seventeen times in a row.

 

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Hiatus, and playing Zone defense.

I took a break from blogging for a while after our second daughter was born, but I am going to get back at it.  The transition from being a stay a home dad with one kid to two kids was a big one.  Not only did I go from playing man defense to zone, but one of them was an infant. 

I used to be able to have a really engaged active day with my older daughter, and suddenly I had to get her engaged, and then spend time making sure the younger one wasn’t swallowing her toys, falling, etc.  We also had a good bit of jealousy directed at the new arrival, so I had to actively prevent injury from pushes, smacks and biting.  Needless to say it got to be a bit much. 

The weather is breaking now so that gives a lot more options as to how to fill a day.  In the winter (with the baby) options were very limited.  We couldn’t go outside and play unless someone was here to watch the baby inside, so most winter activities were out of the question during the week.  We did into crafts so that was a good alternative, but man is it scary to see a 3 year old with scissors.  Active play was limited to the mall (not all play areas are created equal) and once a week story time at the library (not really active, but social).

With the changing seasons now the zoo is back on the itinerary, as are simple trips to the park.  A new found interest in mummies and space help to make the natural history museum and science center good choices too.  Of course, any trip now involves two kids, but that can be discussed in another post.

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Important Milestones for Dad

“Take me out to the ball game…”

There are some milestones in a child’s life that everyone celebrates. First steps, first word, birthdays, haircut, the list goes on as the child ages. These are nearly universally marked as special occasions by all parents. Then there are milestones that are more important for one parent. Mom probably does not think the first round of catch is as important as dad does. Likewise dad’s only concern with a prom dress is that it stays on all night.

Some milestones are important for both parents but are viewed quite different depending on the child experiencing the event. The best example of this is the first date. A boy’s first date will go virtually unnoticed by dad, but will be chronicled like a royal wedding by mom. When a girl’s first date comes around mom might still be getting out the camera, while dad is cleaning his shotgun.

Thinking back to my own childhood, I anticipate many milestones that my wife will avoid like the plague. The first camping trip will be one that will probably be shared with the whole family, but much like the first date, it is heavily weighted towards one parent.

First sporting events tend to be important for one parent, based on their own fandom. The first baseball game was a good example of this. After while recalling the event for grandparents my wife focused on how cute my daughter was in her little Pirates jersey, how much she liked walking around, and how well behaved she was. I, on the other hand, talked about actually watching the game with her, explaining not to clap for the Reds, and what the white lines meant.

I do not think we can qualify one point of view as inherently better, but I do think that I created a more meaningful memory for myself. Just as I will not remember shopping for the first day of school shoes, I am willing to bet my wife will not remember where we sat for the first ball game. She will remember that the Pirates lost, but that is a gimme.

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Quick Rant About Mall Play Areas

Let me start by saying I love mall play areas. When I was young playing at the mall meant riding on a mechanical horse for fifteen secs, and a fairy tale from a giant gold painted castle (this part was pretty cool).

Today there are slides, rubber carpet, free books. It is a great place to keep the kid occupied while one parent shops, or as an alternative to the park on a weather day (300+ of these a year in Pittsburgh).

What I hate are the parents who think that the play area is their own home. Most play areas have the same basic rules:
1. Kid must be shorter than X in. to use the play area.
2. No shoes
3. No food/drink
4. Kids must be accompanied by parent

This is not rocket science, and yet so many parents seem to not understand these rules.

I get that older brother/sister might still want to run around, so I can understand a bending of the first rule. However, when you kid can drive themselves to the mall they are too old for the play area. I actually do not see the food/drink being violated too much. A snack here or a sippy cup there, but no one is laying out a picnic spread. The no shoe one kills me. I seriously want to tackle the kids with shoes on and take them off myself. It is always the kid with shoes who wants to run around with their eyes closed, up the slide, arms out, stepping on toes and knocking other kids down.

It is the last rule that really burns me. Johnny and Susy are tearing around the play area, throwing books, blocking the slide, etc. Mom/Dad is sitting there eyes locked on their iPhone (happens all the time), talking with friends oblivious to what is going (at least once every trip), or sleeping (yes I have seen this too). Is it really so much to ask that you remain conscious and aware of what your child is doing? I would love to take a book and read while Kristen is playing, but it isn’t a daycare. There is no one else watching her if I am not.

This brings me to my question, should the mall have someone there to monitor the play area? They don’t need to watch the kids themselves, just make sure their rules are being followed. What do you think?

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A Man’s Diaper Bag

A Man's Diaper Bag

What does a SAHD carry in his diaper bag?

Most diaper bags scream mom. They tend to the pinks and light purples, and more closely resemble an overgrown purse than anything else. One of my first actions as a SAHD was to find a bag that was fit for a man.

There are many options for diaper bags, some small handheld jobs, some that should come with wheels. Some have compartments and zippered pockets, some are simply one big pouch.

1. The bag itself:
I prefer a bag that is not cluttered up with hundreds of little pockets, this is a simple canvas messenger bag. It has one large compartment, with a single smaller zippered pocket. I find that the single pouch approach works well, if you keep your items in gallon freezer bags. This keeps everything organized, easy to take out and has the added benefit of preventing leaks and spills from the lotions that you need to carry. This bag was not made to be a diaper bag, and I think that is why I like it. I carried this as my bag for work for five years before it ever saw duty in the diaper wars.

2. The diaper accessories bag:
This small bag holds everything that is needed for a run to the bathroom with the kid. Having this allows you to fill the diaper bag with food, toys, purchases, and not have to haul everything with you when you have hit the changing station. You want a bag that will fit the essentials, but is not a second diaper bag. This one came on a sheet set, or towels.

3. Changing Pad:
Not only will this give a little padding between your kid and the counter/changing station, it also keeps them from laying directly on the possibly dirty surface. When changing at a friend’s house it also acts a barrier for any leaks that might occur during changing.

4. Diapers!:
What is a diaper bag without diapers? I suggest keeping at least 6 in your bag. This sounds like a lot, but if you keep them in a freezer bag, you can compress them down quite a bit.

5. Wipes:
There are wipes made to travel, but I find that the closers/lids tend to not work very well. We use wipes at home that as in a soft-sided container, this works great in the diaper bag once about half of the wipes are gone.

6. Dirty Diaper Bags:
These are essential for containing the smell of a used diaper.

7. Crayons:
You will get crayons at almost every restaurant you take the kid to, just grab them and toss them in your diaper bag. If you are ever stuck at the DMV, a church service without child care, or any situation where the kid might get bored, these are a quiet life saver. (These go in the small zippered pocket, or get their own zipper bag.)

8. Sun Block:
Carry this at all times, even in the winter. Once you take it out of the bag, you will get caught without it in the Spring.

9. Hand Sanitizer:
If you have had your kid for more than a week this one is self explanatory.

10. Diaper Cream:
Especially early on this will be crucial. Again, the minute you do not have this on you, you will need it.

11. Multi-tool:
Now this is where we get manly. I have always carried a pocket knife/multi-tool. Really any guy should, because you will always find a way to use it. As a dad this gets even more use. Kid broke something, fix it. No bendy straws, cut a straight one down to size. Fingernails long enough to scratch other kids, file them down. I especially like the Gerber as it can be opened with one hand, and one handed is how you will go through the first few years of the kids life.

12. Snack:
Again, keep these replenished. I alternate between chewy granola bars and gummy fruit snacks. Neither suffer from being bounced around the diaper bag, and they both work great when you need to bribe your child to leave the playground, get in the car, come down off the roof.

There will always be items you want to carry that are specific to your outing (beach, zoo, mall, etc.) but these are the essentials that you should always have with you.