Category Archives: Parenting

Social Intelligence and Stubenville

So, just a quick time out from my usual techie posts to ramble for a bit. The Internet has gotten huge these days and once the information is out there it’s almost impossible to put the horses back in the barn. Case in point and what people are talking about right now is the verdict that just came down in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case.

Judge Thomas Lipps issued a cautionary note to children and parents, urging them to reconsider “how you record things on the social media so prevalent today.”

In today’s world where twitter feeds are archived by third parties and people who know people post their own messages of support, no matter how well intentioned, things will never be kept secret and this girl now has to live with the repercussions of what happened to her, no chance to put it behind her, unlikely that she can keep any sort of privacy.

In my own life, I really try to keep my Internet persona and my real name as separate as possible. People who know me or that I want to reach out to know my alter ego, but hopefully a random google search of my name or a couple of key facts about me don’t lead to a huge Internet trail of photos, tweets, and posting made two or three years in the past (personally, I’ve found a couple of my old posts from 15 years ago still out there).

So back to Steubenville. I read an article in the news, and quite frankly was a bit skeptical. So as I sat there on my tablet, I did a quick google search. That popped up a little more info, which then led to a little more. Long story short, within the space of about 10 minutes I knew real names, friends, random posts showed up two or three years old, even pictures of the victim from happier times. I was stunned at how much was out there. Even with all her online accounts closed, the wealth of information that is indelibly marked out there is heart breaking. Bad things happen to good people and sometimes being paranoid about protecting your name isn’t just being paranoid. Taking these lessons to heart, rules for my kids using social media:

  1. Never use your real name as your twitter handle
  2. Never use your real name on Facebook
  3. If you post or blog about your friends or family, use first names or code names only (one friend posts about her daughter as PT…. Pink Tornado)
  4. No “Internet only” friends, you should have already met people that you friend online
  5. If people tag you in photos with your real name, ask them to retag you with your more anonymous Internet handle. People who know you will still enjoy the pic, but random strangers won’t
  6. Be paranoid, always.

In today’s connected world where posts, pics and even thanks to apps like foursquare, your location can easily be tracked, I think the it takes the whole “stranger-danger” lessons from when I was a kid to a whole new level for the next generation.

My Daughter’s Adventurous Spirit

There is a timely post over at Discovering Dad called “Do It Because I Said So!”

Timely, because I find myself guilty of using the “because I said so” to the questions of “Why?”. Oh, I try to explain it, but after about the fifth or sixth why, I fall back on the old standby, maybe it’s because I can’t stand up to my daughter’s superpower, the mind bending power of 4 year old logic.

We have trees in our backyard. Beautiful plum and fig and apple trees. They make for excellent climbing, and she often uses them for these purposes. As I used to climb trees as a kid, I let her indulge herself for about 5 or 6 feet before I start to get the nervous pit in my stomach and then out comes parental mode!

  • ME: Don’t climb any higher please <parental concern>
  • HER: Why?
  • ME: I don’t want you to fall. <describe consequences of actions>
  • HER: It’s ok daddy, I won’t fall!
  • ME: You might climb too high and the break a branch. <property damage>
  • HER: I’ll be careful
  • ME: If you fall, you’ll hurt yourself <personal harm to herself>
  • HER: I’m not going to fall daddy!
  • ME: The tree won’t be able to support you if you go higher <limiting factor>
  • HER: I can see really far!
  • ME: OK honey, time to come down now. <ending the activity>
  • HER: Why?
  • ME: Because I said so. <Doh!>

So, looks like I’m off to the library to go check out the book Mike recommends on his site:

How to Work a Room, Revised Edition: Your Essential Guide to Savvy Socializing
by Susan Roane

Read more about this title…

Resolutions for the New Year

As 2008 approaches, it’s time to brush off those new year’s resolutions.

Mine are pretty standard

  1. Exercise the Body
  2. Exercise the Mind
  3. Keep the financial house in order
  4. Be the family guy

Towards that end, I’m doing several things in 2008.

  • Body: The first is that I’m Tivo’ing the show “Biggest Loser”, and will be joining their Million Pound Match-up. I’m hoping to stay inspired as I strive to get rid of those 25 pounds that have crept up since my college days.
  • Mind: SharpBrains is a good place to start. So is reading a book, playing word games and filling out crossword puzzles. My daughter got a microscope for Christmas (yes, geek-in-training!) and I’m sure I’ll enjoy showing her how to use it and exploring the back yard with her.
  • Finances: Well, I’m pretty good on this front, although things have been a bit touch and go the last 3 months or so. This year was tough with the paying off of the kitchen appliances, paying the midwife for the birth of my son, and all the other various sundries that go with welcoming a new addition to the family. I’m planning on tightening the belt (figuratively and literally) as I will be bringing low-cost and healthy meals to work more often instead of going out for high-calorie/high-fat fast food. I’m also going to work on not being the sucker for my daughter and getting her everything she asks for. I know I should say no, but I have to admit that getting her a pretty dress and seeing her eyes light up is certainly a lot of fun!
  • Family: It’s not just about kids, it’s about my partner as well. Somewhere along the way we lost our “date-night” and ended up with me coming home and taking care of the kids while she goes out for a kid-free breather and coffee with her friend (who also happens to have 2 kids of similar age). Time to start reviving “family game night” and of course “date night”!

So there are the 4 pillars and how I’m going to work this year and next on strengthening them.

Oh, and of course write more in the blogsphere. I’ve been away and quite preoccupied with the birth of my son and the holidays… time to carve out a bit more time to spend with writing.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Are We Overmedicating our Children?

I’m not a big fan of medications, at least those that treat symptoms rather than the cause.  I can understand taking medications for things like high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart conditions, etc. that you use to get things under control, but when you cover up a symptom, you’re usually not treating the root cause.

For instance, get on cholesterol reducing medication if you need it, but be sure you also watch what you eat.  Take blood pressure lowing medication, but also go out and exercise.  I’m always troubled by the mentality that just by popping a pill things are all better.

In America, I think we live in a highly medicated society.  Growing up I was told I had ADD/HD and I had to take Ritalin.  I still think I was just bored in school.  Feeding a kid a form of speed in order to make things seem more interesting isn’t my idea of treating the root cause, maybe there problem is that school really is boring?

There is an interesting post on a blog over at Vox, it rambles a bit, but definitely gets the point across that we do live is a society that overmedicates.

So it wasn’t really a surprise when I saw an article from the Washington Post,because most people seem to be under the impression if a little medication is good, then a lot of medication must be better.  Some of the text of the article is as follows:

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Johnson & Johnson on Thursday voluntarily recalled certain infant cough and cold products, citing “rare” instances of misuse leading to overdoses.

In a statement, J&J’s McNeil-PPC unit cited “rare instances of misuse”, which could lead to overdoses “particularly in infants under two years of age.”

The products being recalled include:

  • infants’ Tylenol Drops Plus Cold;
  • Concentrated Infants’ Tylenol Drops Plus Cold & Cough;
  • Pediacare Infant Drops Decongestant;
  • Pediacare Infant Drops Decongestant & Cough;
  • Pediacare Infant Dropper Decongestant;
  • Pediacare Infant Dropper Long-Acting Cough;
  • Pediacare Infant Dropper Decongestant & Cough (PE) products.

And when I think about it, when I was sick with a cold or a cough, I usually got tea with a bit of honey to soothe the throat.  But here’s the thing to remember – If you or your child is sick, your body will react in the way it best knows how to fight off the sickness.  Most medications will not “cure” sickness, but just mask them.  Sometimes it’s best to let nature run its course.

Granted, there is a time a place for medications.  But when we’ve gotten to the point where we have “anti-bacterial” everything (including counter-tops, soap, and athletic socks) and we’re at a point where the wonder drugs like penicillin are becoming ineffective against bacterial infections today, I just have to wonder if we’re heading to disaster in the form of a super-bug that’s developed resistance to all of our medical arsenal.

Cloth Diapers

Now that we have a newborn on the way, we’ve started to break out all the old gear that we packed away last year.  Included in the various onesies and sleepers is a big stack of cloth diapers.

When my wife and I first decided we would use cloth diapers, we got a lot of funny looks.  People wanted to know what  diaper service we were going to use.  We didn’t actually use a diaper service.  With a few simple tips, I think you’ll find cloth diapers are both more economical and more ecologically friendly than disposables.  I thought I’d share a few of those tips and resources here about what worked for us and see if anybody has some good advice to add.

1.  Is using cloth really economical?

Some people have said that they thought that cloth was so much more expensive than disposables.  And in the beginning it is.  Cloth is something you have to stick with for several months before you reach a break even point.

The folks over at have a great calculator for figuring out what your break even point will be, as well as how much you will save in a year and a half of using cloth.  Since my daughter was potty trained closer to 2 and a half, we saved more than what the calculator can currently show.  The “common” wisdom out there that I’ve read says you’ll save about $1000 per child using cloth instead of disposable.

2. Don’t be afraid to use disposables

For the most part, my wife and I used cloth whenever possible.  But when going over to a friend’s house to watch Monday night football or out to a restaurant for dinner, I would slip a disposable on my daughter and carry a few extras in the bag.  For me it was a bit easier to slip off the disposable, toss in the garbage, and tape the next one on.  Plus, I didn’t really like the idea of carrying around a zip-lock bag full of soiled cloth diapers.  We probably went through about 3 disposables a week, so not a big impact on the environment and well worth the extra bit of sanity it afforded.  One thing I noticed was that some restaurants don’t have changing tables in the men’s restroom, so the quicker I could get in and out the better. 

3. Use the high quality cloth diapers with plastic snaps.

I don’t even know if they still sell the square folded diapers that you have to use safety pins on.  I thought the form fitting cloth with plastic snaps was the greatest invention ever.  They are just as convenient as the disposable and they only take a few seconds extra to put on.

We bought two basic styles, the all-in-one “pocket diapers” like they have at Fuzzi Buns (you put the inserts into the cover) and the two piece kinds that are fitted cloth diapers with a separate plastic cover.


Pocket Diaper

Rolled Diaper for Trave
Fitted Cloth Diaper
Bummis Diaper Covers - Super Snap - 6+
Diaper Cover

4. Look for used on eBay and other online deals

We bought almost all of our cloth diapers on eBay (even more cost savings!).  As such, there is some mix and match.  Again, I have friends who were skeptical and there were a few negative reactions.  “Ewww, you’re buying someone else’s used diapers?”  But let’s face it, once it goes through the washing machine, it’s about as clean and sanitary as ones you’ve just bought at the store.  In preparation for the cloth diapers, we actually bought a front loading washing machine with a “sanitize” setting.  Both because we wanted those extra features and our current washing machine was on it’s last legs; it kept getting “stuck” in mid-cycle.

 5. How many diapers do I need to buy?

A good rule of thumb is about 12 diapers per day, or roughly one every 2 hours for newborns as this is about how often they soil them, just like disposables.  Multiply that by how often you do the wash and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how many you’ll need to stock up on.  I’m a bit lazy when I do the wash, and I try to time it to either the weekends, or when I have a couple of hours to spend in front of the TV watching a sports game.  I would recommend you have 5-7 days worth of diapers on hand, so about 60-84 of these little gems.  I’ve seen other sites out there that recommend 36-48 diapers for newborns, and only 20-30 for toddlers.

However many you decide to have on hand, remember to get a diaper pail with a lid and keep a big shaker of baking powder next to it.  Change the diaper, drop it in the pail, shake some baking powder on it and close the lid.  Hardly any smell.

6. How do I wash cloth diapers?

Our washing machine has a sanitize setting, so we generally use that with a cold rinse setting.  I’ve also seen articles out there that recommend rinsing the cloth diapers with Tea Tree oil and vinegar at least once a month.  BUT, whatever you do, don’t use fabric softener on your diapers!  Why you ask?  The key to laundering diapers is getting them clean without leaving ANY TRACE of detergents or their residues.  Fabric softeners work by coating individual fibers with a waxy substance. This repels water, and keeps the fibers from absorbing wetness (which is the exact opposite of what we want them to do).

There is a great article on choosing a detergent at that I recommend to everyone who is using cloth diapers.

 I’d love to hear from other dads who are using cloth diapers and any tips or tricks they recommend!  Thanks for reading.