Dads Helping Dads Figure Out Being a Dad

“Daddy Fitz It” (translated, “Daddy, can you fix this?”)

All of my various experiences combined to enrich my ability to parent and to contribute to family life – at least in the eyes of my son (which really means a LOT to me!). It seemed to him like whatever got broken could be repaired by the magic words, “Daddy fitz it.”

Somewhere around age 4, Jeremy had a little toy dog that would open its mouth and bark and walk … and what ever. In Jeremy’s creative mind, it even ate. Cheez-Its. Lots of ‘em. Eventually the little thing was so full of crackers that they jammed up the mechanism and the puppy “died”. Jeremy held the thing  up to me, looked at me with his puppy-dog brown eyes and said, “Daddy fitz it?”  What’s a parent to do?  In a child’s eyes, we are omnipotent.  Gotta try!

Well, I did not know what the problem was. Until I used a razor knife to remove the stitches from the puppy’s “skin” and peeled it away to reveal the “skeletal” mechanism inside. Then I laughed out loud! We cleaned out the Cheez-Its, gave it a transfusion of WD-40, and gave it to my wife to “close”. The puppy survived the surgery with a little reduced range of motion, but it survived. And I was a hero in the eyes of my first-born.  It was a real “chicken soup” moment for this parent!

A few words of encouragement. First, you cannot break it if it is broken. Your choice is, trash it or fix it.  Be a parent!  Give it a try! Second, a little time and common sense will often repair precious things. Third, you won’t know if you can “fitz” it until you investigate and see what is wrong. And, most importantly … Four, twenty-five years from now, your son or daughter will remember you for the things you do – and that is entirely under your control!

You are parent!  You can do it!  Enjoy the adventure!

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Easter Bunny!

Yesterday we took Connor on his first trip to meet the Easter Bunny.

For those in the area, we went to South Coast Plaza, which was a fantastic choice.  They convert the Carousel from horses to bunnies, and the whole area is decorated with an Easter theme.  The bunny is not a creepy guy in a bunny suit, but is instead an impressive puppet controlled by a puppeteer who interacts with parents, the baby and photographer.  The photographer was also good, utilizing top of the line photography equipment and capturing great photos.

They are a little pricey — $8 to use your own camera and $14 to purchase their 5×7 (this includes allowing you to take your own photos).

There were some other neat things too, like a wishing well with a video camera mounted so that when the kids look inside, they see themselves in the bottom of the well (while avoiding the liability of water!).  There were quite a few people there getting pictures taken (at about 1 in the afternoon), but the wait was not bad at all.  We strongly recommend this location, and come Christmas, we will be going back for him to meet Santa!

Childbirth – A Grandparent’s View

Well, we are two weeks into this new experience of actually being a Grandparent.  What can I say?  So far it has been GREAT!  You have probably read some of Jeremy’s posts about the birth experience and the days that followed, but I would like to add some thoughts.

When we had our kids, 26 and 30 years ago, I felt a little “cheated” because I grew up in the black-and-white TV days when dads were pictured as waiting in the “Fathers’ Waiting Room” for a nurse (typically) to come in and say, “It’s a boy!” (or girl, as appropriate).  The babies were always healthy, and half the time, the father fainted.  The other half of the time, he passed out cigars to the other waiting fathers.

That “cheated” feeling came because I found myself staring into my wife’s eyes and blowing into her face to encourage her to BREATHE (he he ha, he he ha, and so forth).  I was soon rewarded by the sound of our baby crying and my wife smiling up at me and saying, “I could do that again.”  So much for the “Fathers’ Waiting Room”!

Flash forward, and it is MY son with HIS wife entering transition.  And the nurse came in and kicked us all out!  Thirty years ago, in the same hospital, we had my mother-in-law and one of my wife’s friends in the room taking pictures, but for whatever reason that was no longer a option.  And we were relegated to the hallway outside of the maternity ward.

So there were two doors between us and the exciting event.  But we still heard  the baby’s cries.  That was a moment I will NEVER forget.

So far, I’ve got to say, grandparent-hood has much to recommend it.  But I’ll save some of that for later posts.

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Itzbeen baby timer

For many looking at baby products, the Itzbeen baby timer may seem overpriced or over-hyped.  I expect that there are apps available for your phone that will do essentially the same thing as this device.  Even so, we have found it to be a very useful, if not indispensable, tool.

The Itzbeen functions differently than I had originally thought.  I thought that it was designed to function as a count-down timer for various activities such as feeding, changing, sleeping and a fourth activity, intended to keep the baby on a schedule.  In fact, the timers count up, giving you information as to how long it has been since those tasks were performed.  We don’t keep our kid on a schedule, so the way that it functions is actually better for us.

If you are expecting, you are probably thinking “come on, how hard is it to remember how long ago you changed the kid?”  Well, it feels like you are changing the kid every 15 minutes — and sometimes you are.  But during feeding and changes in the middle of the night, or when you inadvertently take a nap in the middle of the day, having a timer running is useful.

The device has a couple of extra features that are nice.  One is an led nightlight, which can be used to check the baby or to find your way in the dark.  The device does have a second back light to view the buttons and timers in the dark.  It also has a ‘switch’ which doesn’t do anything electronically, but is used as a reminder of which which breast was nursed last.  It also has a key lockout, which allows the back light and night light to function, but prevents the timers from being reset.  There is also a belt clip for portability.

It took us a while to figure out how to set the clock.  Here’s how.  Hold down the back light button and press the * to set the hours and the ZZZ to set the minutes.

The design for this device is well thought out and executed.  It is easy to use and the buttons are well spaced when fumbling in the dark.  The back light is, if anything, too bright in dazzling blue and red.  The night light won’t illuminate a room, but it is excellent for quick tasks.  If you want, or need, a timer to keep track of baby tasks, this is a great choice!

Uppababy Vista Update

After purchasing our Uppababy Vista stroller, I wrote a review indicating our choice and why.

So, Connor is 8 days old, and we have had a chance to try out the stroller: was it worth it?

After 8 days, a trip to Babies R Us and Milo’s training class, we are very pleased with our choice.  The stroller glides effortlessly and turns on a dime.  Maneuvering tight aisles is a breeze and the stroller is easily steered one handed.  The ride is smooth enough that the baby stays sound asleep.

Perhaps the most telling evidence was my sister’s evaluation.  My sister worked through college as a nanny in South Orange County.  When we told her about the stroller we were looking at, she indicated that her employer ‘spent her money on other things.’  She had not handled an Uppababy Vista before and was only peripherally familiar with them.

When she took the stroller for the first time in Babies R Us, her jaw dropped.  She said that it was like no stroller she had ever used, and had used a bunch of them.  She commended our choice, and it will likely be the stroller that she will buy after she gets married and has kids.

If you are considering the Vista, it has our full endorsement!

We are wondrously made: reflections on pregnancy and the first week with baby

Why does it take so bloody long for the baby to come?

9 months, 40 weeks, 280 days.

Other mammals have far shorter gestation periods than humans.  Sure, some parts of our internal systems are more complex, but 9 months?

I remember around month 7 realizing that this long gestation period wasn’t for the baby — it was for us, the parents.  I think it was around the time we got the infant seat for the car.  As I sat and stared at it, thinking that I should get it out of the living room and installed in the car, I realized that the mental processes required to get from “We’re pregnant!” to “We’re parents!” required at least 9 months.  It’s easy to buy the infant seat — it’s far more difficult to get used to the idea of it being in your car!

As we walked into the hospital to induce labor, I was ready to be a dad.  I had done my time in purgatory (pregnancy) waiting for the little one to come.  I had considered many of the ways that my life was going to change.  I knew that those 9 months were as much for me as for the baby.

Connor arrived at 4:41 pm.  Mom was exhausted after having contractions for over 12 hours.  Even so, she happily took all of the visitors who came to welcome Connor into this world!  Connor, on the other hand, cried for the first 5 hours of his life.  We put him to bed around 1, with a clean diaper and full stomach.  With the exception of one little cry, he slept until the nurses came to do a blood draw at 6 am.  After a change and feeding, he slept again until the pediatrician came to see him at 9:30 am.

The entire first week, he does very little but eat, sleep, dirty his diaper and cry. From what everyone has indicated, the first few weeks are easier than what comes next.  Our design allows for a couple of weeks just after birth for the parents to figure out the baby a little bit, but also to catch up on sleep (even if it is in the form of naps) to recover from the delivery.

Each stage of the child’s development is as necessary for the parents as for the children.  During the first weeks, we develop a rhythm, learning what the cries mean and getting familiar with the reflexes that we have read about, but aren’t used to seeing.  But can you imagine having a baby, born into the terrible two’s stage?  You wouldn’t have had time to learn the child’s personality, sounds or cries.  They would not have developed a bond with you.  In short, the mortality rate on babies would likely go up due to the pure frustration of parents trying to learn two years worth of information all at once!

As frustrating as it may be at times, thank God for the ‘long’ gestation and seemingly slow development.  We are better parents because of it, and our children are better off as a result.

Trout with lemon pepper sauce and rice

A good friend of mine is Japanese, and he will absolutely not eat rice unless it is normal (i.e., not quick rice) made in a rice cooker or on the stove top.  His preference is definitely the rice cooker.  Rice cookers are cheap gadgetry for the kitchen — for $15-$30, you can pick one up.  Once you use one, rice is one of the easiest sides to make, and you will turn to it all of the time.  Additionally, they come with convenient baskets that can be used to steam meat and vegetables while cooking the rice.

Costco carries (seasonally) very good flash-frozen trout in the freezer section.  The steaks are pre-portioned and come in a bag (which is around 3 pounds).  Trader Joe’s is another excellent source for fish.  Frozen fish tends to be better than fresh or previously frozen.  Try frozen, especially for those (like me!) who are very picky about their fish.

First, start the rice, following the instructions for the rice cooker.  Generally, this means using the little measuring cup to portion the rice and filling the cooker to the corresponding line with water.  Add olive oil and a healthy portion of salt (if you are concerned with sodium, use sea salt which is saltier for the same amount of salt).

Season your fish.  I like to use some mixture of: salt (I usually use kosher, but sea salt is good too), fresh cracked black pepper, rosemary, dill, tarragon and a bit of summer savory.

Take a large skillet and add olive oil over medium heat.  When the oil acquires a sheen, add the already-thawed fish.  Flip when it has browned and cook to desired internal temperature.

The FDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temp of 145 degrees.  Given that I like my steak bleu and my fish raw, I often blow off FDA guidelines in terms of cooking temps for steak and fish (do you do everything your government tells you to?).  However, for freshwater fish I generally fully cook the fish.  Why?  Well, salt water is great for killing off nasties, whereas fresh water is not.  I think (without any evidence, mind you) that saltwater fish is safer rare-raw than freshwater fish.

Once the fish are finished cooking, remove them from the pan, cover with foil to keep warm, and set aside.  Turn off the heat and immediately add a couple of ounces of lemoncello liqueur.  Immediately use a fire stick (long handled lighter) to ignite the alcohol and then turn the heat back on.  Shake the pan until the flames extinguish.  Make sure to keep a fire extinguisher handy.  DISCLAIMER: It’s your own fault if you burn your house down.

After the flames die down, scrape off all of the stuck-on bits in the pan using a wooden spoon.  These bits are called fond and are the foundation of most french sauces.  They bring a enormous amount of flavor to the sauce.  Add a little cream, some coarse cracked pepper, a little fish stock (if you have it) and a little white wine.  Check the flavor.  If it needs some sweetness (which it probably does), add honey (note: if your kids are too young to eat honey, add white sugar instead).  If it is too sweet, add a bit more white wine.  The sauce should be over heat, so the wine will cook off.  Once the flavor is right, add a small amount of arrowroot powder or cornstarch.  Once it boils, remove from heat and stir to thicken.

I usually plate this dish with a mound of rice in the middle of the plate and topped with a piece of fish with sauce ladled over the top.  Alternatively, rice can be served on the side, with the sauce ladled directly onto the plate and the fish placed on top (this is a more formal presentation , intended to show off the protein).

Dog training with Baby!

Ok, so this post might get CPS called on me, but I’m going to risk it.  We have lost a few people from our class after having babies, and understandably so.  Dog treats are not generally manufactured to human consumption standards, and may carry nasties like salmonella to which dogs are not generally susceptible.  Thus, extra care is necessary when handling treats and a baby.

Our mini-schnauzer, Milo, has been in training since shortly after we got him.  We keep him in class to keep him occupied and for socialization — Schnauzers are very smart and require something to occupy their minds.  If you do that, they are fantastic dogs.  In the more advanced classes, they learn how to delay gratification, which is wonderful when doing things like eat dinner.

Milo’s class meets on Monday nights at 9 pm.  So, this Monday we bundled up the baby — at 5 days old — and took him to class with Milo.  Something to understand about this class — all three of the dogs that are currently enrolled have been in the class at least 6 months.  The dogs are off-leash and expected to  respond to commands from a long distance and for extended periods of time.  They are incredibly well behaved.

Class went very smoothly, in spite of a feeding and two diaper changes.  We took our Uppababy Vista along with the pram attached, and kept Connor there for the majority of the class.  It did become abundantly clear that Milo needed the time for things to be, as much as possible, about him!

Milo has been fantastic with Connor.  He attempts to calm Connor when he is crying by licking the top of his head, and wants to great him when we get home from the store.  He has been very understanding when Mel is nursing and when we are changing diapers… in fact, he likes to supervise!  When we got to class, however, he went a bit nuts.  He spent a lot of time running around the store and not listening (which may partially have been the result of the rain that we have had, meaning he got less time outside to play).  Dogs don’t deal well with change, so we see continuing his training as a constant which will help him to cope with the changes in his life.  It takes a bit more work to continue the training with a baby, but we think it is worth the effort and will help Connor and Milo to become the best of friends!

Maternity pictures

Many thanks to Brienne for doing our Maternity pictures!

Brienne is a friend who we have known for quite some time, and who is married to a friend from High School.  Over the years, we have seen her start her photography business and blossom into an amazing photographer.  When it came time to choose a photographer for our wedding, we knew who we wanted.  I like to dabble in photography myself, and am always blown away by Brienne’s work.  In fact, some close friends were so impressed, that they also just HAD to have Bree shoot their wedding.


We did our Maternity shots at Scripps College, part of the Claremont Colleges and had Milo come along.  You can see some shots on Bree’s blog, linked below.  Of course, she will also be doing our newborn and first-year shots, so keep an eye out!

If you are looking for a photographer for any event or situation, take a look at her blog and website and consider her work.

Ready, Set, PUSH!

During our weekly Tuesday OB appointment, our doctor recommended that we induce.  Wednesday was our due date, but he prefers to induce earlier to reduce the risk of complications leading to a c-section.  He indicated that in the past, only about 10% of his inductions have resulted in c-sections.  For almost a month, Mel had been at .5 cm dilation, and induction (or a c-section) was beginning to seem likely, so we figured we should take his advice and go for it.

We got some dinner, checked and double checked the hospital bags, and headed over to San Dimas Community Hospital at 1 am for our reservation.  At 3, Mel was given the pre-labor drug, intended to thin the cervix.  By 9 am the dilation had increased to 2 cm and contractions were noticeable, so they pushed the meds to start labor.

Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Dilation was still sitting around 2 cm, when the doctor decided to break the water (around 3 pm).  Instantly, dilation increased to 6 cm, and contractions intensified.

Some friends (Mark and Laurel) called at about 2:45 wanting to come by.  By the time they arrived, Mel was indicating that she needed to use the bathroom.  Mark and Laurel, both EMT’s, exchanged a knowing look… it was coming.

I called the nurse and she checked the dilation, walked to the phone and called the doctor at his office.  He needs to come NOW.  Pull him from his appointment, she is 9+ and is feeling the need to push.

All told, Mel went from 2 cm to delivery in less than 2 hours!

It would have been faster, but there was a minor complication with the umbilical cord wrapped around the neck.  This is common, but can be dangerous.

Perhaps the most amazing part of labor/transition was watching the way that the human body dealt with the overwhelming pain of delivery.  When Mel was getting close, she entered an altered state of consciousness.  She seemed to be going back and forth between delirious (at times appearing passed out) when there was no contraction and oblivious to everything when there was a contraction.  I found it helpful to take her face in my hands and touch foreheads to get her attention.

A recommendation — if anyone is waiting until the end to come, call and tell them to hurry when she reaches that point!

For first-time dads-to-be:

Forget the stages that they talk about in birthing classes.  Here they are in terms that you will remember (for natural birth, no epidural) ;)

1) water breaks/early contractions

2) “I can’t do this” stage (this is what she will be saying/screaming — my wife indicated that we needed to leave the hospital and tried to get up out of bed, IV and all, which was the transition to stage 3)

3) Altered state of consciousness/”I need to do a number 2″

4) “I need to push” (strap yourself in, it’s coming)



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