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The Best 11 Posts of 2011 from Sweetspot.ca

2012 January 18
by distracted daddy

If you only ever check this blog, you’re missing out on my other blog at Sweetspot.ca. It’s called The Fatherlode (get it?) and there’s a new post every Thursday. Unlike this blog where there’s a new post every time there’s a new post.

Anyhow, here are the eleven best posts for 2011 from that other blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FYI, that last picture is not actually of me. I am un-mustachioed.

Halloween Leftovers

2011 November 16
by distracted daddy
HalloweenCandy

Every major holiday has leftovers. But only Halloween has awesome chocolate-y sugary leftovers. This year was the first year my daughter had some of those corn syrupy leftovers. Coincidentally, it was also the first year that she grasped the trick-or-treating concept. As in, people give you candy and you can eat it. (After daddy gets his points on the package).

This year my Elmo-costumed toddler raided a mere six houses, it was enough to partially fill her pumpkin-themed loot bag. Surprisingly there is still candy in that bag.

She didn’t gorge and eat all her candy in one sitting like she will in a few years. We didn’t let her, and she well, couldn’t. Her chubby toddler fingers combined with her toddler dexterity meant she was unable to open her candy.

So instead of opening and eating it, she carries it around. Every day looks like Halloween as she carts around her little trick-or-treat pumpkin.

Normally, as parents we could slowly steal a treat or two from her basket, except we can’t because she keeps a tight watch on the treat-filled pumpkin. She guards the candy like a dragon guarding treasure. And she itemizes its contents. Literally.

She empties the basket, counts the goods and places the candy back in the basket.

When she’s cataloguing her candy, she looks at each piece inquisitively and asks, “what’s that?”

To which we answer the appropriate candy name. She repeats the candy brand name in typical garbled toddler fashion. So Crispy Crunch becomes “Kisbee Unch” and so on.

She can never keep track of the proper nomenclature, so she identifies her candies by packaging colour. Turns out most candy packaging is yellow or red.

Occasionally during her daily itemizing, she will hand out her candy. She gives the candy to her favourite toys and occasionally to my wife and me. She is very specific about who gets what candy. No tradesies but you can eat the candy.

It’s delicious. That free candy from strangers that our daughter earned by dressing up as her favourite Muppet.

When she shares her candy with us, we share the candy back with our daughter. We’re not monsters. She’s allowed to have the occasional treat. Halloween candy is perfectly toddler-sized after all.

A Father’s Guide to Halloween Candy

2011 October 31
by distracted daddy

Halloween Candy

My daughter and I are going trick-or-treating this evening. It’s only her second time going door-to-door plundering in costume. Last year, she didn’t quite get it and mistook Halloween candy for toys. This year, I’ve put together a handy guide to explain the ins and outs of what will fill her loot bag.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – A beautiful combination of peanut butter and chocolate. Hand over to Dad.

Apples – Really? Apples?! Who’s giving out apples?!

Candy Apples – Not worth the lost fillings.

Candy Corn – Neither candy nor corn. Place immediately in garbage.

M&Ms – The American version of Smarties with melts-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hand technology.

Canadian Smarties – Separate by colour. Eat the red ones last.

Rockets/American Smarties – Like Tums only tastier.

Sour Patch Kids – Let me get the camera ready before you eat this.

Tootsie Rolls – What candy used to taste like before they invented flavour.

Twizzlers – Licorice in the vaguest sense of the word. Enjoy after you donate a piece to your Mom.

Miniature Toothbrushes – This is why toilet paper always goes on sale around Halloween.

Chips – A salty reprieve from all these sweets. Only one fully intact chip per bag, the rest are crumbs.

Three Musketeers – One for all. All for me.

Skittles – Ooh, the bright colours!

Kit Kat – Daddy always needs a break. Please hand over.

Caramels – Nothing special. Feel free to pick them out of your tiny teeth for the next two days.

Hershey’s Kisses – These will be the last candy in your loot bag. No one wants to eat them.

Candy Bracelets – Any candy that is designed to mimic jewelry is not worthy eating.

Spooky Candy – Any candy that is designed to be “spooky for Halloween” probably tastes like another six-letter word that starts with S and ends in Y.

Hopefully this will help my daughter understand the complex world of Halloween candy. If there’s still any confusion regarding a candy, she should follow this simple rule – Give it to your Dad.

Knuffle Bunny Times Two

2011 October 17
by distracted daddy

Mo Willems Knufflebunny Too

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems is a popular book in our household. It tells the tale of two identical Knuffle Bunnies. One is a pauper who lives with his abusive father. The other is a prince and heir apparent to the throne. As a jest, the Knuffle Bunnies switch clothes and identities. In the process they learn valuable life lessons about how the other side lives.

I could be mistaken with that summary. Either way Knuffle Bunny Too: Knuffle Bunny Harder is an enjoyable cautionary tale for identical twins. As you may have surmised from the title Knuffle Bunny Too: The Wrath of Khan is actually the sequel to Mo Willems’ popular book Knuffle Bunny One: A New Hope. Knuffle Bunny Too: Knuffle Bunny’s Bogus Journey is followed by the final book in the trilogy, Knuffle Bunny Three: The Return of the King.

As fate would have it we read the second book first. It was a gift from a friend whose daughter was familiar with the books. Reading the sequel first was like watching The Empire Strikes Back before any other Star Wars movie – enjoyable. Empire being the best movie of the series, you’d be better off if you stopped watching Star Wars movies after Empire.

Like Empire, Knuffle Bunny Too: Judgment Day is my favourite of the Knuffle Bunny trilogy. Having not read the prequel prior to reading this book, I’d always assumed that Knuffle Bunny was a special handmade toy given to Trixie a la a certain other literary bunny made of velveteen. But the fact that another girl in Trixie’s class also has a Knuffle Bunny makes the plush toy seem more like a Cabbage Patch Doll. I probably should have warned you about spoilers prior to that sentence. Oops.

Brief aside, the entire tale is set in the mean streets of New York. Despite not living anywhere near the Empire State, my daughter is convinced that the entire Knuffle Bunny incident takes place at her daycare. When she sees Trixie’s school, my daughter begins to identify the illustrations as other toddlers at her daycare. Not that I correct her.

Anyhow, the bunnies aren’t actually identical. It only took about a dozen readings before I realized the difference. Hint: Look for the bow. It also took a dozen or so reading before I read the story’s epilogue. Call me old fashioned but when there’s a page in a book that says ‘The End’, I consider the book finished and close it up.

Now I have to read the epilogue. My daughter knows that it’s there. I don’t mind, Knuffle Bunny Too: The New Batch with its exhausted-father-saves-the-day storyline is an enjoyable and surprisingly identifiable book. I’ve yet to have a midnight stuffed animal hostage exchange with another father in the streets of New York, but if it means my daughter will sleep through the night, I could see myself doing it.

Top Five Classic Sesame Street Videos

2011 October 3
by distracted daddy

My daughter’s Elmo Embargo is over. (Not that it was ever particularly well enforced.) She’s now allowed to watch Elmo videos. During these Elmo video sessions (thankfully) we’ve stumbled upon the occasional classic non-Elmo Sesame Street video. Videos that I remember watching on Sesame Street, many years, if not decades ago. So here they are, five of the best classic non-Elmo Sesame Street videos. Or at least the ones that I remember from my childhood.

Rubber Duckie

Rubber Duckie is the Casablanca of Sesame Street videos, a simple ode to everyone’s favourite bathtime friend, the rubber ducky. I challenege you to see a rubber duck and not hum a few bars.


 

Yip Yip Phones

If rubber ducky is Sesame Street’s Casablanca, then the Yip Yips are its cult classic. These martians who are slowly discovering Earth’s inventions are a riot. My daughter’s become hip to the Yip too. Now when we watch their videos, she mimics their familiar sound. Yip. Yip. Uh huh.


 

Bert’s Nephew

During my childhood, I was fascinated with all the bath toys that Ernie had in this video. During my adulthood, I’m more fascinated by the presence of a member of Bert’s extended unibrowed family.


 

Gone Fishin’

Before even rewatching this video, I remembered Ernie’s classic fishing technique. Sadly, it never worked in real life angling situations.


 

C is for Cookie

What else would C be for! It’s a classic Cookie Monster video from back when cookies were more than just a sometimes snack. I may or may not have had this song on my iPod pre-baby.


 

 

Judging from the contents of the classic list, I grew up in the Bert and Ernie phase of Sesame Street. My daughter missed that phase, but thanks to YouTube I show tell her how much cooler these retro videos are than all those Elmos.

My Favourite Elmo Video

2011 September 28
by distracted daddy

I never thought I would have a favourite Elmo video. It seemed outside the realm of possibility. My little toddler loves watching Elmo videos. Again. And Again. And again. She’s obsessed with the little red muppet. I find him, somewhat grating. Especially after you’ve watched Elmo’s song 356 times.

Of course Elmo is not designed for my mature palate. So I was surprised to find that I enjoyed an Elmo video at all. And overjoyed when I finally saw this Elmo video.

Ahh, Ricky Gervais, creator of The Office, Golden Globes host extraordinaire and tormenter of Elmo.

It’s all gentle fun. He’s not hosting The Comedy Central Roast of Elmo. (BTW, Comedy Central, huge ratings if you did this.) He’s just gently annoying the poor celebri-muppet.

And Sesame Street knows what they’re doing. Sesame Street has always had two audiences, the kids and their parents. See Katy Perry’s outfit in her Elmo appearance for further reference. With this video Sesame Street is giving parents a little revenge on their overplayed muppet.

While I may enjoy this Elmo video, my daughter doesn’t care for it. It is her least favourite Elmo video. She complains that Ricky Gervais is “bugging Elmo.” Apparently bugging Elmo is not okay with toddlers. Only with their parents.

Another Baby’s Birthday

2011 August 12
by distracted daddy

Baby Birthday Party

I was stuck in the middle of a baby minefield recently. There were babies everywhere. Everywhere. Dozens of babies descended upon this house. You had to watch where you stepped, lest you squash a crawler.

Where was I? At daycare? At a baby flash-mob? At the stork’s processing centre?

No, I was at the birthday party of the daughter of an old friend. We were celebrating her first birthday. She was probably more or less oblivious to the controlled chaos that surrounded her.

A baby’s first birthday is always a party for the parents. The baby doesn’t know that she’s having a princess party. She knows she’s having fun but that’s it. The parents are just expressing their love for their little one with tiny sandwiches, balloons, and by inviting everyone they know to eat said tiny sandwiches.

There were kids of all ages at this tiny sandwich/princess party; fetuses, babies, toddlers, kids, tweens, teens, and single 30-somethings likely grumbling about not having kids. Yes, I just described single 30-somethings as kids in that previous sentence.

It was quite the party. Toys were strewn all over to entertain the little ones. There was cake and sugary treats to fuel the kids/adults. In the background there was the distant white noise of a baby crying. There was always a baby crying.

There was even a toddler music class sandwiched between the madness.

Having a conversation with a fellow grown up was difficult. You’d get half-way through the sentence before either you or the person you were speaking with, had to go and deal with a baby. Getting time with the birthday girl was just as difficult.

Despite the intensity and the sugar and the noise and the random children climbing on furniture our daughter was having a great time. Maybe the good time was because of these things.

Babies seem to love other babies’ parties even if they don’t know what they are. Was my daughter celebrating the birth of a friends’ child? Not really. But she was having a good time eating sweets and playing with a stranger’s toys.

It was a successful first birthday party, there weren’t even any head wounds.

It was so successful that the next morning our daughter woke up and talked about the party. She wanted to go back. In her mind, the party never ended. We had to break the news that it was over. Baby birthday parties only last an afternoon.

Thankfully.

Yes, You’re Going to Be a Dad, But What About Your Life?

2011 August 1
by distracted daddy

Kevin Nealon Yes, You're Pregnant, But What About Me?

You may remember Kevin Nealon from his stint on Saturday Night Live as the host of Weekend Update between Adam Sandler’s nonsensical songs and Victoria Jackson’s cartwheels.

If I say “Hans and Franz” and you don’t respond with “And we’re here to pump… you up” then you probably don’t remember Kevin Nealon from SNL. If so, you may be too young to have a baby.

Kevin Nealon is also the star of the television show Weeds, which I’ve heard is a great show. My wife and I have been meaning to watch it; it’s on our list we just have to get through Battlestar Galactica, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Freaks and Geeks, and a few others before we watch it.

Kevin Nealon is also a father. You may have surmised this from the title of his first book, Yes, You’re Pregnant, But What About Me? Surprisingly, with a title like that, he’s still a married father.

Unlike my foray into fatherhood, Kevin Nealon became a dad at the age when my dad was almost a granddad. He became a dad in his 50s. His early 50s, but still 50s, as in his mailbox contained the AARP Bulletin and a subscription to Pregnancy magazine.

His book includes some career stories, a detour along the way with his first wife who did not want to have kids, and the disturbing imagery of Kevin Nealon working out half-naked in his garage.

But most of the book is about fatherhood and the requisite fears that accompany fatherhood. There are a lot of fears: What if the baby looks like me and not my wife? Am I too old to be a father? Will Arnold Schwarzenegger be upset at my portrayal of his “distant cousin” Hans?

That last question weighs heavily on all fathers. Fortunately, Arnie wasn’t upset.

From his days on SNL we follow Kevin to his wife’s pregnancy, where Kevin, like most husbands acts as a mere bystander in the final act. He’s given the important task of creating the birthing playlist and manning the ipod while his wife contracts and labours.

Spoiler alert, the book ends with Kevin Nealon becoming a father which is great, because Kevin Nealon already looks like a dad. If I were to cast a family sitcom, Kevin Nealon would be a good casting spec for suburban father.

Is Kevin Nealon a good father? Maybe. The book ends with the birth of his child. There’s no sequel, no It’s Your Turn to Entertain the Toddler complete with a new picture of Kevin Nealon looking tired and harried.

I’ll just assume that he’s a good father. No one wants to read about a father’s daily trial and tribulations with their toddler, right?

Tina Fey’s Bossypants: A Toddler Review.

2011 July 26
tags: , , ,
by distracted daddy

Tina Fey Bossypants

My wife and I have both been reading Tina Fey’s new book, Bossypants. It’s an entertaining read, but don’t take my recommendation listen to every other website or publication that has recommended it.

Bossypants, by the way, also a great name for every toddler’s biography.

Tina Fey, if you don’t know is the former head writer of Saturday Night Live, star of 30 Rock, and Sarah Palin doppelganger. She’s also quite funny.

I enjoyed the book. The book is mostly showbiz tales and pre-showbiz tales. There’s a bit of parenting advice thrown in here and there. If you’ve read a mommy/daddy blog you’ll identify with this gem.

“Like most people who had one baby, I am an expert on everything and will tell you, unsolicited, how to raise your kid!”

What did my daughter think of the book?

Well for one, my daughter has never seen an episode of 30 Rock, SNL, and doesn’t follow American politics. For two, my daughter can’t read. She flipped through the book and looked at the pictures.

To my daughter Tina Fey is… Well, when my daughter saw the book with its odd cover, she took one look at Tina Fey and said, “Mommy!”

For clarity my wife does not look like the former governor of Alaska or a geeky-chic librarian.

After being identified as Liz Lemon’s alter-ego, my wife clarified the confusion for our daughter.

“No, that’s Tina Fey.”

Our daughter responded with “Hi Tina Fey!” and a kiss to the front cover.

This didn’t clarify the identity issues, as our daughter began to page through the book and misidentified Mommy and Daddy at each turn.

A picture of Tina Fey and former presidential hopeful John McCain was met with “Mommy and Daddy”. Mommy looks a lot more like Tina Fey than I resemble John McCain.

Tina Fey and John McCain

Mommy and Daddy's magazine cover.

Then my daughter saw a picture of Tracy Morgan/Jordan and exclaimed “Mommy!” Yes, apparently Mommy is a slightly overweight black man. Standing next to Tracy was Alec Baldwin. Alec was identified as “Daddy!”

For those of you who don’t know me, yes, I look surprisingly like Alec Baldwin. A young Alec Baldwin.

So if you’re following along, my wife somehow looks like both Tracy Morgan and Tina Fey to our daughter. And I look like John McCain and/or Alec Baldwin. If you split the difference between those two men, I suppose that is more or less what I resemble. Unless you believed the previous paragraph.

After reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I’ve come to one conclusion, my daughter needs glasses. Though when she sees herself in the mirror, she might think she’s looking at Tina Fey. Or Tracy Morgan.

Away on Business 2

2011 July 19
by distracted daddy

Going away on business

I was away on business again recently. It was the sequel to my previous business trip. It was Away on Business 2: Electric Bugaloo. Like any sequel it was bigger, longer, there were more explosions, less exposition and Megan Fox was replaced by a different actress.

This sequel was one of the good sequels and not the cash grab sequels. It was Spider-man 2 and not The Hangover 2. It was a good business trip. Even for a sequel.

Of course, I missed a lot of things about my daughter while I was away. Here they are in list form, because lists are easy.

 

The weight

Whether you’re picking her up for a cuddle or trying to calm her from a tantrum, you get used to that extra toddler weight. I was 24 pounds lighter while away. My toddler saddle bags were back home. Cuddling some bags of rice at the local grocery store doesn’t seem to cut it.

 

The voice

My daughter has this funny little toddler voice. She mispronounces words, slurs her speech, and is generally unintelligible 60 percent of the time. I was surrounded by completely telligible people while away. And never had to say “Daddy, doesn’t understand you” to any of my coworkers.

 

The tantrums

Just kidding. Moving on.

 

The wife

I also missed my wife. She’s my other half. The ying to my jelly. The yang to my peanut butter. And a mandatory inclusion in all blog lists.

 

The leg attention

When you have a toddler, your legs get a lot of attention. My daughter stands at my leg height. So when she hugs me, she hugs my legs. When she wants to get my attention, she tugs at my legs. When I’m away on business, the gams get no attention.

 

The alarm clock

My daughter is our alarm clock. She wakes up early and we wake up. I haven’t set an alarm in nearly two years, except when I’m away on business. When I’m away on business I have to set an alarm or get a wakeup call from the front desk. When I’m home my daughter is the wakeup call.

 

What will I miss when I’m away on business for the three-quel? It’s tough to say. If I follow the rules of most trilogies, then this list if just a teaser for the next list. And this list is probably going to be better than the next list. Stay tuned.

Exploring the Alphabet

2011 June 23
by distracted daddy

(Today at Sweetspot, there’s a new post about toddlers biting.)

LeapFrog AlphaPet ExplorerThis is the Alphabet Explorer by Leapfrog. Sorry this is the AlphaPet Explorer by Leapfrog because it has a dog on it, I guess. All of the LeapFrog toys feature this green dog as the voice of the toy, his name is Scout. I’m not sure why Leap Frog has a green dog named Scout as their mascot and not, you know, a green frog. If I take off my glasses and squint slightly, Scout looks like a frog. Sort of.

The AlphaPet Explorer is a phonics learning toy. Despite her use of letters throughout the day, my daughter really has no understanding of the alphabet. This toy is designed to help get her hooked on phonics.

There are 26 “letter biscuits” on the toy and one missing “letter biscuit” outline for the yet-to-be discovered 27th letter of the alphabet. The 27th letter of the alphabet sounds like that noise your pants make when you slide across a leather couch.

The Four Modes to explore on the AlphaPet are:

1) Find the Letters.

The toy says a letter. You have to find it. This is “too complicated for my not quite two-year old daughter” mode.

2) Letter Music.

The Letters make musical sounds. Pressing the paw button plays the alphapet. I mean, alphabet. This is by far, my daughter’s favourite mode. She presses the paw button and sings along with the ABCs. Some of her letters in the middle of the alphabet are unintelligible. But she loves to sing along.

3) Letter Names.

This is confusing because letter names are the letters. So A’s name is A. Isn’t “letter name” redundant? The letter names are followed by a musical sting. One of the musical stings is a rimshot like the kind you’d hear at the end of a lame joke.

“C. Ba dum pssh.”

This should be followed by a crickets sound effect.

4) Letter Sounds.

This is my daughter’s second favourite mode. She loves to hear the sounds of the letters and the accompanying noise.

“E makes the sound eh as in Elephant. (Elephant Noise).”

When we press E my daughter makes an elephant sound and extends her arm like a trunk. E is pressed a lot. I’m not even sure what half of the other letter sounds are because E dominates this mode.

A, B, C, D, other letters, and Z.

There is also a LeapFrog logo at the bottom of the toy. My daughter mistakes this for a button. She keeps pressing the logo and getting disappointed that nothing happens. She’ll press the ‘button’ and say “Daddy, broken.”

B makes the sound buh as in broken.

There’s also a secret 5th mode, it’s called off. Off makes the sound of nothing.

 

 

 

G makes the sound guh as in Giveaway.

To win your very own AlphaPet Explorer from LeapFrog: Leave a comment below with a valid email address. Contest ends midnight EST June 30, 2011. Winner will be chosen at random.

Extra Entries:

Like the Distracted Daddy Facebook Page (mention this in a comment below).

This contest is only open to residents of Canada. FYI, Americans this toy pronounces the letter Z as Zed.

Disclosurey Stuff: The fine folks at LeapFrog sent me an AlphaPet Explorer to review. The opinions expressed in this review are all mine. Okay, maybe partially my wife’s.

Dinner Gone Bad

2011 June 20
by distracted daddy

Toddler making dinner

This is the post that’s probably going to stop people from accepting invitations to dinner at our place. Which is unfortunate because we’re good cooks and hosts.

My wife and I like to entertain guests at our home. It was something we did a lot more of before the little one. Just like we saw more movies, went to more restaurants, and had more friends.

Anyhow, we still entertain. Occasionally.

On one such occasion, we invited over my family; my parents and my sister and brother-in-law for dinner.

They showed up early to play with the reason we don’t host as many dinner parties anymore, our daughter. To set up the unfortunate ending to this story, you need to know that my daughter was recovering from another daycare disease that week. She was all better. But she’d been sick. Remember that.

I’d spent most of the afternoon preparing dinner. Getting my mis-en-place ready, re-reading recipes, and pretending I had what it takes to be the Next Food Network Star. The Next Food Network Star, by the way, is the worst show on the Food Network.

Half-way through the afternoon, I commented to my wife that I felt a little off. Not sick, per se, more tired. We both brushed it off as toddler-induced exhaustion.

My family showed up as planned and we continued our evening. Dinner was cooked, plated and prepared by yours truly. I took one or two bites of dinner before it hit me, waves of nausea. It was not good.

I kindly excused myself from the table and went upstairs to lie down. Lying down quickly became, well, what’s a polite way to say “yakking my guts out?” Probably not that phrasing, but you get the idea.

Whatever toddler gastrointestinal virus my daughter contracted from daycare had been passed on. I think what I had was called, Dinner Party Ending Disease because the dinner party was quickly over.

My sister later informed me that as they were leaving they could hear me getting sick upstairs. I imagine it doesn’t get worse than that, hearing the person who had spent the day preparing your food getting violently ill as you’re leaving.

She also informed me that my brother-in-law was almost felled by the toddler virus when he made a motion to finish my unfinished beer. He changed his mind after everyone urged him not to.

I spent the rest of the weekend in bed. My wife joined me when she became ill the next morning. We had to call my “hopefully not about to be sick from the dinner the night before” parents to come and look after our daughter. We were in no shape to do so.

Thankfully, thankfully, thankfully, our dinner guests never became ill. It was a testament to my rigorous hand-washing during food prep skills or to their superior immune systems. They’ve even come back to eat at our house since. Though for some reason, they always offer to bring food.

Phoney Phones

2011 June 14
by distracted daddy

Toddler Toy Phone

My daughter is a little mimic. She looks at the actions of her parents and tries to replicate them. One of the actions that she often sees us doing is talking on the phone. Except our phones don’t look like phones, not in the classical sense.

My wife and I are part of a growing number of people who don’t have landlines. We only have cellphones. And the cellphones that we do have are actually smartphones. A Blackberry and an iPhone, if you want to angrily debate their merits in the comments.

So to my impressionable toddler, phones are simply rectangular black devices. Anything that fits into this mold is a phone. And my daughter will pick it up and pretend to talk on it.

One of her favourite non-phone phones is a calculator. She’s never seen Mommy or Daddy perform math on the calculator. So the calculator is a phone. She holds it to her ear presses the buttons and pretends to have long distance discussions while she practices multiplication.

It’s rectangular and black.

The remote control is also rectangular and black, so it’s a phone.

“Hello, there’s nothing on TV.”

Rectangular and black is the phone default. But many colourful and non-rectangular objects get dialed in.

Construction Ernie is a phone. A wooden banana toy is a phone. The Baby Monitor is phone. A small stuffed animal is a phone. A spatula is phone.

To a toddler anything is a phone. As long as you can hold it up to your ear and say “hello.”

Ceci n'est pas une phone.

Her Fisher-Price ChatterBox Telephone is a phone, albeit a toy replica of a phone. It’s the phoniest phone toy she has and she doesn’t really use it like a phone. On occasion she does, but most of that toy’s playtime involves dragging it along the floor.

When my daughter answers the phone all she says is hello. She never continues the conversation, she’s either a really good listener or ignoring telemarketers. I assume in-depth phone conversation won’t start until her teen years when she’ll spend hours discussing the latest iteration of Disney’s teen singing sensation.

Lately she’s begun to hand the “phone” over to my wife or me, so it’s probably telemarketers.

“Hello, yes I’m interested in this special offer.”

There have been a handful of times where she’s identified the caller. It seems to always be Grandma or Grandpa. Though one time it was “crocodiles”, calling long distance I presume.

Despite all this faux phone calling, my daughter doesn’t know what to do with an actual phone. My wife and I have put her on the phone with each other and she doesn’t say a word.

The request of “say hi to Mommy/Daddy” is met with silence and/or heavy breathing. It’s much easier to say hi to Mommy and Daddy through a banana toy that doesn’t have reception.

Dig It

2011 June 9
by distracted daddy

(Today at Sweetspot, there’s about how much my daughter loves the backyard.)

Toddler Garden Toys

My daughter’s favourite activity in the backyard, after being in the backyard, is digging.

I bought her this mismatched plastic gardening set at a garage sale recently. It consists of a shovel, a watering can, a trowel, a fork, and a tool kit to carry them all around.

These brightly coloured plastic toys are all digging enablers. Except for the watering can.

Playing with the watering can follows this circular motion. Mommy or Daddy fill the can, our daughter empties it: on a plant, on the barren soil, and sometimes into the dog’s water bowl. After the can is emptied, she’ll request a refill from Mommy/Daddy. This cycle goes on forever or until she gets distracted and wants to dig.

Our tilling toddler loves digging around.

Toddler in the garden

Watch out worms.

She’s constantly aerating the corners of our garden. She sits along the edge and digs away. Well, she tries to dig. She doesn’t have the dexterity or the strength to actually dig, and her plastic toys aren’t strong to break through the soil unless it’s loose or wet.

So our daughter scrapes the loose dirt with her shovels. Lately she’s been shoveling the loose dirt into her other shovels. She can entertain herself for hours minutes digging.

When she wants to get serious, we’ll hear this. “Daddy, worm, come on.” That’s the signal that she wants help to find worms. Worms are the treasures of digging. It’s like she’s playing Dig Dug and the worms are worth 500 points

When a worm is discovered, our daughter exclaims and identifies the worm. There are three types of worms: baby worms, BIG worms, and mommy worms. Baby worms are obviously the small ones. Big worms are big and you must say BIG with booming enthusiasm. I’m not sure how she defines mommy worms. I think they’re the one wearing tiny mom jeans.

Digging in the dirt results in her getting dirty. Obviously. Toddlers have the ability to get dirt everywhere and very quickly

One morning we dug for worms before daycare. She was already dressed for daycare. Five minutes later she needed a wardrobe change. Her outfit was accessorized with dirt. My wife insisted on dressing her in a clean outfit for daycare. I would have brushed the dirt off her shoulder, taken her to daycare, and hummed more lyrics to that Jay-Z song

The only bonus to getting dirty is that our daughter loves to wash her hands. Tempting her with the promise of washing her hands usually manages to get our daughter inside without a tantrum.

Muppets at Work

2011 June 6
by distracted daddy

Sesame Street Ernie

If you were to select a character from Sesame Street to have a career in construction, who would you choose? Cookie Monster for demolition maybe. Oscar seems like he’d fit the foreman role. The last character you’d ever expect to find on a fictitious construction site run by muppets is Ernie.

As an aside, muppet construction sites probably give the worst cat calls to passersby. “I know my ABCs, next time won’t you play with me.” Or “Hey Little Miss Muffet, check out this tuffet.”

Anyhow, Ernie and Bert don’t strike me as the construction type. Interior design maybe. But outside on a worksite, operating heavy machinery? Hard to believe.

Yet here’s the proof. Ernie happily wearing a hardhat and operating a magnetic crane. I don’t know what the name of this toy is, it was a garage sale find. We’ve taken to calling this toy ‘Construction Ernie.’

Construction Ernie is driving what appears to be a small construction crane with a magnetic winch attached. It can probably pick up small coins and nails. My daughter has yet to discover Ernie’s magnetic abilities.

It looks like one of those cranes that’s often featured in the climactic moment of an 80s action movie. You know, the one where the hero tracks down the bad guys to a junk yard. And discovers some damning piece of evidence in the wreckage of an abandoned car. Just as our hero finds it, the car is magnetically lifted towards a car compactor. Cut to a dramatic close-up of the villain cackling maniacally in the seat of that crane.

Sesame Street Ernie

Caution: Muppets at work

How could you Construction Ernie?

When my daughter plays with Construction Ernie, she doesn’t hold 80s action heroes hostage. She just runs Ernie along the ground with his wheels and makes the appropriate construction noises.

Construction Ernie has two magnetic ball bearings, one at the front of his vehicle and the other at the back. It leads to me to believe that there are other construction-themed Sesame Street vehicles that can form a large train or convoy. I’m just guessing at the names here, but maybe there’s a Dumptruck Oscar, or Backhoe Big Bird, or a Port-a-Potty Truck Elmo. They’re probably all unionized.

Like many of my daughter’s toys, Construction Ernie is also a telephone. She holds the magnetic part up to ear and says “hello.” She’s probably calling Ernie’s union rep to complain about some kind of workplace safety issue or arranging his pay from the mob. Ernie’s all about kickbacks.

Lately my daughter has begun to cuddle with Construction Ernie and bring him into bed. He’s not soft, like most of her bedtime companions. But he’s probably just there to talk to the teddy bears about unionizing.

The Long Drive

2011 May 31
by distracted daddy

A few months ago, we attended an out of town birthday party. It was only a 45-minute drive outside of the city. My wife and I took our daughter and two unsuspecting single friends.

The drive there was uneventful. The event was fun and eventful. The drive back was the reason this post is categorized under the Daddy Disasters section of this blog.

On road trips you are only guaranteed a one-way ticket for good behaviour. One way will be easy. The other way will be torture. Your child will not peacefully sleep both ways.

Our 45-minute drive took 45 minutes on the way there. It took nearly three hours on the way back.

There was an accident on the highway. We were stuck in the inevitable backlog of rubberneckers. When we made it past the minor accident, the traffic did not let up. The traffic continued. Something was amiss. It was gridlock.

There was another accident. Again minor.

Traffic was moving at a snail’s pace. Birds flew by overhead at double our traveling speed. We eventually made it past the second accident and traffic began to move. It was that post accident freedom when you begin to attain normal highway speeds.

It was glorious. And only lasted for a moment. Until we hit the gridlock of a third accident. It was unbelievable. Three minor traffic accidents back to back to back.

It would have been nothing more than an entertaining story for a cocktail party if there wasn’t a baby in our car. A baby who didn’t want to be in the car.

A baby who began to cry. She refused toys, and books, and distractions. The carefully curated grownup playlist – gone. Instead children’s songs. “All the Babies Love Bananas”, “Row Row Your Boat” and more. The music had no effect. Our terrible singing didn’t help.

If only we had a soother. We didn’t. If only our crossover utility vehicle was a time-travel ready Delorean. It wasn’t.

We were trapped.

The child was in full-blown tantrum. Crying, fussy, red-faced. Our single friends likely asking themselves what they did to deserve to be trapped in a sonic wall of wailing baby screams.

When we arrived in the city, one of our single friends quickly jumped out of the car as we stopped at an intersection. “I’m almost home,” she said. She wasn’t. “I’ll just grab this bus.” There was no bus. Her flight instinct had taken over. She saw her first chance to escape and took it.

For us, the parents, this abuse was something we signed up due to our successful consensual relations. But for our unfortunate friends who had neither a child nor a vehicle. They just wanted a ride to the party. It was a ride they’ll likely never forget.

Toddler or Star of Glee?

2011 May 26
by distracted daddy
Glee Lea Michele

Toddler in disguise?

Today at Sweetspot, I made a passing comparison between my daughter and Rachel Berry the loveable pain-in-the-ass on Glee. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that comparison is slightly off base. My daughter isn’t like Rachel Berry, the character. My daughter is like Lea Michele, the actress.

In fact, I’d argue that all toddlers are like Lea Michele.

Here’s a quick list I’ve compiled about my daughter:

Now tell me if I haven’t accurately described the diva-like behaviour of Glee star Lea Michele? Not that I’ve personally encountered it. Or that I’ve read about it on celebrity gossip blogs like Lainey Gossip. Or that I’m even admitting that I watch Glee. Nope.

It’s just that my daughter is uncannily like Lea Michele. Or Lea Michele is uncannily like my daughter.

Hooked

2011 May 16
by distracted daddy

The Mommy Hook

If you’ve ever gone rock climbing, you know what a carabiner is. It’s a small metal loop that you can quickly clip on between your harness and the other various climbing ropes. “Various climbing ropes” is an exclusive rock climbing term.

A carabiner is not however exclusive to rock climbing. It’s used in other high intensity and similarly dangerous activities like caving, spelunking, zip-lining and grocery shopping with a stroller. The latter can vary in degrees of danger depending on how well-rested the strollee is.

The Mommy Hook is a carabiner. Sorry, it’s a large carabiner sold at a premium wherever other carabiners aren’t found. The development and marketing of it is actually quite ingenious. Because it’s just a carabiner sold for a different purpose. There’s virtually no change or alteration to the design of a carabiner. If you wanted to you could just buy a large carabiner and use it like the Mommy Hook, if you didn’t receive a Mommy Hook as a giving birth door prize.

Don’t get me wrong, it does its job perfectly and is a handy stroller accessory. It’s just the name “Mommy Hook” is demeaning to men who push strollers aka fathers. Also, remind me never to use the term “stroller accessory” around the guys either.

It’s not called the Daddy Hook or the Baby Hook or the Stroller Hook, or even the Giant Expensive Carabiner. According to semantics, I’m not supposed to use it. Or when I use it, I’m supposed to hang my head in shame and hope people misread it as the Tommy Hook.

Gender issues aside, the Mommy Hook is a terrible name. It sounds like a Showtime movie about a mother turning to prostitution.

“When the bills were too much, this stay-at-home mom found a new gig. Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall in The Mommy Hook. A Showtime Original.”

There’s no reason for it to have a gender-specific name. It’s not like it’s a tampon or lipstick. It’s a hook to hang groceries from your stroller. A stroller that a man or a woman or a man transforming into a woman could push. Pushing a stroller doesn’t require a uterus, it requires coordination and force. Making a little person to go into the stroller, now that requires a uterus.

Open Hailing Frequency

2011 May 10
by distracted daddy

Baby Skype

On Star Trek when they encounter a foreign vessel Captain Kirk (or Picard) activates the two-way video screen to conference with the Klingons (or Borg) or other alien race that looks suspiciously likes humans with bad acne. It’s an easy way to communicate across the vast distances of space. It’s also sort of how our daughter communicates with her grandparents.

Except she uses something called Skype and has yet to launch the photon torpedoes.

Skype is simple two-way video calling over the internet. If you weren’t already familiar with the service or missed the point of that opening paragraph. It’s become an almost daily part of our daughter’s routine.

After dinner, or sometimes before, we’ll (to borrow terminology from another space-faring TV show) “spool up” Skype and talk with our daughter’s grandparents. “Talking” mostly involves us holding our daughter in front of the computer to let the grandparents ooh and awe.

She’s the focus of the call, not us. We’re just there to adjust the webcam, to operate the call, we’re like the projectionist of a movie theatre. Doing an all-important job but completely overshadowed by the star attraction.

If the grandparents wanted to talk to us, they’d call us. There’s no need for them to look at our faces while we converse.

During our Skypes with the grandparents our daughter shows off new behaviours, says new words, or asks to see the respective dogs of whichever set of grandparents we happen to be speaking with.

She usually doesn’t say very much. She’s great with the hellos and the goodbyes which are accompanied by kisses. Other than that, she’s not really going to answer any questions or discuss politics or offer her opinion on who really should have been voted off American Idol (or should I say The Voice?)

She gets bored easily. Despite the fact that she’s communicating across cities through a piece of string for free, Skype never keeps her attention.

She can’t sit still. She needs to explore.

So we put her down and angle the webcam for the best grandparent viewing possibilities. Then we make awkward conversation with her grandparents as they stare agape at their granddaughter. When she plays on Skype, she likes to show off. She’ll go up her slide and wait for the attention before going down. She knows she’s putting on a show.

Skype sessions never last long especially when our daughter runs out of the room or plays just beyond the viewing area. We ask her to say goodbye and she usually complies. When Skype is over her mission is to boldly go to bed.

 

Locked Out

2011 May 6
by distracted daddy

Here’s an obvious parenting statement: Having a toddler increases the stress of unexpected events. There’s already one element of chaos in your life, adding more compounds the existing chaos. It’s like multiplying a math problem by another number, which I suppose is already the definition of compounding.

Recently we were locked out of the house. That’s a simple way of defining it. We had the keys to our front door, the door simply rejected the keys like Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio turning away a plate of uncooked risotto.

Generally being locked out is not a big deal when you’re single and childless. It’s a minor annoyance; it’s a reason to go to the bar, or an excuse to crash on a futon. When it’s cold outside and you have a toddler with an approaching bedtime, it’s a bigger deal.

The first priority, look after the toddler. She couldn’t wait in the car while I attempted to burglar our home.

Thankfully, our babysitter lives nearby and her family was welcoming of our random intrusion. It didn’t even cost $10/hour plus fridge privileges. The babysitter and her siblings brought down books and toys to entertain our confused daughter while I pursued a locksmith.

I don’t have a locksmith, or an electrician, or a plumber that I can call. So I was left to consult the Yellow Pages and followed the old adage of “if you paid for a large ad you must be somewhat competent.”

I was wrong. Locksmiths advertised as 24 hours didn’t answer their phones, or would agree to show up in 3+ hours, or charge hundreds just to appear. It was frustrating. I was regretting choosing a classics minor in university over “locksmithing and related manly skills.”

Sensing my frustration, our neighbour mentioned the area handyman might be of help. He was. When he showed up I was trying to jimmy the lock open with a screwdriver to no avail. He suggested a better tool – a hacksaw.

It took 45 minutes of hacksawing and prying to remove the doorknob. My contribution to the hacksawing effort: Holding the flashlight.

Eventually we regained entry to our house, but only after our daughter’s dinnertime, bath time, and bedtime had passed. She was beyond exhausted. We were beyond frustrated. Our only consolation was knowing that it would never happen again because like watching an afterschool special we learned a few valuable lessons.

For your benefit, here they are:

  • A Blockbuster card is too thin to effectively jimmy a lock. I’m still trying to discover what it’s actually useful for.
  • The area handyman is not the area cat burglar.
  • If your neighbours hear someone trying to hacksaw their way in your house, they won’t express any concern.
  • Breaking into your own house is reassuringly difficult.
  • If you keep your toddler up past her bedtime by over 2 hours, daycare will call the next day to report that she has a slight fever and seems lethargic.
  • Keeping keys to the backdoor on your actual keychain and not inside the house is a good idea.

Happy Blogiversary

2011 May 2
by distracted daddy

Blogiversary

Today is my blog’s birthday. Okay, not today. It was sometime last week and I was busy working. So happy belated birthday blog. The belated part doesn’t bode well for the upcoming wife/daughter birthday.

My baby blog is now a one-year old while my actual baby is actually now a toddler. In dog years my blog is seven. In baby years it’s still just one.

How does one celebrate a blog’s birthday? Cake? Presents? Comments? Quick post back-linking to archived posts?

According to What to Expect When You’re Expecting Blog Traffic, my baby blog should now be able to walk, receive negative comments, get PR, and have tantrums while I update WordPress. Apologies for the blog humour in lieu of the usual baby humour.

This blog began as a way to document my manternity leave. It continued beyond those four summer months. Obviously. Surprisingly it’s read by more than just my daughter’s grandparents. Apparently there is a market out there for lame jokes and pop culture references. The Family Guy has it cornered.

Unlike my daughter, my blog has a sibling blog (siblog – coining it) over at Sweetspot.ca and a Twitter over @DaddyDistracted and a Facebook page. And a blog which you’re reading right here.

Happy Birthday Blog. Enjoy the spam.

Let it Slide

2011 April 25
by distracted daddy

Little Tikes Junior Slide
The Little Tikes Climber Junior Slide is an outdoor toy. It’s made to withstand the elements. Its hard plastic frame is easily wiped of dirt, decomposing leaves, and squirrel defecate that all appear in the backyard. So why is this outside toy in our living room?

To begin, my 19-month old daughter loves slides. Sliding recently surpassed swinging as her favorite park activity. During the winter months there are few slide and/or swinging activities due to the inclement weather.

The Little Tikes Slide is a supervised toy. Whenever my daughter uses it, an adult must be present. It’s stable, it won’t collapse, my daughter isn’t stable, she might collapse.

When she first used the indoor/outdoor slide, we had to hold her hands and help her slide the 1.5 feet down. It’s a thrilling 0.7 second slide. I’m pretty sure it’s the toddler equivalent of ascending Everest.

Sliding once is never enough. Numerous slides must occur. This slide is the Lay’s potato chip of toys.

When she goes down the slide our repeated parental mantra is “on your bum” or “sit down please”. We need to reinforce these fine points because our daughter has tried to slide down face first, backwards, upside down, and on her stomach. Even at such a small distance/speed any of those other slide styles would result in a tiny Evil Knievel wipe-out.

Our other mantra was “wait for mommy/daddy” when she approached the slide without parental supervision. Eventually she wanted to slide without our helicoptering presence. When we approached to help, she responded with “no no no” and proceeded to step off the slide steps.

“I’d rather not slide, then slide with your help.” she implied.

So we let her slide solo and it was successful.

Now she slides on her own terms. Which means she slides anytime she is in close proximity to the slide.

She’ll often perch at the top and wait, to build the anticipation and to make sure we’re watching. We wait, she waits. Then she slides and we clap. Then we lather, rinse and repeat these same action ad infinitum.

Recently the slide, moved down from the living room where it was tightly positioned between a wall and a couch, to the TV room/den. Now we can give our daughter our full attention as she makes slide attempt #4043, and we catch up on who’s been eliminated from Top Chef.

The “Best” Elmo Videos

2011 April 6
by distracted daddy

My daughter is no longer allowed to watch Elmo videos on Youtube. When she was allowed, these videos were some of her favourites.

As you’ll notice most Elmo videos involve singing and/or celebrity appearances. To put it bluntly, Elmo is a star-whore. And celebrities know that you haven’t reached true fame until you’ve collaborated with Elmo.

I must warn you, that watching these videos with your toddler is a recipe for tantrums. So watch at your own risk.

Elmo’s Song

Apologies in advance, but Elmo’s Song will burrow itself deeply into your frontal lobes and stay there for weeks.

Katy Perry

A lot has been said about this very controversial Elmo video. All I have to add is that this video is strangely hypnotic.

Natalie Portman

Even OSCAR-winning actresses bow before Elmo’s star power. Before she was a Black Swan, Natalie Portman danced her way to another stunning performance as a Grey Elephant.

Elmo’s Potty Time

Elmo has parents! He wasn’t grown in a furry vat somewhere. Join Elmo and his father as they sing about “pee” “poo” and “doo doo”. It’s the Blues meet the poos.

The Goo Goo Dolls

The muppet-faced lead singer of the Goo Goo Dolls fits right in on Sesame Street as his band parodies one of their “classic” songs.

Adam Sandler

Elmo finally meets his intellectual equal in Adam Sandler. Sandler pulls out his usual schtick, making up a song with made up words. Shabba-dee-doo.

Andrea Bocelli

Elmo forces famous Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli to sing him to sleep. Elmo even tries to duet in his best falsetto.

Now that you’ve seen the best Elmo Youtube videos, it’s time to take a break and deal with your tantrum-y toddler.

Elmo Embargo

2011 April 1
by distracted daddy

No More Elmo

My daughter loves Elmo, but I already told you that. What I didn’t tell you is that there is an Elmo Embargo on at our house. More specifically an Elmo Video Embargo.

A few months ago, we made a big parenting mistake. We gave in to our daughter’s love of Sesame Street’s red-faced muppet and we let her watch an Elmo video on Youtube.

It was a simple mistake.

From that first video our daughter’s eyes were magically transfixed on the screen. She stared intently, never blinking, basking in the warm glow of Elmo’s crimson antics.

She was hooked from that first video – one hit was all it took.

What we didn’t realize is that you can never watch just one Elmo video. So we watched more Elmo videos. One Elmo video led to two Elmo videos. Two led to three. Three to four. And so on.

When we finally decided that Elmo video time was over, our daughter disagreed.

“More, more Elmo,” she said.

“MO’ MO’ EL-MO!” she said even louder.

Before we knew it, we were immersed in a full-on Elmo-induced tantrum.

We dismissed the tantrum as a one off event and a few days later watched more Elmo videos. Elmo videos soon became a daily activity. Elmo videos (or “Elmos”) before bed, in the morning, and after daycare.

Anytime our daughter saw a computer, she would ask for Elmos. She knew the computer was a digital gateway to the muppet.

But as her Elmo watching increased, her Elmo withdrawal symptoms became even worse. Tantrums escalated. One or two videos was never enough. She needed more Elmos. We began cycling through every Elmo option Youtube had to offer. We knew something had to change, when our daughter hit rock bottom and resorted to watching Grover videos.

Every single time we stopped the Elmos, a tantrum began. It became so bad that even the mere sight of a computer would send our daughter off.

It had to stop. So my wife and I decided that our daughter was going cold turkey. No mo’ Elmos. We hid the computers. We never uttered the red muppet’s name around our daughter.

And slowly it began to work. There were a few hiccups along the way. A daytimer caused an Elmo tantrum as our daughter mistook it for a computer. And there were a few Skype calls with grandparents where she kept demanding Elmo. But after a few days, things were back to normal.

To this day the Elmo Embargo is still on. I don’t know when it will end. Embargoes tend to be long haul operations, just ask Cuba. But one day it will be over. Maybe on her eighteenth birthday we’ll celebrate with an Elmo video.

Elmo Elmo Everywhere

2011 March 23
by distracted daddy

Sesame Street Elmo Backpack

Every teenager learns in Sex Ed that unprotected sex leads to having babies. At least, hopefully they all do. The ones that don’t are featured on MTV reality shows. Anyhow, what they don’t tell you in Sex Ed is that aside from babies, unprotected sex also leads to Elmo.

If you’re welcoming a baby into your home, you’re also welcoming Elmo.

Elmo arrived in our lives on our daughter’s diapers like the plague showed up in Europe on the backs of ship rats. The diapers feature a variety of Sesame Street characters, but our daughter’s eyes seemed drawn to Elmo over Big Bird or Ernie.

We began to show our daughter Elmo on the diapers and say “Elmo.” That was our first mistake.

The first words our daughter said progressed like this: Daddy, Mommy, hi, bye, up, down, and Elmo. Elmo was one of my daughter’s first words. She saw Elmo on her diaper and said “Elmo”. For a while we were concerned that she was calling all diapers “Elmos” until Elmo showed up on a sippy cup.

And then Elmo showed up in one of her bedtime storybooks, and then Elmo showed up in doll form, and on DVDs, and a backpack, and more. Elmo was everywhere. We never asked for Elmo paraphernalia. We didn’t need to. Elmo is unavoidable.

Coca-Cola may think it knows how to corner a market.  But compared to Elmo, Coca-Cola looks decidedly mainstream. Every toddler household must have something featuring the furry red muppet.

Elmo is ubiquitous, he is beyond ubiquitous. Is he even a “he”? I don’t know, I think so. But “he” seems genderless. “He’s” a monster. “He” has no visible boy or girl parts. “His” voice while varying in pitch always seems to stay in higher octaves.

It doesn’t matter, whether Elmo is a he, she, or it, my daughter loves Elmo. She loves Elmo and she requests Elmo.

“ELLL-MO!” and “More More Elmo” are two of the most common cries heard in our home.

When we change her diaper, she seems to enjoy it more if it’s an Elmo. When she wants her sippy cup, she calls for her “Elmo”. In storybooks Elmo always gets a shout out while the other muppets are overlooked.

Elmo is here to stay.

Resistance against Elmo is futile. I may as well try to stop the tide from coming in. Elmo’s presence is a part of parenthood. And like the diapers, the vomiting, and the daycare diseases, I’ll do must best to live with Elmo. So long as “he” doesn’t ask to be tickled.

Parenting Lessons from a Pet Owner’s Manual

2011 March 11
by distracted daddy

Pugs: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual

It has been well documented on this site that my daughter loves dogs. She loves dogs so much, that one of her favourite books happens to be a pet owner’s manual. We often read Pugs: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual before bed time. And by read, I mean we flip through the pages and look at pictures of pugs.

During the numerous “readings” of this book, I actually read a page or two. Surprisingly raising a pug dog is not so different from raising a toddler.

Below are a few priceless gems of parenting advice from Pugs: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual. These are actual quotes from the manual, though in some instances I have changed the word “pug” to “baby” or “toddler”.

Bringing your “baby” homePug baby-proofing

Most “babies” adjust swimmingly. They enter their new homes with wiggly excitement and great curiosity. Do not be surprised or insulted if your newcomer looks apprehensive. Keep the welcoming party to a minimum, and reassure your new friend by stroking and speaking to her gently.

“Baby”-proofing

Baby gates, the sturdy, hinged, swing-open kind, are essential for those rare times when you want to confine your grown, housebroken “baby” to a room in which you are not present.

“Babies” are best left in their crates when you cannot be with them.

“Potty” training

“Potty”-training a “baby” is simple. It consists of knowing that your “baby” has to relieve herself before she knows it.

If your “baby” is not “potty”-trained, you will have to take her out-of-doors several times a day to the spot where you want her to eliminate.

Bathing your “baby”Giving your pug a bath

Some people bathe their “babies” in the kitchen sink. We find it more comfortable to bathe ours, once they are full-grown, in the bathtub.

If the water feels uncomfortably warm to you, chances are it will to your “baby”. Adjust accordingly until the water is comfortably lukewarm.

Because baths are stimulating for “babies”, take them outside for quick run after toweling them dry.

“Baby” food and treats

“Baby” food is not hard to find. Supermarkets, convenience stores, pet shops, feed-and-seed emporiums, discount-buying clubs, and veterinarians will gladly sell you all you need.

There is no more jolly and attentive audience than “toddlers” contemplating a treat. Their nostrils flare, their bodies quiver from head to tail, their breath comes in fiery snorts, and their eyes threaten to pop out of their precious little heads.

Toys

If you want to send a “baby” into terminal euphoria, bring home a sweaty, smoked-and-processed pig’s ear.

Exercise

“Toddlers” like being outdoors and if at all possible, should be provided with a securely fenced yard in which they can race about when the spirit moves them.

Life with a “baby”

If you have never experienced the continuing joy of watching a “baby” come to terms with the world, and trying to bend the world to its terms, your life is poorer for want of that experience.

“Babies” are all wide soulful eyes, flapping, velvety ears, and panting enthusiasm. They are fetchingly soft, unerringly cute, endearingly klutzy, unfailingly energetic, and damnably stubborn on occasion.

As every parent knows, parenting advice can come from anywhere. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go potty-train my pug and put my daughter outside to do her business.

Feeding Time

2011 March 1
tags: ,
by distracted daddy

Baby feeding dog

When we returned from the hospital with a newborn baby, our poor pug dog felt the shift in affection and attention. He became a hairy second fiddle. On more than one occasion we completely forgot to feed him. He went without his doggy dinner because we were attentive new parents and inattentive dog owners.

He hasn’t gone without his dog food lately, not because we’ve properly balanced our child-dog affection ratio but because our daughter has taken to feeding the dog.

She’s a behavioural sponge these days and after seeing us feed the dog daily (or every second day), she mimicked the motions. It was really cute. And it kept her busy. Those are two things parents look for in an activity, especially the latter.

Allowing our toddler to feed the dog has led to a few things. She’s emptied the entire container of dog food on the kitchen floor – numerous times. She’s overfed the dog. She’s underfed the dog. She’s eaten a piece of two of kibble. Like vegetables, she doesn’t care for kibble and mainly puts it in her mouth for show before spitting it out.

Our daughter always lets our portly pug know when it’s time for dog food – by yelling his name. She yells his name until he shows up. Then she proceeds to scoop out the kibble into his bowl alternating between using the scoop and her hands. Sometimes she scoops the kibble directly onto the floor. The kibble blends into the carpet and we wind up crushing it beneath our feet. It’s like walking on a pebbly beach.

I’d like to say that feeding the dog food ends when our toddler puts the container away but it usually ends when our daughter begins throwing dog food. The kibble and the accompanying bits have migrated to other parts of the house. We have found kibble in shoes, Tupperware, the dishwasher, the bathroom, and our Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Everyone who’s ever had a baked good at our house just regretted reading that last part. Now you all know our secret ingredient.

Feeding the dog or “daw ood” in toddler-speak is now a common pastime in our household, with our daughter begging to play at all hours of the day. Our pug’s ever expanding girth may be due to these mid-day feedings. If our daughter doesn’t get to play “daw ood” or if we try to end the game early an inevitable tantrum ensues. It’s gotten to the point that we hide the dog food container to prevent tantrums.

Of course, our dog needs to eat and our daughter needs to be entertained. So the container inevitably emerges, kibble is spilt and the dog gets fed.  And I quietly hope for the day that our daughter cleans the dog’s dinner off the floor like the dog cleans her dinner off the floor.

Reality Babies

2011 February 14
by distracted daddy

MTV Teen Mom

For some reason people always ask me if I watch the MTV show Teen Mom.  Full disclosure I’m neither a teen nor a mom. I have however on occasion watched the show. Okay, more than on occasion. During my manternity leave I somehow became hooked on Teen Mom. I watched a season in its entirety. I also spent the better part of a week watching a Hoarders marathon. Make your own conclusions.

MTV’s Teen Mom is a spin-off of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant in the same manner that having a baby is a spin-off of unprotected sex.

The season I watched was the second season, following the lives of Farrah, Macy, Amber, Catellynn and their accidental offspring. Whenever I questioned my skills as a parent, I could always look to the exploits of these girls and breathe a sigh of relief. Of course it’s not a fair comparison.

Teen Mom like all MTV programming is enjoyable on a surface level but if you give it any deeper thought it’s absolutely terrible. Like any of the music MTV would be playing instead of Teen Mom, if MTV actually played music.

Teen Mom is the worst kind of guilty programming. MTV’s Jersey Shore is guilty television because your brain slowly liquefies as you watch the inanity of very orange people drink and fight and fight and drink. Teen Mom is guilty television because you realize that you’re contributing to the fame monster infecting these moms and making them pimply little Kate Gosselins. And that’s not the worst of it.

The worst comes when you realize that they use real babies in Teen Mom. Not stunt babies or prop babies or really short actors looking for a break. Actual real babies. Unlike Snooki these poor babies didn’t decide to let us watch their lives, no, they were born into reality television.

“Born into reality television” that could be the saddest sentence ever, after “musical performance by Heidi Montag.”

MTV denies culpability in what they’ve created by ending every episode of the show with a sternly voiced warning that teen pregnancy is preventable. It’s not asterisked with the implied MTV consequences of pseudo-celebrity and cover appearances on US Weekly.

Warning: Teen pregnancy is preventable. But if you do get pregnant send us an audition tape and maybe you can make it on next season.

And there is a next season: Teen Mom 2. I haven’t watched Teen Mom 2 for all the reasons above and because most sequels never live up to the original.

Floating Castle.

2011 February 11
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by distracted daddy

The Castle Pattie Silver

My daughter’s bath is full of toys, various pieces of molded plastic for her entertainment. Most of these plastic delights resemble marine animals, except for this book. It’s a bath book. The first in her aquatic library, “The Castle” by Pattie Silver. Below is a full excerpt.

The prince is very nice.

The crocodile is mean.

The princess waits

On the other side,

To become the beautiful queen.

That’s the entire text of the book. Sorry for the spoilers. It’s the tale of a meek princess waiting for her prince to rescue her so she can be crowned queen. With that kind of plot, I’m surprised it wasn’t written in the 1940s.

The Crocodile is mean, so I was expecting he would be some sort of challenge for the prince. Maybe the crocodile is more snarky then violent. Like he’s kept the princess in the castle with catty insults instead of the threat of physicality.

The confrontation between the prince and the crocodile is missing from the book. The prince just walks through another part of the moat, avoiding the crocodile entirely. And if the crocodile is mean, why does he chill out to watch the prince propose? Is he secretly into romance?

Also, are crocodiles really an indigenous species to a place that has a Tudor-inspired castle (ie. England). This book’s logic is totally flawed. Was it written by George Lucas?

All in all, this is a book that’s best looked at and not read. It can float and the pictures are pretty. By the time my daughter can actually read, this book won’t be in her library. If she’s going to learn about meek princesses being rescued by noble princes it won’t be from a book, it’ll be from a Disney movie.

Splish. Splash.

2011 February 3
tags: , ,
by distracted daddy

(Today over at Sweetspot, there’s another Distracted Daddy post about our babysitter and her TV habits.)

Every morning before I have a shower, I have to clear the bathtub of various bath toys; rubber duckies, plastic sea creatures, and soggy facecloths. My daughter now bathes in our full bathtub. She used to bathe in a small plastic bin, but she outgrew the bin which means I outgrew having it spill water on the floor.

Bath time is a daily activity with our daughter. It’s part of her routine. Dinner, then bathtime, then bed. Dinner muddies the bath, its contents float around like we’re making toddler soup.

What we serve for dinner is always a good indicator of how thoroughly our toddler will need to be bathed. Dry toast equals a quick dip. Cottage cheese or yogurt or anything that is more liquid than solid usually means thorough scrubbing and deep cleansing.

My wife and I have bath time down to an efficient system with our daughter. I start the bath, frequently checking the temperature to ensure I don’t scald the baby, while my wife undresses her. Once my daughter’s undressed she runs to the bath.

We used to let her run to the bath completely naked. It was cute seeing her cherub-like body run towards the water, or towards other toys. It was cute until the day she squatted in the hallway and peed. There was a little puddle on the floor. So we stopped letting her run naked before baths after she peed on the floor (the second time).

My daughter likes baths, except when she doesn’t, and there’s no way of knowing. When she doesn’t like the baths she acts like she’s being waterboarded.

When she likes the bath she splashes, she plays with toys, and she drinks bathwater like it’s refreshing Gatorade. Seriously, I don’t know what the deal is with toddlers and drinking bathwater. But my daughter loves it, it’s ambrosial. If she’s not trying to drink it out of the cup we use to wash her hair she’s trying to suck it out of the washcloth. If Coca-Cola could bottle that magical combination of baby grunge, leftover dinner, and baby shampoo they would have a new number one drink on their hands. At least for the toddler market.

Bath removal is the biggest issue regarding bath time. Our daughter hates bath removal. She wants to stay in the bath and prune up. Bath removal always involves one parent with a towel and another parent removing the angry thrashing toddler. She fusses, she cries, she complains, which is great because it’s not like bath time is supposed to calm her before bedtime. I guess that’s what story time is for.