Two Weeks of Evie

5 Oct little-lady

I am now two weeks into this parenting thing and it has been the best two weeks of my life!  For months, I had researched every piece of baby gear and parenting advice I could find, preparing for this very moment.  Yet, for all the planning and prepping that went on before my daughter arrived, most of it was thrown out them moment we met her.

little-lady

We are parents now, and like all first-time parents, we continue to endure a trial-by-fire. No amount of planning will prevent us from the joys of the newborn phase. That being said, I did learn a couple of early lessons that I’d like to pass along.

First, there is some prep that you can do that isn’t totally useless. I cannot recommend strongly enough that you take classes prior to baby’s arrival. The hospital probably provides these classes for a nominal fee, or there may be other vendors out there that do it as well. Find them. Spend the money on them. They are worth it. Or, at least, most are.

Our “childbirth” class was largely useless when we found ourselves having to make decisions that were outside our ideal birth plan.  Besides, there were nurses to help us along the way. But do you know what classes were invaluable? One was about breastfeeding. The other was about soothing an infant. I’d also recommend an infant CPR class, but thankfully, we haven’t had need of those lessons yet.  We use the breastfeeding and soothing curriculum daily and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Second, I recommend having the right gear at home. First, the obvious stuff:

You will need a car seat/carrier. A bassinet set up in your bedroom is also important. If you aren’t breastfeeding, bottles and formula are a must. If you are breastfeeding, those can remain on the shelf for a bit longer, but you may want to invest in nipple balms or soothing gel inserts. Diapers, wipes, and ointments are important because your child will poop and pee a lot and it will get irritated down there no matter how quick you are to change them! Oh, and lots of burp cloths. And maybe a washable cover or two for changing pads.

My wife and I found a pacifier to be helpful. Our daughter doesn’t often take it, but when she does, it is a magic off switch for her screaming.  Bath time sets, including washcloths, towels, baby-safe shampoo/soap, and maybe a hooded robe are great.  Emery boards to file those sharp nails are good, as well as baby medical supplies (just in case).  We get a fair amount of use from a nursing pillow in our living room, but in the bedroom, a regular pillow works just as good.

Beyond these obvious items, what else do you need? You should invest in a swaddle (or six). Swaddling is the key to sanity, especially at night. I recommend getting one made of stretch fabric and Velcro, so that it is almost idiot proof. Our swaddling efforts in the hospital made our kid look like Houdini. And as soon as she got her hands free, her movements would startle her awake.  And this would happen hourly, day or night.

swaddle

Since we got home and use our Ollie Swaddle (above), she has yet to bust free! Now the only time she wakes is to let us know she is hungry! Right now, we can count on a pair of four-hour blocks at night where she will sleep peacefully, and she is only 17 days old!

A Rock-n-Play has been helpful for those rare occasions when we wanted to set Evelyn down, such as when we wanted to make (or eat) dinner.  Equally helpful is a baby lounger, which is essentially a pillow shaped to allow baby to sit at an incline.  It is easier to move around than a rocker and great for playtime!

lounger

Finally, this may be my biggest tip. Forgo all of those footie pajamas for baby. It doesn’t matter if they zip or button, you will struggle to get a baby’s feet into the leggings of that outfit every time you need to change her. Honestly, they suck and waste a lot of time every time you need to change a diaper. Instead, opt for the nightgowns. They allow you to just flip them up and make quick changes without having to virtually undress your baby each time! They are a huge time-saver (and eardrum saver if your child hates diaper changes as much as mine).

evil-pj

EVIL

good-pj

AWESOME!

Beyond that, have some baby-safe laundry detergent on hand from the get-go and you are set for the first few weeks of life! Babies don’t need much else, besides cuddles and love, unless you have a specific medical reason for needing more for them at home!

 

Playtime at the Zoo

13 Jun Playtime Cover

I’ve always wanted to be a published author.  What better way to do it than to write an original storybook for my unborn daughter?

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Baby Gear: What Do You Really Need?

9 Jun 92589170

Being a parent is expensive.  It wouldn’t be so bad, if we knew we were spending our money on stuff that will actually help us raise our child.  With baby gear marketing in constant overdrive, we are sometimes made to feel that if we don’t buy a particular item, CPS might just come knocking on our door to investigate our negligence.  However, it is just as likely that we will drop a couple of hundred bucks on the latest item, only to find that the baby never needs it.

This past weekend, my wife was surrounded by friends and family at our baby shower.  Each of the guests had their own opinions on what we really needed before the baby came.  It was funny, because every single person had that one “must have” item queued up to suggest, and every single one was different.

I’ve scoured the Internet for baby gear that is an absolute necessity.  Now I’m not talking about the obvious stuff, like a crib or a car seat.  I am talking about the next-level luxury-type items that didn’t even exist when we were kids (and somehow we survived).

This inspired me to create a bracket of the items most commonly cites as “must-haves” by some and a “waste of money” by others.  This isn’t a comprehensive list and I am curious if you have any other items that you’d add.

Feel free to leave your picks in the comments section.  I tried to make this bracket interactive, but I refuse to pay a marketing company to build it for me.  Like I said, parenting will be expensive!

Baby Bracket

Game 1: Wearable Baby Monitor vs. Jogging Stroller

Game 2: Formula Dispenser vs. Wipe Warmer

Game 3: Bottle Sterilizer vs. Adjustable Bassinet

Game 4: Diaper Service vs. Nursery Glider/Rocker

Game 5: WiFi-Enabled Video Monitor vs. Diaper Pail

Game 6:Infant Bath Tub vs. Baby Food Maker

Game 7: Baby Detergent vs. Multi-Mode High Chair

Game 8: Changing Table vs. Electric Bottle Warmer

Game 9: Winners of Games 1 and 2

Game 10: Winners of Games 3 and 4

Game 11: Winners of Games 5 and 6

Game 12: Winners of Game 7 and 8

Game 13: Winners of Game 9 and 10

Game 14: Winners of Games 11 and 12

Game 15: Winners of Games 13 and 14

Champion: Winner of Game 15

Uh-Oh! I See a Nipple!

16 May

I spent most of my Saturday hanging out with Tiny Nephew.  You can see the before and after comparison of our day below.

I posted this picture on various social media accounts.  People responded.

But do you know what?  I didn’t get a single post asking me to cover up.  Facebook didn’t deem my body offensive (though it probably should have), so the picture was not censored.  In fact, the overwhelming consensus on this post is that it is “cute” and “precious” and “awwwwww”.

Today I saw a viral video of a female weather reporter being stopped in the middle of her live on-air report, so that she could be handed a cardigan to cover up.  It seems viewers were offended by her tight black dress.  Why?  Why is it okay for me to post topless pics of myself, but a fully-clothed woman is shamed by her employer on the air?  How is that okay?

Currently, I am expecting my first child, a daughter.  I’ve become much more attuned to the world she and my wife will face in the coming years.  Things I took for granted as a man are starting to trouble me.  I am beginning to understand my female friends a little better, and I share their indignation for how women are treated in our society.  There is a clear double-standard for how men and women should present themselves.  And it sucks.

“Never mind if your breasts are being used to nourish your baby; I have sexualized them in my mind, so go feed your kid on a public toilet! ”

“Don’t dress in a way that makes you feel empowered; that is threatening to me as a man, so cover up or prepare to be slut-shamed!”

But I am free to flash my nips to anyone I want, post them anywhere I want, and I’ve not heard a thing.

So how about it?  Anyone want to slut-shame me?

 

Blogging for Baby – Prepping the Nursery

13 May Crib

Let’s be honest.  I have no input in the design of the nursery, especially one for a little girl. Even if my wife wasn’t the most awesome planner I know, she also has two interior designers in her family (her sister and her mom), so I am basically fourth on the depth chart when it comes to opinions.  If I’m being really honest, I am actually a day laborer in this endeavor, minus the payment.  So my contribution to this involved painting, lifting, and reaching.

Before Photos

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Okay, this isn’t really the “Before” Photo.  This is more like the post-clearing-crap-out-but-pre-nursery-photo set.

My experience involved coming home on a Thursday night and taping off the room, laying down plastic, and applying samples to our wall.  Then on Friday, I applied a thick coat of primer because even though our walls were originally a light shade of tan, it kept getting bleeding through.

Finally, on Saturday, I put Star Wars on the laptop and got to work.  Three consecutive viewings later, I had a very pink room!

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Then it was time to add detail and furniture to the room!  But that could wait, right?  Clearly you don’t know us or you wouldn’t be asking that question.

We actually had no intention of purchasing our crib until much later in the pregnancy, but Amazon pulled a fast one on us!  We had already settled on the Davinci Jayden 4-in-1 Convertible Crib in black, to match a dresser that we already owned.  It was perfect!  Phthalate-safe, affordable, and easy to assemble!  I was hooked after reading the first review on it!  But at some point, they stopped carrying it (at least in black).  So that sent us on a mad scramble to buy the crib much sooner than anticipated before the price point changed!

I am not the sort of person to just let it sit there in the box to be assembled in the future.  Once it arrived, it got built.  From there, were were actually able to incorporate pieces from elsewhere within our home to complete the nursery.  The only things we had to buy were some art pieces for a gallery wall.

I won’t give away all of the final touches, but here are some teasers:

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When I told my mom the nursery was already done in April, she asked what we planned to do through the summer while we waited for the baby to arrive.

“Simple,” I said, “Dust!”

 

 

Blogging for Baby – The BIG Ultrasound

12 May Baby Girl Hall - 19 Weeks

So yeah, we’re pregnant.  I’m not going to act like I am still in shock.  We found out in January and it is May now.  But we are at the 20 week mark, halfway through it, and for some reason it is finally starting to feel real.  Up until this point, we hedged our excitement because we knew there was a chance of things going south.  But as this thing progresses, my optimism has risen.

Two weeks ago, we had the big scan.  You know the one if you you’ve ever been expecting.  This is the scan where they measure every part of the baby’s body to make sure everything is developing on schedule.  What they don’t tell you is that, healthy or not, they will spend an inordinate amount of time on the baby’s heart.  So after five minutes of watching her four chambers pumping blood, I began to wonder what concerns the nurse had.  Of course, my fears were unfounded.  Everything was fine.  Maybe next time, using words would be a way to keep my imagination in check.

For all the detail we were able to see that day, the one image that escaped us was a picture of her facial features.  The scan pierced her surface and only gave us a view underneath.  So we got a shot of this adorable skull/demon thing growing in my wife’s uterus.  I am not kidding when I tell you our daughter looked like this:

I am not a patient man.  I am the guy who finished setting up my kid’s nursery weeks ago.  So now of course, I am on a mission to figure out what she’ll look like.  For that, I turn to baby pictures of my wife and I.

Next, I find one of those free facial generators online that blends features from multiple pictures.

Okay.  I can see that.  Much cuter than a Stormtrooper.

 

 

Camping Time

15 Aug

When I was a Boy Scout, I camped with Troop 207 once a month.  Sometimes these trips were one-nighters.  Other times, we made a week out of it at Camp Wehinahpay.  And once, we even backpacked at Philmont for two weeks!  Snow, rain, wind, and blazing heat were no match for us!  Then I went to college and me and thirty of my closest friends made a couple of excursions to Elephant Butte Lake.  It turned out that I was one of the few to have any camping experience, so I set up tents, lit fires, cooked the food, and loved every minute of it!

Since moving to Arizona ten years ago, I’ve only camped twice; but I am going with my family in a couple of weeks.  It’s amazing how outdoor skills and knowledge never really go away.  I’ve been hard at work the last few days preparing for the trip by replenishing my outdated gear.  Let’s just say I’m a little overwhelmed at the advances made in camping technology in the last decade.  While I salivate over the parachute material hammocks, I find that there are just some old school methods that can’t be beat.  A quick consultation of the Internet tells me these methods are now called “hacks“.

For my upcoming trip, our group will consist of 4 dogs and 4 humans.  We will be venturing to the White Mountains of Arizona at the end of August for a 3 night excursion at a hosted campground.  “Hosted” generally means the site will boast fire pits, ranger stations, and other amenities.

This particular site also has running water and restroom facilities (including showers).  What better way to ease the family into life outdoors?  Unfortunately, hosted sites often have RV hookups as well.  Let me make this clear.  If you are in an RV, you are NOT camping.  You are not roughing it.  And you certainly are missing out on the best parts of the Great Outdoors by insulating yourself inside your rolling meth lab.

So anyway, while I stock up on the essentials (and not-so-essentials), I am going to update this blog with thoughts on what new gear might be worth the money, and which can be replaced with cheaper DIY substitutes.  I’ll also update with my packing list, menus, and other thoughts that might be helpful to other people looking to get out into the wild.

My 2016 DNC Autopsy

10 Nov

After Romney lost in 2012, the Republicans did an autopsy. This was in response to an election loss that isn’t even on the scale of what we witnessed last night. Here is my unsolicited autopsy of …

Source: My 2016 DNC Autopsy

My 2016 DNC Autopsy

10 Nov
PROLOGUE: ABOUT LAST NIGHT

I’ve always loved politics.  The run-up to an election can be exhilarating.  The aftermath can be downright fascinating!  After Romney lost in 2012, the Republicans did an autopsy. This was in response to an election loss that isn’t even on the scale of what we witnessed last night. Donald Trump largely ignored the lessons that the RNC put into that report and rode a wave to victory. So what does that mean?

First, it means the RNC autopsy drew incorrect conclusions (at least in the short-term). Their solutions to a shrinking base were not the “only” ways to retake the White House.

Second, it provides valuable insight into what the establishment thinks vs what the rest of us think.

Full disclosure, I am a registered Independent, so I am coming at this from an outsider’s perspective. This is not a idealized suggestion of how to govern.  This is a realist’s perspective on how to go about winning the dirty business of elections. Without further adieu, here is my unsolicited autopsy of the DNC’s 2016 campaign (in no particular order).
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Why Did You Fail to Beat This Guy?  

ISSUE 1: ABORTION

Let’s get this one out of the way. It is an emotional argument (murdered babies) and voters are known to vote emotionally. For many people with religious convictions, this is the only issue that matters. If not for the death of Justice Scalia, I believe we would be reading about President-Elect Clinton. His vacant seat, and the looming prospect of more vacancies in the next four years, literally put the fear of God into some voters. And it is a shame, because they are voting based on the narrative created from lies.

Late-term abortions are not at all like what Trump described in the third debate when he said they could occur literally within the last day of pregnancy. That is an outright lie. Yet anti-abortion foes ate it up. So when Hillary Clinton tried to rebut his mischaracterization of a late-term abortion, they tuned out her nuanced, fact-based response. He gave them a soundbite, a bumper sticker slogan, which reinforced their worldview. At that point, the only counterargument that makes a dent is one for the health and safety of the mother and a protection for rape/incest victims. That is the only ground ceded by abortion foes that has any real traction. To try an lure them into a meaningful dialogue on the subject only invites more accusations of baby-killing.

Early polling suggests a historic Latino turnout. Everyone assumed this was bad news for Trump because he had denigrated Latinos in his campaign. But what if abortion and its future in the Supreme Court mattered more to a group that is overwhelmingly Catholic? Trump got a larger percentage of Latino voters than Romney and it wasn’t because of their warm-and-fuzzy feeling toward him.

I’m not saying to give up the fight on abortion. There is no way this country should ever go back to back-alley procedures and forcing women to carry babies to term. The supposed moral high ground that anti-abortion foes feel they have has given them license to attack the issue in less-than-moral ways. This includes faked “gotcha” videos that purport to show procedures that simply never happened as well as ignoring recommendations from the medical community. They set the narrative and Democrats have only been too happy to engage them on their home turf. The conversation has to be changed.


ISSUE 2: RURAL AMERICA

What did I hear from Hillary Clinton that spoke to people living outside of the population centers? Crickets. The Great Recession decimated main street America. Prior to 2010, counties with less than one million residents accounted for 71% of new businesses created in the country. After 2010, those counties without large urban centers only generated 42% of new businesses. We know that the economy has been in recovery mode, aided by the stimulus, through the Obama years. We now also know that almost all of that recovery was isolated to large urban cities, located in approximately 20-30 counties (out of 3,143 nationwide).

Is it any wonder that rural voters looked at the gridlock in DC, perpetuated by millionaires with their hand in the public trough, and said, “Enough!” Go to any small town that was sustained by a single, large industry. Whether it is mining, energy, or manufacturing, when that major job-supplier is outsourced, the town dies. What is a non-skilled laborer to do when the jobs dry up? Pick up and move their families to the city, where the cost of living will double or triple? It’s not an option for many of them. Right or wrong, Trump zeroed-in on bad trade deals being the boogeyman that destroyed their way of life. They think he has the magic bullet to save them. What did Hillary offer? Not much, other than to communicate that she wanted to shut down coal.

Democrats have to learn how to speak to non-skilled labor forces. Not only has it lost the rural labor force, but it now appears that organized labor within population centers is revolting. Democrats may still have union bosses on their side, but the rank-and-file clearly responded to Trump’s call as well. There needs to be a comprehensive and comprehensible message to these workers because they felt left behind by the establishment on both sides. Trump offered them an outside option to shake things up. Listen to what they are telling you.

ISSUE 3: MEDIA RELATIONS

Fairly or not, the DNC is seen as being in bed with the liberal elite media. While a fair press still exists in this country, Democrat operatives aided in blurring the lines between “reporting” and “editorializing”. Now most Americans can’t tell the difference, so many seek out alternative sources of information and give it more credence because they aren’t mainstream.

So when the media sounds the alarm on very real issues, such as climate change, or a candidate’s multitude of lies, they are dismissed as being biased. When talking heads openly celebrate a Supreme Court ruling seen as ‘liberal’ and question ‘conservative’ rulings, it undermines their very essence for being. The news is meant to deliver information and allow for voters to make decisions. When you deliver the news through your own surrogates, it loses all impact.

Case in point: Donna Brazile. She became the story when she was employed by both CNN and the DNC. Leaked emails indicate that she used her media connections to perhaps benefit her party unfairly in a debate. Even if that was not the case, her conflict of interest cast doubt on her defense. Democrats should have known better. This was tailor-made for a conspiracy theory. In the future, operatives need to pick a lane. They either provide commentary on TV or the work for the party. They should not be doing both. That will allow legitimate news outlets to call things out on both sides and deflect accusations of bias.

ISSUE 4: ESTABLISHMENT

Given the separation of wealth in this country, the average American rightly believes the deck is being stacked against them by the elites in power. Democrats talk about helping reduce the squeeze on the middle class. They want to assist the working poor. They want the rich to pay their fair share of taxes. In short, they want to level the playing field. That being said, actions speak louder than words.

Over the summer, America witnessed an uprising within each party. Trump emerged from the GOP. Bernie Sanders faltered, even though he arguably had more momentum and popularity than his opponent. Why?

The DNC stacked the deck. Even before the Primary officially started, Clinton was the presumptive nominee. Her campaign appears to have collaborated with leadership within the party to subvert the Sanders movement. The use of Super-Delegates, unbound by the will of the people, put her over the top. As a result, most of America feels her nomination was tainted, if not stolen outright. There was clearly a groundswell of change occurring in this country. The RNC allowed it to occur. The DNC squashed it.

So how can an organization speak about leveling the playing field for Americans when they refuse to do that within their own party? The nominating process needs revamped. Now that the Clinton Machine has been vanquished once-and-for-all, it is time to allow the best candidate to emerge from the fold without preordaining them.

There may be an instinct to nominate a white male next time because America is “sexist” and Obama was a once-in-a-lifetime candidate. If the DNC tries to give America what it wants based on some sort of trait analysis, it has missed the point of this whole election. America didn’t reject Obama. America didn’t reject a woman President. America wants the best candidate you put forth, no matter what demographic boxes they check. Hillary was clearly not the best candidate.

ISSUE 5: OBSTRUCTION

There will be the desire to give the Republicans a taste of their own medicine by obstructing everything their President tries to do. If Democrats do that, they will lose Congress, and perhaps the White House, for a generation. The message from voters to both parties last night was to end the gridlock and to work together to solve this country’s problems. If you use the taxpayer’s time and money to do nothing on some misguided four-year campaign to embarrass the incumbent, it will backfire. I promise it will.

The Supreme Court is lost for now. Do not become hypocrites by taking up the playbook that you so rightly criticized these last several years. If you do, it may be lost forever.

I’m not saying all obstruction is bad. Just pick your spots wisely.

ISSUE 6: GROUND GAME

Trump proved there are new rules in elections. You no longer need a massive ground game to get out the vote. Or rather, a massive ground game cannot motivate people to vote better than a great message. Major TV ad campaigns cannot overcome a great message. In a way, this is a very good thing. It means the effects of Citizens United may be overblown if the right candidate comes along. Clinton outspent Trump in every conceivable way, yet his message was the one the voters heard.


ISSUE 7: PARTY LOYALTY

Trump fractured the GOP, there is no doubt about that. But they were able to coalesce around mutual hatred of the Democratic nominee. For that and other reasons, they came back home. Worse, they were likely joined by members of the Democratic party who either voted against Hillary or sat out the election because of how the party dealt with Bernie Sanders.

Republicans were beaten down all election season from every angle. They had every reason to crumble. Yet it was the Democrats that failed to secure their base. Whether it was a smaller turnout of black voters or a lack of support from groups that Trump had insulted, like women and minorities, the DNC took its base for granted. They took Michigan for granted. Clinton didn’t step foot in Wisconsin. The most sophisticated get-out-the-vote effort in history faltered because the DNC had set up no rearguard. So while they plunged into states like Georgia and Arizona, hoping to turn them blue, states that had voted traditionally Democrat handed the Presidency to Trump. Years of analysis might tell us the lessons to be learned from this result, but it may very well come down to a simple case of neglect.

ISSUE 8: INDEPENDENT VOTERS

A knee-jerk reaction to last night might be, “What if we had nominated Bernie instead?” And as a result of that thinking, you might think the party needs to veer further to the left to capitalize on his base. If you do that, you risk alienating the largest group of voters up for grabs each general election, moderates and voters without a party affiliation. Appealing to them should be a priority.

ISSUE 9: GUNS

“Obama is going to repeal the Second Amendment!” He didn’t, but that didn’t stop the NRA and GOP from falsely claiming he had the authority to restrict gun rights unilaterally. They did it again with Hillary. Much like the abortion topic above, the DNC has been arguing the issue on Republican turf for too long. If Sandy Hook didn’t do anything to change the gun culture in our country, no party’s platform will either. The argument might be morally right, but it is a stinker with voters the way it is currently framed.

ISSUE 10: ELITISM

It will be easy to dismiss Trump’s victory as the result of the KKK, white trash, ignorance, church ladies, uninformed voters, misogyny, bigotry, idiocy, hypocrisy, or whatever. It will be even easier to wallow in self-pity, wondering how so many people got it wrong. They fell for his lies. They dismissed behavior that would have been disqualifying if it had been anyone else. They prayed to God or the Flying Spaghetti Monster to guide their ass-backwards hand at the voting booth. Whatever. You get the picture. To cast judgement on your fellow Americans for failing to see the light is exactly why you lost this election. There is a disconnect between how Republicans and Democrats are perceived in this country, and how they perceive themselves. If the DNC tries to demonize all of Trump’s supporters, if it tries to talk down to them and explain why they were wrong, the backlash will continue. People can only feel like they’ve been kicked around or laughed at for so long before they rise up and revolt. Last night was that revolt.

CONCLUSION

Republicans have four years to deliver on a lot of outlandish promises made by their candidate. They should be held accountable for those promises if they are not kept. A retooling of the DNC apparatus is in order to nominate the right candidate to bring that accountability to the forefront. There does not need to be a major overhaul. Basically, it comes down to this:

–Fix the DNC nominating process so that it is perceived as “fair” and media relations so they are perceived as “unbiased”

–Get right with traditional supporters so they do not feel taken for granted

–Do not engage the GOP in arguments where they have set the narrative

–Develop a comprehensive plan to rebuild Main Street in small town America

–Without a message that resonates, a sophisticated ground game is meaningless

So until the next race, be good to each other and remember we really are rooting for our country to succeed, no matter who wins or loses an election.  That’s the great thing about Democracy.  There is always another election around the corner for you to make your voice heard.