May 14, 2012

If Mom (and this Dad) Had Three Minutes

Three minutes. If my math is correct, that’s 180 seconds. That’s not a lot of time. I mean, it takes me at least 15 minutes to get out of bed in that morning so three measly minutes is like the blink of an eye.

And it would be ludicrous to me if someone suggested that I could actually clean in three minutes time. Are you kidding? It take me three minutes to survey the clutter to decide what can get put away and what can get shoved under the coffee table (Honey, if you’re reading this, don’t look under the coffee table).

But the fine folks at Clorox set out to prove me wrong. Three minutes is enough time to do some serious cleaning. They even created a cute cartoon-themed e-book called, If Mom Had Three Minutes that highlights some creative ways to spend three minutes.

After reading this e-book I realized that I’m pretty darn creative with getting my kids to do my work for me encouraging my kids to clean.  In fact, if you give a six-year-old a baby wipe and tell him to go to town on door jams and light switches, he will think you gave him the keys to the car.  A squirt bottle with water and vinegar and a wash cloth bestowed upon a six year old also works just great.  Bonus points if you break out the stopwatch and see how fast he can get it done.  (Or is that just my kid?)

Anyway, go check out the e-book and let me know what you think.  Because, lord knows, we could all use three minutes.

Disclosure: I am being compensated by The Clorox Company to talk about my favorite time-saving, multi-tasking tip(s) as part of the If Mom Had Three Minutes program. 

March 28, 2011

Reading about Pigs and other critters

We’re three-quarters of the way through Swee’Pea and TheMonk’s kindergarten year. So much has changed in these past several months that it’s difficult to keep up. The biggest leap that the kids have made, however, is in their reading skills. The best, and admittedly worst, part of this is that bed time stories are now being read to me.

Now, they don’t use the voices or bang out a Dr. Seuss rhyme like Maya Angelo, but they can downright read. Every night we pick out books like Harry the Dirty Dog, A Crazy Day at the Critter Cafe (a current fave), There’s a Wocket in my Pocket, Where the Wild Things Are and, most recently, Olympian and Dancing with the Stars winner Kristi Yamaguchi’s new book, Dream Big, Little Pig.

We’ve been reading our books with Swee’Pea and TheMonk taking turns reading books or, sometimes, pages of the book. I only correct maybe 1 or 2 words per page. They blow right through the books. And, I have to say, after we received an advanced copy of Dream Big, Little Pig, Swee’Pea fell in love with it immediately. I have found her reading it to herself in the mornings and I even found her copying all the pictures of Poppy the Pig with her pink crayons. I must admit, the book is fun and we’re definitely a fan.

We often talk about the meaning of the books we read and I try and reinforce the message through a brief discussion. The book, of course, is about finding what you love and doing it with all of your heart. Dreaming big is how you become great. For little pigs named Poppy or little girls named Swee’Pea.

March 13, 2011

Shamelessly loving Graco

When you have twins, you accumulate a lot of stuff. One of the areas that you absolutely have to buy more than one of is car seats. And then you have to buy them again. And then again.

And, if you’re like me and my wife, since one of us dropped off in the morning and the other picked up, we needed to buy seats for both of our cars. When they were infants, we bought two carriers and four bases. But after they grew out of the infant carriers, we bought four each. And every time we bought our seats, we bought Graco seats. I felt like they were the best seats available and who wouldn’t want their children to be safe?

But suddenly, we have quite a collection of car seats. And we naively thought we’d hold onto them so we’d have seats for another child, if and when that day would come. But we recently learned that car seats actually expire! So now we have two infant seats that we no longer can use and an infant rapidly approaching. Baby #3 is due to arrive in early June. We need to get an infant carrier.

Do you think Graco has a buy 10 (plus a Graco Double Stroller!) get one free program? If anyone from Graco wants to help out a loyal consumer, I’d gladly accept!

Graco Collection
Our collection of Graco Car Seats and a Double Stroller.

June 22, 2010

It’s a Dolphin’s world, we’re just living in it

A few weeks ago, back before a barrage of work, birthdays, and family visits knocked me out of my blogging mojo, the family was invited to attend the grand opening of SeaWorld San Diego’s new dolphin show Blue Horizons.

As you may recall, Swee’Pea, TheMonk and I got to be a part of the final weekend of the old dolphin show back in September of last year. So we were excited when SeaWorld invited us to be their guests. I thought the kids would enjoy it but I really didn’t know what to expect.

It turns out, the show is all about a Princess in pink with a fantastic combination of acrobatics and great dolphin tricks. I wish I could put into words how theatrical and fun the show is but I’m not sure how to do it. I do know that it’s difficult to take everything in at once. So many things are happening that we’ll probably have to go again just to get a better feel for it.

I know Swee’Pea won’t mind. Did I mention the Pink Princess? Maybe next time, she won’t chicken out when it comes time for a photo.

Get the flash player here:

May 23, 2009

29 more shopping days…

As a blogger, you get a lot of PR emails from people asking you write about their stuff on your blog. This past Mother’s Day, for example, I got 37 emails touting all kinds of great Mother’s Day gift ideas.

As of today I have received 5 Father’s Day emails.

I’m not bitter though… Okay, Screw that. I AM bitter. What the hell, people?! Why don’t Dads get some love for being a parent the way a mom does? And, yes, I know that even today more moms take on a greater role in parenting but times are changing and if more men were recognized for the role they play in parenting their children, they would, I bet, be inclined to do even more.

So, I’m going to do my part. I’m going to suggest a few things that men would like from their significant others when it comes to recognizing their role in parenting their children. Some are not surprising, some are cliche, one I was paid to recommend. Read on for more

1) Sex. Lots of it. Let’s face it. We are what we are. And while we may be tempted by snazzy electronics or a good bottle of booze, what we really want for Father’s Day is our significant other laying on the bed wearing nothing but a big red ribbon. Added bonus? In times of economic hardship, it’s practically free. You could even lose the ribbon if you want to save a few bucks. We won’t mind.

2) Did I mention sex? I did? Hmmm, ok, this is harder than I thought. How about chocolate and flowers? Us men nowadays are perfectly secure in our manliness so a little floral and sweet love wouldn’t be unwelcome. If you’re nice, he might even share some of the chocolates with you.

3) Anything with the word “Flat Screen” is always a winner.

4) Power tools. Even if your husband can’t spell screw driver (heh. heh. I said “screw”), he’ll love any tool that makes lots of noise and destroys things easily.

5) Lingerie. Of course, he won’t be the one wearing the lingerie… (Or maybe he will. Hey, what you do in the privacy of your own home is up to you. I won’t judge.)

6) ATH-ANC3 QuietPoint® active noise-cancelling in-ear headphones. I was sent these earphones to review and I was pleasantly surprised. First, they come in a cool case that also is perfect to put my iPod nano in. Second, they not only deliver great sound, but they actually do prevent you from hearing your wife nag you about projects around the house just about anything when you are wearing them. I even mowed the lawn with these things on and couldn’t hear the lawn mower. I might have even put them in when a couple of kids in my house the neighborhood were screaming their bloody heads off.

7) Finally, I have saved the best gift for last. Sex. You can’t go wrong with an oldie but a goodie. What? Why are you looking at me like that?

Now go make that dad in your life a very happy man!

April 23, 2008

Huggies Clean Team: a few hits and one big miss

I was recently asked by the good people at Huggies to try out some new products aimed at keeping toddlers clean.  The line of products that Huggies calls The Cleanteam includes flushable moist wipes, hand soap, shampoo, bath wash, cleansing cloths, disposable wash cloths and detangler.

I was sent everything but the disposable wash cloths and detangler.  The containers are colorful and kid friendly – each product has its own cartoon character on the front.  The first thing we tried was the hand soap.  The soap comes in a hand pump that emits a soap foam onto the hands.  It also has a light built in that flashes for 20 seconds to encourage kids to wash.  Truth be told, however, my kids never saw the light. It wasn’t until just a few minutes ago when I picked up the pump to look at it closely did I notice that it flashes.  The light in our bathroom was too bright and overpowered the little light on the soap.  Nonetheless, the kids enjoyed washing their hands with the soap.

TheMonk loves his wipes.  He will make up reasons to go and take out wipes.  If he’s got even a hint of a booger, he’s making a bee-line to the wipes to fish that bugger out.  He did have a little time opening the flushable moist wipes but once in, they garnered his approval.  They were lightly scented and were strong enough to take care of the most unpleasant of wipes.  Solid if not spectacular.

The cleansing cloths were my personal favorite.  They are thicker than most wipes on the market and provide some real substance and allowed me to clean up a ketchup-smeared face and hands with ease.  This would be one that I would buy again – especially to put in the diaper bag when eating out.

And now we get to the shampoo and bath wash.  The bath started out well when I introduced the products to the kids.  They loved the scented blue-melon (whatever that is) and were excited when I poured the bath wash into the water to create some bubbles to play in.  Both are tear-free and the kids seemed to enjoy their bath.  The shampoo lathered well and rinsed well.  Everything seemed fine.

The next morning, however, Swee’Pea woke up with a small rash on her belly.  The rash soon grew and, almost a week later – after two doctor’s visits, hydrocortisone creams, steroids, and lots and lots of Benedryl – she STILL has a rash over most of her body.  Apparently, our little girl is allergic to something in the body wash or shampoo.  TheMonk, on the other hand, was fine.  Go figure.

So, if you do use the shampoo and body wash, go easy the first time.  If your child has sensitive skin or has had trouble with eczema in the past, I would probably forgo it.

So, overall, the products were good.  I’d use the wipes again.  The hand soap’s novelty has worn off a bit since we introduced it but now that I know about the light we can try and emphasize that.  The shampoo and bath wash?  Well, if you want a only-used-once bottle, I’d be happy to send it to you.

April 20, 2008

Book Review: Where twin is a four letter word

As a parent of twins I was interested when asked to review a new book about parenting twins. I’m a big believer in knowing as much about parenting as possible.  (This parenting is hard work!)  In fact, upon learning I was going to have twins, I went out and purchased at least four or five books about parenting twins – so I’m well versed in what makes a good twin book.

Now that I have a little experience under my belt, I was looking forward to reading a twin parenting book with that experience fresh in my mind rather than reading everything and wondering how the book would apply to me.  Now that I know what I know, any advice given can be compared to my own personal experiences.

About a month ago I received Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Two Unique Children, written by Joan A. Friedman – a psychologist who is an identical twin and parent of her own identical twins. With a background like that, Ms. Friedman seems like she would be a natural when discussing parenting twins.

Unfortunately, the book takes a hard-line stance on how to parent twins that is not only very narrow, but doesn’t exactly fly with all twins – particularly those twins who are boy/girl. The premise, however, is a strong one. Treat your children as individuals. Don’t buy into what Ms. Friedman calls “the twin mystique” – that all twins are alike and that they must have a bond that should never be broken. Ms. Friedman advocates very strongly that twins should not be given any special treatment or parented in any way that celebrates or brings attention to the fact that they “happen to be born on the same day.”

On the surface, Ms. Friedman has a good point. Definitely, spend time alone with each of your twins. Definitely don’t compare them. Definitely encourage them to explore their individuality and uniqueness. That is hard to disagree with.

It’s the extremes that Ms. Friedman advocates that really bugged the crap out me. For instance, she suggests telling people that you are pregnant with “two babies” rather than twins – so as not to reinforce the “twin mystique.”  She even goes so far as to tell you to purchase separate dressers in the baby’s room so there’s no confusion about their sense of self.  I could go on and on with examples such as these.

There is an entire chapter devoted to fathers and twins. Unfortunately, this is the point of the book w

here I wanted to throw it into the nearest trash receptacle and call it a day. At one point she tells the reader that “fathers of newborns are generally pleased to have an assignment and to feel useful and effective.” Give me a friggin’ break. She clings onto stereotypes of the ignorant father and the controlling, overwhelmed mother who needs to give the father assignments or LET the father have alone time with the kids. And while I realize that many fathers need a little push, I felt offended reading the entire chapter.

On the whole, I get the feeling that Ms. Friedman has not fully worked out her issues surrounding her own childhood and growing up as an identical twin. Her theory of raising strong adults by separating twins as early and as thorough as possible screams loud and clear that she felt her own childhood would have been different if she had not been a twin – or, at least, treated like one.

As I said earlier, I feel like this book is not nearly as relevant to boy/girl fraternal twins. My own experiences have shown that it is a lot easier to separate interests and comparisons when the twins are opposite genders. I see how being an identical twin could present problems of identity but I feel like her hardcore stance is a bit much.

Finally, I think this book might have worked better as a memoir rather than a definitive way to raise twins. It is one person’s perspective that I don’t think many twin parents would be comfortable adopting. Like I said, the overall message of spending alone time with each twin and helping them create their own identity outside of being a twin is an important and necessary aspect of parenting twins. I just don’t agree that embracing your twins and all that comes with it and raising emotionally healthy children are mutually exclusive.

March 4, 2008

Queer Eye for the Parent Guy

When I first learned I was going to have a child, my first thought was, “Woo Hoo! I am THE MAN!” But my second thought was one of fear. “What do I do now? What do I know about raising a child? How do I do this parenting thing?!” The only thing I could think of was to clean out the parenting section of the local Barnes & Noble. In all, I think I have about 15 to 20 books on some aspect of parenting. So, when I was asked to review the newly released book The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting I was really excited. I mean, thanks to my mother and her wild ways, I’ve hung around my share of gay men. Plus I’m a father. I’ve read my books but I’ve also learned through the school of hard knocks.

Brett Berk, the author, uses his background in early childhood education and his experience as a pre-school teacher and director along with his work as a consultant to companies wanting to sell you things you don’t need, to tell you how you can best parent your child. To me, this is similar to the priest at the catholic Engagement Encounter giving advice to married couples. He’s got an idea about how it should be done but his experience is lacking in some key areas.

Nonetheless, I was eager to read the book. And as you begin reading, you quickly realize that this is not your mother’s parenting book. No, Mr. Berk is no Dr. Spock. I mean, you have to get past all the cursing… and all the references to alcohol… and drugs… and hangovers… But once you do, the read is quite enjoyable as the tone is light and witty and even educational.

Overall, the book has many useful tips and thought-provoking aspects. I think the new parent, like I was three years ago, would enjoy reading this book and letting it digest without any aversion to the tone of Mr. Berk’s style – which is to say, bordering on condescension. The tone, especially at the beginning of the book, is one of “I know how to parent kids because I’ve been a pre-school director and you don’t know how to parent because you are so close to the situation that you can’t see the forest through the trees. Here, let me enlighten you.” Admittedly, this was hard for me to get past now that I have been parenting twins for the past two and a half years. I feel like I’ve earned some serious parenting stripes and I’m not sure I’m up for a guy with no kids telling me that he knows better.

But once I got over my issues, I do have to admit that the book can be a pretty useful tool in dealing with various stages and events in children’s (and parent’s) lives. Some of what he writes is stating the obvious (he spends a great deal of one chapter telling you not to lie to your kids) but others are quite good and a nice reminder even for a more veteran parent like myself (like how to best communicate with your child without using the word “no”).

To illustrate his points, Mr. Berk uses examples from friends and family members who happen to be parents. Luckily for Mr. Berk, his friends and family happen to be the worst parents on the face of the earth. Parents who yell, hit, threaten, berate, act childish, and decide that the time to start potty training is during a six week vacation. With the examples of those closest to him, he gives us better alternatives and the reason why it works. Many of these examples come from extended stays with friends who have kids and he spends a great deal of time telling us how much he loved working with kids but also how much trouble they are when on these visits. Now, once the book is released, I imagine he won’t have any more friends with parents who want to stay with him so perhaps his problem will be solved.

Judging by the tone of this review, you might conclude that I would not recommend this book. But that’s not entirely true. However, I wouldn’t recommend this book to just anyone. The book has good information and can be a really useful tool if you are the right person to receive this message in a relaxed, alternative way. If you are young, hip and clueless as a parent or don’t mind getting advice from a know-it-all gay guy, then this is the book for you. After all, it IS fun to read and does have useful information. But if you are conservative in your views or don’t like to read about the author sneaking in a “quickie” before the kids get back from an outing (FYI, Brett, Too Much Information), then you might look elsewhere for your parenting tips.

Having said all this, I’d give the book a solid B. There is some solid information that can be very helpful when navigating this slippery slope of parenthood. It’s a good, fast read and is easy to understand. If you are a progressive person who doesn’t mind a few four-lettered words mixed in with your parenting advice, this book is worth the price. You can pick up a copy here.

P.S. I have an extra copy of this book. If you would like a copy, leave a compelling reason why you need a parenting book and I’ll choose a winner.

November 27, 2007

Daring to be different

Every so often I get a request to do book reviews through a blog called Mother Talk. Their tag-line is “When mothers talk, great things happen.” Well, I’m not sure how I got on their email list (other than the fact that half the people who read my blog for the first time think I’m a mom) but when I saw the chance to review the book The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz, I figured that as a father of a young girl, I needed all the help I could get. So I signed up for the book tour. After being accepted, I was told that out of the 100+ bloggers reviewing this book, I am the only male. No pressure.

Daring book for girls

The Daring Book for Girls, is a big, blue book that when opened reminds me of an old school textbook or even an old Boy Scouts Manual. The book jumps around from the rules of basketball (and, to be frank, it appears the authors are not too familiar with the game of basketball) to how to tie knots, do cartwheels or how to make your very own “cootie catcher.”

The book lacks real flow as it is filled with chapter after chapter of tips and information that showcase things that would be associated with being typically “girl” (such as how to make friendship bracelets) along with other areas that one might not typically associate with girls (such as the rules for the game of Darts). And maybe that’s the point. After all, these girls are supposed to be daring and daring girls don’t do typical girly stuff.

Surprisingly (at least to me, representing the male perspective), this book is pretty fascinating to read. There are great little stories about great women in history scattered throughout the book. Many of the chapters bring you back to your childhood such as being reminded of jump rope rhymes or how to make daisy chains and ivy crowns. Each chapter brings a new experience and a fun activity and really reminds one what being a young girl is and can be.

As a father trying to find ways to stay connected to his little girl, I found enough of what I was looking for to make this book a real resource. I can envision practicing Back Walk-Overs, putting her hair up with a pencil or adorning our heads with the aforementioned daisy chains and that is going to be awesome.

But even better is that this book redefines what a girl is and can be. The book itself isn’t pink, it’s blue – challenging the notion that girls have to wear pink and wear pinafores. Instead, this book challenges girls to hone their science skills through creating a lemon-powered clock, playing with vinegar and baking soda and studying the periodic table of elements. It also makes clear that learning to change a tire, negotiating a salary and even whistling with two fingers is not just for boys anymore.

The book is definitely targeted to school-aged girls and not for my little toddler. But that only means I’ve got a few years to practice my cartwheels before my daughter is ready to participate. I’ll bone up on how to raise a daring girl and I’ll be ready when she’s ready.

And my little girl will be all the better for it.

November 26, 2007

Cyber Monday Tuesday

The Holiday Season is upon us, my friends. That means it is time to reflect on your good fortunes and spread peace and cheer to all buy stuff.

Two days ago was “Black Friday” – the busiest shopping day of the year. Ironically, my lovely “I hate to shop” wife decided that would be a perfect day to go to TWO different malls to pick up a couple of things. I’m just starting to recover as the involuntary twitches have slowed considerably.

Today (as I write this it is late Monday) was dubbed “Cyber Monday” where all of you were supposed to be hitting the AlGoreosphere to purchase your electronic back scratcher. I did not participate in this year’s Cyber Monday but I do plan on coordinating my requests for Santa through various websites. In fact, this is my ideal shopping trip. I sit on my couch, watching Sports Center while drinking hot cocoa. No parking spot required.

And as I am digging deep for material in this NaBloPoMo home stretch, I thought I’d share with you a few of the dozens of catalogs that make it into my mail box in the past few weeks, along with a personal favorite. Perhaps you’ll find something good to send to your favorite blogger.

Here are my Top Five shopping websites.

1) Red Envelope – This catalog has some stylish home accessories as well as nice gifts for both men and women. I have actually purchased something from this catalog so that in itself is a testament to the power of this catalog. If you’re looking for something for me, I’d suggest something like this.

2) Uncommon Goods – I just recently came across this catalog and it’s a lot of fun. Where else can you get Sock Monkey slippers for the entire family? And while I’d would love my own pair of Sock Monkey slippers, I could also see myself with one of these.

3) Autosport – I drive a 13-year-old car. The car radio no longer turns down. It’s two settings are ON or OFF. It’s advanced GPS system consists of a Thomas Guide stuffed under the passenger seat. Needless to say I day dream about one day driving a new car. One day I will need one of these for my car. And I will open up my Autosport catalog and order it with glee.

4) Hammacher Schlemmer – An all-time fave. This catalog is full of things any guy would totally love to have but absolutely does not need. (Although, I think I need this. And the twins really need this.)

5) SkyMall – You no longer have to travel at 20,000 feet to shop from SkyMall. Most of the time, this catalog is the highlight of my flight. Now, I can browse it any time I want. And because I’m tired of my travel alarm that wakes me up every day, I can order my very own clock radio. Oh, sorry, that’s Mr. Clock Radio to you.

And finally, my cousin Maggie has great taste. Her shopping blog, MightyGoods has been voted one of the top shopping blogs on the internet. She also just recently launched MightyJunior for the little ones in our lives. Prices range from a large latte to a good chunk of paycheck and it’s always fun reading her little blurbs about each item.

Happy Shopping!

*No one paid me anything for this endorsement. That being said, if anyone would like to pay me for any of these endorsements, I would be happy to entertain any and all offers.

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