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2013-03-28_19-44-00_385

I try to re-purpose our stuff for O whenever I can because we live in an apartment with limited space.  Having too many items that serve only one purpose would turn our happy apartment into a miserably cluttered mess.  The picture above is a great example of a re-purposing idea that I learned from a Facebook friend.  The common solution to baby safety is a bath seat but I find that a laundry basket is much cheaper and it works better for a baby who can sit up.  It keeps him from tipping over, gives him something to hold onto and contains his toys as he splashes and plays.  He doesn’t need to lean out and try to grab them plus he learns how to balance himself in water in a way that he could not in a traditional bath seat.  When he was younger we used a bath sponge that you can lay him on in the tub.  It worked great and we still use it occasionally.  When we visit family for any length of time we will re-purpose a couple of adult sized towels to reproduce the same basic function.  If we hadn’t gotten the sponge we probably would have used the towel method instead.  We also had a hand me down baby tub and found it to be a hassling space thief more-so than a helpful bath tool.  When it comes to bath time there are clearly many opportunities to re-purpose stuff you already have instead of spending more money on single purpose items that will just hog precious storage space.

Another example of re-purposing is our baby station.  The idea is to take any piece of furniture with a top roughly waist-high and turn it into a changing table by stuffing it full of diaper changing supplies and throwing an inexpensive changing pad on top.  We went a step further and had my father in law build some custom shelves for the sides to create the ultimate baby station.  I talk about our changing station in an older post “Diaper Central Command” which has an excellent picture of how it turned out.  When we went out looking for baby stuff we were dismayed by the cost of specialize baby furniture.  It was nice looking but we had a hard time with the idea of spending $100+ dollars on a changing table that we would use for only one purpose for a few years and then promptly try to shove into the limited storage space we have in our central CT apartment.  Re-purposing has been the right solution for us and ended up producing a piece of furniture that is way better than anything we could have bought from a Babies R Us.

So that is how we have done a bit of re-purposing for our baby in an apartment.  What kind of creative re-purposing have you done?  Have any re-purposing tips that this stay at home dad could use?  Share in the comments section below so we can all benefit from your experience!

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I have been doing much of my writing these last few weeks late at night after my wife and son have gone to bed.  You would think that being a stay at home dad and getting up with the little guy would mean going to bed early but that has not been the case.  Instead my natural night owl tendencies have been strengthened because  late at night is the only time I can write in peace.  There is nothing that can derail my train of thought and I can focus on what I want to say.  He is much more consistent with his sleep at night than during the day so I don’t feel the “Holy crap he could wake up any moment so I have to get stuff done” pressure and I am much more relaxed and focused on my writing.  I have also rediscovered the joy of playing my favorite classic computer games like “Wing Commander” and “SimCity.”  I don’t get as much sleep but I can sometimes recover the lost sleep during the day.  On days like this I sleep during his morning nap which is varies these days so there are no guarantees that it will help much.  I then have less time to get my daily tasks done so I have to hustle to get all of the housework and dinner prep done during his afternoon nap which can be as short as 1.5 hours.  It’s not a perfect way to address my need for time to blog and unwind but it’s better than the alternatives.

One of the alternatives to staying up late is to blog during his naps.  I put a lot of time and thought into my posts so it is not uncommon for a single post to reflect 3 or more hours worth of writing, editing, link creation, picture selection and research.  Sometimes I have tons of time on my hands because O decides to take longer naps but lately he hasn’t been doing that.  Between dishes, cleaning and making dinner that usable nap time disappears pretty quick most days.  So I might be left with an hour or two to blog on any given day.  Doable, but it takes me much longer than that to produce a post of any length or depth.  I also have a hard time finishing a post from a partially written draft so I end up taking longer per post and producing lower quality content.  I could write quicker but I do not want to churn out a bunch of short crappy posts written quickly while I stress over how much else I have to do that day and worry when my son is going to wake up from his nap.  I did this the first couple of months after I started this blog and did not like it.

Another alternative would be to write after we eat family dinner each night.  This would address my need for uninterrupted writing time but it creates other problems. The evening is when my wife and I can talk and spend waking time together.  It’s also the only time during the work week when we can all hang out together as a family.  It would be easy to use my computer in the other room for hours on end and write but I would miss out on connecting with my wife and son everyday and that would not be worth it.

The final alternative would be to do all my blogging on the weekends.  There’s plenty of time on the weekends right?  I could write multiple posts and schedule them to drop throughout the week!  My wife could take O when I need to blog and we would still have time left as a family.  Wrong again!  Both of our families and many of our closest friends are roughly 3 hours away so we are often out and about visiting them.  Don’t forget big projects and events like road races, spring cleaning, volunteer commitments, etc.  These types of things generally take away 2 weekends a month once you consider the time commitment involved.  Still think the weekends are a good option?

And so we come back to late night blogging.  I sacrifice some sleep so that I can get posts written and play computer games to blow off steam and unwind.  Is it a perfect solution? Certainly not but I will take the occasional day making due with spaceyness and a short nap during the day over the alternatives.  Which would you choose?

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When my son was 6.5 months and still couldn’t sit up, wasn’t mobile, and didn’t have any teeth I was a  worried. ” Why can all these other children his age do these things and he can’t?”  “Are we doing something wrong?”  “Have I done something to screw up his development?”  “Am I a horrible dad?”  The rational part of me knew none of this was true but the emotional part of me couldn’t help being anxious about my son’s development.  We are loving parents and I work hard to provide my son with a fun and stimulating environment every day but it is easy to doubt one’s ability as a parent.  After all, I’ve never done this before right?  How should I know what is best?  I’ve just read a few books and talked to friends and family about how to raise a child right?  When a milestone is finally reached it is truly amazing but the implications of that achievement can be quite scary.  For example once a child can move around the room on their own it opens up a whole new world of potential injuries and necessitates significant room layout rethinking and hours of baby proofing work.  I call this phenomenon “Joy in a fear sandwich.”  The sandwich’s meat is so tasty but that bread can suck sometimes!

There is a lot of fear surrounding developmental milestones, but it’s amazing how quickly all of that disappeared the first time I saw my son stay sitting up on his own.  In my years with the YMCA I taught 1000+ children how to do everything from swim, to kick a soccer ball but this moment topped them all in terms of how proud I was.  When it comes down to it I probably had little to do with him figuring it out, but I felt proud as though I had directly created the nerve connections and muscle capacity that enabled him to do it.  Perhaps some of that pride was because my anxiety about him not sitting up yet was gone.  I have to admit that it was getting the best of me when I started practicing sitting up with him much more than I had when he first reached 6 months old.  I was so worried that I hadn’t been working with him on it enough!  At that time I was thinking, “He’s just turned 6 months old he’ll figure it out in the next couple of weeks.”  Those weeks passed with no real improvement so I began practicing more with him but I still did not see him getting any better at it which only fueled my anxiety about his development.  O ended my anxiety and fear about his development in one joyful 24 hour period during which my now 7 month old son got his first tooth, mastered the continuous roll, and managed to stay upright without assistance.  It’s like his little brain and body reached the point where they were ready and he started doing all sorts of new stuff all at once.

I know my role as a parent is important to his development, but I think sometimes I worry too much.  I am a stay at home dad and my entire day revolves around the well being of my son so I think this amplifies my natural parenting fears.  I don’t mind because the added anxiety is far outweighed by my joy in witnessing these incredible moments that will only come once in his life.  I have a sneaking suspicion that these amazing moments will almost always be book-ended by some degree of anxiety and fear but I know that the pride and joy I will feel will be worth it.

The fear about his development is gone now but it has been replaced by the terror of a mobile baby in an apartment that is not baby proofed.  I’m sure I’ll have a post coming soon about that journey, but in the meantime please share your baby proofing suggestions or stories below in the comments section!

The map project had a serious growth spurt over the weekend and now boasts over 35 locations listed where there is a dad accessible diaper changing station.  That means that now the map up and public on its own page with a link dads can share, but we’re not done yet!  The next goal is 100 locations in CT where a dad can use a diaper changing station.  If we can hit that goal then I will make the map searchable on Google so it can reach even more dads.  I want this to be as useful a resource as possible to so it is important that all locations are verified either by the person submitting them or a reliable source.  You can check out the map project page for more details on how you can contribute along with a preview of the map and a link that will show you the map details.  This map is going to be especially useful to stay at home dads on the go in CT so I want to send out a special thanks goes out to everyone who has contributed locations and brought the map to this point!

Here are a few things I have noticed along the way:

  1. Almost all the locations listed are either chain stores or malls.  The only places with purely local ties are libraries.
  2. There are few locations listed outside of the center third of the state.
  3. There are very few restaurants listed

I’m not exactly sure what these observations mean but I do know that these are areas that need to be addressed.  So if you live in the eastern or western portions of the state, or if you are out and about at a local restaurant or business I encourage you to get involved and help out your fellow Connecticut dads.  Please check to see if there is a changing station in men’s restrooms as you use them and leave a comment on the map project page so that I can add it to the map.

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This is our diaper changing station, also known as CT central command in a stay at home dads endless fight against the forces of urine and feces.  From here (in the name of truth, justice and a dry butt) I wage war on things that would seek to cause diaper rash and lots of fussiness. I have everything I need within easy reach so that I am prepared to respond quickly when my son craps up his back or tries to pee in my face.  Starting from the right, light, garbage can, diaper genie, towels, vaseline, wipes, non sterile 4×4 gauze pads, uncovered changing pad, pacifier(not visible) regular diapers, overnight diapers, extra wipes, extra gauze and extra diapers.  There are other helpful items we store on the shelves such as burp clothes and blankets but the focus of this post is on diapering.

I get lots of questions about the gauze (which by the way can only be purchased online) so I will explain it by walking you through a typical “O pissed his pants again” scenario.  I set him on the pad, take off his pants, open his onesie and pull it up around his armpits in case he pees.  I find that his Pamper’s Swaddlers are clearly wet due to the yellow line turning blue.  So I grab a short stack of two gauze pads, open his diaper and put the gauze on his junk to prevent him from peeing on me.  This has the added benefit of absorbing much of the urine if he pees, plus if needed I can quickly grab more to soak it up before his back and butt are covered.  I grab a wipe, move the gauze and quickly wipe him off.  I then blot him dry with one side of the gauze.  This step  is important for preventing diaper rash so do not skip.  I flip the gauze pads over and put them back on his junk so that the damp side is up.

The next step is applying Vaseline to his leg creases and all over his butt/everywhere in between.  Vaseline is important because it creates a barrier so that the next time he sharts or wets himself it will not stick to his skin and irritate it.  The other benefit is that during the next diaper change you will wipe off soiled vaseline instead of trying to scrub the excrement or smelly liquid off of his skin.  It’s also cheap so there is no reason to be stingy with it.  Then I use the gauze to wipe the vaseline off my finger and get another diaper ready under him.  I start to close up the diaper and quickly remove the gauze followed by the buttoning up of his onesie.  I roll everything up in the diaper and toss it in the garbage can.  If it’s a turd filled diaper it goes in the diaper genie to add to what will surely become an epic poop snake.

That’s a typical diaper change for my little man!  Having everything easily accessible makes this process a lot easier and the more often you do it the faster you become.  As a stay at home dad I get lots of practice! A special thanks to my father in law for building the side shelves and to our CT friend Debbie for giving us the (insert furniture name here) that our diaper changing station is built around.  Whats your diaper changing secret technique? Do you have any must have items that you keep where you change your baby? Any questions about what we have on our changing station? Leave a comment!

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My wife and I attended another Central CT Babywearers meeting and it was much less intimidating this time.  No other stay at home dads were there but it was more low key and there were definitely fewer moms/kids.  I had a couple of great conversations and felt relaxed and at home as I practiced putting O into a front and back carry in the Boba 3G.  The biggest advantage of going to the meetings is being able to try out different carriers and practice using them before you put down what is sometimes a sizable amount of money to buy one.  I had already tried the Boba 3G but I was not sure if I wanted the black “Montenegro” the gray “Dusk” or the blue and black “Glacier.”  Clover Heske from Bean Tree Baby brought along the three different colors of the Boba I was interested in so I could compare them.  I initially wanted the all black version but I was concerned about it getting too hot in the sun since I want to use the carrier primarily for hiking and walks around town.

I clearly settled on the all gray one as you can see from the picture.  The day I took it he was a little sick and fussy so I just put him in the carrier and he settled right down.  He loves to gum the top of the carrier and soak it with his drool.  The Boba 3G is very comfortable to wear and quite cool since it is made from 100% cotton.  It can also be used as an infant carrier and comes with a sleep hood and stirrups to keep his little legs in the proper position once he gets bigger.  Its rated up to 45 pounds (roughly until he’s 6) and built quite sturdily.  O and I are joining some moms from the Central CT Babywearer’s group for a mall walk next Tuesday 3/5/13 so maybe he will make some new friends!  Anyone interested in joining us?

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Guess who’s started solids!  We decided to go with a baby led approach to solids and it’s been pretty hilarious for us and lots of fun for O.  With baby led weaning you put out the food and let him choose what he wants to eat and when he is done.  The first couple of months are generally full of messy playing mixed with a little bit of ingestion.  The idea is to allow him to explore food at his own pace and in the process learn how to chew and move food to the back of his mouth and safely swallow.  He will ingest more as his nutritional needs evolve and his digestive system is ready so in the meantime it’s all about exposing him to new textures and flavors.  A common concern with this approach is choking, however if a baby can sit up on their own and reach to grab food off their tray then this is a minor concern.  You do not start baby led weaning until after 6 months and at that age the gag reflex is pretty high up on the tongue so anything a baby bites off will be quickly spit back out.  Babies learn what they can and can’t swallow and after a short while they can safely eat a wide variety of foods.  I have a link to an article and a blog about baby led weaning on my articles page and the book I used is also listed on my books and dvd’s page for anyone interested in learning more about this approach to introducing solid foods.

We started O with steamed broccoli, carrots and asparagus.  My wife cut the carrots into finger sized sticks so that he could easily grab and handle them.  He loved trying all three and he made quite the mess.  The broccoli got everywhere!  I wasn’t sure if he got any down any since I spent quite a while picking chunks out of his hair and high chair but I found some in his poop later on so I know he swallowed some of it.  It’s definitely a messy approach but it is hilarious watching him choose what he wants to eat as tries to figure out how to eat it.  He makes the funniest faces the first time he “eats” a new food as he explores its flavors and textures.  Here he inspects, tastes, and re-inspects a piece of broccoli that he will end up wearing.

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One of the major benefits of baby led weaning is that when we eat out he can pretty much eat off our plates!  We went out with friends to one of out favorite restaurants in Newington CT for Greek food this past weekend and O got to try all sorts of fun stuff.    He ate off of my plate as he had his first pita, humus, cucumber and salad dressing!  I don’t think the pita agreed with him, but he sure seemed to like chewing on it as he sucked off the humus.

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One of the other joys of baby led weaning is seeing all of the weird ways they combine their food.  The next day we gave O a gob of the leftover humus and he got to try his first pieces of banana as he mashed it up and mixed it with the humus.  This is by far the messiest meal he has eaten so far but I am sure he will surpass it soon enough.  It is also a great example of how babies can use their hands to eat mushy foods by sucking it off their fingers or a dipper like a cucumber strip.  We have also starting skipping the shoulder straps on his high chair so he can lean forward easier.  This is important when he gags and needs to lean forward to spit it out.  Banana flavored humus anyone?  My little man will take an extra-large helping!

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It’s often seems like he didn’t swallow anything because it always ends up in the chair or on the ground or stuck to his face but I keep finding evidence in his poop that he got some down.  Today we had lunch at home with another stay at home dad and his daughter.  O’s lunch consisted of pepper strips, cucumber strips and firm baked potato wedges.  I adjusted the high chair so he could truly sit at and eat off of the table with us.  I think it worked out well!

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Through all this he has made some pretty big messes and he gagged twice and spit out what was in his mouth but his joy in exploring solid food has far outweighed either of these drawbacks to baby led weaning.  I wholeheartedly recommend this approach to anyone willing to read up and commit.  It’s not for everyone but the rewards for us so far have been tremendous.  If you choose to use this approach make sure to read as much as you can about it before you get started.  It’s relatively simple but you want to make sure you fully understand what you need to do to make it work for you in a safe and happy way.  I have really enjoyed introducing solids to him and can’t wait to give him some new tasty foods to taste and play with!