Category Archives: Parenthood

An alternative to those monthly baby pictures


Babies are amusing. They are also media hounds.

Fortunately for me, my son Owen (who turns 1 on Jan. 17) loves the camera. He smiles for pictures and actually seems to trump up his personality on video. Somewhat unintentionally, I found a way to use this to my advantage.

As a full participant in the Facebook generation, I found it uncomfortable how much effort went into staging just the right picture for each month, sitting him in the same spot every 30 days next to the same stuffed animal, dressed up in something cutesy. It got annoying. It’s kind of a mom-ish thing to do, but I really did want to keep my friends and family updated on his progress; it just wasn’t any fun doing so.

During his first month, my wife was using a flipcam (I know, so 2008 ) to record him while I held him, and I began speaking (my face is off camera) from his point of view. Naturally, I used a ridiculous deep voice and spoke in complete, self-aware sentences. It lasted 30 seconds, and we threw it up on Facebook, labeling it as Owen’s “1-month press conference.”

I tried the idea again a month later, and remarkably, Owen was interactive — smiling, making funny faces, squeaking, etc. I didn’t have a plan what I was going to say, just randomly talked about his appreciation of The Hunger Games movie and how he celebrated his recent baptism. I randomly threw in self-congratulatory remarks (“Also, I’m adorable”) to bridge the gaps while I scrambled in my brain for something else to say.

Gradually, I got more into it, and my friends and family loved them. I began planning out the idea for each month’s press conference, usually revolving around what was going on in his life that month (playoff baseball discourse in October, a family trip in June). I made some other videos celebrating things like the start of the baseball season and created a campaign video during the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election. He appointed an army of stuffed animals to his political team.

They weren’t exactly video masterpieces. Everything was done in one take, leaving in the goofs (in the 2-month presser, he incorrectly refers to St. Patrick’s Day as Thanksgiving. What a confused baby.) and not adding any measure of post-production. They were about 2 minutes each, and almost all of the video is spent just locked in on his face. But they were still fun, with some more off the cuff than others. My voice for him kept changing unintetionally — sounding deeper in some press conferences than others, occasionally sounding Eastern European (Duoofenschmirtz from Phineas and Ferb, perhaps) or a little on the feminine side. But whatever, no one cares.

Dadnabbit has been described as “Pinterest for Dudes Who Aren’t Into Crafts” (actually, that’s just how I will describe it the next time I talk to someone about it), and though I don’t have much to offer in the creative department, I saw this as a fun, Facebook-friendly alternative to the simple picture next to an “X Months” sign. It may not be for every dad or every baby, but if it works, I think it’s a way to chronicle the first year of growth in a humorous way.



Signs Your Newborn May Not Be a Packers Fan

My wife and I are pretty big sports fans. Growing up in Northeast Wisconsin, our Sundays from September to January revolve around the Green Bay Packers.

Saturday’s playoff game was our first opportunity to dress our new daughter in Packers garb and “watch” a game with us. I don’t think she liked it. Not that I expected her to do anything other than what she normally does, especially since newborns can’t see more than a foot in front of them, but the disrespect she showed the Green and Gold was disappointing.

About 15 minutes after putting on her new Packers clothes, she had an explosive bowel movement mid-diaper change and sprayed her outfit. Early in the second half, while being burped, she took advantage of an apparent diapering mistake, and evacuated herself through her clothing, and through my jersey.

I get the feeling she is either not a Packers fan, or just not a sports fan. It better be the latter, because she won’t be allowed to live in my house and root for another NFL team.

The difficult decision comes tomorrow night when the Packers play the 49ers. I’m not sure what I’ll be rooting for more – A Packers victory OR a non-explosive diaper.  In the end, I think I can deal with a mess if it would mean another Packers win.  Maybe a dirty diaper is good luck?

Congratulations! It’s a Screwdriver??

screwdriver-01As baby gifts began to pour in, I knew that I was looking forward to years of assembling gifts that my daughter would receive for birthdays, Christmas, etc. Well, my daughter isn’t here yet (5 more days?), and I’m tired of putting things together already.(UPDATE: Our little bundle of joy arrived on December 17th. Much, much, much more on this to come)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a real handy guy. My tool collection has been described as “laughable”. Even though I lack anything but the most basic tools and skills, I know enough to be dangerous, and I can follow directions. I don’t enjoy putting things together at all, but up until today, I’ve assembled all sorts of furniture and toys without too much trouble. I still have all my limbs, and I think everything is functional and safe.

Enter the baby swing. The swing came highly recommended by numerous friends, and has been called indispensable as a parenting tool, especially by the fathers I know. I was excited when my co-workers pooled their funds and purchased it for me. I was looking forward to seeing if everything was true. Also, it was pretty expensive, and not something we had planned to buy on our own unless all else failed.

The swing came in roughly 8 million pieces, but the instruction booklet seemed easy enough to follow. After spreading out the various pieces on the floor, I began the assembly process. It was actually much simpler than it looked. There were approximately 10 screws in the entire unit, which was almost 4 feet tall and probably 3 feet wide when fully assembled. Everything seemed to go pretty smooth. All in all, it was about an hour long process, and everything was snug. I was all set, and looking forward to one of our last weekends of quiet relaxation before the baby comes. I was going to heat up some leftovers, watch some college hoops, maybe pop in a video game.

I set it on the kitchen floor, presenting it to my wife like a trophy animal I had just slain with my manly skills. Within two seconds, she pointed out a problem that I had somehow missed. One of the feet (there were four of them) was about a half inch off the floor. The legs couldn’t be stretched further apart to force the four feet on the floor, and construction was otherwise solid. There were no extra pieces, and there was no possible way to put the swing together other than the way I had. The swing rocked violently when it was turned on, and was unstable. My first reaction was to stand up for my constructions skills. I got defensive, refusing to admit that anything was wrong. After that option failed, I went to my second, normal fallback, which is to say: “Welp, it’s a piece of garbage, they are probably all like this, what is the worst that could happen? It’s just a little wobbly.” I could tell my wife wasn’t happy with the situation. She knows I hate putting things together, and could see that I was already sweaty and unhappy. She didn’t tell me that it needed to be taken apart. Well, the joke was on her, because I was standing strong. We were keeping this thing. I wasn’t going to spend another hour taking this apart and trying to shove everything back into the box. And there was NO WAY, I was setting foot in Toys R Us ten days before Christmas.

Taking it apart didn’t take quite as long as putting it together, but getting the pieces back in the box was bad. My daughter is very lucky that I’m not a single parent. If it wasn’t for her mom, she would probably be seriously injured by something I decided was “good enough”. At least I will have lots of practice, and practice makes perfect. I should probably get some more tools and put them in a cool box or something.

(UPDATE II: I exchanged the swing. The second one was fine. In fact, it is spectacular. I fully endorse it as a parenting tool.)