How NOT To Change A Diaper

A discussion on Facebook reminded me of this story that happened a LONG time ago. Hope you enjoy it, Penny Z. — and I strongly recommend that you NEVER try this yourself.

The date: some time in the early 1980s. I was a young soldier. While I’m no longer a soldier (and may or may not still be young 🙂 ), I still have one thing in common with those days…

I cannot stand strong, stinky odors. Like the kind that emanate from a dirty diaper. Thankfully I have a loving wife who takes care of such things nowadays (not to mention the fact that both of my younger children are way past the diaper stage — OK, my OLDER children are ALSO past the diaper stage, and I somehow sense that they’d like to leave no doubt in your mind about that…). In fact, I have a GREAT wife who lets me get away with all kinds of stuff and still loves me at the end of the day.

But “back in the day”, I had no such luxury. I was “expected” to do my share of Dirty Diaper Duty.

Which usually consisted of something like this:

  • Strap baby to changing table so she didn’t fall off (both of them were “she” back then).
  • Run out on the balcony and draw in a quick, deep breath of fresh air.
  • Hold that air.
  • Run back inside and “take care of business” until I had to take a breath.
  • Say a quick prayer that Baby would not think to touch themselves in certain unclean areas of their body.
  • Run back outside and grab another quick breath of fresh air.
  • Hold breath again.
  • Repeat process until the stinky stuff was either 1) gone, or 2) thrown over the edge of the balcony (or 3) neighbors pounded on door, wondering why I was throwing poopy diapers over the balcony!) (No, I never really did that; it just makes the story slightly more interesting. The part about the diaper over the balcony. But the rest is true.)

Not exactly the best way to handle the situation (especially when I forgot to unstrap the baby after I changed the diaper…). But it sure beat cleaning up another mess that would have been caused by a hyperactive (and extremely effective) gag reflex!

One day I got a brilliant idea. For whatever reason, our unit commander wanted us to keep our M17A1 protective masks (otherwise known as a “gas mask”) with us at all times. I’m not sure why he did this, but his reasoning is not all that important; the simple fact of the matter is that my unit did issue them to us and told us to keep them with our alert gear (this was in Germany, back in the early 1980s, when we thought that the communist hordes were going to roll across the inter-German border without warning. We pretty much thought of ourselves as speed bumps anyway, which means that we — being the lower enlisted cretins — didn’t really give it a whole lot of thought, but apparently the officers they gave us — whose job it was to worry — thought differently. Whatever!).

When my turn next came up for diaper duty, I realized that I had a device in my possession that would effectively eliminate those odors. Yes, thought I, why not use the aforementioned M17A1 protective mask while changing the diaper? Problem solved! No more strapping Baby to the changing table, no more running outside to snatch a breath of fresh air, no more imaginary poopy diapers to fling over the balcony… An absolutely perfect solution, right?

Uh, NO. Tom forgot one small factor… and I do mean a SMALL factor…

…which I’ll get to in a minute. First, take a moment to consider what an M17A1 protective mask actually LOOKS like.

This mask was not only made to filter the air that the wearer is breathing — it is also used to protect the skin and is part of the suit used to protect the wearer from exposure to chemical elements. It wasn’t made for good looks; it was made for survival.

The mask itself goes on over the head and fastens itself to the back of the head with a black, elastic harness. Six straps attached the harness to the mask itself: two above the temples, two just below the temples, and two somewhere else (memory escapes me…). The mask itself was a black thing, with two big triangular-shaped plastic openings so you could see out the thing. The front had an oval-shaped gizmo with a vent that allowed the wearer to exhale; it also had a little tube you could connect to a canteen so you could drink while wearing the mask (nothing like an enforced water fast in an airtight suit that made you sweat like a pig to lose weight. You could always tell the people who didn’t do their required training in the suit; they ended up on the weight control program!).

Of course, this arrangement left the neck and head exposed to the elements — CHEMICAL elements, no less — so there was a green hood that attached to the mask that you could pull over your head. Straps hanging off it attached under your arms so it wouldn’t come off (easily). The hood itself attached to the eye openings (which, in turn, had another plastic shield which helped secure the hood to the mask), around that oval-shaped gizmo, and around the two air intake valves on either cheek.

So when the whole thing was done, all the observer would see was somebody covered with an ugly GI-green hood, with two huge triangular openings for the eyes, that round gizmo in front, and two small round thingys — one on either cheek — that were black and allowed for air intake.

In other words, you looked like some type of monster to the wearer. Especially one that had never seen someone wearing an M17A1 mask. Which led to the small factor I was talking about a few paragraphs ago.

Yeah, the small factor lying on the changing table, waiting for her diaper to be changed.

Slick Dad slips on the mask in the bedroom, rounds the corner prepared to work…

…and baby screams, nearly jumping out of her skin.

I think she was constipated for about 3 years after that little incident.

Free Learning Resource

My six year old son saw a word search puzzle on the back of my new calendar for 2010. He saw the “easy” words right away (the ones that read from right to left), then started asking questions about the “backwards” words that I had already circled.

One thing led to another and he soon wanted to try his own word search puzzle. So I headed over to my favorite search engine and found a really neat site that has lots of downloadable and printable worksheets for school age children — including word search puzzles.

The site is nicely organized; you can browse for materials by age / school grade or use the “Search” box on the page to look for a specific item (as I did with the word search puzzle). Although I didn’t explore it, there are also links to other sites that offer similar resources. To me, this is a sign that this site is a “labor of love”; after all, most for-profit businesses don’t link to the competition…

Regardless of the motive, it does cost money to host a website and make materials like this available. While you can download everything for free, there is a link you can click to make a small donation, and if you find this site to be useful, let me gently encourage you to donate a few dollars, as I did.

The only “down” side, if you can even call it that, is that the site’s style looks to be a bit dated. But don’t let that fool you; the content is there and it’s pretty easy to find what you want. And even if it is a bit older-looking, the layout is clean and it’s easy to figure out where you want to go.

Overall, this old dad thinks it’s a great site — and thought enough of it to send a few dollars their way. You, too, may want to check it out.

Thanks for a nice site and a great resource, TLSBooks!

Instant Competence

We purchased a bicycle for my now six year old son a couple of years ago. To be honest, he hadn’t shown much interest in it until recently. All of his friends used scooters to get around, and our son got quite good at getting to where he wanted to go via scooter.

Recently Mom decided to press the issue a bit. I got out his bike, gave it the once-over and pronounced it as being street ready, and he got started with it. And all was fine until…

The day I first took off the training wheels. He refused to ride the thing. But did I put them back on? Absolutely not!

Instead, I took off the pedals and lowered the seat a bit, which allowed him to push himself with his feet. Lots of small children do that here in Germany; in fact, his little sister has just such a bike (it has no pedals and no chain).

So he rode around on that for a few days, then started pushing himself faster and faster, then started picking his feet up as he was coasting…

Which was the answer we were looking for. This experience taught him how to balance himself without the pedals. So when I put the pedals back on today, he took right off and rode the thing like he had been doing it for months.

Of course, we now need to teach him to ride safely (but thankfully he’s a good boy and the lines of communication are open).

There was one minor glitch, however. At first, when I put the pedals back on (it was actually his idea; he asked me to put them back on), he was having trouble and was getting a bit frustrated. But just as soon as I told him that it was a “practice session” and that it was OK if he didn’t get the hang of it today, he immediately relaxed and took off pedaling.

The lesson? If there is one, pressure probably isn’t a good way to get small children to learn and perform.

If this post helped you teach your child how to ride their bike (or if it helped you in any other way), please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

So Much For Discipline

The Scene: Dad is typing away at the computer in his office, nose seriously buried in a project that’s already a week overdue. Children, age 6 and almost 3, are playing in Dad’s office while they watch a DVD.

The “Crime”: Almost 3 year old starts screaming at the top of her lungs. 6 year old brother immediately falls back into a defensive, “I didn’t do anything mode” while trying to out-scream almost 3 year old.

The Reaction: Dad sternly looks at children and says, “Stop it NOW! If you do it again you are BOTH going to bed! Look at me; do you understand what I just said?”

At which point almost 3 year old daughter looks back at him and with a slight smile (you know, the one that says, “I’m cute and I can get away with anything”), says, “No, Daddy!”

So Much For Discipline! We all had a good laugh at that point…

Things You Should Never Tell Your Children

As I write this, my son (whom I shall refer to as Son) just informed me that he has decided to learn Spanish and is starting his quest by watching one of his movies on DVD in Spanish.

A few observations here:

  • He figured out how to change the language on the DVD player.
  • He’s only five years old (forgot that important point…).
  • He already speaks three languages reasonably well: English, German, and Polish.
  • I forgot to tell him that learning a foreign language is hard.

We do speak both English and Polish in our home because my wife is from Poland (and we both learned the other’s language). He does OK with German because he goes to the local German Kindergarten and plays with the neighborhood children a lot. So none of this is really surprising, and in a way, one more language probably isn’t a big deal for him (and I somehow suspect that French will be next, assuming we get enough movies with French language tracks).

But to him, learning a foreign language isn’t a big deal. He’s already the by-product of a dual language home and lives in a country that speaks a different language. But there’s one more important factor at play here:

I promised myself that I will NEVER tell him that something is too hard for him.

Did you ever hear statements like this?

“You’ll never make it to the Major Leagues as a pitcher / National Football League as a quarterback, so why try?”

I think differently. Right now, there are 30 Major League Baseball teams and each of them needs at least five starting pitchers, a couple of middle relievers, and a closer. Let’s say that’s nine pitchers per team. Multiply that times 30 and you have 270 pitchers.

Same thing in the NFL. Each team needs at least a starting and backup quarterback, so that’s at least 60 quarterbacks at any given time.

So instead of “don’t bother, it’s almost impossible”, I take a different approach. I tell my children, “Hey, somebody has to do it; why shouldn’t it be you?”.

And so what if he doesn’t make it to the NFL or never poses for the cover of a media guide for a baseball team? Just going out and doing his best, trying to excel, and applying discipline to a goal will serve him later in life. And eventually he will take these traits and apply them to an area where he does succeed.

But if he never learns how to be disciplined and work, I can almost guarantee failure.

So please; don’t discourage your children from doing something just because the odds seem almost impossible. Let them turn their childhood dreams into hard work that teaches them lifetime habits that can bring success to their lives.

And you never know; it could be your son (or even mine) who wins the Cy Young award 25 years from now. After all, somebody has to win it; why not Son?

Never say never.

Hasta luega,
Tom

Flushing, Brushing, And Pacifiers

A few of today’s challenges on the front lines of parenting:

* Teaching almost six year old son that you use the toilet brush AFTER you flush. At least he knows where it is…

* 2.75 year old daughter is being weaned from the pacifier. Just lots of gentle talking and encouraging, asking her to take the thing out of her mouth when she talks because Daddy doesn’t understand her… Things like that.

Of course, hiding the darn things works, too. She only remembers that she likes them when she sees them (well, she does remember at some other times but it’s rare), so out of sight, out of mind does seem to work here.

And lots of hugs and encouragement also works well.

Today’s blog post has been brought to you by the letter “G”, which is the letter that Son was working on in his Kindergarten lessons today.

Thanks,
Tom

Things Left Unsaid

My wife and I were talking in the car as we drove home today about something that we do as parents that her parents never did. It would make an excellent topic to talk about here on this blog and an upcoming post will include at least part of that observation.

But you won’t see it addressed as “something our parents didn’t do”. I don’t think that writing in such a style truly honors our parents and it isn’t something that pleases God and brings us closer to others.

Nevertheless, as I’ve grown up and grown older, I’ve been in several situations that I did not like. In almost every case, I promised myself that if I could do things differently some day that I would do it. Of course, in some cases, the wisdom of age (or other reasons) dictates that we DON’T do those things differently, but in many cases, doing things differently is definitely in our best interests.

And we are doing some things much differently than the way that my parents or my wife’s parents would have done. In fact, I personally am doing a lot of things differently than I did back when my adult daughters were the age of my small children. There’s nothing wrong with this; in fact, if I didn’t change some things, there are those who would (rightfully) accuse me of insanity (which is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results)!

But I’m not about to compare and contrast my parenting with that of my parents, my in-laws, or (almost) anybody else. While I do have a lot of experience to offer and share, it is my hope that you see the value in these articles without my having to compare it to somebody who is still gaining experience and wisdom. Making myself look good at the expense of somebody else — especially those who gave 100% to raise me and make me the person I am — is tasteless.

So while I’ll talk about a lot of things, you won’t always know all of the details. Sometimes, for various reasons (respect and love being a big one), it’s best to leave some things unsaid.

Thanks,
Tom

Theme Updated

OK. I’ve changed the theme to something that’s (hopefully) a bit nicer. I just wanted to make a quick post so that the previous post (where I talked about the “old” theme) wasn’t the one on top.

I’d love to hear your comments.

And if you’d like to compare the old theme to the new, here are two links that will make it easy:

  • Here’s a screen shot of the blog BEFORE the theme change (click here).
  • Here’s a screen shot of the blog AFTER the theme change (click here).

I still need to center the blog on the page. It shifts all the way to the left in my web browser (Firefox 3) and I don’t like that.

Thanks,
Tom

P.S. — We’ll soon get back to the children. Olivia is sick today with a stomach virus and the house just isn’t the same when she doesn’t display her usual energy levels.

Facelift Coming

I own several blogs. Some of them are for business and some are for fun. This one (which I don’t update nearly often enough) is one of my favorites. I want to start posting more stories here based on the blessing I have every day as a father who has small children again after 25 years.

As a token of my commitment, I’m going to be updating this blog. I’ll start by putting up a new theme on this blog (this one is kind of plain and, uh, “boring”, isn’t it?), and then I’ll work on adding some additional pages. The bottom line is that I want this website to be an encouragement for you, and sometimes plain old black and white just doesn’t cut it.

And neither does a lack of material.

I do ask one favor in return; if you notice that something has changed and you don’t like it or if it breaks something, please leave a comment to this blog post. Or if I broke it really bad, please submit a ticket at my Help Desk (which you can reach by clicking here). I do appreciate your help.

Thanks again,
Tom

The Disco Generation Gap?

OK, I admit it. I didn’t exactly fall in love with disco music back in the 70s. I graduated from high school in 1976 and therefore consider myself an expert on the topic…

In fact, whenever I see a television show or movie that was filmed in the 70s, I wonder why in the world we ever allowed ourselves to be seen in public dressed like that!

Being a bit older now, I can appreciate the energy and talent that went into making disco music (and even like a few of ’em, like “A Fifth of Beethoven”) — but still fondly remember the “Disco Sucks!” movement.

Well, my five year old son has no memory of the 70s, much less disco — but he does have a copy of the “Robots” movie. One of the extra features is the “Robot Dance”, and one of the options is a “Disco Lights” dance.

He loves it and just now told me that “Disco is cool!”

Now how in the world am I supposed to teach a child about the important things in life when he already has a positive disco experience?

All this experience as a parent and I’m losing it…

–Tom