Author Archives: Big Daddy

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…

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.

They Grow Up Way Too Fast

Olivia, our “baby”, will be two years old in early June. Although I’ve seen it many times, I’m still amazed at how fast they grow up.

Tonight, just before bedtime, she sat on the couch, watching one of her favorite movies (I think she already has about 394 of them!), legs dangling off the edge of the couch, holding a plate while she ate a muffin — quite carefully, I might add…

Is this the same person who wasn’t even born just two short years ago?

The Holy Bible talks about life being like a vapor; it’s here one moment and gone the next. And as much as I’d like to burn every moment from every day permanently in my memory, I simply can’t. There are far too many “vapors” and far too many life events competing for my limited ability to capture and remember.

I can only hope that this particular moment, with my blond haired little girl, eyes wide open, singing along to the movie (I think it was “Baby MacDonald”)… may it always stay there in a special place in my memory. Soon she will move on to other things — school, friends, activities, trips, sleepovers, jobs, college, career choices, perhaps children of her own…

But for one night, she’s still my sweet little not-quite-two-year-old “baby”. And for tonight, that’s enough.

God Bless You, my baby. Daddy loves you.

–Tom

Big Brother Is Watching Her

Well, the baby is almost two years old now, so I guess she’s not really a baby any more, is she? I asked her the other day if she is still a baby; she said “Yes”, so I guess that’s the official word!

One of the main differences between my older two children and my younger two children is the age difference. There is less than 13 months difference between my older girls, but Sammy is more than three years older than Olivia. This has made a huge impact on Olivia’s development, in my opinion.

While there are certainly other factors that come into play, this three years’ difference has turned Sammy into a natural leader. Olivia is happy to follow him. As I write this, they are upstairs playing. Sammy is on a tricycle we purchased for Olivia, riding it from the living room to the kitchen, and Olivia is happily following him on a little bike you push with your feet — which she outgrew recently. And she does it because she is simply imitating her big brother.

This is another reason to NOT ignore a first-born child when the second child comes along! It’s not always easy to do so, but by continuing to pay lots of attention to the older child, they remain secure and happy. At least in our case, Sammy’s high sense of self worth and importance has enabled him to become a very good big brother which, in turn, has helped Olivia to develop more rapidly.

At least Sammy’s a better big brother than I ever was; right, Sue-Shoe? 🙂

–Tom

Sunshine And Magnifying Glasses

Let’s talk about experimentation and discovery — and the potential abuse of powerful tools. Even this old experienced parent almost got it wrong today.

Today was the first really sunny and really warm day here in our area, and it just so happened that we visited some friends for dinner. They also have a five year old boy, like we do, and we had a lot of fun.

We spent a lot of time on their terrace since it was so warm and the sun was so inviting. My son happened to take along a “toy” magnifying glass (I say “toy” because it’s made by a toy company and meets safety standards but is definitely a real magnifying glass), so we grabbed a piece of paper and I taught him how to focus the sun’s rays so that it would burn the paper. Thankfully it burned but didn’t ignite…

Yes, his daddy almost burned a house down once when he was about five years old, but his daddy was playing with matches… we’ll leave the rest of that story for some other day!

Anyway, we were taking a walk a bit later and the two boys started doing what five year old boys do — running, yelling, pushing each other around a bit, etc. At one point my son ran up to me, magnifying glass in hand, focused it on me, and said, “I’m going to burn you up!”

Oops.

Thankfully we can talk and he listens very well (much better than I do sometimes) and I explained to him that the magnifying glass was NEVER to be used to hurt somebody and that he shouldn’t even try to burn paper unless mommy or daddy said he could. He understood right away and there were no further problems.

I want to say something about the great responsibility that comes with great power, but I’m not sure if I’d be talking about the sun’s rays or the duties of a parent who forgot to talk about the potential consequences of setting stuff on fire. I most certainly don’t want him to learn the way I did!

–Tom

Preventing Child Abuse

Although I’ve traveled over much of the world and currently live an ocean away from where I grew up, I’m able to stay in touch with the news in my home town (Canton, Ohio) thanks to the Internet. I like to check out the home town newspaper (The Canton Repository) whenever I get a few spare moments.

I came across an extremely disturbing article there today about how some of the smallest children in Stark County (the county in which Canton sits) are being horribly abused and sometimes even killed by abuse. A one year old child who was placed on a dresser, then hit hard in the head and pushed off the dresser (he died). A two year old with a skull fracture so severe that surgeons had to remove skull fragments from her brain.

Why?

Click here to read the story about child abuse.

The Stark County Department of Children’s Services has placed over 1,000 pinwheels at a prominent location in Canton (the Market Avenue location is almost in the middle of the downtown area, if my memory serves me correctly). Each pinwheel represents a neglected or abused child. It’s a strong graphic image of the effect of child neglect and abuse and is hopefully serving as a reminder of something that needs to change.

Will you do me a favor RIGHT NOW while things are calm in your house? I’ll assume that you’re a parent (or thinking about becoming one) if you’re reading this blog. Take a moment to look in the government listings of your phone book for the listing for Family Advocacy, Children’s Services, or something similar. Write down the phone number and put that card on your refrigerator.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are so “whatever” that you think you might do something to hurt your child, CALL THAT NUMBER. Get help. Or if you’re in such a position and don’t have that card, call the police. Get help.

Speaking as the father of a precious toddler (22 months old as I write this), I can’t imagine hurting her. She’s bright, curious, and pure joy as far as I’m concerned. Putting an end to her childhood innocence by abuse or neglect is the last thing I’d want to do to that child. Nevertheless, I carry the number for the Family Advocacy program at our local military base (as well as the phone number for the Military Police detachment) in my wallet, just in case.

And if you know of a child who is being neglected, please make the call. Childhood is precious, and having a healthy environment while growing up is crucial to a child’s proper development. So make the call if abuse or neglect is evident. Please get involved.

Thanks for listening,
Tom

P.S. — I also have the phone number for our local Poison Control Center handy, just in case. And keep half a tank of gas in your car at all times in case you need to make that midnight run to the emergency room!