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Daddy cool – travelling with toddlers, part 3

doodle pad Daddy cool   travelling with toddlers, part 3The last part of my mini series on travelling with toddlers is all about keeping your toddler entertained on those long haul flights. So we had 12 + 10.5 hours to get through in one go … which is probably about the most extreme flying experience with a toddler you can have on planet earth. So I feel well qualified to sharing some tips and tricks.

Our little man is now 2 years old, which in our case means he is too young to fully appreciate the in-flight entertainment (which Korean Air doesn’t even offer on all routes @#&*^@*&^#!!! so on some flights you are stuck with 2 inappropriate films which are shown on a big screen right in front of the bulk-head seats where you will most likely be sitting). But he’s also old enough to want to be entertained non-stop.

So – here’s the long-haul survival list (in order of keeping you sane)

#1 The overall winner and best toy purchase ever made is the Doodle Pad. It’s the most versatile, unmessy, imaginative and CHEAP toy you’ll ever buy (I got ours for $12). It’s a true life saver as you can draw stuff, erase it and draw some more for quite a while (it typically kept our man entertained for up to 1h at a time).

#2 Sticker booklets – almost as versatile as the Doodle Pad, slightly more messy but still pretty imaginative and cheap. You can get them with different themes (animals, cartoons, sports, etc). To Korean Air’s credit – they actually handed some out during the flight. It’s definitely worth investing a few bucks to get a handful of them though.

#3 Model airplanes in all shapes and sizes – you can get some really simple “assemble in less than 1 minute” sets or cuddly toy planes for next to nothing. Toy planes are great fun when you are actually on a plane as you can re-enact take-offs and landings on your tray table (and your neighbour’s tables). It’s also great fun to watch your fellow passengers when you cover off the “unlikely” scenarios of mid-air crash, landing on water, air-pockets, loss of cabin-pressure, fire on board, lightning strikes or snakes on a plane (especially if you do this during turbulence). For the latter scenario you can sing “the wheels on the bus” with more suitable lyrics “the snakes on the plane go tsss tss tsss, zsss zszz zsss, tsss zss ttss …”

So I’m very proud to say that after reviewing two travel accessories we didn’t have on our latest trip, we had all of the above. YAY.

Happy travels!


Daddy Cool – Travelling with toddlers part 1

trunki Daddy Cool – Travelling with toddlers part 1During a recent family trip I realized that, unfortunately I’m just not “with it” when it comes to travel gadgetry for young children. As much as I hate to admit it but there were actually other parents with way cooler travel accessories.

The first gadget to shatter my daddy cool confidence was the “Trunki” ride-on suitcase which I spotted at Seoul Airport. If you’ve ever had to transfer between flights and had your stroller taken off you just before you got on the first plane you will REALLY appreciate this one. Because what happens when you don’t have a stroller while transferring is that you’ve got about 27 bags with all the toys, food, gear to change your little one and your own bag … PLUS your over-tired, grumpy or hyper-active child who wants to check out the airport.

This is where the $50 (or so) you’ve paid for your Trunki suitcase really pay off. Trunkis are small enough to take on board as cabin baggage and they solve your two essential problems: carrying lots of stuff and having something you can put your child in (or on) to haul them around endless airport corridors. You can put a decent amount of toys and food inside your Trunki (if you are lucky you might even fit the changing gear in there as well) and your toddler will almost certainly enjoy riding on top of it. The suitcase comes with a pull-along cord so you can easily carry your own stuff in a shoulder bag or backpack.

Trunkis are recommended for children aged 3-6 years but I’ve seen parents with 2-year olds use it and it worked a treat. I’d recommend doing a few practice runs with your toddler before you travel so they get used to the experience and know where to hold on to. All in all it should be a real stress-buster for traveling with young kids.

Happy travels


Ps: DIYFather has not received any compensation, gifts or other incentives for writing this article.

The father of all tank engines – Reverend Awdry

A while ago I came across this very rare footage of an interview with Reverend Wilbert Awdry – literally the father of Thomas the Tank Engine. The interview is from an old BBC documentary about a historic train journey of the Flying Scotsman from London to Edinburgh in 1962. Reverend Awdry was on that train and talks about how he came up with all the names for Thomas’ friends.

It’s a must watch if your little one is into Thomas the Tank Engine!



Home Improvement

diytoiletinstall Home ImprovementSince becoming an at-home Dad, I have taken it upon myself to save money by doing things around the house for which I would have previously hired a professional. I am now considering several home improvement projects. The first was installing new toilets.

Improving one’s home by one’s self should be carefully measured. From my days as the service manager at my family’s garage, one concept stands out: it is one thing to change a part, it is another to diagnose a problem and then repair to solve that problem.

For example, changing brake pads is not all that complicated. Basically, you take off the tire, remove the caliper, take off the old pads, put brake grease on the back of the new pads, put the new pads into the caliper, reinstall the calipers, put the tires back. But how would you know if one or more caliper was bad? Or if you change the rotors because you’re getting brake pulsation, do you change the front or the rear? Are you sure that it’s not the hub and bearing?

The same can be said for home improvement projects. I had one problem with each of two toilets. On the main floor, the toilet did not flush well and would back up frequently. Upstairs, the fill water in the tank would not shut off.

Taking the toilet’s information to the Kohler dealer, I found out that the new part to repair the upstairs toilet was $20, but that that toilet was old and inefficient. Of course, they recommended a new toilet as the water savings would be significant. After talking this over with my wife, I decided to replace both toilets. My Uncle would help me install them, as he was a contractor in his previous life.

Upon purchasing the toilets and spending about twice as much as I thought I would have to, my Uncle and I set to installing them. The reality is that he did most of the work. We did find out a few things. First, the people who installed the tile in the main floor bathroom did an awful job. One of the screws holding the toilet to the floor was not anchored to anything; the tile probably broke while the hole was being cut for the plumbing. We fortunately avoided any major problems. The second issue was that the main floor toilet was a 1.6 Gallon per Flush toilet, not a 3.5 gpf like the upstairs toilet. I had assumed it was the same as the upstairs one, which had prompted me to purchase rather than repair.

The installation upstairs was easier. The only issue there was a space constraint. There was a small gap between the glass shower door that swings out and the old toilet. According to the specs, the new toilet should have fit, even though it was elongated, not round like the old one. It didn’t. We were able to turn it a bit so that the door swung freely. Crisis avoided.

Then we flushed the toilets. They don’t seem to be any better than the old ones. I will see if time or adjustment takes care of that. The toilets have yet to be challenged, as the work was completed earlier this afternoon.

When we were done and my Uncle left, I realized that I probably should have gotten some professional advice before doing this. I should have asked for my Uncle’s advice or I could have paid a professional plumber to come over and diagnose the problems. There may have been something cheap that could have been done with the main toilet’s backup problem and that could have saved the time of replacing possibly a perfectly good toilet.

The point is, if I was just doing this for cosmetic or ecological reasons and all of the mechanicals seemed to be running perfectly well, this would have been a good opportunity for my Uncle to teach me about plumbing. In the future, though, if I’m having a problem, I’ll hire someone to diagnose. Then I can decide if the repairs are something I want to undertake or if I’ll save money or come out even hiring a pro. After all, a pro will guarantee his own work. If you screw up, the pro has to fix your mistakes while doing the job right.

By Downtown Dad


“Dad, I need some money…”

albundy Dad, I need some money... Fathers everywhere struggle to protect their children against poverty. The fortunate ones manage to provide a certain degree of comfort and material security. Both groups try to fulfill what they naturally perceive as a fundamental role-that of provider. It seems to me that this role has tended to be all too easily minimized. It is as though in the effort to recognize the father who is affectionate, who acts as teacher and companion, and who is committed and interactive, the role of breadwinner has been neglected, if not actually ignored and even scorned. And yet fathers themselves have not forgotten this role, as evidenced by their vulnerability and distress when they fail to fulfill it adequately.

Fathers seem to understand that while this role may not be enough in and of itself, it is a necessary one. The fact that over 60 percent of poor children live in single-parent households where the single parent is a woman (while only 13 percent of poor children live in two-parent households) would seem to indicate that they are right. There is no way to hide it: of all paternal roles, that of provider is perhaps the most thankless. Granted, for the advertising industry, the image of the father sitting at his desk or operating a machine tool is less desirable and romantic than that of the father standing in a sports arena cheering on his daughter or son, but that doesn’t diminish its importance. Fathers who, after losing their jobs, go through depression, marital troubles or conflicts with their adolescent children describe the significance of this role in their lives with great eloquence. They say that a father’s responsibility is also to make sure their child has food on the table, a warm and safe place to live, stability, a solid place in the community and good prospects for the future.

In this respect too, service providers and even groups who promote paternal involvement have some thinking to do. Obviously, this is not to question the validity of initiatives such as discussion groups for fathers or activities to develop parenting skills; however, much more attention should probably be given this traditional-yet-vital role of breadwinner. Above all, the promotion of other paternal roles should not lead to the neglect of what most fathers still perceive as their primary responsibility: contributing to the economic well-being of their families.

Yes, teaching fathers to cook and to play with their children is crucial. However, it is also just as crucial to provide concrete support in the area of income or employment, a source of great stress and vulnerability for fathers, especially when their income is low or their employment is insecure. Fathers who have trouble making ends meet, whose jobs are threatened or who have recently lost their jobs, are fathers who need support; and it is perhaps in just such situations of great personal vulnerability, which are also situations of high risk for family life, that support should be given priority. Fathers who are secure in their role as “provider” are generally much more available to take on the other parenting tasks that their spouses and children expect of them, allowing them to concentrate fully on their role as “nurturer.”

Thus, the job of a father is this: to help his children develop-to teach them to express and master their emotions; to avoid physiological distress; to provide a context for their experiences; to help them persevere, reach their goals and take on responsibilities; and to instill the roles of citizen, partner and parent. In short, it is to fill their bellies with bread, their brains with wisdom and their hearts with love and courage.

Article sourced from a publication from the Public Health Agency of Canada

What to expect when your partner is expecting?

pregnancy stick figure 255x300 What to expect when your partner is expecting?It can be an anxious time when you and your partner are expecting a new born. But it doesn’t need to be a time for worry, but a time for excitement about what lays before you. If you are like me, you will think that when a women goes into labour you have only mere moments for a crazed dash to the hospital, when in fact you usually have far more time than you think. I think we have been brain washed by watching unrealistic TV programmes about the speedy arrival of newborns. In our case we had at least 3 hours before we really needed to be in at the hospital after my partners water broke and labour began, but playing it safe is not a bad way to be and arriving safely with plenty of time to spare is probably wise. However you need to trust the instincts of your partner, who will know when she must leave for the hospital. The hospital midwives are also a source of great comfort and assurance and are only a phone call away 24 hours a day. So if your not sure what’s going on and if you should be worried, give them a ring and they will provide you with helpful advice.

Before the big day (or early morning) arrives, make sure you or your partner has packed a bag full of goodies for the Hospital, as you will probably be there for some time. There are three categories of stuff you should have:

  • Baby clothes, nappies and wraps, baby capsule
  • Mom’s clothes (multiple changes suggested)
  • Energy drinks (and snacks) for mom
  • Good luck charms and distractions for mom (check with her beforehand)
  • Stuff for dad to snack on during the many hours waiting

Once labor has started, you will need snacks and drinks close at hand. You can get very hungry being up and awake at crazy hours of the night or morning, waiting on your baby to arrive. Your partner will probably only want water (very cold water) during the labour, and eating is discouraged for moms, luckily she probably wont be thinking about eating anyway during this period.



Mothers need to take the initiative

I have been the main carer for our children for just over a decade and it has without doubt been the loneliest, most miserable ten years of my life. I want to do this, I am good at it (sometimes), and I believe passionately that promoting good parenting is the only thing we need to do to have a prosperous and harmonious society.

I hear of other men who are keen to be full time parents, do it for a year, and then return to work. The myth is that they can’t hack it but the reality is that in becoming a full time parent they enter an environment where they are left feeling lonely and possibly vilified.

The problem appears to be that while society has transformed to enable women to succeed at all levels of the workplace we haven’t seen a similar such transformation around men and parenting. A full time father will get asked at least once in every shopping excursion “Got the day off?”. If he has babies he will be part of a coffee group. He will attend the large group get togethers and hear about all the ad hoc stuff that women do, but probably not be invited to join in. So while he may be a welcomed part of the group no one informally drops in on him for a coffee, asks if he can mind their child while they get a manicure or the like. With school age kids he will watch mothers of families new to the neighbourhood instantly form friendships and trade kids after school but it will take him months to develop a very small network of similar relationships. He will worry that his kids are missing the casual engagements other children have in each others homes. This pattern of micro events happening day after day will leave him feeling, not just isolated, but actively excluded, and he will begin to wonder if he projects some sort of vibe of unsafeness or “creepiness” – does he seem like a danger to other peoples children? Why else would they not want to engage with him in a normal parent to parent relationship? On top of that the pervasive notion that if he isn’t working he is a failure is always there.

Finally, for the sake of his self esteem, and feeling rather battered, he goes back to work. His kids go to a child farm or have a stranger raise them and all his kids friends lose out on having a great role model to interact with. Unfortunately there is little men can do to change this unhappy situation, except perhaps talk about it. The solution must come from women.

Over the past four decades men have made adjustments in incorporating women into the workforce as colleagues and superiors. Surely men can expect a similar adjustment from women? Women need to look past the media generated myth that every bloke is a child molester and understand that having full time fathers in their community of friends is an incredible asset. Men parent differently to women. They can introduce new perspectives to women, develop different relationships with their children and help their children grow into more rounded people. I applaud those few women who already look beyond the myth and embrace the value that full time fathers bring to their children. I just wish there were more of them.

Steve Gore

Controlled crying or uncontrolled feeding?

sleepless Controlled crying or uncontrolled feeding?In our little breastfeeding community we recently realized that somehow we ended up with the short straw when it comes to our babies sleeping through the night. Our bottle feeding friends seem to have very few sleepless nights or even any disruptions at night. Not us … our little man is up every 2h for a fee. Seems so unfair to follow nature’s way and then get nocturnal stress as a pay back.

Perhaps it’s a developmental stage thing – most of our babies in the group are now between 7 and 10 months old. Even the ones who used to sleep through the night have started waking up frequently. It’s the age of pain and gain for babies. On the one hand they have to put up with a lot of pains (teething, digestion, bruises) and on the other hand there are exciting new ways to explore their environment now (crawling, walking, rolling). Maybe that’s why they just can’t sleep at night. So what to do to get a peaceful night?

Breast feeding mums looking for a relief at night inevitably come across the various techniques for settling babies. There are sleep programs and step-by-step guides for Africa. Unfortunately many of them are based on breaking babies’ apparent association between feeding and falling asleep – which almost always involves a lot of crying (done by either the baby or mom or both). This is often referred to as controlled crying. However when we tried it my wife did as much uncontrolled crying as our poor little man. That’s when I realized how hard it is for a mom to listen to her baby cry his lungs out. I found it tough as well – although I managed to hold back the tears (yeah right)! So after a few days we stopped with controlled crying as it just got to a point where our baby would cry for 45 minutes or more and he showed no signs of letting up (contrary to the predictions of the various baby sleep gurus).

The alternative isn’t great either. One of our friends went the other way and is now doing uncontrolled feeding (her baby only falls asleep while latched on) and it got to a point where she was feeding every hour – sometimes even more frequently.

One thing that has definitely helped though is to work on a routine during the day. As annoying as it is to live your life by the clock a rigid routine seems to work for babies. So we stick to 2 naps per day (he almost falls asleep automatically) and make sure we follow the same sequence of events at bedtime. During the night things are still a bit random and we pretty much feed on demand. Some nights he wakes up once and sometimes twice (between midnight and 6am) but it’s still a big improvement to what we had before.

So we will continue to focus our efforts on improving our day routine and perhaps trying to stretch times between feeds every now and then. Controlled crying and uncontrolled feeding are certainly not an option for us and at least we had a little bit of success with our daily routine now. Anyway my conclusion on babies (after having one for nearly 9 months) is that any change in their behaviour could be the result of parental intervention or just the beginning of a new phase.

By Frank W

Get the Little League Going

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Race car dad Kevin – muscles and cars

HarvickFamilyandBig TeamCB Race car dad Kevin   muscles and cars

Making his first trip to the Lone Star state, Keelan Harvick and mother DeLana headed to the deep south to support their favorite NASCAR driver, husband and father, Kevin Harvick. On Saturday night, Harvick claimed a Texas-sized victory following the NASCAR Nationwide Series race, receiving a Victory Lane cowboy hat that Keelan sported shortly after. With only two races remaining in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Harvick, still in 11th place on the leaderboard, salvaged a ninth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway. The Richard Childress Racing driver started the scheduled 334-lap event from the 23rd position before alerting crew chief Gil Martin that his Chevrolet had an extremely tight-handling condition. Despite handling issues, Harvick and his team managed to stay strong until crossing the checkered line. Meanwhile baby Keelan achieved his own victory by being able to hold his bottle all by himself! And while his muscles are disguised by cute baby rolls for now, Christopher Boykin from MTV’s hit show “Rob & Big” declared this cutie an honorary member of the “Chunky Boy” club while visiting the Harvick family at the track.

Go Chunky Boys!