Day 143: Driving in Inclement Weather: Prepare

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As a father, it will be increasingly important to make sure that you are a safe driver. You will, after all, be driving the children around. Being a safe driver in inclement weather comes from both preparation and practice.

First, let’s talk about something you can do to prepare. Know the kind of inclement whether that affects the region in which you live. There is no need to invest in snow tires if you live in southern Arizona.

Secondly, make sure that your windshield wipers are functioning properly. Replace them every so often when they starting to wear out as evidenced by their inability to wipe water off the windshield as well as they used to. Make sure that you have enough wiper fluid in order to clear the windshield during period of intense weather. It’s always a good idea to top off the wiper fluid, if you know that you’re driving into a storm for example.

Always make sure that your tires are up to the task. As time goes on, the tread in your tires grows shallower and shallower, which inhibits the tires ability to grip the road. Don’t wait too long between getting new tires, especially if you live in an area where snowy or rainy weather is common. If you live in such an area, you might want to invest specifically in snow tires, which have additional measures to help the tire grip the road during snowy or wet conditions.

Finally, before you leave, make sure that the car is in good working order and that you have cleared any ice and snow off your mirrors and windshields so that you can properly see what is going on around you. It is a good idea to let the engine run for a minute or two before you get going if the weather is very cold.

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Day 136: The Shock of Seizures

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Watching a child having a seizure is a terrifying experience. They will flail about and be generally unresponsive. This condition is caused by a variety of factors that make electrical impulses in the brain misfire at random. Though a seizure can be an indication of a deeper problem, the seizure itself is usually not a great threat.

One of the most common causes of seizures and children are high fevers. These are known as febrile seizures and can occur when a child has a high fever over an extended period. If your child is experiencing a high fever, try to cool him or her by using damp cloths on the skin and a children’s fever reducer as recommended by your pediatrician.
If your child is already experiencing a seizure, try to remain calm. The child will flop and flail about so make sure that there is nothing in the area that he or she could knock over and harm him or herself. Do not attempt to stick anything, especially your fingers, in the mouth of the child who is having a seizure, as the jaw can clamp and unclamp involuntarily, and it is the strongest muscle in the body.

After the child is done seizing, place him or her in a lukewarm bath of shallow water. Seek medical attention to make sure the seizures are not a result of some other condition. Some children are more prone to these kinds of seizures, but they will typically grow out of them as time goes on.

I had several such episodes as a child as did my brothers and sisters, but none of us have had one since we were very young children. My own son experienced one once during a high fever but also has not had any for years.

Day 129: Packing an Emergency Kit

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Chances are that sometime and you will forget to bring the diaper bag. This can be a stressful experience, especially when you are in a restaurant with the baby who just exceeded the capacity of his diaper. That is what the emergency kit is for. In addition to carrying around the diaper bag, put together an emergency kit that always stays in our car.

Our emergency kit fits inside a plastic bin with a lid and has a permanent residence in our trunk. It contains many of the same things as a diaper bag, such as diapers baby wipes, but also a few things for me and my wife such as a little cash, a razor, and spare batteries.

There are plenty of times that we were so busy, and running late that we forgot the diaper bag. In these instances, having an emergency kit that is always in the car has really saved our bacon. Kids don’t wait for a convenient time to make a mess or need a change of clothes. If you have this always on hand, you do not need to worry about these unexpected situations.

Day 87: Learning the Language of Kid’s Clothing

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On top of everything else you need to learn as a father, there is a completely new language. No, I’m not talking about the cute little babble that comes out of baby’s mouths. We’re still working on that one. If we cracked that code, then you’d be set for life. No, I’m talking about children’s clothing sizes.

Now, at first glance, it may seem that the sizes are pretty straightforward. The smaller sizes even come with recommended ages. The question is, does your child fit into those?

For example, our first son got the tall genes from both sides of our families and was off the charts in head size and height. He’s gonna be one tall man. This means that he always wore a size or two bigger than his age would indicate. This made it so I had to completely ignore the tag that said 12 months when putting it on my six month old son.

Our second son has down syndrome, and this makes him a little smaller than most kids. I once again have to ignore the tag that says 18 months when I dress my two and a half year old.

To make things even more confusing, the sizes might differ slightly between different brands of clothing. An 18 month shirt bought at the Gap might be a different size than an 18 month shirt that you buy at Carter’s. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the children’s clothing stores yet. You will.

Then, to make things most confusing of all, they change systems in midstream. It starts out easy, premie, infant, six months, 12 months 18 months 24 months and then goes into a system of numbers and letters. It starts with size 2 and then you add a T in order to make it slightly bigger.

So 2T is a little bigger than T. You then proceed to three, while neglecting all other out letters of the alphabet. What does T stand for? Your guess is as good as mine. “Tippecanoe” for all I know. Then it is 3 and 3T all the way up to 6 and 6T. At that point, guess what’s next? Not 7. Extra small…

The moral of the story is, it is going to take you a little while to learn this new language. Don’t get caught up too much in the system, but instead just figure out what fits. Make sure that you have enough clothes of each successive size for your children. They grow out of them much more quickly than you would like.

My final word on the matter? Don’t go overboard on spending too much money for kids clothes. Children are notorious for making messes, ruining their clothes and growing out of them before you can blink. I don’t mean you have to dress your kids and gunnysacks, but keep this in mind. As always, good luck.

Day 73: He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

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I remember the first time I held my first son in my arms. It is sort of surreal experience to look down and see your own facial features reflected on another human being. In some respects, I kind of felt sorry for the little guy. I remember thinking once in those early days "Oh boy, you got my huge noggin." When I was growing up, my friends used to call me “melon head” as I put prize-winning melons watermelons to shame.

At first, it might be a little nerve-racking to hold the little guy or gal because they seem so fragile. There are a few things to remember holding a newborn baby. First, is that babies are much more flexible than even young children. Many of their bones and joints are simply not as developed yet and so they might bend and stretch in ways that you would not expect. This helps the baby for the birthing process.
Secondly, if you feel of depression in the top of your baby's head, don't panic. Someone didn't drop them and they don't have a malformed skull. This is what is known as the "soft spot". Before birth the bones of a baby’s skull do not fuse together, which helps them be able to be born through a very small space without damaging their head. After birth, the bones start to fuse together and the soft spot should shrink in the coming months.
Third, is that infant need extra support to their head and neck. Infants might be happiest in several different positions but whatever you do support the neck. If you don't, their heads can easily flop around which can cause damage.

Fourth, make sure you are holding an infant with clean hands. Babies are exceptionally susceptible to pathogens. Their immune system’s are not fully developed and so must be extra cautious. As a rule, make sure to wash your hands frequently around your infants and specifically before you hold or feed him or her. Avoid touching their mouth, eyes, nose, and ears, as these are common places where germs can enter. For the few first few months at least, it is wise to limit the number of people that you allow to hold the baby, as each new person has potential to introduce different kinds of germs.

Finally, just enjoy the experience. They really do grow very quickly and soon holding your baby will be less like holding the weight of a plastic doll and more like holding the weight of a sack of potatoes. Eventually, it will be like holding something you can’t pick up at all.

Day 66: Sleep, Blessed Sleep

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For the first months of your child’s life, you will likely wonder how babies can sleep so much and not get more of it during the middle of the night. You might also wonder if you will ever get a good night’s sleep again. What have you gotten yourself into?

The good news is that as children age, they tend to sleep better. All children have different sleeping patterns, but this generally holds true. So there is hope! Getting the little bundle of joy the sleep will be one of your major tasks as a parent. Here are just a few suggestions and things to keep in mind.

1. Make sure that the basic needs of your baby are met. It is very difficult for them to go to sleep if they’re hungry or need a diaper change.

2. Make your house as distraction free as possible. Turn down the music, the TV, or the video games. Avoid running anything that makes too much noise for the best chance of keeping your little one asleep. You might want to even inform your neighbors if you’re living in an apartment or duplex so that they can enjoy the peace and quiet as well.

3. Find out what position your baby is most comfortable in. Some children like to lie on one side or the other. Others prefer their backs. Some babies prefer going to sleep on their stomachs, which is something that conventional wisdom says might be dangerous.

Some babies like to be rocked to sleep in your arms and others prefer lying against your shoulder. Some babies will take to a baby swing to go to sleep. Some babies take comfort in being swaddled in a blanket. Some babies like to be bounced gently or have their backs rubbed to go to sleep.

Of course there’s the good old-fashioned lullaby, which many babies enjoy. You may have to experiment for a while to see what is most soothing to your baby.

4. Give them familiar comfortable conditions. Try to rock them to sleep in the dark with a comfortable temperature. Even young babies start to recognize familiar voices and smells and these could be comforting.

5. Avoid exposure to lighted computer and TV screens too close to bed time. These can keep the mind stimulated and awake.

In the end is best just remember the good-humored about it. Try to enjoy the time you have with your baby when they are small even though it might be tiresome at times. Last of all, good luck. Chances are you’ll need it.

Day 59: Coping with Crying

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It is something you will not be able to escape: babies cry. They often do a lot of it. The most frustrating aspect is that there may be no apparent reason. They simply can’t tell you what’s wrong.

It is hard, but we have to put ourselves in their…well not shoes, per se, but think of how they see things. They start out completely helpless and have to rely on someone else to meet even their most basic needs. That would make me grumpy too!

That being said, there are appropriate ways to deal with crying and inappropriate ones. Here are some suggestions that I have found helpful:

  1. Meet the basic three: Are the hungry, tired, or need to be changed? Many times, fussiness comes down to one of the basic three. Try those avenues first before trying other things.
  2. Find out what soothes them: Many babies like to be rocked or cuddled, but each baby has a preferred way. You can do this in your arms, a baby swing, on a blanket. Experiment with different things like gently rubbing the baby’s back or having the baby lie on your shoulder.
  3. If you feel yourself reaching the breaking point, take a short break. Either switch off who is caring for the baby, or if you are alone, place the baby in a safe environment, such as his crib and step outside for a second. Listen to a song that calms you down, say a prayer, take deep breaths, whatever helps you. If you don’t do something to deescalate your frustration, it can lead to less rational actions that you might regret.
  4. Be on the lookout for patterns and problems. What are the baby’s triggers? Is the baby spitting up more than usual? Does he have a rash or other strange marks on his skin? You may need to consult a pediatrician or change a baby’s diet, as he may be having an allergic reaction.
  5. Never throw or shake your baby. This can cause terrible damage as babies are fragile.

There are many ways to calm babies, and here are some suggestions.

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/your-babys-first-year-coping-with-crying.html

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-baby/PR00037

http://www.nspcc.org.uk/help-and-advice/for-parents-and-carers/parenting-advice/crying-babies/crying-babies_wda90765.html

Good luck! It does get better and it is worth it.

Day 52: Bathing a Baby

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First things first—ever hear the phrase, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?” That’s good advice. Definitely don’t be throwing babies, with or without water.

One of the nice things about babies is that they don’t necessarily need a bath every day. Their skin is very sensitive and if you do it too often, you might actually dry their skin too much or cause a rash.

When you first start bathing your child, a sponge bath is usually enough. You can place your baby in an infant bath or other container to catch the water and gentle rinse their bodies. You can even place the baby on a comfortable towel or blanket.  Use a mild soap designed for babies (never regular soap) and start with the face and go from there. This keeps the cloth or sponge cleanest when cleaning eyes, nose and mouth.

You can do this at least until the umbilical chord falls off. When using baby baths after that time, remember that you do not need much water. Make sure the water is warm, but not too hot and do not leave the child too long in the bath as the water will quickly cool and can cause the baby discomfort.

The most important thing about bath time is to never leave your child unattended while bathing. Take it from the man whose brother nearly drowned on his first birthday. Luckily that story has a happy ending and he’s alive and well today, but it could have easily ended tragically.

Bath time can be a great time to bond with your baby and to soothe them. Enjoy it!

Here are some tutorials about bathing a baby:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-baby/PR00041

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RnxD-KRkw8

http://pregnancy.about.com/od/newbornbabies/ss/bathebaby.htm

Day 45: What is Colic? What Can You Do?

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What is Colic?

25% of all babies develop colic and if your baby seems to be crying for long periods of time then your baby may have joined the Colic Club.

Colic usually occurs between 2 weeks and 3 months when the digestive system is still forming outside of the womb.  Your baby’s digestive system is still maturing and will go through abrupt changes in the first 6 months. During that development period, the gastrointestinal tract is not ready to fight off bacteria and other pathogens.

When a baby cries inconsolably for long periods for many days or nights, it is a sign of colic. Colic occurs in the first few months of life when baby’s digestive system is still adjusting to life outside the womb. Symptoms sometimes occur after mealtimes. Signs of colic include, bloated tummy, gas, frequent spit ups, disrupted sleep patterns, inconsolable crying. During the episodes baby’s back may be arched, knees may be pulled to the chest, fists may be clenched and the arms and legs may flail. Symptoms may cease after a bowel movement or after passing gas.

Babies cry when they are, hungry, cold, hot or needs a diaper change However, if the crying continues frequently for long periods of time and on a daily basis, it may be colic. Even though colic may be distressing for both baby and parents, it is not harmful and has no long term effects on infant development.

The Juju Band is specially developed to help with the symptoms of colic. When the abdomen is distended, wrap the Juju Band snugly around baby’s tummy. The heat from the Juju Band will help to release the gas and bloating that baby is experiencing. Babies often stop the crying when the pressure of the gas is released. Allergies such as lactose intolerance can also cause symptoms.
If crying continues and you feel the need for more assistance, consult your pediatrician.

More About Bands

There are differences in bands.

Homemade bands that are often knotted are not advisable because the materials are not breathable and the knots can be too tight around your baby’s waist.  There has to be a certain “give” to the material so your baby can feel comfortable.

Elastic bands do not allow for your baby’s body to breathe through the fabric and this can cause your baby to overheat. Furthermore, elastic can be constricting for your baby. If you have ever worn a tight pair of pants with elastic for any length of time, then you know uncomfortable that feels.

Herbal packs are not really effective because they lose potency quickly. Exposure to heat, light, and moisture damage the dried botanicals. The heating methods are a gimmick and can be costly for parents without the benefits they are looking for.  Additionally, introducing new foods such as herbs can have the opposite effect because your baby may have allergies to the new substance and the addition of heat may cause a rash on your baby’s sensitive skin.  While some herbal pack makers recommend heating, it is always best to use caution when it comes to anything heated as it can cause rashes and burning in some instances.

A simple band that is made of a breathable material is best to help your baby’s colic.

Day 39: Beyond an Enchanter’s Skill

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“…alas, raising a young lady is a mystery even beyond an enchanter’s skill.”
― Lloyd AlexanderThe Castle of Llyr

Though I don’t have any daughters of my own yet, I grew up with four little sisters.

They were each sweat little girls, but every one was a firebrand. You didn’t mess with them or anyone they cared about. They cared about things like clothes, shoes and doing their hair, and all I wondered is why they were spending so much time in the bathroom before school.

After my third sister was born, we found out how much she valued personal space. Anyone who got too close left with scratches. My friends at school asked me a few times if I had a cat, and I would respond “No, but I do have a baby sister.”

You might think a girl like that would grow up to be a real wild child. Today, however, she is one of the level-headed, kind , studious and smart people I know. She just got accepted to a university on a scholarship and is an incredible pianist.

You can never quite tell how kids are going to turn out, and as father’s it can be hard to fathom a little girl’s mind. It’s hard enough figuring out her mothers’! You may not understand the hair, or the shoes, or some of the traumatic emotional episodes they go through, and you don’t necessarily need to know anything. The best thing you can do as a dad is to show them how men should respect women by the way you treat her mother and the way you treat them.

Question: What can I do to show my daughters or future daughters respect?