Daddy Weekend

This weekend I get the three kids to myself and my wife has the weekend off.  She’s earned her time away with all the great things she does with our kids.  They are 12, 3 and 8 months.

I’m really looking forward to this weekend, even though it’s going to be a lot of work.  The biggest challenge will be getting everyone fed, dressed and sunscreened, packed and out the door on time for my oldest to make his soccer game.  While at the game, it will be a challenge to keep my kids from overheating in the 90 degree plus heat, while also preventing any tantrums and diaper catastrophes.

It will be more work that usual because my wife and I are usually helping each other with the kids.  My wife’s weekend away is usually a semi-annual affair, and I always look forward to having the kids to myself.  This is the first time I will have all three kids to myself because the last time my wife went away for a weekend we didn’t have the baby yet.  I’ll let you know how it all turns out in a few days.

Effectively Incentivize Your Toddler And Immediately Improve His Behavior

I’m sure you’re thinking, yeah right Drew!  If it were that easy why wouldn’t everyone be doing it already.  And my answer to you is that many people have tried something like this, but not this specific idea.  It’s exciting and fun for kids, and it provides a significant motivation for them.  That’s why this idea often works very well, but you’re right, nothing works all the time.

The idea is that if your child is well behaved all day you will present him with a large plastic egg.  Inside the egg will be one or more fun surprises for your child to keep.  Kids really like the idea of getting a surprise and this technique can be especially helpful while your child is going through the “terrible” times.  I suggest you get a bunch of little “prizes” like stickers, temporary tattoos, rubber balls, mini plastic slinky’s, dice, etc and anything else age-appropriate for your child’s age you can think of that will fit in one of those large sized plastic Easter eggs.  Keep those items on-hand to fill the egg.  Then explain to your toddler that if he (or she) is behaved for the whole day he can open the egg and keep the surprise that’s inside.  If your child begins to act up during the day you have to explain that if he continues to misbehave he will not get the egg and will miss out on the surprise.  There can be no waffling on this.  You absolutely have to stick to your guns here because if you change your mind and allow your kid to have the surprise after he’s misbehaved then this will no longer provide an incentive for good behavior.

Give this idea a try and I’d love to hear your results.  It’s working well for my wife and I.  One last tip is that you may not want to do this every day, but save it for specific days when it’s especially important for your toddler to be well behaved.

Record your kids in video!

My youngest is eight months old and when you have kids time really flies. Before you know it your baby is crawling, then walking and talking.  I’m blessed to have 3 children and I try to enjoy every moment I spend with them.  One of my favorite things to do is read with my kids.  I usually have my 12 year old with me when putting my toddler to bed.  Usually my 12 year old reads half of the books and I read the other half.  We let my toddler decide who gets to read.  Because my toddler has several of his books memorize, sometimes he says he wants to read to us.  I have recorded many of these reading time moments.  I know years from now I will really cherish the recordings I’m making now.

Whenever possible try to record moments you spend with your little ones on video. Don’t only record their milestones, but also record some of their regular daily routines and play time. This will enable you re-live those treasured feelings after time has passed.  These days almost every phone has video and audio capability so there’s no excuse not to record. You may not watch the videos for years but hold onto them. I have some older recordings of my first child that I watch about once every year. One of my favorites is when I set up the recording at bedtime and he simply wouldn’t go to sleep. He was about 4 years old at the time and my video captures every excuse in the book about why he just couldn’t get to sleep. This video and the others I’ve made are priceless because they capture the essence of his childhood. You can never get those moments back, but when you record them you can live through the experience again and again and it is truly a joy.

Three Kids, One Parent and a Soccer Game — Here’s how I made it work

On Saturday my oldest son had a soccer game and my wife went off to her girlfriend’s going away party. Children were not invited to the party so that meant I would have the three kids to myself for the day. I love being with and caring for my children, but trying to make it to my 12 year olds’ game on time, and manage 2 little ones in diapers at a Soccer game can be very challenging. Here’s how it all went down.

Before my wife left for her party she helped pack snacks and food for the toddler and baby. This was a life saver because if not for this, I would have been late to my son’s game. Just before leaving for the game I changed all the clothes for the baby and toddler and gave them new diapers. In addition, since I have been down this road before and knowing how difficult it can be to change diapers in a car, I double diapered both little ones. This way, as long as there was no poop, I could avoid doing a change at the soccer game. That morning I had cooked breakfast for my 12 year old, then I fed him and my toddler lunch before leaving for the game. I gave my baby a bottle of milk to tide her over until I could feed her solids at the game. I googled the game location and we headed out.

When we made it to the game I used our dual side by side stroller for the little ones. At least initially I would not need to chase after my 3 year old while he sat in the stroller. We found the field where my son would be playing, I set up my chair and parked the stroller. My toddler immediately wanted to get out of the stroller and walk about. I let him out and asked him if he wanted to help feed his sister. He did, and that’s how I managed his time so he would not run away while I fed his baby sister. In the middle of feeding her my toddler noticed the clover growing amongst the grass. Fortunately for me he loves picking clover and watching the wind blow it away. This preoccupied his time for much of the game, along with a couple of plastic football eggs I brought from home. These are plastic Easter egg footballs and he wouldn’t let go of them for much of the game. Before long the game was over and surprisingly enough there were no significant complaints or problems with my baby or my toddler. In the end I got lucky because neither my toddler nor my baby needed a change at the game.

And that’s how I did it. Phew!

Boston Marathon Bombing

I grew up in the Boston area. As a child my parents would sometimes bring me to watch the race. When my 12 year old was a little tyke his mom brought him to watch the marathon a couple of times. This year my parents were going to bring him to the marathon, but fortunately he was not interested in going. My dear friend Rich runs marathons, and when I checked on him to see if he was okay I did not hear back for several hours. He finally emailed me about an hour ago. He is fine, thankfully. I also learned though Facebook that one of my cousins was nearby and heard one of the explosions. She is also okay. I am very grateful that no one in my family, and none of my friends were hurt in the explosions.

My deepest heartfelt sympathies and prayers go out to all who are injured, to those who have died, and to all of their friends and family members. I wish this had never happened.

Thirteen years ago I worked in New York City at the World Financial Center. That is the American Express building right next to where the World Trade Center Building 7 stood. My first child was born in 2000 and we moved back to Massachusetts. It was only a year later when the World Trade Center buildings were attacked, and ultimately collapsed. I was in complete and utter shock. I very likely would have died if we hadn’t moved. Building 7 fell at about the same time I would have been walking beneath it on my way to work. The birth of my son saved me, because he is the reason we moved.

Life is precious. Take time to give your loved ones a hug and a kiss and tell them how much they mean to you, especially the little ones.

My First Picture Book Rejection – Email from the Agent

I recently submitted my first picture book query based on a pitch contest on Twitter. This agent liked my pitch and that meant that she wanted me to submit my book to her. I did, and about a week later she responded with the feedback below. I’m curious to hear what others think based on her response. Since this is my first rejection I have nothing to compare it with. I’m withholding her name because it’s not relevant. Any comments you have are appreciated.

Here is the agent’s response:

Mr. Dyer,

Thank you so much for sharing your work with me. Your query was fantastic and I’m excited to see how you progress in your writing going forward. Unfortunately with this particular picture book I wasn’t able to connect with the story as well as I would have liked and I feel it’s not quite the right fit for me at this time.

I’d love for you to resubmit to me in the future should you have other writing you feel I’d be interested in or should you choose to revise this current piece.

I wish you the best of luck on your publishing journey.

Best,
Agent Name

McDonald’s Drive Through “Cheeseburger Sale”

I picked up my son from school yesterday and before bringing him to soccer practice he needed a quick bite to eat. He wanted a hamburger so we headed for McDonald’s. I pulled into the drive through and saw a sign advertising “52 cent cheeseburgers during rush hour.” It said nothing about hamburgers so when I pulled up to the mic I asked how much are the hamburgers. The attendant said “$1.04.” I immediately thought this “rush hour sale” was just a crazy idea because it costs McDonald’s more money to make a cheeseburger than a hamburger. After all, a hamburger is just a cheeseburger with no cheese. So I decided that since my son wanted a hamburger, and this sale seemed absurd, I placed an order for a “cheeseburger with no cheese.” After placing my order, I saw it displayed on the screen: cheeseburger -no cheese.

When we pulled to the pickup window the attendant was confused. I knew he was looking for a special order cheeseburger, you know, one with a special tag that would have said “no cheese”. After a minute delay without finding a specially tagged cheeseburger with “no cheese,” he realized that a cheeseburger with no cheese is just a hamburger. He grabbed a hamburger, put it in our bag and handed it over. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little to myself. What a crazy kind of sale to have in the first place, especially when you can still get a hamburger for the same price as a cheeseburger — without the cheese. I think you just have to have a little fun with these silly little marketing gimmicks.

After we pulled away I mentioned to my son I might write about this in my blog. He thought I might get in trouble, as if there are McDonald’s police that might get upset with me. I also got a chuckle out of that.

Sign with your baby

Recently I took a class on teaching your baby sign language from Sheryl White. According to Sheryl, babies who are taught to sign develop spoken language skills faster than babies who are not taught to sign. She also explained that children who signed as babies score an average of 12 points higher in IQ than children who did not sign as babies. Perhaps most beneficial for parents is that babies who sign are able to communicate more effectively than babies who do not sign and as a result their level of frustration is lower.

No matter how early you start to sign, the earliest your baby will sign back is about 8 months. Sheryl explained that one baby was on record doing 75 signs by 9 months! She also explained that the baby signing movement has advanced the understanding of how baby brains develop, and that babies are capable of understanding and communicating on a level much deeper than science believed possible even 10 years ago.

If you want to do some further research about signing with your baby here are some links. The instructor who taught my class: Sheryl White’s web site www.babykneads.com

Video’s that teach many different signs, including the signs you can use with your babies: www.signingsavvy.com

What to do when your baby is sick – steam and a nasal aspirator (AKA Snot Sucker)

Of course if your baby is sick you should call the doctor and get professional advice. You always want to rule out anything serious before considering treating your baby’s cold yourself.

That said, if your baby has congestion from a minor cold and a doctor’s visit is not needed the first thing I think to do is to give my baby a “steam shower”. No, this does not mean I bring the baby into a hot shower. What it means is that I step into the bathroom, close the door and turn the shower on hot and let the steam accumulate in the room. I then bring the baby in the room with me to breathe in the steam because it loosens up the congestion and helps my baby to breathe more easily. I usually keep my baby in the steamy room with me for 10-15 minutes so my baby gets the full effect of the steam. If my baby is having trouble feeding because of congestion, after 10-15 minutes in the steamy bathroom she will usually be ready to eat again. I sometimes feed her right in the steamy bathroom.

One additional tip is to consider getting something called a “snot sucker.” It’s a device known as a nasal aspirator and is designed to allow you to literally suck the snot out of your baby’s nose while also preventing you from getting into contact with the snot. It’s got a suction tube with a filter, it’s attached to about a foot of tubing that you use to suck the snot out from, and it’s washable. If you do a quick google search on “snot sucker” you’ll find it. We use the Nosefrida snot sucker. Babies hate this because it literally feels like to them that it’s taking their breath away. It will almost certainly make them cry and they will shift and wriggle away to try and prevent you from using it on them. I endure putting my baby daughter through this trauma because it’s often very helpful to temporarily free her of her congestion, especially after 10-15 minutes in the steamy room.

Keys to a Great Children’s Book: What I learned from Margo Lemieux

I recently took a course with Margo Lemieux, award-winning children’s book author and scbwi.org member. At the last class I asked her what are the most important things you should focus on to be a successful children’s book author.

This is what she said:

1. Follow your heart. The things that are meaningful to you will come across in your writing and in your art. Don’t try to be someone else. Be true to yourself. Be who you want to be and do what you want to do.

2. Create a good, likable character who is easy to relate to. Be certain that your character is clearly developed.

3. Write a good story that holds the reader’s interest. Use appropriate language for the age group you’re writing for and utilize a good story arc. The story should be conveyed clearly so the reader understands exactly what you mean.

4. For poetry it has to rhyme perfectly and the meter has to be perfect. Using words with more syllables tends to keep rhyme and meter on track.

5. Use a fresh new voice. Make your voice come through and sound like yourself.