21st Century Dad
One Dad's Thoughts, Ideas, and Feelings.
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Nursery Decoration on a Budget

April 17th, 2009 . by 21st Century Dad

WayfairThe good folks at Wayfair offered to provide a guest post. I wrote about preparing for a baby’s arrival on a budget last year. That article was an overview of the monumental task of preparing for a baby’s arrival, which precedes an even more monumental task – preparing the baby. This post speaks specifically about decorating the nursery.

Nursery Decoration on a Budget

Let’s be honest, being charged with the task of decorating your child’s nursery is scary enough without having to worry about the costs involved. Most families are living on a tighter budget these days, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still supply your newborn with the nursery that they deserve. Hiring home decorators and buying new baby furniture can come with quite a hefty price tag. With a little creativity however, you can easily decorate your baby’s nursery by yourself for a fraction of the cost and surprisingly little effort.

One of the easiest ways to decorate a nursery is with some homemade or store bought stencils. With stencils, you can add some character to your child’s room without having to resort to expensive wallpaper. Wallpaper can be a real pain, especially if you’re installing it by yourself. By painting with stencils, even a dad with no artistic ability can create great looking wall art on for very little money. Stencils can usually be found at any art supply or crafts store and come in a variety of shapes and designs. Once you have your stencils, practice painting with them on a scrap of wood or drywall. Practice makes perfect and the better your painting skills, the less time and effort it will take to get your nursery walls looking just right.

When decorating your nursery walls you may be tempted to go with more traditional colors like pastels. While these colors are nice and give the room a nice tone, baby’s eyes are underdeveloped for the beginning stages of their lives and they have difficulty distinguishing soft colors. Be bold and paint your nursery with bright and vibrant colors! Not only will it make for a more interesting nursery, but your child will actually be able to see the designs which will make the room more engaging for your son or daughter. Simple tricks like these will help take the pain out of room decoration while also making the most of every last penny.

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Smoking and Parenting Don’t Mix

May 22nd, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

“Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.” – Brooke Shields (1982)

My Own Battle With Smoking

smoking a cigarette

Photo: Porcelaingirl

A few bloggers I read regularly have talked about their struggle with smoking. It’s a habit I’ve struggled with for most of my life, but I think this time, I’ve quit for good. I knew that when my daughter was born, I had to quit smoking.

When I was single and perusing the dating sites, it really limited my choices. Very few non-smokers would tolerate a smoker. It is often a deal-breaker. The limited pool from which I could choose from also translated into limited success. My self-esteem took a double hit. This nasty habit left me dateless on many nights. When I quit (for whatever length of time it was), I had more dates.

Renee has been wonderful to me since day one. I was on the slippery slope of smoking relapse when I met her, and was back on the puff-wagon within a couple months after we started dating. I refrained from smoking when we were together, but there were times when I indulged. Then we started spending even more time together. It wasn’t actively discouraged, so I continued to smoke.

The Effects of Smoking

Other media channels have done a better job of describing the basics. Here are some of my observations:

  • You’re lighting something on fire and breathing in the fumes
  • One guy told me that he smoked 3 packs a day for over 40 years. That’s almost 1 million cigarettes!
  • A pack-a-day habit is a $150 hole in your budget. A fellow dad blogger tells me that he and his wife both smoke a pack a day. That’s a car payment.

“Please Don’t Smoke, Daddy.”

Please Don\'t Smoke, Daddy.I always knew I had to quit. Then Twilli was born. I REALLY had to quit. She won’t have conscious memories from this time, but neural pathways are being forged. I didn’t want to imprint the cigarette smell along with things like warm, safe, daddy, love, hugs, and snuggle time.

I grew increasingly self-conscious of my habit. I washed a lot of dishes by hand to further scrub the smell from my hands. After a cigarette, I would wash some dishes, brush my teeth, and sometimes change my shirt. A crying baby with a dirty diaper isn’t going to wait for daddy to go through that whole routine.

Slaying the Smoke Monster

A few months ago, I was taken down with a nasty flu. I could barely breathe. How could I smoke through that? I spent 4 days in bed. I didn’t want to smoke. After the 3 day hump, I didn’t want another cigarette. I also lost 10 pounds, which I’m happy to report remain lost. I’ve lost another 10 pounds since. Maybe it’s all that bike riding I’ve been doing lately.

I quit smoking, but I wasn’t ready to quit nicotine. I tried a product called Ariva. It’s a pressed tablet of tobacco that dissolves in your mouth. It’s actual tobacco rather than pharmaceutical nicotine. That’s what was missing from the gum, the lozenges, the patch, and other nicotine replacement therapies. Ariva is also the same price as a pack of cigarettes while the replacement therapies cost more. I used joesgoals.com to track my progress of weaning myself off the tablets.

The Effects of Smoking on Babies and Children

“Crack babies” and “heroin babies” get all the coverage in the media. What about the Marlboro Baby?

One of the select bits of conventional wisdom I subscribe to is for pregnant women to abstain from smoking. It really does have the deleterious effects claimed by the most fervent doomsayers.

Our friend Steve is a smoker who is trying to quit. His wife said that it was going to be even more difficult for him than most. Steve’s mother smoked during pregnancy, so Steve has been addicted to nicotine since before birth! I had not considered that as one of the negative effects of smoking during pregnancy.

“Crack babies” and “heroin babies” get all the coverage in the media. What about the Marlboro Baby?

Before this revelation, I thought that children of smokers became smokers simply due to modeling of behaviors. Smoking during pregnancy imprints this nicotine dependency upon a malleable brain. I know my mother had smoked during at least one pregnancy. Both of my sisters smoke. The last time I visited my mother, I was standing out on the porch with my mother and my sisters. We all had cigarettes in one hand and beers in the other. My sister quipped, “This is an activity the whole family can enjoy!”

Kicking the Habit

If you’re a smoker, you can quit. I will be your cheerleader, not a self-righteous finger pointer. I support you in your decision. It won’t be easy, but you can do it. I’ve tried several methods including cold turkey, weaning, smokeless tobacco, Zyban™, the gum, the patch, and the lozenges. The key for me is persistence. If I fall off the horse, I’m getting back on right away.

The one thing that helps me the most is a focus on all the positives. I think about the money I save, the health benefits, the self-esteem boost, the sense of accomplishment, and a host of other things. My focus is on what I achieved or gained rather than what I’m avoiding, running away from, or lost. BTW, this works on other areas of your life too.

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Has it Really Been 9 Months?

May 8th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Twilli - then and nowRenee posted about Twilli reaching the 9 month mark today. We acknowledge this milestone on the 7th of each month.

Every expectant couple hears, “it goes by so fast.” Sometimes it’s followed by, “take lots of pictures.”

To commemorate the milestone, I used to set up the whole Strobist rig and dress her in a nice outfit. I haven’t done that this month… or last month. The number of photos I take of Twilli is on a downward trend. Maybe I just get a higher percentage of “keepers.”

Our video coverage has been spotty. It will have to step up soon. Twilli is quickly approaching the day she will take her first real steps. Just like we were ready with the “baby bag” during the last month of pregnancy, we must keep a video camera in a high state of readiness.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve neglected my family duty by not taking more photos. I have more digital imaging horsepower at my disposal than most of my peers. Now I realize I’d rather have a few great photos of my children than a bunch of mediocre ones.

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How to Prepare for a Baby’s Arrival on a Budget

April 10th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Isn’t it amazing that such a small mammal requires so much stuff? Preparing for a baby’s arrival is a huge undertaking. You don’t have to buy brand new. Used is perfectly OK. I will even tell you how to get things for free!

Are you one of those people who likes shiny, brand new things? Get over it! You’re about to have a baby. Some outfits are worn only once or twice as babies grow so rapidly. Clothes still look fresh enough even after a couple hand-me-down cycles. Maternity clothing only gets a couple months of wear as moms expand into the next size up.

Friends and Family

Once you share the joyous news, anyone with available hand-me-downs will speak up. The easy way out would be to just donate the items, but most people would rather offer their help someone they know. Our friend Barb has a daughter a year older than Twilli. She gave us an entire suitcase full of very cute and stylish clothing.

Thrift Stores

You can’t blog about bargains without mentioning thrift stores. Just about everything you’d need except diapers, wipes, and formula is available here. If the expectant grandparents are around, bring them along. The Goodwill chain of thrift stores here offer discounts to senior citizens. On a recent trip to the thrift store, we found an outfit identical to one Twilli had as a newborn, except this one is her current size.

Freesource and Freecycle

I’ve used Freesource and The Freecycle Network to de-clutter my house. When we learned the joyous news, we knew we had to work the groups for free baby stuff.

In large metropolitan areas, there are several groups that you can join within reasonable distance. Baby items are abundant, offered almost daily. You might also score some items that aren’t posted to the boards when you pick up the item you claimed. We got most of the clothes, bedding, blankets, a bath basin, a bassinet, and some toys.


We got our crib for $40 and changing table for $35. The lady who sold us the changing table also threw in a bunch of other goodies she had lying around. Children grow out of things. They are fickle creatures. Many nearly-new toys and items are sold here too.

The Baby Shower and Gift Registry

I’m not saying you should mooch off your friends and family, but creating a baby registry is a great way to obtain some of the items you will need. Your friends and family are genuinely happy for you and they want the opportunity to express their joy. They don’t want to play a guessing game. Ask and ye shall receive. Sometimes, a group will pool together to get you a big-ticket item, but this is not the time to be greedy. Some retailers offer you a discount if you buy items on your registry that your friends and family did not pick out.

Twilli’s mom and I were overwhelmed at the show of support at our baby shower. We’re socially outgoing and we were able to leverage the relationship equity that we spent years building up. Traditionally, this is a women-only affair, but we elected to have a co-ed baby shower to be more inclusive of all our friends. The friends who could not make it to the big bash and our out-of-town friends also came through. We got to know our UPS driver very well.

We couldn’t have pulled it off ourselves. Our dear friend Shantelle is a party and event planner. Part of her gift to us was to provide her services. Now she has built up a successful business organizing tea parties for young girls. You better believe that in a few years, Twilli will be having a tea party.

Take What You Can Get… You’ll Need It.

The arrival of a child is an exciting time. It’s easy to get carried away and fall into the trap of consumerism. You want the very best for your child, but the very best also means that you, as parents, are financially responsible parents too.

When you announce that you are expecting your first child, everyone you meet, especially people who already have children, become very supportive. You’ll need all the help you can get. Accept it graciously. It takes a village.


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Dad’s Adventures in Babywearing

March 20th, 2008 . by 21st Century Dad

Babywearing DaddyRenee and I became babywearing enthusiasts out of our quest to maintain the highest level of productivity possible. What I didn’t anticipate was how much extra closeness that it fosters.

We do things very counter-intuitively in the U.S. Babies are weaned off the breast by 6 months and potty training doesn’t start until age 2. Attachment parenting practitioners start potty training by 6 months and continue breastfeeding for 2 years.

Most of the baby carriers available have a feminine design aesthetic. Some can be made masculine with a different choice of fabric print, such as soft structured carriers and mei tais. The ring slings, moby wraps, and pouches are more feminine to me.

Baby carriers come in a variety of designs. You will have to try them on for yourself to see which ones work best for you. Try meetup.com or Yahoo! Groups to find a babywearing meeting in your area. At such meetings, you’ll be able to try on a wide variety of carriers and get expert instruction on how to properly wear them.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that the Ergo Baby is my favorite. It’s a soft structured carrier. Renee’s DIY Scandi-style Mei Tai is challenging for the top spot. That’s what I’m using in the picture above.

The fun doesn’t have to end when your infant becomes a toddler. I’ve seen children as old as 4 being worn in a carrier.

There are many benefits of babywearing. Even if you don’t believe in attachment parenting, there are pragmatic considerations.

  • You have two hands free.
  • No need to navigate a bulky stroller in crowded areas.
  • It’s much safer than putting the infant car seat in the shopping cart.
  • Managing multiple children becomes easier.

Give babywearing a chance. If your wife has been the sole baby wearer, she may have one or more carriers with a feminine design. Get over your machismo. At least try it in the safety of your own home. You may end up liking it enough to get a carrier of your own.

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