When you contact the kid’s physician to arrange a flu vaccination appointment, you’ll likely be asked whether you want her to receive a flu shot or Flumist.  My first reaction on being asked:  What’s that and what’s the difference?

Just What Is Flumist?

Flumist is a flu vaccine designed to help provide immunity against the expected flu variants.  In that regard, it’s like the standard flu injection in that it covers the exact same flu variants expected for that particular season.  It principally differs in these ways:

  • Flumist is delivered via a brief squirt up each nostril so that antibodies develop in the bloodstream and the nose, which is the most likely entry point for the flu virus.
  • Flumist is made from a weakened live virus while standard flu injections are derived from a dead virus.

Because small kids are usually terrified of needles, it’s a parental godsend.  She might still be squeamish at having to endure a squirt from some strange tube stuck up her nose but a little conversation and encouragement will help her through the process.

Flumist and Injection:  A Brief Comparison


  Flumist Injection
Delivery Mist via nasal passages Injection into arm
Virus Type Live weakened virus Dead virus
Antibodies in Bloodstream and nose Bloodstream
Minimum Age for Child Two years of age Six months of age
Vaccine effective in Two weeks* Two weeks*


* If this is the first time that your child is receiving a flu vaccination, there has to be a second administration to assure that the antibodies develop.  This follow-up won’t be necessary in subsequent years.


Kids and Texting

You sometimes come across an article that resonates with what’s happening in your own life and household.  In this particular instance, a timely parenting article – Age-old kids’ query in a text message: Wuz4dina? – by Beth Harpaz.

We held off on purchasing a cellphone for our eldest until we saw a certifiable need, in this case, a youth trip to a city 1000 miles away.  And along with that purchase came a debate that I hadn’t anticipated:  text messaging in the phone plan.  Understand that my wife and eldest child are technophiles and infinitely better versed in modern electronics of all kinds.  I was the one who worked in the corporate headquarters of a Fortune 500 company and walked down the hall to talk to someone instead of emailing them.  But after discussion – them versus me – we came to a reasonable compromise.  She got the texting package and contributes to a portion of her cellphone bill. 

But while understanding the slang and acronyms are a real concern – I long ago learned that I had to keep up with youth culture – my qualms simply go to having one more thing that I have to monitor and place on the parental radar.  Are the number of messages within the plan parameters?  Who’s being texted?  And unless something goes radically amiss, are things being kept appropriate?  And if you’re reading this, Eldest, I do believe that they are; it’s simply a parental concern.

Giving her access has also proven to be the departure point for any number of other issues.

  • Knowing how to speak properly with people despite being able to text with your buds.  There are moments when texting is appropriate and moments when it’s not, like when I’m sitting in the next room.
  • Understanding that these services come at a financial cost and that you can’t always text if it’s going to cost you for texting those outside of your plan.  It’s an elementary resource allocation exercise for young minds.
  • Learning how to read a bill and about the affiliated service and regulatory fees.
  • Learning how to deal with contract and billing errors, and that speaking frankly isn’t the same as "yelling" or being rude.

So I’m grabbing the opportunities as they come.  She’ll learn about these things and I’ll get additional glimpses into her world.

But I’ll keep the texts with her to a minimum since I don’t have texting as part of my plan.

More Laundry – What Now?

So you’re looking at a full hamper of dirty clothing in the hallway or bath and perhaps another in one or more of the kids’ bedrooms.  What do you do now with all of this dirty laundry? 

Understand first that a pile of dirty laundry is one of the two exceptions to that physics law which states that matter is neither created nor destroyed.  As you start to work through the pile, you’ll think that each item removed is replaced by another mysteriously appearing under the pile.  But you have to start somewhere.

Sorting It Out

Work through by creating a separate for each category of clothing.

  • Denim and other heavy material pants, including cargo and khaki pants and shorts.  Because the denim (jeans) will be probably be dark colored, this pile should be washed in cold water to keep the color from bleeding.  And you want to keep the heavier material separate from other clothing so that it doesn’t wear or damage the lighter fabrics.
  • Lighter fabric darks, including dark delicates, in cold water wash.
  • Bright colors – reds, blues, yellows – in cold water wash.
  • Towels, washclothes and linens.
  • Whites and grays, including boys/men underwear and socks, to be washed in warm water.
  • Womens’ delicates.

Which Pile Gets Done First?

Several factors can help you determine where to start.  First, any laundry that’s dried on a clothesline or rack should go early in order to give it time to fully dry.  As the day progresses into evening, the laundry on the line will dry more slowly and even absorb dew to become damp.  Second, consider what’s coming up on the calendar.  If a kid has an event or activity requiring clean clothing, be sure to get that done earlier than later.  If none of these come into play, then just find a pile and start.

Details, Details, Details

 Here are some things to remember when you handle the laundry; just tossing items in the washer invites a mess.

  • Check the pockets on all pants and shirts.  Pens will leak and stain multiple items if they break, money will be ruined or keys will rip holes in pockets.
  • You can’t use bleach on any items that have color of any kind.  Bleach is solely for whites.
  • You have to check the exterior of all items for stains.  Use stain products and scrub the heavier stains with a toothbrush before putting it in.
  • Likewise, check the stained clothing when you remove it.  If the stain remains, don’t put it in the dryer since the dryer heat will set the stain permanently.  If you think that there’s still a chance to remove the stain, do the item the next opportunity you have but don’t dry it in the dryer until then.
  • Check the labels on questionable items, especially womens’ tops and blouses.  Especially be sure to do so when you remove them from the washer.  Putting a Tumble Dry, Low Heat item in a regular setting dryer will shrink it until it’s unwearable.  And hell hath no fury like a woman who’s dress blouse is unwearable.
  • Make sure that dry clean only isn’t in the piles.
  • Womens’ hosiery and bras are dried on a rack, not in a dryer.
  • And remember that baby clothing is done separately, especially if you’re using a baby detergent like Dreft.

And despite all of the attention to detail, you’ll still find items are ruined.  But it will get better.





On my first day running the household, the pile of laundry on the basement sofa was one of the two things that led me to ask the question what in the hell do I do now?  The laundry has to be cleaned, but what do you need to know to assure that the laundry gets done, and done right?  Because what your  mother taught you before college is great for a steady diet of hoodies and jeans, but fails when applied to womens’ and baby clothing.

Let’s just spend this segment talking about washing baby clothing.

Even Before Washing Baby Clothing

Remember first that your infant has soft skin and absolutely no exposure to the fragrances and scents of many detergents.  The various scents are the product of chemical additives to the detergents and are known to create itchy, uncomfortable rashes on the baby’s skin; this is even after the rinse cycle removes the soap from the clothing.  So you’re going to have to use a detergent that is has no such additives.  While I don’t want to shill for any particular product, Dreft was the detergent of choice for years.  There are now other products available for baby/toddler laundry.

Even Before Your Infant Puts On Clothing

Now that you’ve settled on a detergent, let me ask you some questions. 

Think of that cute onesie that just came out of the packaging.  Do you know where it was before it got into the packaging?  Or that little dress that your mate rescued from the rack before another mother nabbed it.  Do you know where it was laying before it was placed on the rack?  Or even before it was placed in the shipping box in the Dominican Republic?  Just how clean are most factories?

If the answers are less than appetizing, then you probably want to wash new clothing before it hits Junior’s body.  I didn’t always wash the clothing before first use, but fell into the habit as I gained some control in the whole laundry process.  So make it a point to do a wash of new clothing before putting it on the baby.

Making Sure the Clothing Survives the Wash

Great, so you’re going to use an appropriate detergent and wash the new stuff.  Now you have to make sure that it survives the laundry routine in decent enough shape for the kid to wear it.  What do you need to know?

  • Obviously, dark colors are washed separately from bright colors and whites.  Even if brights and darks can go in cold water, don’t mix them if you don’t have to.  Neither of them go in with the new white onesies.
  • Check the tags to see what the material is since high-content cotton items will shrink in the dryer.  Go to Wally Mart and invest a few bucks in a drying rack and you’ll recover the investment when you get to actually dress Junior in the cotton outfits.
  • Check the tags to discover what the drying cycle should be.  Dryers have different temperature settings and tags specifying a low setting – Tumble Dry Low – mean that the item will probably shrink in the standard drying cycle.
  • That precious frilly outfit that your Mother-in-law bought for your daughter should be washed separately from the denim and heavy fabrics.  These heavier fabrics will batter the delicates and I’ve lost clothing to metal zippers/buttons tearing into lace and other delicate items.
  • Keep an eye on the amount of clean clothing in the drawers/closet so that you can have things moving in a standard process.  It actually is embarrassing to take the kid somewhere in clothing that’s obviously dirty.  What kind of parent are you anyway?
  • If you’re comfortable with the process, you can even get Junior into larger clothing by washing it first and then running it through a dryer so that it shrinks.  I’ve done it successfully – and not – so it’s only done if you have a sense of what to do.
  • I’ll bet you didn’t know that there’s an alarm buzzer on your dryer.  If you can get the clothes out shortly after the buzzer notes the end of the drying cycle, you can elliminate many of the wrinkles in the clothing. 
  • Of course, you have to actually fold or hang up the clothing after getting it out of the dryer.
  • Consider using a mesh bag to hold tiny socks so that they don’t get stuck under the washer’s agitator and add to the legend of the Missing Sock Zone.

If you think that it’s more than you expected, you’re right.  What brought it home for me was the money lost on unwearable clothing and the look on my mate’s face when her baby wouldn’t wear that outfit that she adored.

So pay attention and work the process.



The PracticalDad Minivan:  Keeping It Stocked

Even if you aren’t overscheduled, you’re going to spend a decent amount of time in the family vehicle.  And that means that you should consider keeping it stocked with some items for contingencies that come with kids of any age.  What do I keep in my minivan, even if the kids aren’t aware of it?

  • A first aid kit stocked with plenty of wipes, bandaids and antibacterial cream.
  • When the kids were younger, a supply of clean diapers/training pants and wipes tucked into a pocket behind the driver’s seat in case the diaper bag was forgotten.
  • A ready supply of pens and paper for drawing to pass the time.
  • One or two bottles of water.
  • Snacks, separate from what can be found between the seats.
  • Feminine supplies.
  • Books for the younger reader.  Older kids can opt to bring their own selection.
  • A book for myself.  At this writing, it’s Steven Pressfield’s The Afghan Campaign.
  • One or more plastic bags.

 And even if you try to cover all contingencies, you’re going to come up short on occasions.  That’s why God created Walmart…

Bitten in the Butt:  PracticalDad and the Fleas

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

          – Old Saying

Managing the household – with multiple children and activities – is frequently a case of establishing a routine that is both wide-reaching and monitored.  "Monitored" means that you follow up to assure that what has to happen actually happens.  Expect things to go wrong, but a decent calendar and schedule will minimize the BOOMS.  Unfortunately, that means that you have to actually go back to the calendar and be sure to carry things forward.

This includes treating the animals for fleas.  Prior to our move to another house, we gave our dog/cat pets monthly flea treatments and routinely carried the date forward to the following month so that it was handled and we kept the fleas out of the house.  But after the move, that particular item never made it back to the calendar and subsequently dropped out of the routine.  And now we find that each of the three cats has at least one flea.  We’ve found one on each but live by the assumption that there’s plenty more where that came from.

So my life is now more complicated over the next several days.  What has to happen?

  • Obtain the medication necessary to treat each animal and re-establish that routine.
  • Vacuuming the entire house with multiple dumpings of the canister to assure that the suction stays strong and that they don’t congregate in the bag after being swept in.
  • Changing multiple bedlinens so that they don’t infest the kids’ beds and bite them.
  • Continuing this vacuuming daily so that the fleas don’t linger.
  • Considering a "flea bomb" powder for the house, which means that animals must be removed from the house for the day, as well as all other lifeforms.

 My failure to get that item back on the routine has now doomed me to additional drudgery that could’ve easily been avoided.  And the lesson is to make certain that the family calendar is complete and current.

When Are We Overscheduled?

At what point do we say that the kids are overscheduled and it’s time to cut back?  Even when the family meal is shot to hell and the transportation is problematic, it isn’t always an easy call.

Today was one of the typical Fall school-is-back-in-session days.  Each child had somewhere to be and the timing was peccable. 

  • Middle had a theatre practice with pick-up at 5 pm and a fifteen minute commute places him home at 5:15.
  • Youngest had baseball practice at a remote field at 6 pm and a twenty minute commute in the opposite direction means that he leaves at 5:40.
  • Eldest was babysitting down the street at 6:30 and won’t be home until late.

This means that if we want to have any kind of family meal, then we have an event window of about twenty-five minutes and that assumes that everybody is washed up and at the table immediately.

But are we overscheduled?  And are we bad parents if we refuse to let our kids participate in an activity?

The reality is that kids today have far more options than we had when we were younger.  There are more scholastic female sports and there are more non-sport activities for guys as well.  We want the kids to have the opportunity to try different activities and that means a commitment on our part.  Even if we limit them to a maximum of two activities through the course of a calendar year, then multiple kids means that the parents and family are going to stretch farther than would’ve happened in the past. 

In the PracticalDad household, we try to hold each child to two concurrent activities at one time.  Because a sport schedule involves multiple practice nights in addition to games, we limit each child to one sport per season.  Each of the kids was, or still is, a scout which means that it’s a year-long commitment in addition to the sport that they select.  And even with these restrictions, the typical weekly schedule can border on the insane.

I don’t believe that refusing to let a child join an activity is bad parenting.  In previous conversations with our kids, my wife and I have pressed home the following lessons.

  • Life is a matter of choices and as an adult, you won’t be able to do everything that you would like.  So these are important lessons in making decisions.
  • There are more in the family so you have to look beyond yourself and consider others.  Would you like to spend as much time in the carseat as your little brother will have to spend in his?
  • What’s the practical impact of an activity on other aspects of your life?  Will it interfere with schoolwork – from whence all benefits flow in the PracticalDad household – or will it mean that you’ll be splitting time with another activity?  Is it fair to your teammates to only show for half of the practices and not be fully prepared for the game or activity? 
  • It isn’t the end of the world for a child or teen to stop a sport or activity and then go back to it later.  These years are  important for kids as they try to find their likes and skills and a season or year out typically won’t make a major impact.

We’ve used all of these talking points with the various kids as we manage the individual and family affairs.  The response hasn’t always been what we wanted but with some thought, each child has responded decently.

And we’ve had to reconcile ourselves to the notion that multiple children simply means a busy life during the school year.  So each side sucks it up and makes the best of the situation.

Knowing First Aid

I’ve learned in the past several days that I need to go back and take another first aid course.  Because I’ve forgotten some of what I used to know.

The range of injuries for most children is consistent with a bell curve.  Scrapes, cuts and bruises comprise the large majority of "boo-boos" but there are the occasional things that remind me what I don’t know.  And what must I refresh?

  • The difference in clearing an obstacle from a small child’s throat versus performing a Heimlich Manuever on an adult.
  • Discerning how much pressure to apply for CPR on a small chest.
  • How to handle immediate treatment for burns.
  • How to handle first aid for broken bones.

 It’s pretty easy to discern when it’s for the ED instead of the pediatrician’s office.  But there’s still the initial work on the situation before contacting the doctors and that’s where I got caught the other day; because what I had Middle do for his injury wasn’t going to help him, even if it didn’t hurt him (fortunately).

So in the several days, I’ll make the time to contact the American Red Cross to see what’s available in First Aid courses.

And Middle’s going to be fine, thank God.

A Word About the Nipple

I’m talking about the one on the bottle, not the other one.

Now that I have your attention, pay the same attention to the bottle nipple as you pay to changing the oil in your car.  Because an overly-used nipple creates issues for Junior just like dirty oil does for the mini-van.


When the baby suckles from the bottle nipple, the milk flows through a tiny hole in the nipple into the baby’s mouth.  And it’s small size means that only a certain amount can enter at a time.  This is good for your child since it prevents too much into the mouth – and stomach – at one time.  But over time, the constant suckling and pressure of the milk flow increases the size of the hole so that more milk flows into the baby and creates the potential for a stomachache.  And if a baby drinks too much too quickly, more air will also flow into the stomach with all of the discomfort – and crying – that that entails.

What’s a good indicator that the nipple is ready for replacement?  When you turn the bottle over to test whether the liquid is too warm, watch how it flows from the bottle.  The nipple should be fine if the milk comes out in drops.  But if it comes out in a small, constant flow, then it’s time to replace the nipple.  Remember that for best results, the milk comes at a rate determined by the baby’s suckling, not one akin to a beer can being punctured by a screwdriver.

Maintaining Control:  Using Your Voice

Men don’t appreciate that their voice – tone and inflection – can have a real use in helping maintain control of the kids.

I somehow realized when the eldest was a toddler that how I used my voice made a real difference in how she responded to my authority.  Understand that as kids grow, they’ll seek ways to assert their independence and challenge authority.  It’s expected and actually healthy and that’s one of those things that you learn to handle.  But there are moments when you have to immediately reassert yourself before further problems arise.  Like when?

  • When the child is going to place themselves in immediate danger, as running pell-mell towards a busy road.
  • When there are a group of children and misbehavior threatens to ruin the setting for everyone.
  • When a child is starting to ignore warnings or corrections. 

Because it’s best described as hard and/or brusque, it’s a tone that only sees use when I have to make a point.  If children don’t think that they’re going to like what’s said, they’ll learn to ignore it and later claim that they didn’t hear you.  I try to take care to insure that it’s tucked away from daily usage so that they can’t claim that and the effect isn’t lessened.  Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t, but I try.

The tone isn’t yelling, but a frank and controlled one that even the youngest can’t mistake.  There is no rise in inflection at the end, as though a question is being asked, and it goes hand-in-glove with the child’s belief that what’s said will be enforced if not followed.  So a history of follow-through is helpful to the process.

What are some situations in which I’ve used it, either with my own or another child?

  • When Eldest was playing with a group of preschoolers and started to run after a ball towards a crowded street.  Stop now! was in a deep, harsh tone that cut through the ambient noise and all three of the kids froze several feet before the roadway while the ball went into traffic.
  • Helping a nanny at a playground control a child – her ward – who was tossing rocks at kids sliding down a slide.  The child ignored the nanny until one of the rocks almost clocked Middle and then I had a brief conversation with him.  No yelling, but a kneel to the kid’s level and a look directly into his face while stating that the behavior would stop immediately.  Surprisingly, the nanny thanked me.
  • Stopping a young ballplayer from breaking the coach’s rule about swinging a bat behind the backstop.  The boy started swinging the bat and another father asked what did the coach say about swinging the bat?  The kid then simply moved further away and continued to swing the bat.  My response was to walk over and tell him – in a hard tone – to leave the bat and reassume his place in line. 

And there are plenty of other situations out there.

The point is to assure that they understand you offer no options, as the other father did.  The would-be batter was left with an option that satisfied the father’s comment while continuing to violate the coach’s rule and continuing the behavior that could injure someone else.

It’s not a tone that I enjoy using but with some practice and follow-through, it can offer a better alternative to having to yell or let a child ruin a situation by poor behavior.