Getting Your Kids Engaged: Parenting Advice for New Parents

My web developer friend Dave and his wife had a baby on Friday and have posted a few pictures to their Facebook pages. Being a father myself, I thought I should lend a few words of friendly advice so that this couple can be the most successful parents possible. Here’s the note I left him on his Facebook Wall that hopefully will go on to help other new parents as well:

I know you and Jessica are new to this parenting thing, and I don’t want to seem critical, but I’ve noticed in all of the pictures you’ve posted so far that Jonathan just doesn’t really seem engaged. At this point I’m concerned about the long term success and monitization of this venture. (Remember that depending on overall success, this could be a significant part of your retirement portfolio down the road.)

Consider adding a social aspect that really encourages him to not only give feedback, but easily share his thoughts on your parenting with others in his demographic; possibly a button that allows him to Like your parenting interactions on Facebook or a way for him to easily pin his favorite toys, clothes, nursery furnishings, and other baby accessories on Pinterest.

Also consider some sort of social badge system to encourage favorable behaviors like sleeping through the night or hours without being fussy that can easily be shared through the Twitter and Facebook APIs in line with the Foursquare and GetGlue models.

Above all, remember that your parenting is an interactive conversation, not a one way soap box like parents enjoyed back in the late 50s.

Just a few thoughts.


PS – I also think in the long term he’ll appreciate it if you Instagram his pictures before posting them.


Help me honor my 91-year old grandfather who was a B-24/B-29 pilot during WWII and flew missions in Austria and Italy

My grandfather, who flew bombers during World War II, was recently selected by Eastern Iowa Honor Flight to be flown to the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. EIHF honors WWII Veterans by sending them and 89 of their fellow WWII veterans on a private, chartered flight from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Washington, DC for the day, and then flying them back to Cedar Rapids by 10:30PM the same night.  On the plane ride home, EIHF surprises them by giving the veterans letters that family, friends, and the community have sent to honor them.

This is where I need your help! I would like for my grandfather to have baskets full of postcards from all over the world thanking him for his service in World War II to read on the plane ride home.

You don’t have to write much. You can just write “thanks for your service” and where you’re from or you can write something more in depth. Please just write.

All postcards should be sent to:
Eastern Iowa Honor Flight
Attn: Letters for Veterans
P.O. Box 502
Hiawatha, IA 52233

Note: For the mail to get to my grandfather, you will have to put in large, bold letters “Earl Blair”. All mail must be received by April 14, 2012.

Here’s an excerpt from his 23-page autobiography (which you can read in full here):

I never saw very much amusing about war, or combat, but one experience tickled me.  We were always warned not to use the radio phones between planes over enemy territory because they could pick this up from three points on the ground, and they would know exactly what our altitude was. This was information very useful to the anti-aircraft gunners. The German fighter planes would never fly into a large formation, but they would go after a crippled bomber that could not keep up with the formation and shoot it down so it couldn’t return to base, and they would get another star on their uniform.

Our fighter plane protection was the famous all-colored checker-tail P-51 Squadron, which always stayed out of sight, about 10,000 feet above us.  We had just come off from our bombing run on Linz, Austria with 500 planes, and a plane from the formation just ahead of us had an engine shot out (and I don’t know what else). He started losing altitude to maintain speed and stay with us.  I would judge that they had probably dropped about 2,000 feet.

When he came on the radio in a panic, he shouted, “Checker Tail Squadron, Checker Tail Squadron, Where are you:  This is B24 # ??? with engine shot out, losing altitude badly.  Need help!”

There was silence for about thirty seconds, and then from out of the sky above dropped two P-51’s checker tails, smoothly lining up on each side of the wounded ’24.  From where I could look on above them, it looked as if they had landed one on each wing.

A voice came back over the air, “We’s rawt heah, Boss!”  We learned later that this plane made it back to friendly territory.  The whole five-hundred plane formation lost only two airplanes.

Grandpa is in the back row, all the way to the right. Click for bigger.


Tobacco + Sandalwood: A Sydney Hale Co Review


Several weeks ago I saw Valet. make mention of Sydney Hale Co., a hand poured candle making company based in Virginia.  Valet. boasted the company as:

a family owned fragrance house making small-batch candles out of Arlington, VA in a variety of subtle, masculine scents at an affordable price. The wax is soy, made from American-grown beans, which means no soot or smoke and a less intense fragrance compared to traditional paraffin candles.

The Cocoa + Espresso scent is what brought me to the website, hoping to find reviews of the candle.  Alas, none were on the site and Google didn’t yield any results along the lines of what I was looking for.  Chocolate scents tend not to translate very well, although the essence of coffee and chocolate is an attractive one to me.

The Decision

Also present on the list of candles was Tobacco + Sandalwood.  Although I’m not a smoker, I do enjoy the smell of a good pipe being thoughtfully puffed on nearby.  Sandalwood is a scent that I don’t care for when it comes directly from a piece of the wood, however, I’m absolutely thrilled with the scent of The Art of Shaving’s Sandalwood Preshave Oil.

I decided I’d give it a go.  The cost after shipping was $27 which translates into $0.54 per hour of burn.

The Review

The first thing that I noticed is that the jar is as beautiful and classic as it appears in the pictures.  The second thing I noticed was that the smell is nothing like what I’d imagined.

The closest thing I know to describe the scent as is baby powder.  It’s a light scent that’s also sort of refreshing.  Although it’s not what I expected, it does make for a nice winter scent. (I’m big on dividing scents by season.)  Its light, reserved and mellow nature makes it a natural to keep in the bathroom, a room that’s usually too small and poorly circulated to keep a scented candle without being knocked out of your boots every time you walk into the room.

Will I buy another Tobacco + Sandalwood candle?  I don’t know.  But I do like it enough that I think I’ll try some of the other scents.  Possibly the Mint + Geranium or the Agave + Honeysuckle for Spring or the Sea Salt + Bay Rum or Grapefruit + Orange for Summer.

Who knows — maybe I’ll even get around to taking a gamble on the Cocoa + Espresso.


I Knew An Old Lady

My 7-year old daughter‘s favorite “lullaby” for me to sing is “I Knew An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly”.  When there isn’t time for an entire concert of lullabies I let her pick a song and finish with my permanent encore, “The Cuppycake Song“.  Inevitably her choice is “I Knew An Old Lady”.

Last night, by the time I reached “I knew an old lady who swallowed a horse”, she was prepared to cut me off and end with “swallowed a buck”.  Improv everywhere.

After the lady swallowed a buck (oh, what luck! she swallowed a buck!) I was shocked to find out that the lady had also swallowed a bull.  (She was so full!  She swallowed a bull!)

It will be interesting to find out what she swallowed between the bull and horse the next time around.

Also, take a minute to, in one breath, sing “She swallowed the bull to catch the buck, she swallowed the buck to catch the cow, she swallowed the cow to catch the goat, she swallowed the goat to catch the dog, she swallowed the dog to catch the cat, she swallowed the cat to catch the bird, she swallowed the bird to catch the spider that wiggled and jiggled and tickled inside her…”


The Porches Inn at Mass MoCA

A trip to the New England states brought me to the back steps of Porches Inn in North Adams, MA.

Although I’ve been to dozens of boutique hotels, this one is unique among the unique.

Once a row of six boarded up and dilapidated Victorian-style row houses built in the 1880s, The Porches now is a row of rooms self-described as “retro-edgy” and connected by a long, comfortable porch complete with rocking chairs.


You can grab a book in the study and read by the fireplace during the snowy North Adams, Massachusetts months or, if you’re visiting while the Green Mountains (just a few minutes up the highway) are still Green, grab a book from the study and head out to the porch with a slice of fresh-cut slice of watermelon and a cold glass of lemonade from the pitcher in Reception.

The Study

Once the evening turns cooler, head to the sauna, pool, or meeting room where a big screen TV and surround sound sit.  During my visit this room was relatively unused and with only 47 rooms on the property, my guess is you can pretty much catch any Big Game on any given night in this room.


Overall, I had a great time at this hotel and could see myself coming here again for a 3-5 day trip to relax, take in the Mass MoCA, hike the nearby trails, explore the Williams College campus and just unwind.

Pictures: Here
Try: The Nutella, Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich at Brewhaha
Bonus: Best tap water I’ve ever had