Dad Brog (#099): The Worst Parenting Product Ever

Throughout the last two-plus years, mythical wife and I have come across plenty of products that weren’t that useful, and/or drawn frustration from mostly me.  Things like wipe warmers, butt paste applicators, the 78 different types of sippy cups that mythical wife purchases despite my protests that we don’t need any more god damn cups, can fall into the category of being useless.

Our ridiculously expensive double stroller has been a tremendous source of frustration for me throughout the journey of parenthood, because it was ridiculously expensive, but it’s also absurdly cumbersome, heavy, doesn’t fit into my car at the same time as an extra human being, and taking the thing down to Disney is a sure-fire trip-ruiner based on how often I have to break it down to fold because it’s either fold it to ride a shuttle or a Skyliner or fold it to put into the car to drive somewhere with.  But at least in spite of it all, it provides massive utility as the sturdy, smooth-rolling stroller to both my kids, when we need to roll them around.

But this past weekend, I discovered the absolute worst parenting product we’ve ever had the misfortune of being duped into spending our money on: the SlumberPod.

It’s basically a supposedly portable blackout tent that you put over the sleeping peripheral of a child, so that they can sleep in simulated darkness.  It has vents and even a clear plastic compartment to tuck a camera into so that you can monitor your child still.  The sales pitch of this product is that it’s perfect for you to use in hotels or anywhere where you have to shack up with your children in the same room, and you want to be able to sleep in the dark but not have to give up the convenience of lights outside of it.

But for my kids?  Colossal failure.  The SlumberPod seems like a great way to inflict trauma or cultivate claustrophobia to my kids.  We got it for #2 originally, because she typically needs a nice dark, isolated setting to sleep optimally, and sharing a hotel room with her seemed like a daunting task.  When we finally got it set up and put over her pack and play, it lasted all of two seconds before she was screaming bloody murder, and it didn’t even make it ten minutes before we realize that this wasn’t going to work.

Alternatively, we tried it on #1, to see if it would prove useful with her, but not only did she hate it as much as #2 did, she had the capability to fuck around with the camera compartment, reach outside of her crib to monkey around with the sound machine, and was just overall physically capable enough to jostle the entire thing to where we I threw up my hands and declared this the worst parenting product we’ve ever had.

Sure, there is no one-size-fits-all parenting product that is guaranteed to work on every single kid out there.  That’s not entirely why I’m so disenchanted with the SlumberPod.  My primary point of frustration with the SlumberPod, aside from its bullshit $170+ price tag, is the fact that it’s pitched like it’s this easy-to-assemble jesus tent that will help put your kids to sleep, but the reality is that you basically need the surface area of Lambeau Field in order to have adequate space to put it together.  Works kind of counter to the idea of assembling and using these in hotel rooms with limited space.

It’s a Christmas miracle that I didn’t, or my kids didn’t get hurt by one of the bullshit tension rods that requires an unnerving amount of bend in order to assemble, and I was afraid that one wrong move would result in a violent whiplash of a metal rod whipping the shit out of either myself or one of my kids.  It would’ve probably been violent enough to slash out an eye on a human being, and probably rip a massive scar into drywall.

It’s definitely not easy to assemble, and once it is, it’s this giant fucking blob of useless that you don’t want to break down on a daily basis and have to wrestle with it all over again the following day, so you leave it assembled and let it take up a giant chunk of space in your limited hotel room’s real estate.

And when it doesn’t work on top of the aggravation of having to assemble it, it’s a really easy call to make that this is basically the most useless and regrettable parenting product ever purchased.  Basically, my prevailing thought after having to put up with this failure, is that if you don’t want to have to deal with the stress and struggle of having to share space with a child that requires adequate darkness in order to sleep, don’t fucking travel with them.  At least it wouldn’t cost $175 and an entire weekend of sleepless nights because the kids are struggling to sleep in a shared space far from home.  But fuck the SlumberPod, I hope I’ll be able to recoup anything for it, because I sure as shit don’t want to keep this in my house full of kids stuff any longer.

Thoughts from a much-needed weekend off

Paris – my #2 favorite place in Las Vegas

As mentioned in the fanny pack post, I was actually in Las Vegas over the Labor Day weekend.  This was effectively the first real, multi-day, kids-free breather that mythical wife and I have had since, before the arrival of #1 back in March of 2020, right before the pandemic shut the world down.  Since then, we’ve literally never had longer than a single day where we were both not without children.  We obviously love our kids and our budding famiry very much, but we’d also be kidding ourselves that having gone through such a stretch has been difficult at times, and it’s amazing we’ve gone this long without a true break and not ended up going insane in the process.

Needless to say, the highlight of the trip was without question, simply getting to sleep in for two straight nights.  As in, turn off all alarms, pin the blinds shut, and go to sleep, only to wake up naturally, once our bodies deemed it no longer necessary to remain asleep.  I know we were in Las Vegas, the city that never truly sleeps and we’re supposed to be out gambling, drinking and being total shitheads all night every night, but damn if it wasn’t so refreshing to wind down the evenings knowing that we could sleep as long as we wanted.

To any of my zero readers who might be under the age of 32, I can imagine just how depressing of a paragraph the preceding one was, as a glimpse of what life after the age of 40 and with multiple kids can await but I really do love my famiry I really do.

As for Las Vegas itself, it was a good weekend to get away from the grind of daily living, but I have to say I had a lot of thoughts about not just Las Vegas, but the experience of traveling, and the state of the world itself.  And not to shit on what was a very welcome weekend to relax some, but me being who I am, of course these aforementioned thoughts are quite critical.

If I could get right to the point, I would have to say that I feel like there is a pretty wide disconnect when it comes to the world of business and the people of the world, and where they stand on how “re-opened” everything really is versus how re-opened everyone thinks it is, or should be.

Case in point: travel to Las Vegas is expensive as fuck, due to supposed demand and inflation.  What should be no more than really a $350 RT give or take anywhere in the continental United States was like an $800 RT per person, resulting in mythical wife and I settling with Greyhound Spirit Air in order to not get to the casinos already broke.  Except when you get to Las Vegas, casinos and restaurants all over the city are operating at less than pre-pandemic capacities, almost all of the buffets are either shut down or completely impossible to get in on account of them being the only ones left, table minimum bets are way higher than they used to be, and it’s basically impossible to be spontaneous or do anything substantial on short notice anymore.

Aside from sleeping the fuck in, two things that I wanted to do at my first time in Vegas in like 5-6 years was to eat at a buffet, and visit Ellis Island.  Neither of which happened because pretty much every buffet in Las Vegas was either closed or required a massively advance reservation, and nobody in my party wanted to go to Ellis Island and even if we did go, there’s no doubt that their restaurant would’ve had a massive wait and been impossible to get in at.

Not that they were that bad by any means, but we had several meals at places I probably wouldn’t have gone to if there were buffets available, not to mention that they were all way more expensive than good Vegas buffets were.

But due to the general feeling of restrictions and handcuffs here and there, I found myself breaking a couple of my own neurotic rules in Las Vegas, out of a feeling that I didn’t have any choice.  Two of them, at the same time, which was no playing where you stay, and no playing at tables with robotic female Asian dealers, because to me, both are omens of horrible luck.  But I did both anyway, and found myself down a good bit in short order, and going to bed feeling agitated and dejected.

Fortunately, a positive gambling session at Paris the following day helped salvage my gambling exploits, but I still left the city an overall net negative in the process, not that such isn’t always the case when it comes to going to Las Vegas, but the point is, there’s a noticeable disconnect between how much the city wants to operate versus the demand of things from the people who are visiting, leading to a lot of obnoxious waits, crowds, rushes and rejections.

Such sentiments weren’t limited to Vegas itself, just the traveling experience in general, is very similar in the sense that airports want to operate in these pandemic-era manners with skeleton crews, early closures and basically taking away all seating from travelers, but not taking into consideration every single flight is basically oversold, because of the reduced number of flights is making every ticket a hot one, and all these people are stacked on top of each other, sitting wherever there’s floor space and an outlet on the wall.

Either way, I don’t regret the trip, and I’m grateful to have gotten away from ordinary life for just a few days, and could sleep in and feel like a self-absorbed adult for that time.  By the time it was time to pick the kids up from grandma’s, I couldn’t wait to see my girls, and give them big hugs and kisses again.  But obviously me being the headcase that I notoriously am, nothing goes by without me overthinking about it, even good shit like small vacations.  But I would wager that I’m not the only one who feels that it’s kind of obnoxious that the commercial world is trying to have their cake and eat it too when they try and use the pandemic as an excuse to operate at 75% when the consumer world is ready and itching for things to be operating at 110%.

When did fanny packs become acceptable again?

While out in Las Vegas over Labor Day weekend, I couldn’t help but notice that there was an unusually large number of people who were wearing fanny packs all over the place.  Not only were they wearing fanny packs, they were all wearing them slung across one shoulder and chest, like people used to wear messenger bags.  And after seeing the 350th person wearing a fanny pack like a satchel, it begs me to ask the question that this post is titled:

When did fanny packs become acceptable again?

I choose my words deliberately, and I don’t say cool, because to me, fanny packs were never not cool at any point in my lifetime, but there’s no mistaking that there was a large swath of time in which they were just not deemed acceptable by popular social standards. 

When I was a kid, I rocked a fanny pack between the grades 2-4; not only was it a great place to keep all my cash on hand, but it was the perfect place to stash absolutely anything, anything at all, without having to burden my hands.  Cool rocks or sticks I found in the woods, my WWF or TMNT action figures, the metaphorical golden treasure to a fat kid that was candy and/or gum.  I always had shit on hand, thanks to the utility and convenience of my fanny pack.

But at some point in time, I began to get ridicule, and I was eventually branded some sort of nerd for having my fanny pack.  I wasn’t sure if it was the culture shift I had gone through moving from rural Virginia to prestigious northern Virginia, just the changing of the times, or asshole kids being bullies to me, but it got to the point where I stopped with the fanny pack, and short of zubaz-wearing professional wrestlers, they were mostly unseen for the next three decades.

Obviously living under the rock I do, I have no idea of when specifically they’ve suddenly become so acceptable again, but I’m just noticing just how everyone seems to be getting their hands on them these days, and amongst the kids of today, they’re being treated like some brand-new innovation of style and convenience.  I’m sure a fanny pack is perfect for holding your phone without bulking up your pockets or if you don’t have pockets because male rompers seem to be acceptable too.  Battery packs and charging cables because everyone is so glued to their mobile devices that a single day’s charge is insufficient are nice to be able to stash close to your person too.

Man, fanny packs sure are fucking cool for all the utility and convenience they provide without having to commit to an entire backpack or messenger bag!

But I have to question the part where they’re being worn around the shoulder, because fashion not-withstanding, that’s just a poor distribution of weight, and on the long-term, can have some physical detriment to the body.  I used to carry around a messenger bag, and wear all my duffel bags over the shoulder, but after long periods of time, that shit begins to wear on you, with all the weight they’re putting on a single shoulder.

It’s not lost on me just how bitter old man this all makes me sound like, but you have to understand that the backlash fanny packs got back in the early 90s was pretty fierce, to the point where they practically went extinct overnight in like 1991.

I suppose this is something that generationally, everyone eventually goes through at some points in their lives.  Perhaps in the near future, I’ll get to the backlash on fanny packs a second time, but as a judgmental bystander, and watch with smug satisfaction as all the dumb kids of today shamefully hang theirs up as discreetly as they can, and be sad that the sheep of the world don’t like utility and convenience anymore.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge fails at first impression

While mythical wife and I were down at Disney for #1’s birthday, we earmarked one evening to go see Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios.  Paid for the lightning lanes, made reservations at Oga’s, etc.  Capitalize on one evening away from parenting to see something with a monumental amount of hype behind it.

Now I like Star Wars just fine.  I’ll admit I’ve soured over the last few years because the fandom of the property has become insufferable and taints everything the IP produces, and I’m over other fans and the property itself at invalidating my fandom because I happened to really like all of the novella in the past, like Timothy Zahn and Kevin J. Anderson’s respective trilogies.

But I like Star Wars enough to watch all the movies and Disney+ originals with expediency, and enjoy them as is without even trying to entertain the idea of seeing what others have to think on the internet.  It works out best that way.

So I was looking forward to visiting Galaxy’s Edge, mostly to ride the new rides, as well as hoping I could maybe find some place that might sell reprints of the storyboard sketches from The Mandalorian or Book of Boba Fett.

Conditions were great to have a good first impression; the Florida evening was not hot and not was rather pleasant. The lightning lane mythical wife paid for would help us avoid oppressive lines, and the park itself wasn’t stupid crowded, going right at closing.

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Year two of forever (Dad brog #080)

Under normal circumstances, I would’ve liked to have written something on the actual day.  But mythical wife and I were at Disney World with #1 celebrating her second birthday, so appropriately understandable, I just wasn’t around to take the time to write and reflect.

And just like that, my first child is two years old.  Naturally, the passage of time has felt like a blip, and I can still remember lots of the finer details of raising my daughter, and the world she grew up in and has been living in, still amazed at just how things have progressed in that span.

Over the last year, between first and second birthdays, a lot has most certainly occurred.  Not long after turning one, my daughter really kicked it into gear and began crawling like a speed demon obsessed, which was a might’ve been considered a little late in the development game, but honestly that part didn’t last long at all, because before we knew it she was suddenly upright, and it was barely a month after turning one, did she take her first steps and frankly, she hasn’t stopped running around since then.

#1 basically eats everything in sight now, and she went from being introduced to solids to not just inhaling everything that’s put in front of her, but now an innate curiosity and determination to utilize utensils and not just eat everything with fistfuls jammed into her mouth.

Obviously, one of the more substantial occurrences to have happened within the last year was that even though she was just one year old, #1 became a big sister already, when #2 was born in July, and my household had to deal with the harrowing realization of being a house with two under two, and the hard mode of life we were about to embark on.

In spite of everything I may have written detailing the difficulty and hell that parenting under these circumstances might have been, one of the joys to have emerged from it all has been witnessing just how much my now elder daughter, loves her little sister.  What started off as hesitation and fussing about the new edition to the home, #1 has taken to big sisterhood quite well, and fewer things bring genuine happiness to my heart than seeing her open up her arms and envelop her little sister in big hugs, whenever the opportunities present themselves.

Not a day goes by where I don’t just stop and watch my child at varying points throughout the days, just to see what she’ll do next.  Not a day goes by where it doesn’t seem like there’s some sort of growth or development with her, most of the time pertaining to absorption of the things she’s hearing and her ability to repeat and recollect, which also means that I have to really watch out for using profanity around her, because much like this meme, there’s no doubt that she’ll remember the bad words forever.

But every night while I wind her down for bedtime, I tell her that I love her so much, and it melts my heart every single time, when she repeats the words “love you so much.”  I know for now it’s mostly just repeating the words that I’m saying, but I’m hoping that one of these days eventually, she’ll be saying it as a declarative statement of her own volition and with understanding the meaning of the words.

As much as I love her though, all the same, has arrived the time of toddler defiance; a lot more no’s, a lot more fussiness at being told what to do, and a whole lot more determination to do things herself and her way, and not necessarily how others want her to do things.  I’m guessing this is probably the onset of the suppose terrible twos, but really it’s still just the never ending adventure of raising a child that I’m clearly experiencing first hand for the first time.  Hopefully she doesn’t make my life too hell as mythical wife and I embark on this next chapter of our parenting lives, but I’m confident that our love for our kids won’t waver, no matter how much trolling and exasperation they’re going to inevitably test us with throughout our lives.

Either way, I thought I’d have more to write about this than this, but I am still a tired dad with too much on his plate, and not enough time to accomplish everything he wants to do.  Regardless of the circumstances, a happy belated-in-writing birthday to my first child, whom I love so much, and will always love so much.  I look forward to watching her grow and develop, from the good to the bad, and there will never be a day where I am not thankful to be her dad.

What’s the point of dress codes if they’re not enforced?

All snide social commentary that skews towards the obvious racism that is often associated with them, it is a serious question: if a place has a dress code and nobody enforces it, what’s the point of having it in the first place?

Down in Florida, my famiry went to dinner at a supposed upscale steakhouse at one of the numerous Disney resorts.  While we were packing for the trip, I had full intentions of going full vacation mode as in packing basically nothing but shorts, t-shirts, and with the intention of wearing nothing on my feet other than my slides the whole time, but mythical wife informed me that we had reservations at a place where there was a dress code and that I should pack accordingly; as in a collared shirt, and jeans were acceptable as long as they were not ripped up. 

Only slightly begrudgingly because I do like fine dining and don’t mind cleaning up from time to time, I did pack accordingly.  But I did mention to my wife that I would wager money that we would probably see people there that were nowhere close to adhering to the dress code, be it people slumming it up or just samples of the various Florida white trash that exists in the state.

When we got to the restaurant, I was compliant to the dress code because I have respect and follow rules, but completely unsurprising, were all the people I could see inside and waiting outside of the restaurant, that most definitely were not.  In most cases, it was a bunch of Ben Afflecks who looked like they rolled right off one of Orlando’s countless golf courses, in their polo shirts, but their non-compliant khaki shorts, but there were no shortage of people slumming it up in t-shirts and modes of dress that would be better suited to a mall food court rather than an upscale resort steakhouse.

And not that I have any issues with gay guys, but there was one fabulous dude wearing a men’s denim romper, with red bandanna around his neck, as if he were deliberately trying to look like a male version of Rosie the Riveter.  All classifications aside, that wasn’t compliant to the dress code either, but that didn’t stop him from being able to get inside and dine as well.

Which brings me back to the original query, if they’re never enforced, why do places even bother advertising any sort of dress code?  At the end of the day it’s fairly meaningless to me, but as a person who can respect and adhere to simple rules, it always irks me when other people don’t.  It’s not at all difficult to do, and it makes me wonder why people don’t want to take a little pride and clean themselves up.  I’m not saying that people need to go all Harry and Lloyd, but is it really fatal to just try?

All this really makes me want, is to see a video montage of people getting turned away at restaurants for not being compliant to dress codes, but much like the disappointment I feel in person when I see those who don’t, the internet really is no different.  I can’t find any compilations, much less any decent individual videos of such humiliations occurring, and just a whole bunch of depressing and disappointing news articles of black people getting turned away at restaurants.

At this point, abolish them all, if they’re never going to be enforced and only being used to inappropriately weed out racism.

2 Under 2: The First Disney Trip (#066)

Going to Disney World with the kids was definitely something that was going to be inevitable, given its place as far as mythical wife and I are concerned.  A wedding in central Florida where the wife was to be one of the bridesmaids accelerated the trip, and no matter how ready or not we were, the time had arrived to take the girls down to Orlando for a lengthy trip that was chock full of memories, lessons, trials and tribulations, as far as I was concerned.

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