Potty Time Chickies

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My youngest daughter has been potty training over the last several weeks and this past weekend she took the final step and stopped wearing any type of diaper/pull-up to bed. This of course has presented a challenge since my oldest daughter is potty trained but has yet to graduate to not wearing any type of diaper/pull-up at night.

For whatever reason my oldest daughter has not been able to have that type of control yet and my wife and I have not made a big deal out of it. She is completely potty trained during the day but bedtime continues to elude us. Being the big sister though and fairly competitive she doesn’t like that her little sister is now able to sleep through the night without any issues and she can’t. This has caused her to declare that she is going to wear normal underwear to bed as well since her sister is doing so. Tonight is her first night not wearing normal underwear to bed and I suspect it is going to prove to be an interesting night. Before going to sleep tonight she was hypersensitive to her need to go potty and must have done so at least four times before going to sleep. She clearly was nervous about the experience that lay ahead but she remained committed to seeing it through. She even tucked herself into her bed after going potty the last time and she has never done that before because she knows that if she gets up in the middle of the night she may need to do that.

Obviously my wife and I want to see our oldest daughter succeed and we will be by her side until she does but I am definitely nervous. I am nervous that she will compare herself to her younger sister and feel she is somehow less capable than her if this does not go well. It is strange to think that something like this could cause issues but my oldest daughter is sensitive enough so that it might. I honestly can say that I never thought teaching a little person to go to the bathroom would be this difficult for me or them. It never ceases to amaze me how being a parent and facing the seemingly minor issues in life can be more challenging than almost anything I encounter professionally on a daily basis as an executive.

Bath Time = Enhanced Interrogation

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Since when does bath time have to be like an enhanced interrogation session? My youngest daughter seems to think it is and fights tooth and nail to get out of the situation when all we are trying to do is wash her hair. Needless to say it makes bath time not so fun even if we had a rubber ducky.

This is of course in direct contrast to my oldest who loves bath time and would gladly stay in there for hours. We will sit there and listen to music, play games, talk, etc. and have a good time. Why can’t my little one be this way? It would make my life so much easier if they both would be happy bath time buddies.

I can dream I guess.

STEM Toys – Telescope Buying Advice Needed

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My daughter and I have been getting interested in star gazing lately (she is especially interested in looking at Venus) and I am considering getting a telescope. Unfortunately, I am completely clueless when it comes to what constitutes a good telescope for children that is both easy to use and decent enough quality to actually see something with good resolution. My normal go-to, Consumer Reports, doesn’t really have any information about these devices so that doesn’t help me at all. Therefore, I am stuck looking at Amazon reviews which are somewhat suspect at best and I don’t always trust them.

I need some advice on this topic from my readers and I would love to have people post links to models that they like to assist others in their search.

Finally Back At It – New Home Time

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It has been a long time but I am finally coming back to the blog. There has been so much going on lately that has taken up my time. New product launches at work, the holidays, purchasing a new home and many other more minor distractions to keep me from writing.

For this post I will focus on the new home as it is the biggest thing going on personally right now. It is a great location, on a cul-de-sac with 1.5 acres of land and in a great school district. The challenge is that it is a short sale so this could take a long time to progress through the sale if it does at all. Being optimistic and thinking that it will go through, we have begun the process of going through the whole mortgage process and planning out what it is going to take to move in. In addition to the other benefits, this house has natural gas hear, a Verizon FiOS hookup and central air which are big deals where we live. If you add all these things together it made the home too good to pass up.

Of course there is the fact that there is also a lot of cosmetic work to be done if we do get the house so that will be interesting. We need to redo the half bath, rip out the old hot tub, re-carpet at least one of the rooms and do a bunch of painting. I am fairly handy but I have not done a whole lot with some of this type of work so it will be a learning experience. I also am looking into needing to repair a bunch of the kitchen cabinets so that should be interesting. I have never had to deal with that type of woodwork before but I think I can manage it.

So anyways, off to the next big adventure. It sure never gets dull being a dad.

The 2016 Geek Dad Holiday Buying Guide

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Here it is, the 2016 geek dad buying guide. This will be continually updated as I come across more cool stuff that will ensure your kids have fun and learn something at the same time!

Computers

  1. Piper – Build your own computer and use Minecraft to craft virtual and physical gadgets.
  2. Raspberry Pi 3 – Want to build your own media center PC? Run a Minecraft server? Learn how to program and prototype electronics? Learn Linux? The Raspberry Pi 3 is the way to go.
  3. Tynker – Teach your kids how to code by making Minecraft mods and more.

Electronics / Engineering

  1. Littlebits – Build electronics and circuits without all the wires, breadboards and soldering. Just snap them together and turn them on!
  2. Snap Circuits – Build and learn about electronic circuits by snapping pieces together.
  3. Lego Mindstorms – Legos + Robotics  + Programming = Amazeballs!
  4. Arduino Uno – Want to teach your kids how to program and create electronic circuits, control motors, manipulate servos and more? This is the kit for you!

Space

  1. The Solar System for Preschoolers – It’s never too early to teach your kids about the planets and reminisce about the good old days when Pluto was one of them.
  2. The Motorized Solar System – Watch the planets rotate and orbit in style!

Toys

  1. Lego Bucket Wheel Excavator – Possibly the most amazing Lego Technics set ever. It will require mom or dad to work with the kids to get it done but it will be well worth it.
  2. Periodic Table Building Blocks – Build the elements up and tear them back down.

Makers

  1. A 3D Printer – Sure they aren’t cheap but if you want to create things and make your own toys, etc. a 3D printer will be an awesome addition to your gadget collection.

Baby Toys

  1. The Calculator Teething Toy – Now your infant can learn their numbers and get their teeth in at the same time!

Books

  1. The New Way Things Work – Possibly the most amazing book about how all of the things around you work everyday. This is one of my favorites and I still have a copy even as an adult.

Games

  1. Qwirkle – A great family game that requires strategy and a little luck. It is a staple around our house during the holidays when family is visiting.

Odds and Ends

  1. The Tardis Nightlight – Don’t leave your little time traveler in the dark, equip them with a Tardis nightlight instead.
  2. Moon in Your Room – What is better than the moon for a nightlight?

Parents – secure your smart home

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So you want to have an Internet connected thermostat, baby cam, security system, etc. and you think you should just go home and plug it in? Wrong. You need to take steps to protect your family first from hackers, creeps and people who randomly might stumble upon your insecure home network. You also don’t want your devices becoming part of the increasingly prolific army of compromised internet of things and turning your internet connection into a DDoS spewing fire hose. Here are some good ways for you to secure your network as a parent and/or a concerned netizen.

Routers

Before I go any further, you must have a router. Almost every major ISP provides one of these with their service these days so I would be surprised if you don’t have one already. However, if you don’t, you definitely need one. It is your first line of defense when it comes to protecting your home network from malicious people on the internet. As of the date this post was written, you can find a selection of the best routers out there for home use over at CNET. Any of these will work for your basic home network and even for gamers most of the very high-end routers are overkill.

I personally take paranoia to the next level and connect the router supplied by my ISP to a router of my own. I don’t like the idea of my ISP potentially having access to my home network if I need them to troubleshoot something for me. I doubt most people will feel the need to go this far but it lets me sleep better at night.

From here on you need to do a few other things to get your router setup and secured the way it should be:

1 – Change the default user name and passwords

First and foremost, change the default user name and password for the administration website for your router. You should be able to follow the instructions that came with your router to do this. In many cases all you will need to do is connect to the router via WiFi or via a network cable and type in an address like http://192.168.1.1 in your web browser to do this. Many routers come with user names and passwords that are both admin or admin and password. This makes it very easy for someone to attack your router and compromise it if you do not change these settings immediately.

2 – Change the default wireless settings

Many newer routers come with randomized WiFi passwords that make them much more secure than the older model routers that usually came setup with no WiFi security out of the box. If your wireless connection does not have a password set, make sure you do that very soon after installing the router. Make this password something that only you know and different from other passwords that you use. Don’t hand this out to just anyone either. Even if your router comes with a nice randomly generated password for the WiFi, I would recommend you changing it to something that you choose.

Second, you need to make sure the wireless network settings are as secure as possible. In this day and age there is no reason to have your router’s WiFi to use anything less than WPA2 AES encryption. This is the most secure setting that you normally can use and any modern WiFi connected device will support it. Using anything other than WPA2 AES encryption will make it very easy for someone to beak into your network even if you are using strong passwords.

Third, change the SSID for your WiFi network to something unique. Don’t name this with your address or any other personal information. Use something that is meaningless to anyone else yet different from any other wireless networks that are in your area. Leaving your SSID set to the same as it came out of the box screams to any would-be hacker that your network has not been secured or properly vetted and makes you a target.

3 – Disable that guest network

So you want to provide your friends with a way to connect to your network and that cool guest network feature of your router sounds great for that right? Wrong. Enabling this feature will leave your router open for anyone to connect to and while the guest network won’t allow people to connect to your internal home devices, it will allow a hacker to connect to your router. This makes it that much easier for them to compromise your network since they are already connected to it.

4 – Update your router firmware

In the administration screens for your router that you previously protected with a new user name and password, you should also be able to find a place to update your router’s firmware. Doing so makes sure that your router is always up-to-date with the latest software and security patches which makes it that much harder to hack. You should do this periodically as vendors release updates all the time.

Your Internet of Things

Arguably your router is the most important item to secure on your home network. Once that is done you have already given the bad guys enough pause to go off and find an easier target. However, here are the other basic security precautions you should take when doing anything with a device that connects to the internet to automate or monitor your home:

  1. Always change the default user names and passwords for any logins on these devices. The majority of them are hacked because they are never changed.
  2. Only expose them to the internet if you have to.
  3. Don’t use any connected devices that try and make your home security more convenient. They are not ready yet. Bluetooth deadbolts on your door are still to buggy to want to trust your family’s safety to.
  4. Only use WiFi enabled switches for things that, if they were hacked, could not put your or your family in danger. It is one thing to turn on and off a light, it is another to allow someone to overheat your crockpot and burn down your house.
  5. Don’t connect web cams to the internet that monitor your kids while they sleep. Don’t leave your children’s safety to chance when faced with potential online threats.

Conclusion

Ultimately this all comes down to using your head. If you can think of a bad situation coming from connecting something to the internet, it is likely going to be tried or happen to someone. Only connect what you need to and for those devices, make sure you secure them to make yourself less of a target. Hackers are lazy, they are going to take the path of least resistance. If you are the tougher nut to crack, they will move on to an easier one.

Halloween – Tips for Parents

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It’s time, tomorrow is Halloween and we as parents need to make sure our kids all stay safe while they are out trick-or-treating. Let’s go over some general safety tips that everyone should be following this year:

Safety

  1. Always accompany your kids during trick-or-treating, especially if they are 12 years old or younger.
  2. Make sure you practice crossing all roads safely. Look both ways and keep an eye out for any traffic as you cross.
  3. Don’t walk looking at cell phones, games, etc. Distracted walking can be just as dangerous as distracted driving.
  4. Keep to sidewalks and lighted paths whenever possible.
  5. Make sure your children’s costumes are safe. They should have reflective elements on their costumes to ensure cars can see them.
  6. Children and/or parents should carry flashlights or glow sticks with them to increase their visibility.
  7. For younger children, go out early to avoid larger crowds of older children.
  8. Only go to houses that have their lights on and are obviously participating in trick-or-treating.

The Treats

  1. Make sure you look over all of the candy or food that your children receive prior to your kids eating it.
  2. Don’t take or eat anything that is not pre-packaged or homemade.
  3. Make sure all packaging is not damaged or opened.
  4. Get your treats examined via x-ray if any of the medical providers in your area offer it to avoid ingesting foreign objects.

More Resources

  1. FDA – Halloween Food Safety Tips for Parents
  2. CDC – Halloween Health and Safety Tips
  3. Kids.gov – Five Tips to Make Your Halloween Safe
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics – Halloween Safety Tips 2016
  5. Parents.com – Halloween Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know
  6. Safekids.org – Halloween Safety Tips

Stay safe out there everyone and have fun!

The Politics of Parenting

presidential-1311753_960_720As we get closer to one of the nastiest and worst elections that I have lived through, I think it is important that parents consider what the candidates mean for you and your kids. I am not going to take a side on this one but I want to provide all of you with some news resources to learn more about where the candidates all stand on matters that concern us.

Those are just a few links to get you started. If that gets you interested then just start googling and you will find many more resources for you to make sure you are informed before voting.