Return of the Product

Ladybug Themes (Continued)

Call me Old School. The Smithsonian has already called me about my cell phone. I haven’t listened to a new album in almost two years. I can quote Tribe Called Quest in delta sleep. I like James Brown and say “dad-gummit.” Call me Old School.

So, the other day, my lovely wife tells me that she’s going to start the hunt for a Halloween costume for Miss Ellison Jayne. She’s hunting for, what else, a ladybug get-up. Now, we all know that Halloween has turned into a billion-dollar industry. And they didn’t get there selling Batman costumes to six year old boys. Nope, they did crafting bizarrely horrific costumes for acne-ridding teenage boys and no-way-in-hell inappropriate costumes for pre-teen girls and, later, stripper outfits for women. Now, I’m no Halloween historian. I only know where I come from which is a small, middle-class block in Lubbock, Texas and Halloween was where you’d dress up in some crude representation of your favorite superhero cheaply manufactured with funny-smelling plastic. You wore it for as long as it would stay together and then it’d fall apart because the little elastic pieces would snap or break midway through the night leaving you to just kinda hold the mask over your face. They were uncomfortable, always about three inches too small in all dimensions (in my case) and you couldn’t wait to get home, toss it in the trash and eat your loot. That or you made your own costume which was completely acceptable if your parents were strapped for cash and, like most sensible family, didn’t think Halloween costumes and decor was more important than, say, eating and staying alive. But you had to wear something if you were go trick-er-treating. For more on the rules of Halloween, go ahead and click on this: THE ROOT DOWN’s RULES FOR HALLOWEEN.

Now, I don’t mean to be the downer or party pooper, but there’s some serious issues in this country if, as parents, we find it acceptable to dress our kids up like some pedophilia fantasy and strut them through a neighborhood going door-to-door of strangers like some sort of bizarre livestock show.

That’s the first time, I think, that I’ve used the “we, as parents” declaration on this site. I really thought that the first time would’ve been more honorable and valorous…not talking about slutty Halloween costumes. 

I know that many parents have carved out their own Halloween customs since the days of “razor blades in the caramel apple” days of the late-80s. Maybe they only visit houses of people they know or, like in Amarillo, where they only go to the rich neighborhoods because, let’s be frank here, you can only really trust people with money. Or maybe we go to Fall Festivals which gotta be really confusing for kiddos. Like you don’t call it Halloween, but we still dress up and get candy for what? The arrival of fall? I’d rather make the tradition sitting around and watching the Red Sox win World Championships to celebrate autumn’s arrival. Whatever, though. It’s safe. Reverent. Childproof. And the vendors aren’t poisoning the candy.

But you still see either the costumes becoming scarier (for boys) or sluttier (for girls). Now that I have my own baby girl, I’m not particularly fond of the word “slut.” Reality is that I was never fond of the word, used it a few times in high school when it seemed appropriate, but I kinda protest such derogatory terms these days because they’re somewhat slanderous to our beautiful daughters and sisters.


Not that it’s totally objectionable, but I would probably enforce the old grade school “below-the-knee” rule on these two. I might approve the older girl’s costume if she was performing in a ballet or playing volleyball, but not going door-to-door soliciting candy from strangers. The younger girl is safe only because she’s smaller and she’s wearing the same skirt. It just looks bigger on her. Or how about this ladybug costume:


Not even old enough to drive and she’s dressing like a trashy waitress at the bar in a brothel. What is this? What kinda world do we live in where parents are dressing their kids like this? I wouldn’t even approve this for a 21 year old. Not if you want you child to respect themselves and not feel it’s necessary to sell yourselves for validation from your male counterparts. How about, then, taking such notion to the absurd level…

Seriously. There’s only one thing on your mind if you leave the house wearing this here and it ain’t sitting around eating Skittles until you get a bellyache. Nope. This is the type of outfit that made Halloween a billion dollar industry. So, when I say that there’s no such thing as an honest dollar, this could be Exhibit A. Anyone that tries to tell you that this is consequence-less is blind, deaf and dumb.

These get-ups were five-to-one over what we were really looking for when we Google’d “ladybug Halloween costumes.”

What we were looking for was this:Had no idea that “ladybug” was some sort of gross perversion when we decided to dress up Ellison as one. Pretty obvious this ain’t the same world I grew up in. Is there some sort of rock I’ve been living under since I graduated college? Am I truly that clueless? I feel like unfrozen caveman lawyer here. Am I alone in defense of our daughters? I’m bracing for the chorus of groaning “just waits.”

Call me Old School.


Return of the Product

Failure of the Product

One of the lessons learned from becoming a new parent (besides important lessons like “how to maintain a dry heave” and “fixing a bottle one handed with a screaming baby in your other arm”) is that the consumer marketplace becomes increasingly confusing and absurd. In our series “Return of the Product,” we attempt to shed light on only the products worth mention for either their terrific return on investment or their failure to live up to expectation. We’ve found in our own discovery of the marketplace that the useless-to-useful ratio is closer to 9 to 1 with close to 90% of the crap out there absolute landfill fodder. You’ll find that tried and true methods (that sometimes don’t even require a product solution) are still effective to this day. Parenting didn’t change, only the products have. And when the scale tips and statistics go onto prove the worth of a segment of the consumer population, every gadget manufacturer in the world starts trying to dream up a low-cost, quick-cash scheme to siphon millions out of sucker parents standing in line at Babies R Us…the pet rock for parents. I’d say that, largely, my lovely wife and I have taken the high road on product purchases. Rarely did we spend money frivolously on stupid crap that serves no great purpose, but you see the traps. You’d go broke as a new parent if you believed a quarter of the product myths living in the shelves of major retailers. In America, we petition with our pocketbooks and our currency is our vote. Public opinion means jack if there’s someone spending money on it. Money almost always wins in this country. If there’s a dollar to be made, you can guarantee that someone will sell their soul to get it.

Now that we’re on an upswing of positivity and optimism and I’ve started your day in the right way (coffee is good this morning), let’s take a look at where human’s ingenuity, craftiness and relentless greed has gotten us, shall we?I can tell you that this product will catch you a bad one from Ellison if you even go near her with it. But, if you insist on sucking the snot out of your kid’s nose, this one’s for you.

This product allows you to bypass the so-uninteresting bulb and instead use this snot siphon which essentially uses the force of your inhale to yank that nastiness from your child’s nasal caverns. Now, I can speak from the perspective of a daddy of a daughter who’s been a little snotty since she hit the delivery room table–you just wish she could heave one into a Kleenex the old fashion way. To me, that’s as good as the day that she can tuck herself in…the day she can blow her own nose. In fact, I find myself now picking her boogers for her which is a level of intimacy that I never imagined I’d experience with another human. Picking her boogers for her beats the hell out of this torture device. At least, while she’s not in school and doesn’t have to worry about the embarrassment and social isolation that comes with having your daddy sticker his fingers like tweezers up your nose.

How about these pair of spooky hands in your baby’s crib?

Zakeez, makers of the Zaky Hands, claim that these hands that lost their owner are an effective aid in relaxing your baby and inducing a calming slumber. I can’t think of anything, anything spookier and less effective in bringing a baby to a peaceful place than realizing that your mother or daddy’s hands have all the sudden lost their owner and are now crawling around your daughter’s crib without a body wrapped in a pair of rubber toilet-cleaning gloves.

Then there’s the Daddle which is, you guessed it, a cross between Daddy and a saddle.

Not that it doesn’t look fun, it just doesn’t look particularly necessary. I mean, stirrups? What kinda action are you really going to be involved in as a Daddy with a toddler on your back? Go up on your hind legs like Silver. One time, my brother and I were horseback riding up in the mountains as part of one of those amateur horseback riding tours though the rough. There was this kid that kept kicking his horse and going into a gallop. Sure he got a kick out of it. He kept acting like he wasn’t doing anything to spur on the horse, but I kept watching him. He knew exactly what he was doing. As we neared the valley, he gave a good heel kick to the ribs of that horse and that horse took off like Secretariat toward homebase and when got down by the parking lot, he went up on his hind legs and dumped that kid right off the ass end and onto the ground. Kid could’ve broken his back, but he didn’t. He cried like mad, though. Not that I would ever do that to a kid, but that was just the first story I thought of when I saw this product. It’s burned into my memory. I can’t remember my home phone number, but I remember the sound of that kid screaming bloody murder as his body rolled off that horse some eight feet to the ground. Nature wins again. Maybe this is a better simulation of riding a horse…the “Poknee“…you just can’t make this stuff up.

The Poknee puts daddy first and child’s experience second. Daddy had a hard day at work, back aches. Needs a cold drink.Baby wants to ride the horsey. So dad gets out the Poknee, puts it on his knee, puts toddler on his knee, spares his back from the strain of carrying a sack of dog food around the house on all fours and still might allow for a free hand to raise a glass of beer to his thirsty lips. Problem is, this thing is probably the goofiest and saddest piece of plush I’ve ever seen. If the plush world had a mullet, this would be it except this product is all in the front. Big draw back on this one, too: imagine if the above toddler was kicking to get the horsey to gallop and he missed with this left foot. It’s a likely scenario. Hope they’re done having kids.

This next product I actually get. It’s the photo. The seat back protector makes perfect since for protecting the back seat of your wagon from kids who track nasty stuff in from playing in the park or, like this kid, a game of soccer, but really, what did this tike step in? It’ll protect from a little mud or dirt, but this kid just tracked in a dead squirrel carcass and rubbed it off on the back of the seat.


Sure, the seat’s protected, but now the seat back protector is ruined. Way to go, Bobby. I think this kid was just out for trouble.



Back seat toilet? I say squat roadside and keep moving. Haven’t had to navigate through this fork in the road yet. Pretty sure, though, the Wyricks aren’t the type to have the kid crap in the the back of the car. Don’t know the product detail here, but I would imagine that once the “doo is did,” you take the innards out and toss ’em. Gotta think that with all the ingenuity in the world, there’s a simpler way to do this. But, hey, this girl seems to like it. Close the door, daddy!

Again, shades for the back window are a good idea. Especially in that West Texas heat. But what’s with this kid’s car seat? Is this some sort of steam therapy?

That looks like absolute torture and, beyond that, barely looks safe. The shades seem to work, though.

This last one, sure, I get that it’s important to avoid head injuries. And I understand that some medical circumstances might make it necessary to wearing one of these, but I’m calling a fake here because there’s no way you’re getting an active toddler to wear one of these.
At least, not a spirited toddler. Ellison would take this thing off and make it a missile quicker than you could say “$39.95.” There’s absolutely no way she’s wearing this. And I’m not entire sure if there this would be effective in protecting a child’s head from the kinda trauma you’re hoping to protect him from. My fear is that Ellison’s going to go near the ironing board, pull on the cord that goes up to the top wondering what it’s connected to and whammy, takes an iron right in the forehead. This isn’t helping in that department. She pulls a towel off the counter and there’s a small Tupperware bowl on top of the towel and she drags both off the counter and takes the bowl in the head, not a major injury there. Certainly not one that would require you to wear a pillow on your head as you crawl around the house. I think if you’re the type of parent (promised I would sustain from using that phrasing, but it just made sense) that would put this on your kid, you might as well just put shoulder and knee pads on ’em too. Kids have fallen for centuries now and kids have had things fall on their head for centuries now. And when exactly do you use this thing? If the threat level is ever-present, does the kiddo wear this all the time?

It’s Saturday. I know I’ve been bad to you readers. I’m sorry. I got put through a gauntlet that includes three business trips, preparation for a Bible study, a Red Sox/Yankees series, preparation for Ellison’s birthday and we got rain which means I have actually have to take care of the yard for the first time this year. On top of all of that, I try to be a loving husband and father and I’m working on the Fifty Funkiest…a list of the 50 funkiest recordings of all time over at IKnowYouGotSole (serious cross-promo, there) which begins on September 12th. Daddy don’t sleep.


Notes from the Lovely Wife, Return of the Product

Return of the Product: Notes from the Lovely Wife

In response to our cousin who is now pregnant with a baby girl, my lovely wife sets the record straight on products necessary to maintain the harmony in the household. No one knows better than she does around here. So, she takes over Raising Elle for this guest spot to steer this ship in the right direction. Take it, honey:

Mommies/Mommies-to-be: There is so much gear out there and you could spend an absolute fortune on things you may or may not use. I thought I’d send you a list of my favorites. Firstly, I’d say that, concerning clothes, go the used/resale route. Babies will fly through clothes, some things you will only wear once. Others you pull out of the bottom of the drawer and they still have the tags on them in they outgrew them a two months prior. Same with toys/gear. I’m surprised already at sven months how much she is done with certain items. So here is my list of must haves (at least were for us) or things I really liked.

  1. Swaddles…Make sure you get the kind that velcro shut. Ellison was Houdini and could get out of even the tightest blanket swaddle. Velcro’s still amazing.
  2. Sleep Sac…(Halo with the removable swaddle, I liked the fleece one). As you enter the cold winter months, your baby might be still be little enough that the sleep sac means you don’t have to worry about her kicking the covers off of getting tangled in her blankets (I’ll give you my two cents on SIDS later).
  3. Heartbeat Bear…Ellison still sleeps with hers. Actually, I”m addicted to it too. Hearing it on the monitor every night is so soothing. I helps relax the baby by simulating the sound of the mother’s “swooshing” heartbeat.
  4. A Swing…She lived in hers the first six months. Sometimes, it was the only way I could get her to nap. But they outgrow them quickly (about six months).
  5. Some kind of hands-free carrier…Jeff likes the Bjorn. I loved my Moby Wrap, however, she really outgrew it by about five months. It was so snuggly and when you first look at that long piece of fabric, you are thinking, “What in the !@*#&, but once you get the hang of it, it’s great. I would put it on when I left the house to run errands and then just pop her in and out as I went into stores. Sooooo much easier than lugging that awful carseat around. Also, great for toning your body post-pregnancy. That added weight of a baby helps get back into shape. Also great for trying to walk two unruly beagles. They made me nervous with the stroller, but with the wrap, I had both hands free. Moby Wrap runs about $40.
  6. Book recommendation: Happiest Baby on the BlockDon’t know if you are like me, but I was busy reading every book out there, wondering how in the world I was going to know what to do with a real baby! Really, the books don’t help. You just have to build confidence, which takes time, but we all get there! One thing I did not prepare for was colic. And I will pray every day that your baby will not have colic. The thing the author of Happiest Baby teaches in this book will help you to feel more confident as a mommy and will help you soothe a crying baby.
  7. I would hold off on any other contraption/entertainers…There’s a million out there and until you get to know Miss Violet, every baby is different. Ellison had a playmate and she liked that for the first three months. One you can hang toys from. We had an exer-saucer thing…huge chunk of change, she she would not even sit in for more than five minutes. We later found out that Ellison is a jumping kind of girl. Loves her jumper and loves her bouncer. I would’ve never known that, thus the exer-saucer that everyone insisted that we buy just sat in the living room taking up space until I traded it for a bouncer. Wait until she is about four months old for those investments and you have learned her personality and likes.
  8. Summer Infant Terry Waterproof Liners (3pack)…These are great for putting over your changing pad cover for all those leaks and then you can just toss them in the wash instead of having to wash your entire changing pad all the time. This little piece came from a friend of mine…Never would’ve thought of it and has made things much simpler.
  9. Infant Bathtub with a “Baby Stopper”…For instance, the Fisher Price Precious Planet Whale of a Tub. I like the that the stopper is removable. It was great when she was small to keep her sitting up and you don’t have to hold on to her to keep her from sliding. Now that Ellison is ready to sit up on her own, you can pull the stopper out.
  10. Safety First 5-Recline and Grow 5-State Booster Seat…Love my high chair. It hooks onto any chair you have and is soooo easy to clean.
  11. Boppy Newborn Lounger…I am sure you have heard of the Boppy pillows and I loved mine when I was breast feeding. The “Lounger” we called Ellison’s “Lazy Girl.” It was cool for putting on the couch so she could hang out or nap and you didn’t have to worry about her rolling anywhere. We probably used it for the first three months and when she started getting more active, moved her out of it. We used to be her on the dining room table in it so we could eat as a family. Good product.
  12. Pacifier clips…Attach those suckers to the pacifiers so that when you are walking through the grocery aisles and it falls off, you don’t have to do the sneaky “lick it clean” trick where you clean it before putting it back in your baby’s mouth. No telling what you’re putting in your mouth.
  13. STEAL the hospital’s bulb syringe…You can’t find them readily at BabiesRUs and, this too, was a tip from a friend. There is not a better one available in stores. This will help keep your baby’s nose clear of all that snot that surfaces in the first months. You pay for it when you’re in the hospital. It’s actually on the bill so it’s not technically stealing, but don’t leave it behind. It’s rightfully yours. The ones you can buy suck. Or technically, don’t suck as well as the hospital one.
  14. Find an indoor/outdoor stroller…I loved my stroller indoors, but on walks in our neighborhood, it drove me crazy (along with those unruly stupid beagles). Ended up with two strollers and the one for long walks actually  has rubber wheels rather than plastic ones. I’m a happy walker now…except for the beagle issue.
  15. In the first few months, only a FEW toys that will grab her attention are necessary…Hang them from the stroller, car seat. Make sure they are bright and make noise. Love the Sassy brand toys. When she gets a little older: rattles that are easy to grasp. Ellison loved her maracas! Only now, at about six months, is she starting to really be interested in manipulating different kinds of toys: balls, blocks and, really, anything she can chew on. Keep it simple, make your own toys (I put two jingle bells in a sock…works like a gem), the clutter can pile up fast.
  16. Also, not available at BabiesRUs…music. All kinds. See Jeff for more instruction here. (Editor’s Note: Parliament, James Brown, DJ Shadow, Digable Planets and Fela Kuti for starters.)
  17. Something to love on…We have found a stuffed dog. Hold it between the two of you when you feed or rock. It then will have your scent on it and then leave it with her when she sleeps. Helps with bonding. She is already attached to her “Dottie Dog” and has been for a few months (Editor’s Note: It doesn’t have to be anything special. That stupid dog was a Wal-Mart $5 special. You want it to be a sentimental piece, but in reality, it doesn’t take much. And you might as well buy a couple. Ellison soiled her original pretty bad and it had to get washed. We had a back-up to slip in it Dotty’s place. Identical except not covered in puke…$10 investment).
  18. Okay, one more product: Baby Einstein Lights and Melodies Mirror…I have it hooked up in the car facing her. Call it her “lights!” She loves it in the car. Has a timer. Music isn’t too annoying. Can also be put in a crib.

Okay, here is my non-product guide to being a mommy. There is nothing in those stores that will prepare you for what is to come. While reading the books is nice and gives you some ideas, when she gets here, it will be trial and error for the early going. And probably more errors at first. As far as things you cannot buy, always be equipped with 1) a sense of humor 2) belief that this too shall pass 3) someone you can call when you have NO IDEA what to do 4) the ability to say to your husband, “I need to take a bath, take a walk, go for coffee.” He maybe unsure at first as to whether or not he can handle it and so may you, but shove him into it. It’s the best way to build confidence and Jeff appreciated being trusted. And 5) the ability to respond honestly to someone if you are having a really bad day. Some moms are terrible to new moms when you say things like “Isn’t this the most wonderful time of your life?” and you have not slept or showered or had a decent meal in days. At first, I was terrified to be honest thinking that if I wasn’t in love with being a mom, then I wasn’t a good mom. The truth is, it is hard but gets easier everyday. Be real with yourself and others. Lastly, 6) faith in God. The ability to pray when you have nothing else you can do. There are a million things to be worried or scared about as a new mom and the only way I go through it was knowing that God would take care of Ellison when I was not. I decided early on, during pregnancy, that I would refuse to be consumed by fear. I was so glad I had chosen this because when she arrived, I realized there were a million new fears I hadn’t even thought of before. Everything you read can scare you to death about SIDS and have you running to the crib over and over. I also chose not to overreact about SIDS and know that God had her safely tucked in His arms at night.

Return of the Product

Return of the Product: The Graco Baby Jumper

Depending on who you ask, the “jumper” or “doorway jumper” is either one of the greatest devices ever created for an active baby or it’s a hazardous consumer that can turn your baby a bowlegged, attention-defecit child who will grow into a delinquent who huffs glue, talks like a sailor and throws objects at others. A sad and lonely life of crime, yep, that’s what awaits them. Now, I can tell you that as the house’s safety commissioner, I was little skeptical of putting Ellison in a mechanism that functions off of a foot-long spring, a series of straps, plastic and gravity. It’s more like a slingshot for your baby.

From the second we put her in this puppy though, Ellison changed. The sensation of being upright and mobile, for Ellison, was like introducing her to new world. When we dropped her in the jumper, it first took her a moment to peer around the room and get her coordinates, find the items around her. Tucker greeted her to the vertical world. Jax ignored her. Then, her feet got to kicking and Ellison never looked back. In fact, I think she graduated pretty quickly from the straight up-and-down to more lateral movements. A little scary, but you could never tell the difference watching her. Click on below photo to be taken to the video link.

Ellison absolutely loves this thing. Of course, Ellison has been kicking and thrusting her feet since she was in the womb too. Girl’s got crazy energy so the jumper is a perfect device for her to blow off some of that steam. It’s perfect as an early evening activity to tire her out a bit for a full evening of sleep. Girl sleeps like a champ now. I attribute part of that to this device as being a perfect vehicle for safe exertion of her energy.
Couple of complaints about this thing, though. Firstly, exiting the jumper is about the clumsiest action ever. It’s like pulling Baby Jessica out of the well. It’s crazy difficult. That’s a design issue. I don’t know if there’s any clean way around it. For a six-foot plus father bending over and pulling a baby out of this thing, it’s impossible to look cool. Also, the straps don’t allow us to go any higher. It’s like the measurements on the straps and heighteners were made for a home with eight-foot doorways. Our doorways are a lower seven-foot doorway. So, essentially, where Ellison is in the video is the highest this thing can go in our house. As her legs grow, it’ll be like she’s sitting on the floor. Jumper becomes a sitter.
Overall, we’re giving this thing three and a half Black Elvises. Good product. Sturdy. Safe, but a couple of design features that make it a clumsy device for parents. Ranges about $35-$40 retail.


Return of the Product

Return of the Product: That Freaking Teething Giraffe

As you enter teething time, (great…just as we were getting out of the endless tears and fits, get ready for when her incisors start to split her gums like a blade cutting through flesh slowly as her teeth begin to sink out of her skull…sounds fun), it’s time to find a product to counter the pain and to keep your baby’s mind off of the excruciating pain that’s surfacing just under the skin in their mouth. You want a good idea of what you’re in for? Just Google-image search the word “teething” and check out the images: screaming, crying and tearful babies with their hands in their mouth. Perhaps this rendering describes it all. Gotta give it to the instructional books…they’ve gotta way with images and words. This one cuts right to the chase:

Babies endure some tremendous transformations. Imagine every part of your body going through this incredible stretching, pulling, pushing, bending and, now, teeth pushing through your gums. Yeah, this is the stuff that torture films are made of. Makes me a little queasy just thinking about it. Not queasy in the diaper-full-of-diarreah sense…queasy in the fingernails being pried off with a pair of pliers. Yeah, bad stuff. And now, everyone in the room gets shivers up the spine.

If you find yourself looking at the Great Wall of Teething Toys at Babies R Us, you’ll discover a paralyzing loneliness and solitude only matched by farting audibly between movements of Don Quixote Suite by Telemann during regional orchestra contest. Awkward isolation. Let me dissolve all those silly toys down to one superior product that has sold (reportedly) over 30 million times at retail. That’s Sophie the Giraffe from Vulli. Here’s what Sophie looks like. Accept no imitations.

Now, Sophie costs a mighty healthy $18. That’s a lot for a rubber chicken, but I can attest to it’s remarkable hypnotic qualities. The second we handed her over to Ellison Jayne, girl went right to work. She started working on the head. Fifteen minutes later, Sophie’s still buried deep in Ellison’s mouth. An instant friendship has fired up.

So what makes Sophie the Giraffe so appealing to a teething tot? Well, says Sophie’s maker’s website, Monsieur Rampeau used sap from a hevea tree to mold a rubber toy giraffe. Word of mouth helped proclaim the greatness of the giraffe and, now, some fifty years later, she remains unchanged and still made from the sap of hevea trees. Here’s the specs:

Yeah, $18 ain’t small coin when you’re feeding your baby formula priced like a street drug, you’ll beat yourself up over blowing it on a piece of rubber endorsed by Nicole Richie (check out the site). That’s not really the kinda power endorsement you’re looking for, but let me tell you, 30 million mothers can’t be wrong. Well, they can. There’s the Sears Baby Book. Wait, just confirmed that the Sears Baby Book has only sold half a mill. Half a mill mothers can be wrong. But 30 mill can’t. I’ve seen it happen with my perfect four eyes. Ellison loves her Sophie. She’s not crazy teething yet, but she’s ready. Five Black Elvises for Sophie the Giraffe.

Be careful if you have a dogs, though. The squeaker causes an instant gravitation between Sophie and canine. Tucker’s already made a run at it and lost miserably. Ellison wins because she’s got dada on her side.
Return of the Product

Return of the Product: The Bed Wedge

When you gotta baby with food allergies, reflux, colic, etc. you might be recommended to introduce a “wedge” into your baby’s crib. The purpose of it is to allow gravity to do it’s work and by elevating your baby’s head, it allows for better breathing, keep the food moving toward the tummy and not toward an open mouth and your baby’s crib sheets. It makes claims to help your baby “sleep easier.” Seems like this would be true if it improves breathing and digestion. They even put a happy baby randomly in the lower left hand corner of the box just to subconsciously remind you that this makes babies happy.

Of course, I think they did this because the creepy man-baby they used to model the product doesn’t necessarily scream “serene” and “happy” baby. This baby’s creepy, man.

As you see in the picture, though, it’s basically a piece of foam cut like a slice of wedding cake and then you plop your baby down on top of it for a peaceful and long night of refluxless sleep. It’s not foolproof, though. Or at least Ellison-proof. What it meant to Ellison was now she has a slope to slide down at night as she’s wiggling and kicking uncontrollably. What can I say, my girl runs in her sleep like a dog. And, when she does this, while the slope is probably only a 3° rise, it’s enough to move her to the bottom of the wedge into a little pile of rocks. You give Ellison any sort of decline and she’s going down it. Which bodes well for her future as a ski partner to her father, but doesn’t make for a sound night’s sleep.

I throw this product into the pile of products that are well-meaning and seemingly logical, but once you put them into action, they’re the dumbest piece of foam you’ve ever bought. You start thinking about how you could’ve simulated the same thing with, say, a pillow or a folded blanket. The truth is, you don’t need this product at all. If you wanna give it a try, take a blanket and fold it into four layers, lift up the head-side of the mattress and see if that works. It’ll save you the trouble of having to buy, try and return a “wedge”…locking up $20 in the process. This is a crappy product and, because I have to give it a rating (my lovely wife insisted I “give it no black Elvises”), I’ll give it reluctantly one-half of a black Elvis. It’s not worth the cardboard that it’s packaged in.

Speaking of, I would advise you develop a recycling program before you have a new baby because it’s ridiculous the size of your carbon footprint the second you have a new baby. Your carbon footprint is probably the size of your freaking neighborhood from all the crap you pour down the drain, all the products wrapped in plastic bags, framed in styrofoam, boxed in cardboard. Having a baby is good for your family, but terrible on the environment.





One product that’s worth a hundred times the cardboard it’s packaged in is Sly and Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On which I discovered again for the twentieth time while putting together the Root Down Cali Funk podcast available for download over at IKnowYouGotSole.

Of course, if it’s worth 100 times the cost of the cover and the cover’s worth a dime, than you have a $10.00 record. That’s not very good. Uh, let’s call it 500 times the cost of the sleeve. $50 is easy. Even Ellison thinks so.

Return of the Product

Return of the Product: Two Beagles Named Jackson and Tucker

We weren’t always intending on being a beagle house. I saw us as possibly a retriever or labrador house. No particular reason except that they were popular dogs. Figured the endorsement of millions of owners was good enough for me. That was until we ran into Jackson at the ASPCA and it all went downhill from there. Like seriously, it just got worse from that point on. Throw another beagle into the mix and then a Baby Ellison and it’s a full house. I decided it was best to give my dogs a healthy (and public) critical review as consumer products rather than simply as pets. The reality is this: everyone and everything in this house must pull their weight now. If you don’t, then you’re dead weight. And we donate, scrap or willingly dump dead weight. Every product we buy, every item we own and every gadget we keep has a function. And as a dog in this house, you can no longer just “be a dog.” Nope. You have to be a team player. If you’re not, then you’re a poor product and we’ll have to find a better place for you.

The beagle is known for it’s fantastic temperament, beautiful coloring and easy-going attitude. Usually great family dogs. I suppose that’s one of the key items we were drawn to when we thought of getting one. And, when we thought of getting Tucker, we thought we were getting twice the great family dog. Since, though, they’re apparently under the impression that they run this house, that they’re owed everything and that we can’t get rid of them. So let’s take a critical look at these two dogs and their contributions to the house.


Jackson was our first. We picked him up at the shelter where he had just arrived an hour earlier from nearby Canyon where he was being fed on a daily basis by a woman who determined that she couldn’t maintain the feeding so she brought him in. His exact origin is unknown. We made up stories about him escaping an abusive owner in some valiant and brave battle where he broke himself free from the tree he had been tied to for months while enduring countless abusive attacks. Once he escaped, he ran his ass off until he got to Canyon where he ate out of trash cans until the day this woman found him and began feeding him on the front porch. Since she knew nothing of the dog, she never let him inside and when he ate that poor lady into debt, she brought him in. That’s the story the way I tell it. Whether an ounce of that is true or not, we’ll never know. Sometimes I wish he could speak and I’d just have him sit in my lap and tell me his story. Okay, that was weird. He was a year old when we picked him up. Took him a while to warm up to my lovely wife and I and, in fact, for the first month or so, we thought he was sick because he’d just stand there stoically like he was about to die and stare at you as if he was saying, “Save me from this life.” Turns out he was just freakishly shy.

These days, Jackson is no longer that dog. He’s animated. Demanding. Lovable, at times, but mostly hatable. Let’s go to the tape and see where Jackson measures up. Jackson is a very ornamental dog. He looks damned good in pictures with the family. That’s one thing about him. He’s a freaking calendar dog. He’s an effective sweeper in the kitchen. So much so that he’ll lick crumbs off the floor that weren’t there in the first place. You can act like you’re brushing crumbs off the counter onto the ground and Jackson will lick that area until it’s clean. He licks his bowl clean for thirty minutes after done eating in the morning and evening. So he’s good for picking up any food that’s tossed or dropped. He’ll sniff out anything too. Additionally, he’s got good history as a therapy dog for kiddos. He’s not aggressive towards humans at all. In fact, he adores humans (mostly) but is not a big fan of dogs. He has a protective side as well. When my lovely wife was pregnant, he stayed closely by always wanting to know where she was and what she was doing. He’d sit outside the hall bath where she would be getting ready for work. Where mom is, Jackson’s not very far behind. Lastly, he was easy to train. He knows his tricks like crazy. Sit. Shake. Rollover. Speak. Stay. Heel. Get up your hind legs and do triple axels. He’s potty trained like crazy too. We once went to a bed and breakfast and left him behind in doors for sixteen hours and he didn’t piss once. A sixteen hour bladder is a beautiful thing when you’re feeding a baby and can’t get up to let a doggy outside with Green Mile pee pains. Beyond those qualities though, he sucks.

His barking is incessant. We thought we’d never get him to bark when we first got him and always heard how vocal beagles were. Once we got him to speak, we couldn’t shut him up. In fact, in his age, he’s barked himself hoarse. He sounds like Tom Waits now. But he can still roll with the best of them in the hunt. His bark gets him in trouble constantly. In a house where there’s a sleeping baby, we demand silence of our dogs. Jackson, apparently, thinks he’s somehow exempt from these rules. He hears a pecan fall in the backyard and he’s running through the house and out the doggie door in a full-on roar. Jackson is completely negligent of the sleeping baby. He could care less. If it’s not the barking, it’s his collar rattling. He’s shaking that collar constantly and, almost without fail, he’s waking up the baby if he’s in ear shot of her. Also, after about three hours past his last meal, he begs constantly. He acts like he hadn’t eaten in days. It starts with staring and then turns into physical contact where he perches himself on your knee and paws at you. This is incredibly annoying and if he does that to a baby with food, he’s gonna find himself an outdoor dog permanently. Also, this dog is creepy. He stares at people. He’ll sit five feet away from you and just stare through you. It’s freaking weird. I’ve warned him about it and he persists. You think he’s looking at a ghost right over your shoulder. I hate it. He’s anti-social. Guests come over and he disappears to a back bedroom. And if he’s in front of people, he’s demanding that you pet him. He’s not lovable. He doesn’t give you anything to love. He demands you pet him and, if you don’t, he packs up and goes away from you. It’s like a pouting child. That’s why he doesn’t really care about Ellison. If she can’t pet him, then she’s no use to him. He can climb onto counters. He knocks over trash and strews it everywhere. He’s got killer breath. I liken his breath to the stench of a port-a-potty. Something went rancid in there. I think it could’ve been that first year of poor hygiene when he was eating only God knows what to get by. And, lastly, he’s mad manipulative. Dude will only do tricks when he knows there’s a treat involved. Otherwise, he wants nothing to do with you. It’s like you can see him sizing up the situation as to whether or not it’s a good payout for the effort. He’s a punk. Then there’s….


Tucker came from a breeder in Canadian, TX. We met his parents, his owners. It seemed to be pretty decent breeding quarters. He came from a loving home. Never had a single day when he wasn’t loved. That’s probably why he’s so freaking lovable himself. He’s got personality for days and hasn’t met one person he didn’t like. He’s unassuming and, actually, incredibly naive. It’s a quality that’s sometimes annoying, but mostly endearing. He wants desperately to be around family and he wants to generally be pleasing to the family. He’s happy to see you when you get home and doesn’t resent you and the ground you walk on like his older brother. He is very interested in Ellison, often sticking his head into the baby seat when it’s at his level to see the little baby, but being very gentle. His spirit is forever young. He still has the same bounce in his step that he had when he was a puppy even though he almost died twice. Once when he fell deep into a rain gutter and the other when his torso was sliced wide open in a freakish accident requiring more stitches than you could count. Now that’s some crazy resilience. When you almost died twice and have those kinda road miles on you, you’d think he’d walk around moping like he was Johnny Cash. Nope, he’s more like Elton John everywhere he goes, singing “Crocodile Rock.” That’s our boy, Tucker.

The downside to Tux, while limited, it mostly attributed to his young spirit. His bark is as boisterous as you’ll hear out of a beagle. You can hear him zip codes away unlike his laryngitic brother who can barely muster up a bark scary enough to scatter a pack of squirrels. Tucker will give you a heart attack with his bark. His bark is like one of those weapons in the old Atari games where when you use it, it kills everything in site. His bark can kill houseplants with just minutes of exposure. Not good for a sleeping baby. Secondly, if anyone’s crapping on the floor, it’s Tucker. For all the accolades that you could credit Jackson with in his concentration and abilities to “pinch it for fifteen more miles,” Tucker will give you three barks at the back door and then let ‘er fly. We’ve seen him endure it probably eight hours max. Most of the time, though, he’s either empty or overflowing. He’s also scared of thunder. One such storm had him nearing a full-on panic attack where we thought he was going to have a stroke and die. Ellison didn’t even peep through the whole storm. She slept through all of it. That brings us to Tucker’s separation anxiety. It’s a double-edged sword, really. You want him to love his family, but you want to him to be alright alone. When he’s alone, like all alone without his parents and without Jackson, he barks like he’s been shot and is bleeding to death. It’s embarrassing. When we take them to get groomed and they cage them separately (because they’re required to) we get the exasperated call saying, “They’re ready,” and you can hear Tucker through the phone because he can’t see his brother. Tucker licks his paws all the time, too. Could be an allergy or could be anxieties. Switching food seemed to help a little, but that food was freaking expensive. Since we now have a baby on formula that costs more than most street drugs, he’s back on the same stuff his brother eats and he’ll have to lick his way through it. The last downside to Tucker is that because he’s built like a beagle-rhino hybrid, he’s always running into things. He thinks he can go lower than the lowest branch on the Christmas tree and ends up breaking ornaments. He thinks he can fit between a couch and an end table and gets stuck. He’s just not that size. So, on top of everything else, he’s prone to clumsiness.

In the end, they need to really be evaluated together since they’re never anywhere alone as they’re connected at the hip. They’re great family dogs if our family was two parents, two dogs and a ten year old, but we’ve gotta little baby. These beagles are like a petri dish for germs and trouble. Together, they’re as effective at starting trouble as two fourteen year old boys. If they had opposable thumbs, they’d probably be in jail. We don’t know sometimes whether or not they’re in for the long run with this family. We often get the feeling that Jax is done with this family and he’s gonna hit the trail again and take Tucker with him only because Tucker can’t stand to be alone even if it’s just long enough for one of us to come home from work to discover that Jackson left. Tucker’d go with him. We love them, but they’re terrible with a baby. They fight and play constantly. They follow too closely. They stink. They’re loud. And they can’t be trusted around food.

For that reason, we’re going to give the beagle unit of Jackson and Tucker an appropriate but miserable rating of, count ’em, two Black Elvises.

In the meantime, we found the best dog for Ellison.

Jackson and Tucker, let that serve as a warning.