The squatter

Mid-squat

We came, we saw, we did Disneyland and nobody had sensory overload. I’ll write more about that in the next few days. Today, however, the focus is on something far more fascinating: Our squatting baby.

Yes, the very same baby you see in the photo here to the right. One minute she’s running around like a chicken evading slaughter. The next minute, she screeches to a halt, squats at the knees and pushes a poop into her Size 4 diaper.

This scene played itself out at least two or three times daily during out weekend in the House that Mickey Built. Baby G squatted and pooped her way through two airports, two theme parks, Downtown Disney, and the walk back to our hotel (which was about 1.2 miles from the park entrance). And she seemed to enjoy it more and more each time she pulled it off—donning a mischievous smile every time.

After the third or fourth squatting incident, I started wondering what must have been going through Baby G’s mind. Wandering around Adventureland? Let me squat here, you guys. Waiting in the queue for the Teacup ride? No problem, I’ll just squeeze it out here.

Part of me can’t blame my youngest (or any kid, for that matter) for going on the go. I’m the kind of guy who hates wasting time, and I’ve always envied babies for their ability to do business in motion. No matter how many times you read in “The Bathroom Reader,” the place is a time vortex. Diapers vanquish that.

The other part of me thinks the kid’s antics are flat-out ridiculous; her own little way of getting comfortable with her little body and asserting control over the rest of us.

Whatever the scoop, after a weekend of squats and poops, one thing is certain: Baby G is quite a ham.

Introducing the newest member of the pod

L and R meet Baby G.

L and R meet Baby G.

She’s here! She’s here! The newest member of our pod arrived Monday around 7:30 a.m., and we couldn’t be happier to welcome her into the gang. (I’m actually writing this post from the hospital.)

As you know if you’ve read this blog for a while, I don’t believe in publishing any identifying information about my kids on the Internet. I will, however, tell you this, the baby’s first name starts with the letter G, so here on these pages she’ll be known as Baby G.

Big sisters L and R are delighted to have another little human to boss around dote on. As for we grownups, Powerwoman and I are stoked about introducing another little one to the world. We’ve got a few trips on the horizon—some we both have been planning/tossing around for a while, others that will come as a surprise to some (more on that around Christmas time).

In other words, we’re stoked to get this baby home, watch her grow a bit, then get back out on the road.

With that in mind, consider yourselves warned: Over the next year or so I’ll be writing a number of posts that spotlight the challenges and wonders of traveling with a little one again. Some of the perspective will be a fresh take on the same old issues—diapers and swaddling and hotel cribs and lap children. The rest of it will be entirely new; after all, now we’re a Party of Five.

So stay tuned. Hopefully the adjustment period for you, dear readers, is easier than it undoubtedly will be for us. I promise we’ll keep it real.

Pro-potty parity for family travel

Yes! A changing table! In a men's room!

Yes! A changing table! In a men’s room!

You don’t have to be political to support equal access to baby changing stations in public facilities. The reality is that we dads often lack changing tables in men’s rooms, and when we’re away from home (or traveling) with a diaper-wearing child, the oversight can be a real pain in the ass (pun intended).

Adding insult to injury, of course, is this: Moms usually have changing tables in women’s rooms.

I’ve grumbled about this for years, even making a point of photographing changing tables in men’s rooms when I see them, just to document small wins (see accompanying photo; thank you, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay). Now other people (men and women alike) are doing something about it, in the form of a bill in the California State Legislature known as SB1350, or the “Potty Parity for Parents Act.”

The effort, which has been gaining national attention all summer long, aims to ensure that public facilities for changing babies’ diapers are equally available to both men and women in California.

Specifically the Act would require a baby changing station to be installed in the men’s restroom if one is being installed in the women’s restroom, or requires a diaper changing station to be included in a family restroom that is available to both men and women.

The bill, which targets places such as museums and other publicly funded spots, is being sponsored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Huntington Park/Long Beach).

Personally, I’m proud to proclaim I’m pro-potty parity. Though our girls have grown out of diapers, passage of the bill truly would make a difference in the lives of millions of family travelers each year. When I consider the impact something like this could have on a national level, I see an entire nation of happy baby-bottoms. Also, we dads never would have to change our babies’ diapers in the trunks of our SUVs again.

Apparently there’s a public rally in support of this movement on Friday. I won’t be able to attend (it’s in Long Beach, down near L.A.), but rest assured: I’m on board. And if you’re a dad and you travel with diaper-aged kids, you should be too.

Where do you end up changing your child’s diapers when there are no changing tables to be found?

Free at last

Little R, mid-flight, on her first diaper-free plane trip.

Little R, mid-flight, on her first diaper-free plane trip.

If Powerwoman and I seem more unencumbered than usual during our annual Hawaii trip this week, it’s because the journey itself was easier than usual: It was the first time ever that we made the journey without diapers.

Those of you with kids ages 8 and under understand WHAT A BIG DEAL THIS REALLY IS. The two of us have traveled with diapers on every single family airplane trip since L was born in 2009. That stretch has included five trips to Hawaii—all of which played out with at least a sleeve of 24 diapers sitting at the bottom my suitcase.

This new era is liberating. It’s effortless. And it frees up a ton of space in our bags.

Diaper-free travel also a ton easier on the girls. Gone are the days of diaper changes in the public parks, only patronizing those restaurants that have bathrooms with changing tables, and the seemingly never-ending quest for supermarkets that carry the right size of diaper for our girls’ buns. (When I went food-shopping in the Lahaina Safeway this week, I almost jumped for joy when I did *not* have to walk down the baby aisle.)

Now, on the ground, all we need are some undies and we’re good to go. And at the pool or the ocean, having two girls who wear nothing but bathing suits makes swimming a cinch.

A good family travel friend says that we parents haven’t truly arrived as travel gurus until we can take a trip without diapers. If that is in fact the case, consider this my coming-out party, people. We Villanos are free of diapers, and unless another baby joins this family down soon, we’re never traveling with them again.

Where did you take your family on your first diaper-free vacation?

Nappy-Changing Nirvana

harrods

When I die, I want to change diapers here.

As a kid, I spent family vacations dreaming about a guidebook in which I’d rate men’s rooms on categories such as cleanliness, spaciousness and comfort of toilet seats. Now, as a father, I see things a little differently: I still think The Bathroom Guide would be a fun book to write, but now I think I’d want to focus it almost exclusively on baby-changing facilities.

Naturally, then, I was thrilled to experience the 4th-floor baby-changing facilities today at Harrods, arguably the most famous department store in the world.

Put simply, it was the most luxurious place in which I have changed R’s diaper. Ever. In her life.

To describe the room as “palatial” would be an understatement. It was like a swanky salon. With a mix of communal changing berths and private changing/nursing rooms. There were armchairs, mirrors and lots of fancy and swirly lights. Also, there were complimentary diapers (in case you forgot your own).

After surveying the scene (and not wanting to intrude upon the mothers nursing their children in some of the private rooms), I opted to change R’s nappy in one of the communal berths. Sensing a messy change was imminent, I opted for a “pad” right next to the garbage pad. When I placed her down, I realized the pad really was an ovular pillow that was softer than the one I use at night.

R immediately acknowledged this was no ordinary changing experience. She looked around, commented about the mirrors, then actually said, “This place nice, Daddy.”

I agreed. I agreed again moments later, when I ran out of wipes and was given extras by an attendant.

When the deed was done, when my baby daughter was at least two pounds lighter, R played quietly on one of the armchairs as I washed my hands with designer soap in a marble sink. On the way out, the aforementioned attendant wished us a good day.

After the awesomeness we had just experienced in the nappy-changing room, how could the day be bad?

Exploring San Francisco’s New-and-Improved Exploratorium

Exploring. At a place made for it.

Exploring. At a place made for it.

It took explorer Sir Edmund Hillary two years of trying before he became the first climber to summit Mount Everest in 1953.

Judging from our family’s recent visit to the Exploratorium in its new digs in San Francisco, it could take us just as long to explore all there is to see at our home city’s most exciting science museum.

I went with the girls and my parents (we usually call them Grammy and Grampy Power). We visited last week, exactly one week after the facility opened in Pier 15 on the Embarcadero. All told, we spent the better part of three hours there. During that time, we didn’t even get to see one third of the museum.

Granted, part of this was because we were moving at toddler speed; that is to say, we lingered at every exhibit for at least five minutes so little R could get a sense of what it was, what it did, and whether it was going to scare the bejeezus out of her.

But, really, our experience proves a much simpler truth: This museum is HUGE.

In other words, if you’re visiting with your kids a) allow a full day and swing by the café for lunch and b) don’t be a Clark Griswold about seeing everything because it’s virtually impossible.

As is the case with most museums, certain exhibits likely will resonate with different kids differently. L, who turns four at the end of May, *loved* all of the magnetic stuff—she spent 20 minutes building washer bridges between two powerful magnets and another 20 at a different magnet exhibit, making afros out of magnetized sand. R, on the other hand, who just celebrated her 19-month birthday, showed little to no interest in the magnets, and preferred getting creative with wooden blocks (see that picture, with Grampy Power, above).

That said, both of my kids loved the “Listening” exhibits; the Villano family went all Von Trapp and spent an extended jam session in the xylophone room that had onlookers (horrified or) in stitches.

Another favorite among the pint-sized members of our family: The “fog bridge” outside the museum, a public sculpture that replicates the sensation of walking through an active fog bank.

My only complaint about the new Exploratorium: The place needs more changing tables.

Yes, every women’s room had at least one. The men’s rooms, however, were another story. I understand the age-old assumptions about traditional gender roles. But, scientists, it’s San Francisco! And in the name of Frank Oppenheimer, we dads like to change a few nappies every once in a while, too.

Diaper-Changing on Airplane Seats: Just Plain Gross

These + floor = Peace. For now.

These + floor = Peace. For now.

I’m the first person to admit the way most airlines treat families these days is atrocious. I’d also be among the first parents to start chanting obscenities at said airlines for denying us basic necessities such as changing tables in the lavatories of commercial flights. Heck, some people have called me a “tiger father” for my in-your-face perspective on the subject.

That said, let me get one thing very clear: Changing diapers full of urine and fecal matter on surfaces where other humans have to sit is just plain wrong.

Perhaps this explains why I’ve had such a hard time digesting a recent essay on The Daily Beast by author Philip Shishkin. I *want* to love the piece. In it, Shiskin recounts a horrific series of events on a flight with his baby daughter from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco. (The Twitter version: Father’s outrage over airline’s chronic inability to treat family travelers w/respect ends with flight crew calling the cops. Seriously.)

That the pilot called the po-po on this guy is atrocious. The fact that a flight attendant told the guy to change his kid on the floor is awful (I know; I’ve been there and done that). Heck, I even second Shiskin’s outrage over airlines discontinuing early boarding for families.

But to muster an ounce of sympathy for a guy who brazenly admits to changing his kid on the flight attendant jump seats—then gets all indignant about it? I just can’t.

Why do fellow parents think it’s OK to change dirty diapers in plane seats anyway? It’s not OK for grownups to drop trou to conduct No. 1 or 2 in the middle of the airplane cabin, so why would we think it’s OK to change our kids there?

Put yourself in other people’s shoes. If, in mid-change, your neighbor’s half-naked kid went all Old Faithful on you, don’t you think you’d be—wait for it—pissed? If you were a solo traveler, traveling for business in your best suit, wouldn’t you poo-poo a seat smeared with poop?

On a more basic level, if you were in the middle of a six-hour flight, how would you feel about unintentionally getting up close and personal with (or within smelling distance of) diarrhea?

The bottom line: Seats are for sitting in; bathrooms are for tending to excrement.

As sad as it is that some airlines no longer provide changing tables in on-board lavatories, changing dirty diapers where other people sit should never be an alternative.

If the author of this piece had followed the rules (i.e., changed his kid on the floor) and quietly aired his grievances through appropriate channels, I’m guessing he wouldn’t have had his little run-in with the law.

(He probably also would have gotten some travel vouchers, FWIW.)

Sure, we family travelers want to change the way airlines treat us when we fly, but to accomplish this, we must operate within the confines of the current system—no matter how ridiculous those confines might be. Listen to flight attendants. Respect fellow passengers whenever possible. And please, y’all, don’t be a Shishkin.

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