Interview with Corey Cole, Dad and Founder of The Rugged Company

This month, we’re proud to support a Dad-owned business! Your August boxes will have a bottle of liquid hand soap from The Rugged Company. We sat down with owner, founder, and Rad Dad to two daughters, Corey Cole, and chatted about business, work-life balance, and fatherhood.

(Image to the left shows Corey and his daughters on a hike, courtesy of Corey Cole)

The Rad Dad Box: Can you tell us about your company and the types of products you offer?

Corey Cole, The Rugged Company: At The Rugged Company we make natural products for men, women, and children. We make bath bombs, shower steamers, body butters, shampoo, conditioner, jar and beard oil, shave soaps, clay face masks, rose water toning spray, texture spray, candles, and I can keep going. We manufacture over 125 different products. We are constantly launching new products. 

TRDB: What inspired you to start The Rugged Company?

CC: I started The Rugged Company out of necessity really. I have both psoriasis and eczema. I have dealt with self image my entire life because of it. I started to hear about the benefits of natural oils and products and it just blossomed from there. What started as a way to help my own skin turned into us making over 125 different products and having 20 people on staff that we get to help create product lines for other companies as well. We get to create products that people can stand behind and be proud of.  

TRDB: Being an entrepreneur/business owner is, as you probably know, very time-consuming. How do you set aside and prioritize time with your children and spouse?

CC: I’m blessed that I get to do this alongside my wife. She is the COO and handles all the day to day operations. I oversee the sales, private label production and research and development.  I set strong boundaries with my work life. Once I leave the office, I’m done with work. When I’m with my family it’s family time. I don’t even take the computer home anymore unless it’s absolutely dire need. Even then, I wait until my daughters are in bed. Weekends are family time only. I’ve stopped doing markets and vendor shows so I can spend time with my family. We love to be outside hiking and camping. 

A few of the many products offered by The Rugged Company. Image courtesy of The Rugged Company

TRDB: What advice do you have for dads who would like to start a business?

CC: I always tell people to just go for it. At the end of the day if it doesn’t work out, you will still have some amazing stories to tell your children and grandchildren. Take your time with it. Do the research and put in the work. Don’t compare your day 1 with someone’s year 5 or year 20. It takes time to build a successful business. Lastly, you have to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it then what’s the point? You can always make money. Find something you’re passionate about that solves a problem. 

TRDB: As a dad of two children, do you have any words of wisdom for new dads or soon-to-be dads? Also, do you have any advice for dads who are expecting their second child?


Take in the moment. Be in the room. Ask a nurse to take the pictures for you. Soak up the moment with your spouse. We don’t become fathers until they are here, so don’t worry if you don’t feel prepared. You never will. It’s a constant growing process. We learn as we go. Our job as fathers is to show our boys how to grow up to be an amazing man and to show our daughters how men should treat them. I want to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try new things with them. They will never forget it and you won’t either. Only thing we can’t get back is our time. Our time with our children and our family is more important than anything else. Be present. 

Dads expecting second- good luck! Haha! Two can be crazy but your children will always have each other to play with. Teach them to be best friends and they will always care for each other. The bond my daughters have is beautiful. Even on the days they fight all day long, at the end of the day they snuggle up together and love on each other. 

10 Diverse Children’s Books about Dads

Race and racism has been a topic at the forefront of most people’s thoughts recently, especially in the light of the protests following George Floyd’s tragic death. Those of us with children may be trying to figure out a way to talk to our children about race, if we haven’t yet had this conversation. To help, many news outlets and blogs have been publishing lists of children’s book recommendations to help introduce and explain racism and African American history to children.

While we understand and acknowledge the importance of these types of books, we understand that it’s also important to read books about African American children and adults in every day situations, not only in books that specifically discuss race or African American history. It’s important for African American children to see themselves in books outside of anti-racism and African American history books, and it’s important for non-African American children as well. Think: Ezra Keats’ “The Snowy Day,” which features an African American boy and his adventures in the snow.

On that note, our recommendations feature a mix of books specifically geared towards educating children about African American history and racism, and books about every day life. Furthermore, since our work involves supporting dads, almost all of the books below feature African American (or Canadian) dads and their children.

We hope you check out some of these books, and please feel free to pass this list on to anyone who might be interested!

  1. My Daddy, Martin Luther King Jr./ By Martin Luther King III, Illustrated by AG Ford. One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous quotes is, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” However, what do we know of Martin Luther King Jr.’s children, and what do we know about what Martin Luther King Jr. was like as a father? Martin Luther King III, one of the children mentioned in his dad’s “I Have a Dream” speech, answers these questions in this dad-themed history book.

2. Antiracist Baby / by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. If you want to raise an activist from Day One, we recommend this book! It’s also a great way to introduce anti-racist concepts to your child.

3. Rosa: My First Rosa Parks/ Little People, Big Dreams series/ by Lisabeth Kaiser / illustrated by Marta Antelo. Although this book isn’t dad-themed, it’s also a good way to introduce your child to the history of racism, via one of the most prominent civil rights activists of the 1960s. This book is also a good starting point to discuss race.

4. My Daddy Rules the World / written and illustrated by Hope Anita Smith. We previously recommended this book in another post, but it bears mentioning again. This book celebrates everyday moments between fathers and their children, from bike-riding to wrestling matches to bedtime snuggles. Each quiet paper-cut illustration is accompanied by a poem. This is a lovely book that will help diversify any child’s bookshelf.

5. The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan/ illustrated by Tom Knight. A universal struggle that any parent and child can relate to! This little girl does not want to sleep in her own bed, so, like any smart toddler, she decides to give her dad his own bed: a cot!

6. Jabari Jumps written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall

This one is a favorite at the Rad Dad house! (Although, due to the price of the book, we haven’t included it in our boxes.) Jabari goes to the pool with his dad and little sister. He wants to jump off the high dive, but when his turn comes, he finds every reason to procrastinate. His dad helps him overcome his fears, and Jabari heads for the diving board! As someone who hasn’t been on the high dive since the age of eight, I can say that all of us could use encouragement from a dad like Jabari’s. This book is perfect summertime and Rad Dad read.

7. You See, I See: In the City by Michelle Sinclair Colman/ illustrated by Paul Schmid. This sweet and simple book was included in our February 2020: Explore box. Colman and Schmid take us through a dad and daughter’s day out in the city, exploring it from their different perspectives: “You see big skyscrapers / I see morning papers.” Babies especially will love the minimalist illustrations (ours does!), and the most important message is that, in spite of their differing views, “In all the places that we see / I love you and you love me.”

8. Clean Up, Up, Up! by Ellen Mayer / illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu. Those of you who are familiar with Maria Montessori’s work will enjoy this book, as it’s a realistic book that teaches practical life skills: cleaning up after oneself! We also enjoy it as it features a loving father figure and diverse family in an every day setting. (Spoiler alert: we will probably be including this book in a box later this year!) We also recommend checking out the companion book, A Fish to Feed, featuring the same father-daughter duo.

9. Daddy’s Mini-Me by Arnold Henry/ Illustrated by Ted M. Sandiford. By Instagram Dad sensation Arnold Henry, this is another book that, due to its cost, didn’t make it into our boxes. A proud dad cheers on his son’s developmental milestones as he grows, and showing us how important a dad’s presence is in a child’s life.

10. Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley/ illustrated by E.B. Lewis. It’s Miles’ first visit to the barbershop, and he’s scared. However, with gentle encouragement from his dad (and chocolate milk!), Miles is able to overcome his fear and decide on what kind of cut he would like. We love this book for its beautiful, realistic watercolor illustrations and the caring father figure.

11. Honorable mention: Papa, do you love me? by Barbara Joosse/ illustrated by Barbara Lavallee. A follow-up to the best-selling “Mama, do you love me?” this beautifully illustrated book is set in Africa among the Maasai culture.

Though this is by no means a comprehensive list, we hope that it gives you some ideas for diverse dad additions to your children’s bookshelf! Do you have a favorite book featuring a diverse dad that we didn’t mention? Please leave it in the comments below!

Toddler/Preschooler Activity for Mister Seahorse

Mister seahorse activity - 1

Hi folks! Today (April 2nd), we’ll be reading from our March box book selection, “Mister Seahorse” by Eric Carle. Please join us on Facebook live at 2:30 pm Central Time, or watch the video afterwards on your own time!

We have also created an activity to accompany our story time! Although this is geared towards toddlers and preschoolers, it can be modified for babies (suggestions below).

As many of you know, male seahorses carry their baby eggs in their pouch until the seahorse babies are born. In this beautifully illustrated book, Mister Seahorse meets other male fish who also carry their baby’s eggs. In our activity, you and your child will work together to create one of these Rad Dad fish!

Mister seahorse activity - 2

Materials needed:

  • construction paper
  • marker
  • dot stickers (we used brown since that’s what we had on hand, but if you can, we suggest using a more vibrant color, such as orange)
  • scissors
  • glue or gluesticks
  • background paper


  1. Select the fish you’d like to make, and draw its outline on the construction paper.
  2. Depending on your child’s age and skill level, you may ask them to cut out the fish, or you can cut it out yourself.
  3. Glue the fish onto the background paper, or ask your child to glue it onto the background paper.
  4. Instruct your child to place the dot stickers on the fish. These stickers represent the baby eggs.
  5. Feel free to embellish however you like! (Our son drew water, seaweed, “fish food”, and “crab food”!)


  • If you don’t have dot stickers on hand, never fear! You can punch holes in paper with a hole puncher (or assist your child in doing so), and use the circles from the holes as the eggs. Or you can cut out fish eggs from construction paper and ask your child to glue them.
  • For babies, you can use non-toxic finger paint or stamp ink for the eggs. Dip baby’s finger in the paint (or press against the stamp pad), and then press along the body of the fish.

Now you have a joint piece of art with your child, celebrating dads!

Announcement: Rad Dad Storytime and Activities!

Rad Dad Storytime 1 image

We’re excited to announce our first ever Rad Dad story time this Thursday (March 26th) at 2:30 pm Central Time on Instagram Live! We will be The theme is Rainy Days and we will be reading from Lucy Cousins’ “Splish, Splash, Ducky!”, which was included in our August 2019 box. After story time, please also feel free to participate in a few rainy day-themed activities below.

With many dads and parents now working from home due to the coronavirus outbreak, we wanted to help make this time easier for you and your children with what we hope will be weekly themed story times and activities. This way, you don’t need to scour the internet for activities – simply go to our site to see suggestions! We will try our best to choose activities that use items found in most households, to reduce waste and prevent you from buying lots of needless supplies. We’ll also make suggestions on substitutions, where appropriate. Read below for the activity instructions and supply list for “Rainy Days.”

Theme for Week 1: Rainy Days

Supplies needed:

– Book: Splish, Splash, Ducky! by Lucy Cousins (if you don’t already have this book, you can buy it online or listen along during our story time)

– for baby activity: shallow tray for water, water, sponges (if you don’t have play sponges, you can also use seashells, or animal bath toys)

– for toddler activity: clear plastic or glass jar, shaving foam (NOT shaving gel), food coloring, pipette


Baby Activity: Sensory Water Tray

Babies love water exploration! This sensory water tray activity is a great way to help them develop their sense of touch, learn about cold (and warm), and cause and effect. For our activity, we suggest using play sponges (similar to the ones we included in our May 2019 box), but this can also be done with seashells or rubber bath animal toys. (In fact, you can re-enact the Splish, Splash story with animal bath toys!) This activity is best for babies who are comfortable on their tummies, so roughly 3 months and up.

  1. Fill a glass tray with water. Set on floor.
  2. Place sponges in tray. Soak in water. Lift up and squeeze so baby sees the “rain” falling down! (bonus tip: squeeze the sponge over baby’s hand so she can feel the rain!)
  3. Let baby play with the water to her heart’s delight!
  4. Bonus tip #2: If you have an older child, this is a great way to involve them in play as well. Our son liked squeezing the water out of the sponges!


Toddler/Preschooler Activity: Rain Cloud in a Jar

The idea behind this activity is to teach children about how clouds hold rain, and then release them. The shaving cream acts as the cloud, the food dye/colored water acts as the rain, and the water in the jar acts as the air.

  1. Fill your jar with water.
  2. Squirt shaving cream on top of the water.
  3. Mix food dye with water and have your child pipette the colored water into the shaving cream – or squeeze the food dye directly into the shaving cream. (Bonus tip: you’ll see results faster if you squeeze the water on the side of the “cloud”)
  4. Watch the results!

Our son wasn’t so interested in the science, but he did enjoy seeing me squirt the shaving cream and playing with the shaving cream, too! He also didn’t have the patience to watch the “rain” fall down and actually became interested in pipetting the shaving foam into the colored water. However, when he was playing with his finger puppets later, he did have them take a trip to admire the rain!


In addition to these weekly story times, we’re also preparing a blog post with ideas for activities you can easily do with your children during your self-isolation/quarantine at home. Stay tuned!

14 Parenting Hacks and Random Helpful Advice for New Dads and Parents

Parenting hacks photoIt’s true: nothing can truly prepare you for being a parent, outside of the experience itself. However, a little research, preparation, and advice-seeking never hurt anyone. Below, we’ve compiled a few bits of random advice for new parents. Think of this list as a combination of “What we wish we knew as new parents” and “tips to make your parenting life a little easier.” We hope these tips will help you as you navigate this wild journey of fatherhood/parenthood!

  1. 3 months clothing is 0-3 months, so don’t wait until your child is 3 months old to break it out! (Same goes for 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, etc.)
  2. Car seat toys and playmat toys can have a second life after your child outgrows the infant car seat and playmat – hang the toys on doorknobs around your house to encourage baby to stand, or if baby is already standing and walking, for baby to have fun surprises around every corner!
  3. Keys make a great substitute rattle if baby is crying or bored and you’re outside with him and have no other toys.
  4. Babies are also fascinated by fingers. If you have no toys to entertain baby, just wiggle and wave your fingers up and down, side to side. Babies will love this!
  5. The same goes for clapping. And Peekaboo.
  6. The footed sleeper (with zipper, not buttons) will be your best friend in the early days and in the winter for keeping baby warm at home.
  7. Buy two of every accessory (hats, mittens, baby booties). You will need to wash one pair and you will want a spare. Plus, you may lose something and want to have a back-up handy.
  8. If you are freezing meals in preparation for baby, please note: eggs do not freeze well. (This is from our own personal experience!)  P1020760
  9. When baby is a little older, you can clean out their body wash/shampoo bottles by rinsing them in the bathtub during their bath. You get clean, empty bottles and they get a fun sensory experience: a bubble bath!
  10. Babyproof your house now while you are still expecting baby. Even if they won’t be able to crawl for another few months, it’s easier to do it before baby arrives than six to nine months from now, when you’re sleep-deprived and worn down from all your babycare duties.
  11. The same goes for older toys and bigger sizes of clothing. Register for these and have them ready to take out when baby is ready.
  12. If you’re storing baby’s bath toys in a plastic bin, put a towel at the bottom of the bin. This will absorb any excess water and prevent the toys from getting slimy or moldy on the outside.
  13. If using diaper rash, dab some onto a kleenex or wipe (instead of on your bare finger!) and use that to apply it to your baby’s bottom.
  14. Since you can’t buckle babies or toddlers in their car seats with their coats on, put their coats on backwards after you’ve buckled them in the car seat. (See photo below!)
  15. Reader tip: Newborns and young babies are fascinated by ceiling fans!


Rad Dad Stories: Interview with Ty Collum, Dad, coffee brewer & soapmaker

Ty and gideon - postcard

Ty and Gideon (photo courtesy of Ty Collum)

If you’ve received our August 2019 box, you have probably seen the soap that we’ve included in this month’s box. You may have also seen the postcard introducing the soapmaker, Ty Collum (Ty is also offering a generous 20% discount to Rad Dad fans on his Etsy shop – link below – with the code RADDAD). Ty is one of our customers and in addition to making soap and brewing coffee for Early Grave Coffee Company, he is also a Rad Dad to his 19 month old son, Gideon. The father-son duo also does vlogs of their activities and adventures over at Bad Dad Crafting (including a few videos of the Rad Dad Box!). We sat down with Ty to talk about his various entrepreneurial ventures and about fatherhood:

The Rad Dad Box: What inspired you to start making soap?

Ty Collum: To make a long story short, my Grandmother is my primary soap-making inspiration. She raised me as a child from the time I was 2 weeks old, and has been the single most positive influence throughout my entire life. She has been making soap for over 25 years, beginning when I was around toddler-age. In all those years, I’m sad to say I never once participated in the process or gave soap-making a single thought. In the last 3 years I have been fortunate enough to marry the woman of my dreams, welcome our son, Gideon, into the world, and purchase our first home. As I’ve watched my family grow around me I’ve begun to recognize just how important it is that I learn from and participate in my (grand)mother’s life. I think about the recipes I enjoyed growing up, the family history that only she knows, and of course, the soap-making. She goes to the gym 5 days a week and is the healthiest grandma I know, but she turned 80 this year and had pacemaker surgery just last month, so now more than ever I feel the importance of being connected to her.

Ty's Wedding

Ty and his grandmother at his wedding (photo courtesy of Ty Collum)

TRDB:  From what I understand, the soap-making is an outgrowth of your coffee roasting business. Can you tell us what inspired you to start it?

Ty: I’m the type of person that I call a serial-hobbyist. A jack-of-all and a master-of-none. If I see something that interests me I jump into it, get really excited about it for a small amount of time, and then move on when something else catches my eye. My past and current hobbies have included painting, drawing, woodworking, wood burning, designing t-shirts, social media management, web design, video games, disc golf, fishing, technology, producing music, writing poetry, blogging, and I’m sure there’s more I’m missing. The point is, I wouldn’t consider myself good at or super in love with any of these things. I try them, I enjoy them, and then when I get bored I try something else.

My coffee journey actually began as my (grand)mother buying me a cold brew maker for Christmas. My hobby of the moment was coffee, and I wanted to try cold brew. I let a few friends try what I was making and one of them wanted me to sell it to her. So Beardman’s Cold Brew was born. after about 8 months of selling coffee to friends and family and saving up for a fancy coffee grinder, I got bored. It wasn’t until the next Christmas when I tried making a peppermint cold brew and had a few people asking for coffee for Christmas gifts that I decided to re-brand myself and sell coffee again. Enter Early Grave Coffee Company.
Today, I’ve more or less quit selling coffee again. Actually all I did was stop promoting it. If you’ve ever dealt with building emerging brands you understand how essential advertising is to the success of a business. I always maintain enough coffee in my fridge for personal consumption, and in almost 4 years have drank my cold brew pretty much every morning. I may have a slight caffeine problem. If friends or family ask for coffee, I make them some. If they don’t ask, I just make it for me.

Original Soap

Original Coffee soap from Early Grave Coffee Company (photo courtesy of Early Grave Coffee Company)

TRDB: Is this your full-time job, or is it a side gig at the moment?

Ty:It’s funny you should ask about full-time jobs. I just left mine. I was working 60 hours a week between 2 jobs, working my various hobbies and side hustles, finding time to maintain the house and actively participate in my relationship with Haley, my wife, and raising my son as well as producing his YouTube channel, Bad Dad. I worked in management for a Fortune 500 retail company, but the moment my son was born I knew that I wanted out. I had been trying to secure a position where I could work from home when they eliminated my job. I had options to stay and they were more than accommodating, but I am proud to say that I chose to leave and pursue my real dream of being a full-time stay-at-home dad. To be truthful, I am totally terrified. We weren’t prepared to potentially make it on just Haley’s income, and there are tons of unknowns that we will have to work through over the next year or two. However, we are optimistic that we will make it work.

So to answer the question, I guess we’ll see what Early Grave is. For now just a side gig. This time next year it could be a life insurance company for all I know. If it’s not apparent by now let me be the first to tell you; I’m just making it up as I go along.

TRDB: What advice do you have for dads who would like to start side gigs?

Ty: If it sparks my interest, I try it. If I like it, I keep doing it. When I realize I don’t like it anymore, I stop. Also, I try to address different parts of my life with different projects. I make coffee because at this point I don’t think I could survive without it. That’s a passion for me and me only. I have a YouTube channel because I wanted a creative outlet that was just for Gideon and I as father and son. I now make soap as a means of connecting with my mom. I hate video games but I try to find ones I like because Haley loves them and it’s a way for us to connect. Lastly, I don’t take any of these things too seriously. As soon as I start treating these hobbies like jobs and give myself deadlines or schedules or budgets I lose interest. For example, I usually film YouTube videos with Gideon on Wednesday or Thursday afternoon, but sometimes it’s Monday and sometimes it’s at night and sometimes it’s not at all. I have to force myself to embrace the spontaneity, especially in dealing with a toddler.

The Airport Before Lake Tahoe

Goofing off at the airport (photo courtesy of Ty Collum)

TRDB: Do you have any time management tips you’d like to share with other dads? How can dads spend time with their children while working at a full-time job (and sometimes juggling side gigs as well)?

Ty:Time management, what a subject.

As much as I hate to say it, I thrive on an insanely busy schedule. I don’t always like it, but at the end of the day I find more joy in reflecting on everything I’ve accomplished than in having to always move my to-do list to tomorrow. I always tell myself, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I wasn’t always like this, though. My teenage self wouldn’t even believe that I could survive on 4 hours of sleep or less a night.
I do this because it’s important to me. I always felt a lack of purpose until Gideon was born. He was the catalyst for so much positive change in my life.

As far as tips go, I would say if it’s important to you, do it. MAKE it happen. If I feel out of balance I add or take away something until I find balance again. In my case I’m usually adding, but in the case of my job, obviously I took away something major. The point is I don’t accept what others might say is possible or impossible and instead I choose to find out for myself. The outcome is usually that I DID have time to do that one more thing on a regular basis, or I AM capable of accomplishing a task or list of tasks that I was told or believed was impossible for me.

Think about that one thing you’ve always or lately wanted to do. Now go do it. Wake up earlier. Stay up later. Call or text or email or fax whoever you have to, reschedule what you need to reschedule, but MAKE IT HAPPEN. You can think about how tired you were AFTER it’s finished.

One more thing. While you’re making it happen, and for everything that you do, live in that moment. Put your phone down and FEEL what’s happening. Actively participate in the moments in your life and you will quickly realize why it’s so important to be exactly where you are. That will motivate you to keep making it happen in the future.

TRDB: As a dad of a 19 month old, do you have any words of wisdom for new dads?

Ty: The most important advice I was given in the moments before my son was born was this: “Don’t take advice from anybody.” I parent how I parent, and you’ll parent how you parent. What is stellar advice for me might be terrible advice for you.

With that being said, here’s what I feel is good advice. Love with all your heart. Be present. Get on the floor and play, or slide down the slide, or roll down the hill, despite how itchy you may get. Make all decisions in the interest of how it will positively affect your child, your spouse, and anyone else around you. Accept mistakes and learn from them. No one is 100% prepared to be a parent. Think about what you want to teach your child and teach it. If they aren’t learning it, try a different approach. Ignore what other parents say about snack times and nap times and bed times and who-cares-what-else times. Just do your best, and you’ll be okay.


What to pack in Dad’s hospital bag


Photo by Dids from Pexels

Are you wondering what you should bring to the hospital besides a camera and toothbrush? There’s plenty of advice out there on what Mom should bring to the hospital, but not so much for Dad. Having recently gone through the birth experience a second time, we decided now would be a good time to write about this while the experience is still fresh in our memories. So, without further ado, here’s our advice on what dads should pack in their hospital bags:

  1. Snacks. Labor can be very long, but at the same time, you may not want to leave your partner’s side for even a short period of time. Bring plenty of snacks with you to stave off your hunger. A dad who’s fed will be more alert and present during the birth!
  2. Water. As with snacks, you don’t know how long you’ll be in the delivery room, and you may not want to step out at all. Bring a bottle of water and stay hydrated!
  3. A long-sleeved shirt or sweater. Hospitals can be cold, and while labor pains usually keep Mom warm (at least, in our experience), it’s not the same for Dad! If baby’s due anytime during warm weather, be prepared for potential Arctic temperatures inside the hospital and make sure you have a long-sleeved shirt or sweater packed in that bag of yours!
  4. Pajama pants/change of clothes. Sleeping in jeans or dress pants isn’t comfortable, and you may not have the time or luxury to pop back home to pick up your pajama pants! Make sure these are in your hospital bag, ready to go, and you’ll be able to sleep more comfortably once you’re there.
  5. Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, dental floss, whatever you use for your daily hygiene routine, pack it in a carrying case and have it ready for you whenever you need it!
  6. Pillow. Hospital pillows can be flat and uncomfortable, as we discovered during our hospital stay with our second child. Bring one from home to help you sleep more soundly in those intervals when you are able to get some sleep!
  7. Camera (optional). Although some people are perfectly happy with their smartphone cameras, we personally feel that digital cameras take better pictures. We only had a half-packed bag when our first child announced he was coming, and forgot to bring the cameras, so all of the pictures from his first hours of life were taken on a (fairly mediocre) smartphone camera. It was better than nothing, but still! If you feel strongly about the quality of your pictures, learn from our mistake and keep an actual camera in your hospital bag (along with the charger!).
  8. Last of all, remember to bring the hospital bag with you into the hospital. Your trip to the hospital might turn out to be a false alarm, but it might not. It’s much easier to wheel a suitcase back and forth between your car and the hospital than it is to be stuck at the hospital without all of these items (especially the water, snacks, and long sleeved shirt/sweater)!

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!

Update (9/24/2019): It looks like we did miss some things! Our long-time subscriber Alex, who has just become a Rad Dad for the second time, also mentions a cell phone charger, shower shoes, and a towel as items Dads should remember to pack! Thanks, Alex, and congratulations!

Rad Dad Stories: The Deployed Dad-to-Be

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Army dad Paul and his baby, just after birth (Photo courtesy of the Schmidt family)

Editor’s note: This is a continuation of our ‘Rad Dad stories’ series, which we started in our inaugural magazine. This series features interviews from real dads and moms about their experiences. To be featured in a future blog post or magazine, please contact us at

If you do a Google search on how dads can be involved during pregnancy, childbirth, or during the newborn days, you’ll find a plethora of articles (ours included!) with answers to these questions. Talk to the baby while he/she is still in the womb. Massage your partner’s arms and hips while she’s in labor. Make sure you have skin-to-skin time with baby, too.

But what if you, Dad, can’t be there for these moments? Many military dads, for example, are deployed during the entire pregnancy and even during childbirth and the first few months of the baby’s life. Some may be present for part of the pregnancy and during childbirth, but may have to deploy soon after the baby is born. How can dads bond with their babies in situations like these?

To help answer some of these questions, we spoke with a customer of ours, Kelsey Schmidt, whose husband, Paul, serves in the United States Army. Kelsey and her husband welcomed their son into the world last April 2017.

The Rad Dad Box: Was your husband deployed during your pregnancy? Childbirth? Or soon after?

Kelsey Schmidt: My husband deployed when I was two months pregnant. He was originally supposed to be deployed for nine months, meaning that he would only come back when our baby was three months old, but due to unforeseen circumstances, and what I believed to be the universe being on our side, Paul was able to come home 4 months early….TWO weeks before our baby was due! He was there for the birth, but then was called away to duty again almost a month later for another 6 weeks.

The Rad Dad Box: With your husband’s deployment, what did you as a family do to help foster his bond with the baby?

Kelsey: Before he left for deployment, we got a recording story book and had Dad read it so baby would know his voice. With hormones raging at the time, of course, I sobbed in the kitchen while hearing him record our baby’s storybook knowing how he was secretly afraid thinking our baby wouldn’t know who he was when he returned.

With military OB/GYN clinics, at least in our experience, you are just offered one ultrasound (anatomy scan). So we found a place that did private ultrasounds that allowed us to hear the heartbeat for the first time and see the baby at 8 weeks. We received a little heart that you could press and played a recording of the baby’s heartbeat, which my husband took with him overseas. They also had a gender package where you could find out at 15 weeks, which was a week before he was due to leave. We found out we were having a boy! So we went shopping and Dad picked out two coming home outfits–something we would put in the baby’s special box and keep forever. Just days before he left, we purchased a home doppler so he was able to hear and feel our boy’s first kick.

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Baby Max (Photo courtesy of the Schmidt family)

The Rad Dad Box: You and Paul spent the majority of the pregnancy apart. Were you able to communicate regularly, via phone or Skype? I also imagine that it must be difficult to be separated during such a time. Did you have any family or friends around for support?

Kelsey: Paul left on Halloween and I had 7 months left of being pregnant, with family hours away. Luckily I had started school earlier in the year so I had the support of some of the girls in my class. If it weren’t for a couple of them, I don’t know how I could’ve survived! If someone offers help- TAKE IT! Although I’m a very independent person (and still felt guilty), I accepted any help I could get. Baby comes first which means your body comes first.

Unfortunately, because of the location where Paul was deployed he didn’t have great signal which meant video/voice chat was a no-go. With limited communication it was hard not knowing what he was feeling- was he excited? Scared? Happy? (Of course I knew he was all of these things, it’s just nice to see it). And of course the hormones started raging once again, making myself think maybe he wasn’t? Or afraid he didn’t know what was about to hit him when he returned. As crappy as it is, there’s not much you can do about these thoughts but tell yourself it’s just hormones! Though I knew I most likely wouldn’t get replies most of the time, I messaged him daily updating him on everything knowing he would receive them eventually.

The Rad Dad Box: You mentioned that Paul was able to come home two weeks before you were due. How was it like to see each other after so long and so many changes?

Kelsey: He was shocked, but he was also excited how big my belly had gotten! He talked to our baby every night before he came into the world on April 4, 2017.

The Rad Dad Box: Can you share your birth story and how Paul was involved?

Kelsey: I was scheduled for a cesarean and the look on his face after putting on scrubs is something I will never forget- you could tell every thought in the world was running through his head.

The baby was born, and you can see dad mode automatically turned on. I will say the hospitals are GREAT when it comes to involving dads during the birthing process. He cut the cord and helped weigh/measure our son. About an hour after delivery, our boy Max was taken to the NICU due to fluid in his lungs (common after a c-section). I told Paul not to leave our baby, as I was unable to leave the bed. Paul gave Max his first bath and for the second time I saw a photo of our baby’s face without all of the headgear he had to wear in the NICU. The next week consisted of trips back and forth to the NICU, Paul delivering the breast milk in the middle of the night I spent time pumping and him sleeping on the uncomfortable chair bed when I was forced to go to bed and rest.

After coming home and enjoying every second with our happy healthy boy, less than a month later, duty called and Paul was away for another 6 weeks.


Baby Max just after birth (Photo courtesy of the Schmidt family)

The Rad Dad Box: Do you have any advice for military families who are going through the same or a similar situation?

Know that the hard times of being apart will pass and the love will always be there. Just like Mom, Dad mode doesn’t turn off! If you have older children, SEND CARE PACKAGES! A simple card or letter means more than you know. And lastly the thing i think is probably most important and simple, bring dad up in conversations every day. Military life is unpredictable, take advantage of EVERY SECOND you have together!




How to make her first Mother’s Day special

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Although we look out for dads here at The Rad Dad Box, we want you to know that we haven’t forgotten about Mom! (After all, this company was founded by a mom!) Part of being a Rad Dad is also being a Rad Husband, and with Mother’s Day coming up, we have a few suggestions on how you can make your partner’s day special, especially if it’s her first or second Mother’s Day (or her Mom-to-be Day!).

  1. Surprise her by dressing Baby in a “Happy Mother’s Day” onesie. There’s a reason why Mom- and Dad-themed onesies are so popular – we all like to feel appreciated! A mom-themed onesie will be very touching, and shows that you’ve thought ahead and planned for this! There are plenty of Mother’s Day onesies for sale on Amazon and with two-day shipping, you can still get them in time for Mother’s Day!
  2. Make her a special Mother’s Day card, and get Baby to contribute. We actually included an activity to make a Mother’s Day card in our May box, but due to issues with other products in the May box (sigh), we won’t be able to ship these in time for Mother’s Day. However, handmade cards and gifts have a special meaning that just can’t be bought with store-bought cards. So sit down with some cardstock and your medium of choice and get working on one! Baby can contribute in different ways, depending on her age – via fingerprints, handprints, or coloring! If she’s still expecting, make her a special Mom-to-be card – it will be appreciated, trust us!
  3. Give her a Mom-themed children’s book. We always encourage Dads to read to their babies as a way to bond with them, and the same goes for Moms! A mom-themed children’s book will help instill the love of reading and Mom in your baby and make Mom feel appreciated at the same time! A few great Mom-themed books we recommend are Mommies are Amazing by Meredith Costain, Stephan Lomp’s Mamasaurus, and Taro Gomi’s Mommy Mommy!
  4. Give her a gift that isn’t related to motherhood. Don’t get me wrong, motherhood, fatherhood, parenthood – it’s amazing and it changes you in ways you never would have imagined. But sometimes, it’s nice to be reminded of who you are outside of your role as a parent. So, give her a gift of something she enjoyed pre-parenthood – whether it’s a mystery novel, a CD from one of her favorite bands, or a set of spice rubs.

We also spoke to a few moms and asked them what their partners did to make their first mother’s (or mom-to-be) day special. The silence, to be honest, was shocking. Most women could not even remember and one even told us, “I can’t remember and if I can’t remember, it probably wasn’t anything special.” Dads, don’t be that person! We hope this list has given you some ideas, but perhaps you will draw some inspiration from the few (two) moms we spoke to whose husbands did something memorable for them on Mother’s Day:

“For my mom-to-be day, my husband bought me a card of a painting with flowers, and then he found those flowers and planted them in the garden in our backyard the night before Mother’s Day.” – M., mother of 1

“For my first mother-to-be day, my husband got me a stuffed animal baby toy that plays a lullaby. Every child has played with it since. We’ll probably keep it forever.” – S., mother of 4

Dads, now that we’ve given you all of our ideas, and then some, you have no excuse! Be that Rad Dad and give Awesome Mom an unforgettable Mother’s Day!

When push comes to shove: How dads can be involved during labor

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This post is for all the Dads-to-be! So, you’ve bought the car seat, the stroller, the crib, and you’ve stocked up on diapers, wipes, baby clothes, and almost every baby necessity you can think of. You’ve taken and attended childbirth and baby care classes with your partner. The hospital bags have been packed and are sitting by the door. The big day is almost here.

Now, you’re afraid that you’ve forgotten everything you learned about childbirth in your classes. What positions are best? What about breathing exercises? Your partner doesn’t remember either, and you both start panicking. But never fear – that’s why we’re here! We’ve been there! To help, we also spoke with 20 couples (and drew on our own personal experience) about how dads can be involved during childbirth and have put together this guide for you. Read on for more!

  1. Review birthing positions and breathing exercises as the “big day” approaches, and make suggestions and reminders to your partner during labor. Although most of the couples we spoke to told us that they completely forgot the breathing exercises while in the delivery room, it’s still helpful to review them, as well as different positions for birth, and when to push (even if the doctor/nurse will instruct you on all of these). Watch YouTube videos on this while you’re waiting for baby to come, and you’ll feel more confident and better prepared.
  2. Massage your partner’s hips, back, and arms during labor. Childbirth is hard on a woman’s body – it’s called “labor” for a reason! If you and your partner are doing a natural birth, she’ll probably be constantly changing positions, which strains the arms and legs. Dads can help here by massaging their partner’s hips and arms when they get sore.
  3. Help your partner relax. Another obvious fact: giving birth is stressful! Dads can help their partner relax by speaking in a quiet, soothing voice, holding their partner’s hand, telling her what a great job she’s doing, or, sometimes, just by not saying anything at all.
  4. Keep your partner cool during labor. Like any exercise, childbirth causes the body to heat up! Help keep your partner cool by feeding her ice chips. Ask your hospital in advance if they provide hand-held fans – if not, include one in your hospital bag and fan her during during labor.
  5. Make a playlist. Music will help distract and calm your partner down, so, while you still have a chance, make a playlist of her favorite songs and give it to the nurses to play during labor.
  6. Have mints/gum ready! Chalk this one up under the same category as the playlist, which is, “things you should do so your partner doesn’t have to think about it.” Mints and/or gum are helpful to have *after* the birth, when you’re still in the hospital and receiving visitors.
  7. Be present and encourage your partner. This was the most common piece of advice we received from the moms and dads we spoke to. Childbirth is a challenge, and it’s no wonder that dads have been present in delivery rooms for the last 40 years. Your presence and support is needed during this time. Above all else, be there and be supportive and encouraging throughout the entire process.

We also wanted to add some words of advice for couples who undergo C-sections (whether it’s scheduled or an emergency procedure). Dads can still be involved in both situations. With a C-section birth, it’s important to be there and hold your partner’s hand (if she asks). If it’s an emergency C-section, it’s possible that this may not be the ideal birth experience your partner wanted. Try to reassure her and tell her that the most important thing is that the baby will be safe and healthy. Also, since C-sections require total anesthesia from the waist down, your partner may not be able to walk for a few hours afterwards, so you will likely be the first one who changes the baby’s diaper and cares for the baby while your partner recovers and regains sensation in her legs.

Do you have any advice for expecting dads, and how they can be involved during childbirth? Let us know in the comments!