Friday, September 20, 2013

A Mock-Up of Parenting: Part the Last, where we wrap things up.

(Continued from Part the Third)

I came up with all this based on my limited experience, but even more based on my conversations with and observations of other parents. There are some parenting heroes who are juggling 4 muddy tennis balls while listening to Spanish radio, and I don’t even feel worthy to be in the same room with them. After watching them and listening to their wisdom, the advice I’ve gleaned breaks down into a few areas.
First, get people to support you. Other parents, your extended family, close friends—people upon which you can rely and with whom can be disturbingly honest.
Second, remember that you can always catch up on those episodes (what’s going on in the world) later when you have a minute to breath.
Third, let go of the idea that your life is your own. Really, this is good advice even if you don’t have kids. The things you have to get done or you wanted to do with your day—or life—can be subtly onerous whether you have kids or not. The sooner you let that go, the happier you’ll be overall.
Remember, keeping the kids alive is job #1, and sometimes you can only get one job done.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Mock-Up of Parenting: Part the Third which attempts an explanation

(Continued from Part the Second)

Some of you are thinking that I’m crazy. This can’t possibly be what it’s like. However, there are some parents out there who are reading this and thinking “That’s how I feel every day!” Let me break it down in hopes of making the example more accessible. Watching the show is keeping track of general life—what’s going on in the world, how your extended family or friends or church is doing—that sort of thing. The music represents the various mental challenges that your kids throw at you during the day. It isn't constant, there are breaks, and sometimes they do things for which you already feel equipped. Sometimes they do things that are so foreign it messes up your whole day. The tennis balls represent the attention and physical effort you have to expend while watching kids. Finally, the reason you are doing this on a day when you have other things planned is two-fold: children slow down the progress of almost every other endeavor even—and sometimes especially—if it isn't directly about them; and parents, as much as we love and claim we are willing to sacrifice for our kids, often hold on to the idea that our life is still (selfishly) our own. This overtly causes frustration and subvertly may cause us to feel that our kids are getting in the way of us leading our own lives.
Now, the immediate area where I know this example breaks down is with the concept of the treats. The treats are meant to show how the love and adorableness of children can make the challenge of raising them worthwhile. A simple treat does not completely represent how profound that can be. It is really one of the main things I think keeps many parents sane. When you are in the trenches, you cling to it because you know it’s true, even when it doesn't feel true.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Mock up of Parenting - Part the Second: where we add complications.

Then you decide to have a second kid. Add a tennis ball.
Things get harder. When you have help, it’s still not that bad. You divide the work and after some adjustment, things go pretty well. When you don’t have help, you end up initially having to go through the episode twice, temporarily memorizing the songs you hear the second time through. That’s not too bad, because you get a treat both times, but it’s frustrating to have to wait on those tasks you want to get done. However, eventually you may still be able to adapt so that much of the time you can get through the process in 1 sitting.t harder. When your spouse is helping, thisnever, you will improve.

hange suddenly, perhaps because it is a new season.
Then you have a third kid—add a tennis ball.
Now, even with your spouse’s help, one of you is minding two of the tennis balls. Without help, you’re trying to keep 3 balls going by yourself and still catch the entire plot and all the songs. The number of times it takes to successfully make it will go up dramatically. You’ll be regularly frustrated that you aren’t getting anything else done.

And remember, this is if you just have averagely difficult kids.
If you want to see what it is like to have an above-average difficult kid, or a kid with some legitimate special needs, there are a few things you can do to simulate that in this experiment.
Choose a radio station with a style of music you don’t follow. For me, it would be country music. If you start to get used to that style, switch to another station.  If I ever got so used to country that it started to get easy, I’d switch to jazz, for example. For very challenging kids, choose a Spanish channel (assuming you don’t speak Spanish.)
You could also get 1 (or more) of the tennis balls wet. Not only does that make them heavier and make them bounce less effectively, it also makes them messy. Again, for an added challenge, instead of clear water, use something like Kool-aid, or the liquefied cheese from a macaroni box, or mud.
In all fairness, there is the chance you’ll have very easy kids, which would be like listening to a playlist of all your favorite songs instead of a random radio station, while watching re-runs of your favorite TV show.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Mock-up of Parenting - Part the First where we detail the tasks involved

Before I had kids, I had taken care of kids. I’d watched older friend’s kids, babysat, done church childcare, and various other kid-care activities. Based on those experiences, I thought I’d be a pretty decent parent.
What I have now discovered is that none of those experiences really prepared me for being a parent.
Due to this realization, I’ve been trying to think of a way to explain to someone who doesn’t currently have kids of their own what it is like being a parent. While all my illustrations fail in some capacity, I have an idea I think is getting there.
First, pick a day where you want to accomplish something that isn’t related to childcare. This task or tasks should take several hours to finish and be something that you want to finish on that day, preferably. It could even be a series of projects, rather than one big project, as long as you have it in mind to try to finish a large number of those projects within this single day.
In the morning of said day, turn on your television and queue up an episode of a show you like that has some plot. Sitcoms aren’t ideal, since they are mostly episodic and can be watched fairly mindlessly. News is a little better, but still not ideal, as knowing what happened on the previous episode doesn’t impact being able to watch future episodes. This should be a show that has a multi-episode plot, and where it is at least somewhat important or beneficial that you be familiar with previous episodes. Turn the TV up to a level where you don’t have to strain to hear it in any way.
Then get a radio with speakers—no headphones. Turn it to a music station. It doesn’t matter what kind of music station—feel free to choose a station you listen to regularly or that plays music that you already enjoy and with which you are somewhat familiar. Turn that radio up to a few decibels less than the TV.
Now get a tennis ball.
Start your show and turn on the radio. Then choose a point on the wall and start bouncing the tennis ball against the wall. The ball should not bounce more than once on its return trip, and it should not rest in your hand for more than a second.
You have several goals. First, at the end of your show you should understand what happened in the episode well enough to be able to immediately go on to the next episode. Second, you need to be able to recite all the names of the songs that came on the radio while the show was on. You may write them down as they play, if you like. This may sound hard, but remember a lot of radio is commercials and talking. You don’t have to remember any of that.
If you have a spouse who is at home with you, your spouse may help. One of you can write down songs, while the other bounces the ball. At the end of the show, you may commiserate on the plot to make sure you have it all down.
If at the end of the show’s length, you have accomplished all these things, then you get to reward yourself, first with some sort of treat – ice cream, chocolate, whatever – then by starting to work on the tasks you wanted to accomplish that day. If you fail at any 1 of these things, you get the treat, but you don’t get to go onto your tasks unless you try again with the same episode. If you fail at any 1 thing a second time, give yourself another, smaller treat, then try again. A third single failure—a tiny treat, try again. Fourth time, no treat, try again, etc.
If you fail at any 2 tasks, you get no treat that round. Try again.
This is what it is like to be the parent of 1 average child for 1 day.

At first, you may make mistakes. You won’t be able to remember all the songs. You’ll drop the tennis ball or hold it too long or it will bounce too many times. Maybe you won’t remember some key part of the show. However, on your second time through the same episode, you’ll do much better. Probably because you will know the plot and can almost ignore the TV, focusing on the radio. If you have a spouse helping, you almost definitely will succeed the first time, and then you both get treats.
As you do it more and more, with different episodes, it will get easier. Your multi-focus ability will adapt, your muscles will get used to the motion, and your memory will improve. You’ll feel like a success.
Now, occasionally, the plot of the show will get extra detailed, or it will change suddenly, perhaps because it is a new season. That may throw you a bit, but you’ll recover fairly quickly. New music will come out on the radio, so occasionally you won’t catch the name. Once in a while you’ll have an unlucky fumble with the ball. Overall, however, you will improve.

Then you decide to have a second kid. Add a tennis ball.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The BabyShow: An Abrupt Ending

Players: Gus, Ruby, Ruthie
Location: Living Room

Ruthie: “Okay, kiddoos, let’s read some books.”
Gus toddles in from the other hallway: “Boo-k, Boo-k.”
Ruthie calls down the hall: “Ruby, would you like to pick out the first book.
Ruby: “YEAH!”
Ruby runs down the hall like a flat-footed T-Rex. She runs over to the book bin and stars flipping through the books.
Ruthie: “Ruby, why are you naked?”
Ruby (who is actually still wearing underwear) looks down at herself like she forgot she’d taken her clothes off, then: “because I’m inside.” She then pulls a book out and hands it to Ruthie.
Ruthie re-positions on the couch. Ruby climbs up next to her, as does Gus.
Ruthie makes a light concerned face when she opens the book: “Okay, Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss.”
Ruby laughs around the thumb in her mouth.
Ruthie makes her way carefully through Fox in Socks.
Ruthie: “…’Who sews whose socks? Sue sews Sue’s socks. Who sees who sew whose new socks, sir? You see Sue sew Sue’s new socks, sir.’[1] Gus, where yah going?”
Gus slides off couch: “Buk.” He toddles over to the book bin.
Ruthie continues reading. About a page or two later, Gus returns and hands her the interactive A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Ruthie: “Why is this book even out?”
Gus: “BUHK.” He slaps the book a few times.
Ruthie: “Okay, we can read this next.”
Gus goes off to play with a ball while he waits.
Ruthie continues to read Fox in Socks, sighing audibly when it is finally finished.
Ruthie: “Okay, Gus. Come on back. It’s time for your book.”
Gus comes back up onto the couch.
Ruthie opens the book: “A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Charles M. Schulz.”
Ruby: “I wanna press the buttons.”
Gus: “BUH-tone.”
Ruthie: “You can take turns.”
Ruthie begins reading the book. Every other page or so, there is a picture that indicates that a button on the side of the book should be pressed. The kids take turns pressing these buttons and listening to the sounds come out.
Ruby presses the button that results in Charlie Brown saying ‘Good Grief’ approximately 1000 times while the story is being read.
Ruthie starts reading the section where Charlie Brown attempts to decorate his tiny, sad tree and it poorly: “ ‘A look of horror  crossed Charlie Brown’s face. “I've killed it! Oh, Everything I touch gets ruined!” His head hung in defeat, Charlie Brown sadly walked away.’”[2]
Ruthie turns the page, only to find that all the following pages have been ripped out of the book.
Ruby and Gus look up at her expectantly.
Ruthie: “uh….The End…?”
Gus blinks a few times and then slides off the couch.
Ruby giggles around her thumb, then flops of the couch onto her feet and goes to steal whatever toy Gus just picked up.
Ruthie, thinking that the story is now hysterically dark, puts it back in the book bin.

[1] Dr. Seuss, Fox in Socks (New York, Beginner Books, 1965), pg 21
[2] Schulz, Charles M., A Charlie Brown Christmas: An Interactive Book with Sound (Philadelphia, Hallmark Gift Books, 2010), pg 35.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Baby Show: She's gonna blow.

Players: Brad, Gus, Hope, Ruby
Location: Coming back from the park, the long way.

Brad, having gone around the long way to come back from the park, turns onto his street with Hope in the Baby Backpack, and The Baby Show in the double stroller.

Ruby turns around and looks up at Brad: "Daddy, I have to go pee."
Brad: "What, right now or can we make it home?"
Ruby pops her thumb in her mouth and stares at him.
Brad, knowing that Ruby has been having more accidents recently, expects the worst: "Ruby, you really need to go pee?"
Ruby nods: "and poop!"
Brad begins to run. From this direction, the entire rest of the trip to home is uphill. 
Gus: "YEAYYAW." {Finally, some speed! ADVENTURE!}
Hope is bouncing manically in the backpack, her stiff Frankenstein arms are out to the side, flapping: {Faster, I'm almost airborne}
Gus: {AGREED. I'm late for a meeting with the Daoguang Emperor! Get this Rickshaw moving, chinaman!}
Gus: {My apologies! Just trying to be authentic to the period.}
Brad turns into their driveway and runs them up to the backdoor. 
He frantically unstraps Ruby and unlocks the backdoor: "Okay Ruby," gasp "go quick" gasp "to the potty."
Ruby stands and stares at him for a moment, then takes her thumb out of her mouth. "I don't need to go potty. I want a graham cracker."
Brad takes a few breathes: "Please go try anyway."
Ruby toddles off.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Baby Show: Can't do this by myself

Players: Brad, Gus, Hope, Ruby
Location: Kitchen, The beginning of lunchtime

Brad deposits Hope in her highchair and straps her down.
Brad: “Ruby, would you like to play Starfall while I get lunch going?”
Ruby pulls herself into her chair at the kitchen table: “I want macaroni for lunch.”
Brad: “You always want macaroni. I think we should have something else.”
Ruby: “But I want macaroni because after lunch we will take naps and when we wake up we will have lots of energy and then we will go to the park and maybe the pool.”
Brad thinks ~ that was almost a coherent argument, I think. It was definitely an accurate order of events. Should I reward that?
Brad: “Okay, we can have macaroni.”
Ruby: “But while I wait for dinner, I can play Starfall.”
Brad: “Its lunch, but yes.”
Hope starts to fuss: {HEY, YO. I’ve been sittin’ in this chair for, like, 1 minute. Where is the FOOD?}
Brad: “It will be just a minute, Hope.” Brad pulls the computer over and starts up Starfall. “Now Ruby, remember that you can only play Starfall as long as you aren’t sucking your thumb. If I see you sucking your thumb, you’ll be done playing Starfall for now. Do you understand?”
Ruby, obviously believing that the question is ‘do you comprehend English in any manner’ says: “Yes, Daddy.” She then looks at the screen. “I wanna do Numbers.”
Brad: “Okay.” Brings up the numbers section and lets her go for it.
Brad puts a pot of water on the stove to boil.
Hope: {HEY. I know you prolly forgot I was here and all, but I could really use some food before I full on pass OUT.}
Brad: “I think that’s a little overly dramatic.”
Hope: {Oh Yeah? I’m tiny, and have a super small stomach. Also, I just learned to crawl, so I need my sustenance to keep up my mad crawling SKILLZ.}
Brad gets a carton of orange baby food and peels back the wrapper.
Gus has been contentedly doing something toddlerish in the living room: {Hark, is that a container of foodstuffs being opened?} He run-bumbles into the kitchen: “THAT!?  BITE!” {Father, I heard the emergence of some delicious morsel. Please deposit said morsel into my eating orifice, that I might sample it.}
Brad: “There is no way you actually heard me open this.”
Gus: {Au Contraire. I’ve found that, when it comes to matters of the palate, I seem to have keen, superhuman senses.}
Brad: “Well, that’s great, but this isn’t for you. Go play.”
Gus sees Ruby playing Starfall. {Ah, the interactive cartoon program. Delightful.} He pulls a chair out from the table and pulls his baby-body up onto it so he can take a closer look.
Brad begins feeding Hope, who squeaks and squeals anytime the supply of food is delayed for more than 3 seconds.
Ruby: “DADDEEE, Gussie is messing up my Starfall.”
Gus, who has belly-flopped onto the table-top in order to reach the keyboard, is pressing the PG DN key repeatedly: {I find the clicks of this movie machine invigorating.}
Brad: “Gus, get down.”
Gus gives Brad a measuring look and then slides back into the chair.
While distracted by The Baby Show, Brad has inadvertently moved the container of baby food within Hope’s reach.
Hope, grabbing the half-full cup and pulling on it violently: {WHAT UP, FOO! I got my own plan now. Gimme them yummies.}
Orange baby food is now all over her high-chair, her hands, and her onesie. Brad salvages as much as he can and cleans her up.
Ruby wails. Gus has bellied back onto the table and shut the lid of the computer.
Gus: {HA HA, The Day is Mine!}
Ruby, cry-wailing: “Dahdee, Gubbie dup die barball und cow tricam tray cucumbers bile irate Formica pony.”
Brad: “Ruby, its fine. Here.” Opens the lid back up and Starfall immediately pops back up.  Brad puts the baby food well away from Hope, picks up Gus and deposits him in the living room, closing the baby-gate.
Gus begins crying: “DADDEE.” {Why would you leave me in here alone? I just want to love you.}
Brad: “Really? Cuz it seems like you just want to torment your sister.”
Gus, still crying: “Daddie.” {I’m a young male. That’s how we show love.}
 Brad comes back to the table, but then notices the water is boiling, so puts in the macaroni.
Hope kicks her highchair with her ridiculous baby strength: {Get back over here or I will straight up break this high chair and come smack you.}
Brad finally finishes feeding Hope, then makes her a bottle and places it in front of her. “Knock yourself out.”
Hope grabs the bottle and puts it in her mouth. Brad turns. Ruby is a little zombie, staring at Starfall. Her thumb is in her mouth.
Brad puts a hand gentle on her head and readies himself: “Honey, you’re sucking your thumb. That means we are done with Starfall for now.” He hits Ctrl+f4 on the keyboard, and Starfall closes.
Brad: “Sweetheart, calm down. I told you this would happen if you sucked your thumb.”
Ruby’s hair has begun to fan out and stick up, her face is splotchy red with tears. Dogs down the street begin barking: “AaAAaAAAaaaAAAaAAaAaAaAAaAAaaAAaaaAAAAaAAAaaaaAAA.”
Brad takes a few deep breaths and reminds himself that he is dealing with a toddler: “Ruby, if you don’t calm down, we won’t play Starfall anymore, because you can’t seem to handle it. Now breathe”
Ruby, gulps some air. “Eye juice billy wanatoe flay Barfly bile weigh core iMac Arrow knee.”
Brad processes that for a second: “Well, I appreciate that, but we agreed on the thumb sucking thing. Besides, you will get to play Starfall again. And the macaroni is almost done.”
Ruby: “Eye want uh bupple bow.”
Brad keeps from rolling his eyes at his daughter: “Okay.”
Hope: {Yo, dropped the bottle.}
Brad picks it up and puts it back on her tray.
Brad finishes up the macaroni. Brad puts Gus in his chair, then goes over to dish the macaroni into bowls.
Gus, seeing the macaroni, begins to cry: {I see that you have life-giving morsels, yet it is beyond reach! Are you some sort of monster?}
Brad: “You’re fine, buddy. It will just be a minute. It’s too hot still.”
Gus wails: {I am wasting away!}
Brad begins to sing the ‘Have Patience’ song. Gus calms a little.
Hope: {BOTTLE!}
Brad picks it up and puts it back on her tray.
He pours milk for Ruby and gives Gus his Sippy. Gus just cries louder, stubbornly refusing to drink it. Brad then puts out the macaroni. Gus slaps the bowl, sending it to the floor. While reaching for the macaroni, Ruby knocks over her cup of milk.
Brad breathes for a few minutes, loudly, through his nose.
Then he cleans everything up,gets more milk for Ruby, more macaroni for Gus, and sits down at the table  wondering if it is too late to get his old job back. Why did I think I could do this?
After a few bites, Ruby stops: “Daddy, we didn’t pray.’
Brad sighs: “You’re right. Go ahead and pray for us.”
Gus: “Pay!” and clasps his little hands together.
Ruby: “Dear Jesus, thank you for this day. Thank you for Daddy and Mommy and Gussie and baby Hope and macaroni and milk. Amen.”
Gus: “AWMN.”
Brad smiles a little: “Thank you, Honey. That was great.”
Ruby, very serious face: “Daddy, did you know that Jesus died?”
Brad blinks: “Yeah honey, I did.”
Ruby gets big eyes: “But he came back to life.”
Brad looks at her a moment.
Ruby takes a bite of macaroni and smiles at Brad.
Brad smiles back.
There is a small thunk under the table.
Hope: {Hey, sorry to break up this precious moment, but BOTTLE YO.}

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Day in the Life: Not As Planned

First, I traveled 30 minutes away with 2 toddlers to pick up the last pieces of a shed some friends were nice enough to give us, just to discover that all that was left was 2 small paving stones that the frame rested on - which I have dozens of lying around my backyard.

Second, I drove back 30 minutes to Costco to pick up some Preen, waited 20 minutes until the Costco opened, and discovered that they no longer carry it.

Third, I went to a park district pool center to get my picture taken for my ID, to find that they are the only pool center of the 3 that can't do it, and the next closest place closes in 5 min - it is 10 minutes away.

Fourthly, I went to Home Depot to get a new tank sprayer, some Preen, and some Velcro strips to secure my daughters black-out shades. The tank sprayers I would have preferred had been strangely opened and badly taped closed; Home Depot doesn't seem to carry Preen either; but I did get the Velcro strips.

Finally, we decided to get pizza for dinner from Little Caesar, and called ahead for their Hawaiian Pizza. When we arrived, the gentleman behind the counter had no record that we ever called.


I got to spend the day with my kids, who were fairly well-behaved--we had fun new ice cream for lunch from the Korean grocery store down the street; and when we got home from picking up my wife from work and had finished our sausage pizza dinner, my kids danced together in the living room for us like laughing, delighted, dervishes.
I got to pray with them and sing them goodnight, and then relax for a few hours with my wife.

such a good day.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The BabyShow: Quick Trip to the Market

Players: Brad, Gus, Ruby
Location: Local produce market

As they enter the store, Brad grabs a cart.
Ruby: “I don’t want to go in the cart.”
Brad: “If you can stay near me and be a good listener, I’ll let you walk. Can you do that?”
Ruby, apparently believing the question is are you able to walk: “Yes, daddy.”
Brad picks Gus up and puts him in the cart, and straps him in.
Gus: {Is this some sort of racing machine in which I need to be strapped down for my own well-being?}
Brad: “No, it’s a shopping cart. You are being strapped down for my well-being.”
Brad then speaks a curse upon himself: “Okay kids, we have 20 minutes to just grab a few things before we head to the Woodhouse’s to play.”
They begin walking through the store and before they even get to the first aisle, Ruby runs ahead to look at the bananas, cutting off several elderly people.
Brad reacts to this as if Ruby took an octogenarian’s cane and began beating the poor woman while she lay helpless on the tile floor: “RUBY, I told you to stay near me. Are we going to have a listening problem?”
Ruby, who believes that her ability to comprehend language is unimpaired: “No, daddy.”
The BabyShow makes it down the first aisle, obtaining bananas. In the second aisle, they stop in front of the plums.
Brad begins poking plums.
Gus: “THAT!?” {What are those things that you are prodding?}
Brad is considering whether Poking Plums would be a good band name: “Sorry, what?”
Gus: {Are we having a listening problem?}
Brad: “These are plums, Gus.”
Meanwhile, Ruby’s cuteness has been receiving rave reviews from people walking by, and that has made her forget all else. She runs around the corner of a produce aisle.
Brad: “Ruby, come back.”
Ruby comes back and The BabyShow marches on.
This continues for 4 more rows.
Finally, Ruby has been dancing (which for her is indistinguishable from frenetic monkey jumping), gets in the way of a kindly-looking older lady. The old lady smiles at Ruby, and looks up at Gus and Brad.
Brad grabs Ruby’s hand and pulls her back out of the way: “Sorry about that.”
What Nice, Older Lady actually says: “That’s quite all right, she’s adorable.”
What Brad hears: “You’re lack of parenting skills is only just overlooked because your children, while misbehaved, are cute.”
Brad picks up Ruby: “You haven’t been listening and you keep running around when I’ve asked you to stay nearby. I’m putting you in the cart.”
Brad puts her in the carts main basket with the groceries. As there is a sign on the cart saying not to place children in the cart this way, Brad is now convinced that he is a social pariah and will be asked to leave the store.
When Brad returns to the back of the cart, Gus is eating an apricot from the closest display case.
Brad: “No Gussie, we don’t eat the food right off the shelf.”
Gus grunts: {Well, that’s just ridiculous. Who puts food out where other people can see it if they don’t want it to be eaten immediately?} Gus takes another bite of apricot.
Brad quickly grabs the last item that he was looking for and then looks at his watch.
40 minutes has passed.
Brad quickly wheels the cart to the front. All open cash registers have lines. Brad sadly decides it would be quicker to just put everything back and leave. He does so.
They quickly leave the store and get in their car and drive away. It is not until 5-10 minutes later that Brad realized that they did not pay for the apricot Gus ate.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The ThrowDown: Ruby Vs. Wedding Activities

ROUND 1: Wedding Rehearsal
As Flower Girl (or the title she was bestowed by the Bride – Flower Princess), Ruby was required to be at the wedding rehearsal. After walking down the aisle with the RingBearers (or Kings of the Ring), the Bride wanted to see if the kids could stand on the stage during the ceremony so people could see their overwhelming cuteness. It is understandable that the Bride would want to harness this power for her own use – if baby and toddler cuteness could be converted to electricity we would easily solve the energy crisis—but the issue is that the Bride’s plan required toddlers to stand still for more than 30 seconds.
The parents mentioned this issue to the Bride and the wedding planner, but we were all willing to give it a shot at the rehearsal. Within 5 minutes, the kids were all over the stage. At one point we lost Ruby and one of the Ring Kings, and heard a shattering from stage left. The two of them had snuck behind a partition, jostled it in their toddler glee, and sent a 4” diameter, 4’ tall, glass candle holder plummeting to the earth.
While the Ring King was blamed for actual destructive actions, all parties involved agree that he was likely convinced to act thusly by one Flower Princess
WINNER: Wedding Activities. Toddlers have 2 settings-Moving and Sleeping. They move while they eat, they move while they use the potty, they really even move while they sleep—just less. The toddler is doomed to fail at any activity that relies on stillness.

ROUND 2:  Walking Down the Aisle
Traditionally, Flower Girls throw petals onto the walkway as they come down the aisle. However, in this particular case, our Flower Princess was relieved of this duty. All she had to do was hold the hand of the Ring Kings—who weren’t carrying rings—and walk from the back of the sanctuary, down the aisle, up a small flight of stairs, and stand on the stage until the officiate asked everyone to be seated—we all finally agreed that standing up there the whole time was asking for disaster.
This process went swimmingly in rehearsal; however, the Flower Princess didn’t wear her dress during the rehearsal.
During the ceremony, as she climbed the stairs at the end of the aisle, she kept stepping on the hem of the dress. She couldn’t lift the dress out of her way because both hands were being held by a Ring King. So, she began tripping up the stairs.
WINNER: Ruby. Thanks to her inherent toddler cuteness, her dress/walking issues came across as adorable rather than troubling. Also, the Ring Kings kept things moving by literally dragging her up the steps. All in all, it simply added a fond and cute memory to the ceremony.

ROUND 3: Reception Dinner
Most of the dinner doesn’t require comment. However, the wedding favors were a seemingly unending supply of cake pops—white cake or red velvet cake.
Ruby was the Flower Princess, Ruby was in a beautiful dress, Ruby has no shame—she simply walked up to any one and every one and requested a cake pop.
Who is going to say no?
WINNER: Ruby. She worked the system like a pro. I shed a little tear, I was so proud.

ROUND 4: Reception Pictures/Speeches/Etc
But now we have a sugared-up toddler who has been seated right next to where all the reception activities are taking place. At some point, Ruby decided that this was her wedding, and started out onto the dance floor in the middle of the cake cutting, and the speeches, and any other traditional reception activity; because the Flower Princess decided that she needed to be in every picture.
WINNER: Wedding Activities. The Flower Princess eventually had to be escorted from the room by the Flower King in order to stop disturbing the proceedings.

ROUND 5:  Dancing
The combination of sugar and dress-enhanced toddler cuteness reached its zenith during the dancing. Ruby was allowed back on the premises and danced the night away. Her dancing consists of a lot of jumping, arm-flailing, and falling down—the way drunk, white adults dance.
WINNER: Ruby. Her somewhat spastic dancing was so full of joy and giddiness that it made all who saw it laugh in delight.


She had a great time and she behaved decently well—didn’t have any of her melt-downs in non-relative public. Also, even though she ate enough sugar to kill a small rhino, she danced it all off and fell promptly to sleep. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Baby Show: Parent Paranoia

Players: Brad, Gus, Ruby
Location: McDonalds Play Place

Brad purchases the smallest, cheapest cup of coffee in order to be ‘legit’ and then ushers Ruby into the PlayPlace area.
Brad: “Okay, sweetuh, take off your shoes and go play.”
Ruby does so. Brad willfully ignores the sign that says that all children must wear socks-he has brought socks for neither of his children.
Gus, in the Backpack, slaps Brad soundly about the back of head and neck: {MALE PARENT, release me and allow me to go forth and conquer!}
Brad, who has a neck sunburn, winces: “HEY, ouchie. We need to cut your nails.”
Brad pulls the backpack off and unstraps Gus. Brad also takes Gus’s shoes off and hopes no one notices.
For several minutes, Ruby runs all around the structure, calling every so often to have Brad look at her and give her some sort of toddler encouragement.  Gus climbs up the first few levels before he reaches an area he can’t scale.
Gus: {MAN GUARDIAN, come and hoist me up this height, that I may continue to the summit.}
Brad: “I’m not allowed on the play set, Gusser.”
Gus: {Pish Tosh, when seeking grand adventure, rules are made to be broken. Now come, be a Tenzing Norgay to my Edmund Hillary.}
Brad: “Did you seriously just compare a McDonalds PlayPlace to Everest? I’m not coming up.”
Gus: {I’ll make sure that the National Sherpa’s Alliance hears of this and revokes your membership.} He begins clambering down.
Brad: “You do that.”
Meanwhile, Ruby goes down the slide and bumps into the same little girl for the 3rd or 4th time. They both laugh, so Brad thinks nothing of it.
However, on the other side of the room, a largish man stands and walks over. He has a minute or so conversation with the little girl in an Eastern European dialect. Rationally, Brad is sure that it has little to nothing to do with him or the kids, but irrationally he assumes the conversation is as follows –
Eastern European Father (EEF): “You should not let that little blond girl bump into you. She is obviously poorly raised, as her father cannot even afford socks.”
Eastern European Daughter (EED): “But daddy, I took pity upon her because, while she and I both have the blond hair, her father could not be bothered to comb hers. She is neglected and unloved, and therefore deserves every kindness from us.”
EEF: “I am proud of your kindness and generosity, but as your father and protector I must remove you from this place before this girl whose father has yet to clean her face today gives you some sort of disease from her dirtiness. Come along.”
EED: “As I have been raised correctly, I shall lovingly obey and come at your request, unlike these two wild children who have never been taught respect for their elders.”
The father and daughter leave and paranoid Brad drinks his coffee till they are out of the building, then immediately grabs a wet wipe and cleans Ruby’s face.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Child Cheat Codes: Shopping for new glasses

Often, I find that the most helpful time savers don’t really have anything to do with the kids directly. They are things that save me time on my personal errands so that I have more time to spend doing the kid things.
With that in mind, may I present Warby Parker. Warby Parker sells glasses, both online and in retail stores. I went to their site and set up an account. I then started browsing both their normal glasses and their sunglasses. The prices range from $95 to $150, depending on in which glasses you are interesting, but $95 is fair more common for normal glasses.
Also, you can load a picture of yourself into their system and their site will do a mock-up of what you would look like in those glasses. I find that it is really only good to get a slightly more than general idea of how any pair would look on you, but it did help me weed some things out.
My issue with purchasing things online, especially clothes and accessories, was that you are never sure how it is actually going to fit or look until you get it. Then, if it doesn’t fit, you have to hassle with a return. Warby Parker helps with that. First, you can look up a retail establishment near you that carries the glasses in which you are interested and go to try them on. That’s nice. This is nicer: Warby Parker will send you up to 5 pairs of glasses for you to try on, in your home, free. You do not pay for shipping either to your house or back to Warby Parker when you are done. You get to try them for 5 days, then you send them back. As soon as you send them back, you can order 5 more pair. It takes about 2-3 days for the package to get to you. They include a return label in the package, so all you have to do is slap it on the box and either schedule a pickup or drop it off at a UPS store.
I hate shopping for glasses, so this has revolutionized my glasses experience.
Now, they do ask you for credit card information for your free try-on’s as a sort of insurance if you keep the glasses too long; however, if you get the glasses back to them in time, there are absolutely no charges on your card.
I do wish that Warby Parker had a little more Men’s selection, but that’s more because I have a gargantuan, mal-shaped cranium that I lug about.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Baby Show: The Great NapTime Adventure: Part 2

Players: Brad, Gus, Ruby; Buhn-Buhn, Monkey Wayne, Ow-Woe, Tigger, Woofie
Location: Gus’s Room, mostly.

---Continued from Part 1---

Gus eyes the furniture surrounding his bed. {Now let's see....}
After Brad’s adjustments to the headboard, the bed seems surrounded on all sides. The foot of the bed and one side are against the wall. The headboard is now become an impenetrable blanket-wall. The only hope of escape lies on the other long-side of the bed.
Gus: {So here is what we have, chaps. As you know, the south-west edge of the bed-plateau is blocked off by the baby-gate contraption. Most of the north-west corner is blocked my dresser-mountain, with the extreme north-west corner consisting of bedpost-spire and rocking chair-cliff. I would welcome any sage words on the predicament.}
Buhn-Buhn: {Listen, brah. I think I can speak for the group when I say that this is a mondo bad idea.}
Tigger: {HOE HOE, I think that adventure is always a good idea.}
Monkey Wayne: {Shut it,  Mr. Trouncy-Pouncey Pants.}
Gus: {I think I have it. Dad-Man has left the top of dresser-mountain bare. I believe I can pull myself up onto the peak, and then lower myself down the other side.}
Monkey Wayne: {Gus, I have to stop you there. I can’t condone that course of action unless you have some sort of climbing equipment, or at least a utility belt.}
Gus: {No time to dally, my hesitant monkey. Fortune favors the foolish!}
Gus comes up to one side of the dresser and grabs a side edge with one hand while reaching as far as he can toward the far edge. He then hoists his milk-belly as far up as it will go, and pushes off the child-safety railing with one foot. As he slides across the top of the dresser, he is able to grab the far edge and pull himself the rest of the way.
Gus: {HUZZAH! I have scaled the slopes of dresser-mountain.}
Ow-Woe: {What’s it like up there, young master?}
Gus: {It’s cold, the wind has a chill in it. Also, I find that I’m easily made short of breath, but the view is fantastic!}
The bedroom door opens violently as Brad comes running from the kitchen.
Buhn-Buhn: {It’s the fuzz. Act natural.}
Brad grabs Gus and deposits him forcibly back in bed. “NO Gus. Do not ever climb up there. It’s dangerous. DO NOT GET ON THE DRESSER.”
Gus: {I’m sorry to say that I have already fallen in love with the exhilaration of scaling the tallest peaks. In all honesty, I cannot assure you that I will not seek that glorious height again.}
Brad: “I appreciate your honesty.”
Brad moves the changing table mat onto the top of the dresser and adjusts it so there is little room for anything else.
Gus: {Well played, sir.}
Brad: “Now go to sleep before I lash you to the bed.”
Gus lies down and rolls over on his front, straight as a board, with his face completely buried in the mattress: (Muffled) {Boo mihn dis mowd, thuh.}
Brad closes the door.
Gus pushes himself up into snake position. {I do love a challenge.}
Gus stands and analyzes dresser-mountain: {Well, that’s out.} He walks up and down the edge of the bed several times.
Woofie: {WOOF!}
Gus: {What’s that, boy?}
Woofie: {WOOF, WUF}
Gus: {Really?} Gus goes down to the foot of the bed. There is a 2-inch gap between the end of the Child Safety Gate and the wall. {Well done, boy}
Gus turns around, drops onto his belly, and backs-up toward the gap. He puts his right chubby toddler foot through the gap and down onto the bed's frame. As he puts weight onto it and stands, the Child Safety Gate gives a little against his baby mass. He lowers his left leg down, but as left foot touches the floor, his right foot slips and his left leg falls through the metal bed frame, trapping him. He tries to free himself for several minutes.
Gus: {Well, gentlemen, I seem to have encountered a bit of a kerfuffle.}
Ow-Woe: {There is little we can do for you at this juncture, young sire. You seem bent on injuring yourself in some way, or at least enraging the leader of your aerie}
Tigger: {Just call out to Christopher Robin again there, chum. He’s always good for a hand and a bit of milk extract.}
Gus sighs, works himself up for good measure: “DAAAADEEEEEEEE, DAADEEE!”
Brad opens the door and turns on the light.
Brad: “Seriously, Goose?” Brad lifts Gus out of the hole and puts him back in bed.
Brad eyes the gap between wall and gate for a moment, sighs, and then rearranges all the furniture in the room.
When Brad has finished, the bed is in the same place, but the rocking chair has moved into the far corner, and the dresser has been pushed away from the large opening for the bed, making for a very easy entrance –and exit—to the bed.
Brad: “There you go. Run yourself ragged.” Brad turns off the light and closes the door.
Gus: {Lads, could this possibly be some clever ruse meant to throw us off our game?}
Ow-Woe: {Perhaps you wore him down.}
Gus needs no more enticement. For the next 30 minutes his runs in circles around the floor of his room, pulls open drawers, dumps all his shoes on the floor, gets his coterie out of the bed and spreads them across the floor, pulls out every book in his room even though it is far too dark to read and he’s illiterate.
Finally, Gus: {Well, chaps, I believe I am a bit tuckered. I believe I’ll just close my eyes for second.} Gus lies down on the floor directly in front of the door, squirms around a bit more, and finally falls asleep.
Brad has been in the kitchen, watching the unfolding of the nap debacle, unable to fully relax or start really accomplishing anything due to Gus’s constant potential need for saving.
When Gus finally falls asleep, Brad exhales: “Thank the Good Lord.”
He starts to stand up, when he hears a door open down the hall. Thinking that somehow Gus has suddenly woken and learned to open doors, he glances at the baby monitor. Gus is still asleep on the floor.
From down the hall, Ruby: “Daddy, I’m awake!”
Brad falls back down into his chair, huffing, and wonders how much gypsies actually pay for small children.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Baby Show: The Great NapTime Adventure, Part 1.

Players: Brad, Gus, Ruby
Location: Gus's Room

The Baby Show has all gone down for a nap, and Brad is thinking of doing something productive in the back yard. He has a video baby monitor with him to check up on Gus and Hope.
Gus has been sleeping in a "big boy" bed for a few weeks. However, it is shoved up against the corner of a wall and furniture is pushed up against the long open side to keep him from getting out. The short open side is mostly blocked by the headboard, and leads to The Chasm - a point of no return.

Gus has been running in circles on his bed for 15 minutes, not showing the least bit of tired. He has fallen down twice, smacking his head directly into the wall both times - with seeming little effect. Monkey Wayne, Tigger, Ow-Woe, Woofie, and Buhn-Buhn are all in bed with him as he runs haphazard over them.

Gus: {HUZZAH! Come lads, join me in my revelry! The lights are out and we have free reign over this bouncy kingdom.}
Woofie: {WOOF!}
Ow-Woe: {Remember, young master, that we are but fabric and stuffing. We have no ability at motion without your assistance.}
Gus: {Quite right, O wise Ow-Woe.} Grabs Buhn-Buhn {Are you ready for ADVENTURE fuzzy friend?}
Buhn-Buhn: {Dude, you are really harshing my mellow.}
Gus: {Once more into the breach, Lazy Bunny!}
Gus throws Buhn-Buhn into the Chasm.
Gus looks over the headboard: {How fair you?}
Buhn-Buhn: {It is heinously dark down here.}
Gus: {Fear not, I shall retrieve you!} "DADDUH!...DADDUH!......DADDUH!.........dadduh?"
Gus: {Help is not forthcoming, I shall retrieve you myself.}
Monkay Wayne: {I don't think that's a good idea, Gus. There is no guarantee that you will be able to get back up yourself.}
Ow-Woe: {I must concur.}
Gus: {Pushah, There is nothing to fear except fear itself...and perhaps large, stuffed, fish.}
Gus squeezes himself between the headboard and the mattress, having to turn his head side-wise in order to fit, but he does make it into The Chasm.
Gus: {Victory is mine! I shall take a moment to reveal in my triumph and look around.} He spies a plug sticking out of a socket. {I wonder what this does.} Gus pulls the plug out of the wall.
Brad, who has been watching the whole thing on the baby monitor, is now forced to get up, as Gus has just unplugged the camera.
Brad opens Gus's door and walks over to the head of the bed and leans over the rocking chair that's been shoved there to keep Gus in bed. "Whatcha doin, Guster?"
Gus: {Exploring!}
Brad: "That's great, but you should be sleeping." Brad pulls Gus and Buhn-Buhn out of The Chasm and plugs the camera back in. "Now lie down and go to sleep."
Gus lies down: {Of course, so sorry}.
Brad leaves. Before the door is even fully closed Gus is up and moving toward the headboard.
Monkey Wayne: {Gus, don't go back down there.}
Buhn-Buhn: {Yeah, man. It's really a drag.}
Gus slows for a moment: {Perhaps you are right.}
Tigger: {HO HO, don't worry about it, Gusaroo! You'll be able to bounce straight out. What's a day without a little FUN!}
Gus smiles and wedges himself back through the hole in the headboard, but this time something goes wrong.
Gus, with his body through the gap but his head stuck in the headboard: {LADS, SOMETHING SEEMS TO BE AMISS!}
Buhn-Buhn: {Told you, dude.}
Gus: {Tigger! Help me!}
Tigger: {Don't worry, Christopher Robin will be along to help.}
Brad comes running in a second later, turning on the light. He quickly extricates Gus from his predicament and deposits him back in bed. 'See, goofball? Stay in bed."
Brad goes over to the closet and pulls out a blanket. He climbs over the headboard and drops into The Chasm. After several minutes, he has managed to wrap the blanket in such a way that is blocks off Gus's entrance to The Chasm.
Brad: "Okay, now stop goofing around and go to bed."
Gus, standing on the mattress: {Too Right, Good show. I'll do that right away.}
Brad waits a moment. They stand staring at each other.
Brad: "Gus, LIE DOWN."
Gus: {OH, right.} Lies down, but continues staring at Brad.
Brad: "Close your eyes."
Gus: {Excellent suggestion} Gus puts his toddler paws over his eyes. {There, all set. Good night.}
Brad sighs and leaves.
Gus waits a beat, then quickly rises and surveys the blanket covering his former escape.
Gus: {Well, that is no longer an option. How else do you think we can get out of here, friends?}
Monkey Wayne, Ow-Woe, and Buhn-Buhn: {GO TO SLEEP!}
Woofie: {WOOF}
Gus: {But SIRS, it has only just started to get interesting}
Gus eyes the furniture surrounding his bed. {Now let's see....}

--To be Continued--

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

THE THROWDOWN: Ruby Vs. Daily Activities

ROUND 1: Going Pee Pee
Ruby can now use the restroom "all by herself," which means that she yells at people for privacy, doesn't need a toddler seat anymore, uses way too much toilet paper - clogging up the toilet about 15% of the time, needing to be reminded to wipe all the appropriate areas and then FLUSH, needs to be remind not to sit on the toilet reading books forever, and then ends each endeavor with her bathroom catchphrase: "I went pee-pee all by myself," which is often yelled at the top of her lungs in crowded eating establishments.
WINNER: Ruby. Her bathroom habits might be annoying, but anything is better than changing diapers.

ROUND 2: Putting on Clothes
Ruby has a mini-meltdown at each level of clothes. She can't remember how to put on pants, or socks, or shoes, even though she has done these things dozens of times. She only remembers how to put on underwear, the only clothing she actually likes, resulting in her being clothed in little else most of the time. All other clothing items require constant reassurance and encouragement in order to get her to remember that she just did this yesterday!
WINNER: Clothes. It would be less frustrating and unimaginably quicker to just dress her myself. However, she just did figure out how to put on shirts, so there may be hope yet.

ROUND 3: Eating
If it is green, it better be round or look like a tree. If it is red, it better be a fruit. Otherwise, she won't eat it.
Also, she needs to eat in a deprivation chamber, otherwise you will be sitting at the kitchen table for an eon-moment waiting for her to even get just the next spoonful of food into her mouth - and this is food she claims to LIKE.
She will spill her drink. Usually twice. and on multiple surfaces simultaneously.
WINNER: Eating. While Ruby now gets more food in her mouth than on the table, she misses out on a significant portion of deliciousness because she shuns food by shape and color. Also, she makes it impossible to keep our kitchen floor clean.

ROUND 4: Carrying on a Conversation
She speaks gibberish fluently. Learning gibberish yourself is of little help, because she will just switch to gobbeldy-gook, in which she is also fluent.
She can understand English, but only speak it in barely coherent, day-long run-on sentences, or when she is actively crying - which makes her completely unintelligible.
She also remembers every bad word or inappropriate phrase you have ever said and is waiting to use them at dinner parties with your pastor.
WINNER: Ruby. When it is important, she can make herself understood. When she's in trouble, suddenly nothing she says makes sense. I'm convinced it is some sort of clever ruse.

ROUND 5:  Walking
The way she slaps her feet on the ground, I'm surprised she has any toes left.
She has a knack for choosing exactly the wrong shoe for the given circumstances: time to go run at the park - obviously that means her plastic, high-heeled, Minnie Mouse light up shoes.
She veers toward obstacles. If there is a irregularity in the ground, or a toy in her way, or some sort of blockade just off the path, she goes directly toward it and deliberately tries to walk over it. She very often trips.
She also trips over nothing, usually while running. If there is an extra heavy air molecule, she will find it and trip, resulting in bruised legs and skinned knees.
WINNER: Walking. She has been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking she knows how to use her legs.

VICTOR: Daily Activities.
She is just too distracted to form any significant threat to her Daily Activities, but she is gaining.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Child Cheat Code: Teach your kid to read.

My wife and I are pretty strict about what sort of media our children can ingest. Our daughter turns into a zombie whenever a computer, phone, or TV is about. Even more concerning is how much she retains from even a single viewing of any media content.

Recently, we vetted the first website to which we were considering letting our 3 year old have regular access. It is a website called It was recommend to us by some friends who had great success with it. They credit it as a major factor involved in their daughter learning to read early and being well ahead of her peers on reading level now.

The free content includes pretty much everything you would need to get you kid reading. It starts off with the Alphabet, including sounds, word association, and even sign language. It then moves into phonics and basic reading.
I was pretty impressed with it. My daughter loves it, I actually have to make her get off of it. Also, in just the week she has been using it, we have already seen a big improvement in her letter-sound recognition.

We ended up paying the $35 yearly fee to get access to their expanded content, which includes colors, songs, math work, and such. Our daughter liked the Alphabet, but also wanted to be able to do other things, and we figured that if she could start learning math as well, $35 was worth it. I'll admit that I like having a  safe, educational website that I can give to her so I can have a moment to make dinner, clean up a little, or just keep my head from exploding.

As I said, I think that the site is great even if you don't buy the expanded content. Be ready to have to set limits on how much your kids can use it per day.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The BabyShow: It's inappropriate to give the Look Of Doom to a toddler.

Players: Alex, Alex's Dad, Brad, Ruby
Location: Alex's living room.

Brad is standing in the living room talking to Alex's Dad when Alex comes running in, jumps up on the couch and stands next to his dad. There is a small, hushed exchange, then...

Alex's Dad: "Alex, is there something that you wanted to ask Mr. @Home?"
Alex stands on the couch and looks bashful: "Mr. @Home, I want to mawwy Wuby when I am a gwown-up man."
Brad crossed his arms and thinks for a moment: "What are you offering as dowry, Alex?"
Alex looks confused and glances at his dad.
Alex's Dad: "Well, I have an old pack-n-play we don't need, and I'm sure Alex could throw in his bike. It still has the training wheels on it."
Brad: "This is my only daughter, my eldest. I can't tell her mom I gave her away for a pack-n-play and a bike."
Alex: "I have gwahm cwackuhs!"
Alex's Dad: "That's right, we can throw in 3 boxes of graham crackers."
Brad: "I do love graham crackers."
Alex's Dad: "I also have a sword I can give you. It was an old birthday present, but my wife doesn't like having it in the house."
Brad's eyes light up, but before he can answer, Ruby runs into the room. Brad stops her.
Brad: "Ruby, Alex want's to marry you. What do you think about that?"
Ruby looks Alex over {His dad's a doctor and mom's a teacher, so he could be a smartie; If he takes after his dad, he could be taller than me; he's a middle child, so he should learn how to take orders; and he is a cutie.}
Ruby, who has been running through Alex's house all day like the Tasmanian Devil, is suddenly shy, standing with her head down and her finger in her mouth.
Brad narrows his eyes a little: "Well, Ruby, would you like to marry Alex?"
Ruby, coyly and a little breathy: "Yeah."
All thoughts of dowry fly out of his head and Brad has to remind himself that they are toddlers, which quiets the Over-Protective Mental Firestorm: "Well, Alex...when you get to be a grown-up man, talk it over with Ruby, and maybe you can ask me again."
Alex's Dad: "Is that okay, Alex?"
Alex nods and runs off to play.
Brad does some quick math, sighs, and discretely checks to see when his FOID expires.