Thursday, April 24, 2014

What To Do When Mommy is Out

You and I both know that behind your confident macho exterior you are scared to death.  I know that you love your kids, but you saw the maniacally eager expression that flashed across your wife’s face when you agreed to watch the kids for a couple of hours.  Sure, they look like helpless little angels, but you have seen them turn into Animal from the Muppets without warning.  So here is some advice, man to man.

1. Have a plan.
The good news is that you do have one advantage over mom and that is time to plan.  You are a less familiar commodity and your kids will likely give you a short period of calm before they transform.  Take advantage of this.  Make a big list of things to do, and have your stuff ready.  It will not really go as you planned, but it will help you to relax and feel more prepared.

2. Do not plan to get anything else done.
Do not get too ambitious.  High expectations will set you up for frustration and failure.  I know that your wife gets things done while you are gone, but let’s be honest, multi-tasking is not our strong suit.  Focus on the main goal, keeping the inmates alive and the house structurally intact. 

3. Stick to the list.
You know what I mean.  Your wife gave you some overly detailed instructions before she left the house.  It does not matter what else you do, if the list says brush their teeth and they do not get brushed, you have failed.   You may be looking at the list as a set of general guidelines, but actually it is a solemn contract you would be ill-advised to violate.   And usually you will find that things will go better if you stick to her schedule.  The good thing is that this frees you up to all kinds of improvisation.  If your wife did not want the kids to have pickles and ice cream for supper she should have specified.

4. Be silly.
I know you fear that midway through a tea party one of the guys will stop by to borrow your lawnmower.   And yes, if he sees the silly hat and apron, you will never live it down.  But your kids need to play with you, and you will be their hero if you act silly.  So close the blinds and loosen up.  It is worth the risk.

5. Take pictures (of the good stuff).
This is a great time to make memories.  Kids grow up fast, so document the good times.  Also, as soon as the fun is over your kids are likely to forget all the fun they had.  They will likely tell your wife that it was “boring”, or worse, they will remember only the bad stuff.  Pictures will serve as evidence of your accomplishments and proof that you did not lie on the couch the whole time.

6. Do something for Mom.
When in doubt, color we-love-mommy cards together, and pick her some dandelions.  This will cover a multitude of other mistakes.  You will find that there is a double standard in gifts for your wife.  Every gift she gets from them is a masterpiece and every plastic cup of flowers they give her trumps the most expensive bouquet you will ever buy.   Don’t let it bother you; use it to your advantage.

7. Use movies strategically.
Just in case there is a mom reading this, of course we would never let our children spend a whole evening in front of the television.  That would be horrible and fry their brains.  But an occasional visit with the Veggietales is not all bad.  Since movie time will be limited, save it for when you need it.  Do not start the evening with a movie or even mentioning a movie, or nothing else will ever get done.  Wait until later, after you have plenty of other documented activities, and when you need to clean up before mommy returns.

8. Do a quick five minute cleanup shortly before your wife gets home.
Take a shovel and scoop all the toys back into the toy box.  If the floor is clean when your wife gets home, she will think you are superman.  Your wife will not care if the kids snuck into the kitchen and spilt a container of Kool-Aid as long as it is out of the carpet by the time she returns.

9. It will end.
You will be pushed beyond the bounds of normal human endurance, but never fear.  As soon as your wife left, she actually started to miss them.  And she has no confidence in you, and will worry about their survival the whole time she is gone.  Soon she will be able to bear it no longer, and come home.  Hang in there.

10. Tell your wife all about it.
Be prepared to give your wife a full report when she returns; she will be expecting one.  Tell her about all the mistakes you made before the kids tattle on you.  Besides it will give her a good laugh and put her in a good mood.   She already knows what it is like to mind the zoo, and she will be happy to know that you understand her days a little better.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Daddy-Daughter Date #5: Indoor Picnic

Our original plans having been thwarted, Bethel, Eden, and I began another home bound daddy-daughter date.  We set out to have an indoor picnic with high expectations.

Bethel was in a particularly helpful mood, and as I was getting ready I had one dish to wash and she volunteered to help.  Of course as long as she was in the mood we went ahead and washed them all.  Eden supervised from the exercsaucer.

The next order of business was to choose our outfits.  We all still needed to get dressed for the day so we decided to dress up fancy for the picnic.  Everybody had to have a hat.  Bethel dug ferociously through the toy box to locate the right hat for Eden.  I wore my wool black flat cap.  And Bethel asked permission to wear Mommy's sun hat.  We looked quite elegant. 

We used Bethel's bed quilt, that Grandma Blanshan gave her, for our picnic spot and we set out a good basket.  We did not end up using the basket, but it helped create the effect we wanted.  One of the nice things about an indoor picnic is the convenience of a kitchen.

We invited our friends, the Bears to join us, and as soon as everyone had arrived we laid out the food and said grace.  Bethel does not usually volunteer to pray for meals.  However, on this occasion she was seized with religious fervor and gave a lengthy benediction.  Not only was the food (and everything else) blessed, but Mrs. Pink Bear (who was evidently ill) was prayed for.

Bethel and I had blueberries, turkey and cheese sandwiches, and a banana each.  Eden ferociously consumed several toys.  Mr. Giant Bear had one plastic carrot.  And Mrs. Pink Bear, who must have still been too ill to eat, had nothing.

Bethel had taken on the role of hostess and assumed the task of assigning everyone their seats.  I am not sure why, but Giant Bear was not allowed to sit with the rest of us on the blanket.  He had to sit on a stool in the corner by himself.  Pink Bear lay contorted awkwardly on the floor, but kept up a lively conversation with the hostess. 

Eventually during the meal our hats became too inconvenient and had to be discarded.  Bethel's hair kept getting in her eyes, and so I made yet another attempt to master it.  For the first time ever, I managed a ponytail, and decided to take a picture.  Then Bethel decided that we a picture of my hair as well, and here is the result.

By then the festivities were pretty well over, and nap time was imminent.  We cleaned up, discovered the refrigerator light switch, and put our guests away.  It was a lot of fun, and I was rewarded for my efforts by the hostess who bestowed on me the banana bunch sticker.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

There are no perfect parents.

I do not want to give you the false impression that things are always rosy at the Blanshan house.  I try not to write anything bad about my wife and kids.  First, because I grew up as a P.K. (preacher’s kid), and I know that every word I say publicly has an impact on my kids.  Second, because I want to notice the best in my family (and everyone really).   And lastly, because I am way blessed and I know it; my family is awesome. 

But that does not mean that Sarah and I are the perfect parents, and that my girls are always well behaved little angels.  Please do not use us as your role models.  We are still new to this gig and we are far from having all the kinks worked out.  Look for some older, successful parents who have grown children with hearts after Jesus.  These veterans deserve our respect and we should listen to their advice.  But even they will tell you: there are no perfect parents.

Do you know what High Priest Aaron, Samuel the prophet, and King David had in common?  They were all men in ministry who were terrible fathers.  David’s parenting led to civil war, twice!  Joseph and Mary were called by God to parent Jesus, but even they lost their son in a strange city for three days.  They could certainly sympathize with every parent who has ever lost track of their child for a few minutes.

I want to be the perfect Dad, and sometimes I even trick myself into thinking that I am for a little while.  Then God brings me back to earth.  Sarah goes to work, and I am left alone with one who wants to be held but will not take a bottle and another who poops in the bathtub.

My poor girls have to live with my clumsy parenting all the time.  It seems like every time I turn around I accidentally bonk one of them or scare them.  I am always apologizing to them for something.  Even as I sit here I realize that I have forgotten once again to brush Bethel’s teeth.  They also see me when I am at my worst, when I come home tired, or when I am the most self-absorbed. 

My biggest fear is that I will teach them my flaws.  I cannot help but think about Isaac who repeated the mistakes of his father Abraham.  I do not want my girls to inherit my bad habits, and I have plenty.  What I do know is that I cannot hide my flaws from my girls.  It would be impossible and they would not be able to learn from my mistakes.

So the bad news is that there are no perfect parents, but that is the good news too.  God works through imperfect people all the time.  Plenty of imperfect people, like Mary and Joseph, have parented imperfectly and gotten great results.  My job is to do my best, be honest with my kids, and pray hard.  Actually, I am wrong again.  There is at least one perfect Father, and thank goodness.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Daddy-Daughter Date #4: Trip to the Zoo

Today we went to the Zoo of Acadiana.  Bethel has been there three times, thanks to Granddaddy Dill, who gave us a year's membership.  Sarah had to work today, so the girls and I loaded up and went in the red van.  I worked hard to find clothes for them that matched, and eventually I had them in outfits that matched each other, thought not necessarily themselves.

Bethel talked the whole way.  "Daddy, we are going on lots of dates!  Me, you, and one baby.  Auntie Anne has two babies.  She calls them Caleb!  Keep driving, we are late for work.  Daddy, I will work at the zoo! That is a big truck.  This bridge is fun.  We are going down!" etc.  Eden fell asleep.

As we drove up, Bethel saw the sign and said, "Z-O-O, that spells zoo.  Daddy, we are here!"

The zoo here is pretty good for a town of its size.  In the petting section we saw "Llama, Llama, Red Pajama", a donkey, a very pot-bellied pig, some goats, and three large tortoises.  Next we saw the giraffes, which are Bethel's current favorite animal, and one of them walked over to the fence and leaned over.  He was very friendly.

Around the corner we saw a "turtle school", and, as luck would have it, one of the pupils was just leaving.  A peacock was following us down the trail at a safe distance, and as we rounded the next corner he saw a lady he wanted to impress and opened his feathers.  It was pretty spectacular.

At the next exhibit, Bethel said, "Daddy, those are real alligators."  Sarah told me later that last time they were there the alligators were not moving, and Bethel did not believe they were real.  Finally, just before they left, one moved and she was convinced.

As we were leaving the alligators, Eden woke up, smiled, and went back to sleep.

Bethel's favorite place in the zoo is the playground.  When we arrived, I discovered that Bethel's shoes, which she had put on herself, had been on backwards since we left home.  She was not immediately convinced when I told her this.

The playground lived up to our expectations, and the slide was particularly thrilling.  Bethel quickly determined that the path to optimal playground enjoyment was up only one certain steep ladder, through the green tube, around a corner, up an extra step, to the "really tall twin" slides, and down the far "twin" slide (not the identical near one, which was regarded with a distaste that implied its total inferiority).  She followed this same route exactly umpteen times, often pausing to wait for the way to clear before continuing.

Eventually we had to continue our expedition.  We were very interested to see some uninterested zebras, and we were uninterested in an interested white tiger.

Then we saw an ostrich with an anger problem.  He was poking his head out whenever someone was within biting range.  I tried to get a picture of one of these dives, but he was too fast.

We saw some porcupines and decided that their Daddy must have done their hair as well.

We were about to leave when Bethel said "Daddy, we have-ta gotta see the sleepy bear."  I did not remember a bear, but sure enough the map showed that somehow we had missed a bear and he was sleepy.

Once again, I pointed us to the exit when Bethel said, "We didn't see the snakes!"   This I had not forgotten, but I did not want to look scared in front of my two year old daughter, so off we went.  It turns out she shares none of my phobia, and she had to examine each one of them as closely as possible.  I stood back and took pictures.  I am glad she is not scared of them, but by the time we left I was completely unnerved.

On the way home, Bethel fell into a contented sleep (Eden just stayed sleeping), and an hour and a half later we were home, full of mom's tasty leftover enchiladas, and taking our naps.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Daddy-Daughter Date #3: Shadow Theater & Tea Party

For Daddy-Daughter Date #3 we had thought about going several places, but from past experience we've learned that Saturday is a bad day to go to any kid’s places.  Bethel is not in preschool, so we have the freedom to go to parks, libraries, and the zoo while the other kids are in school.  Today we decided to stay home and create something.

I let Bethel pick the cds to listen to, and throughout the morning we listened to "The Legends of Bluegrass", "The Statler Brothers Farewell Album", and "George Gershwin Favorites".

The project we chose was a shadow theater.  While Eden was down for her morning nap, we took a big cereal box (Raisin Bran Crunch is Bethel and my favorite) and we cut a hole on both sides.

We did not get very far before we heard a squawk in the girls’ room.  Eden gotten her foot caught and was sleepily trying to free herself.  She did not go back to sleep, but was her usual cheery self anyway.

Bethel thought we should paint the box before we went any further, so we set up a paint station and went to work.  We used everyone's favorite colors; green for mommy, blue for daddy, and "light red" for Bethel.  We decided that Eden's favorite color is probably yellow, mostly because yellow was all that was left.

Bethel quickly determined that it was most important to paint the inside of the box, though when the project was done you would not be able to see that part.   Electricians and plumbers like to keep their work neat even though it will be covered up, and at least Bethel and I will know it is beautiful inside the shadow theater.
Next we had to wait for the paint to dry, and we decided that this would be an ideal time to play dress up.  Very soon the living room was filled with hipsters and other fashion elite.  You may also notice that we changed Bethel's shirt due to some wayward paint.

 Then we put Eden in the Bumbo and got the "giant purple ball".  We discovered that if you give Eden the "giant purple ball", she will try to eat it, but knock it away.  Bethel was sure that this meant she wanted to play catch, and for quite a while they rolled the ball back in forth with more excitement than the original inventors of "catch" must have had.

Due to our thorough work in certain spots, the paint was not yet dry, but it was time for a light luncheon and tea.  The tea set is from great-aunt Barbara and is one of Bethel's most prized possessions.  The gourmet cooking was courtesy of mom via leftovers.  Pink Bear and Giant Bear were invited and a good time was had by all.

 After lunch things flew by, the girls had naps and mommy came home.  However, later that day the paint had dried and, with the addition of a paper front and light from the window, our theater was up and running.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Daddy-Daughter Date #2: The Library

Today we went to the library.  The library is one of Bethel's favorite places, and she lights up whenever you tell her where we are going.

First, we got dressed to go, and she picked out her own shoes.

Next, since Sarah was gone, I fixed her hair.  She was not impressed, and she decided that she needed a third "clippy" with a flower on it.  Evidently, flower "clippies" are in.

There are a couple of libraries that we like, but our favorite one is in Lafayette.  It has a lot of books and a big children's section.  On the way there, I got a little lost, but don't tell Sarah.

Today we put together puzzles and colored.  We have been there enough times that we have a favorite puzzle.  Unfortunately, it had a piece missing which bothered my detail-oriented daughter a little.

The children's section is a great space for kids and has a lot of neat features.  There is a small round kid-sized door into the story area, and the doors to the restrooms are designed to look like outhouses.  My favorite idea is a wall covered in carpet to Velcro things to.  Today they had a large fire engine puzzle on the wall.  Bethel and I are pros at fire engine puzzles.

However, Bethel's favorite spot is not in the children's section.  Hers is in the teen section, where they have "the person chairs" and "the blue silly chairs".  She absolutely loves these.

Today, on the floor of the teen section, she noticed this letter "I".  (The cover for an outlet box.)  It was very exciting.  "I is for igloo, Daddy!"  Smart girl.

This particular library limits you to borrowing just fifty books, and several times we have come close to that.  Today, however, we left with a smaller stack, along with three movies, two read-along books, and one audio book for me.  On the way back, we chatted about how God created beautiful green trees. (Although, Bethel pointed out that some trees turn beige.)  We also discussed what we might do on our next date.