Saturday, January 21, 2017

Parenting Failure: Bedtime!!

   I know that you hold me in very high esteem. You look to me because I am a really, really, reallyreally great dad. I seem to have a knack for building train tracks, I have great fart jokes, and posses impeccable style. My kids are lucky to have me.
   Cara is also a decent mom, most of the time.
   So this blog post is hard for me to write. I hate to lower your view of me, but there is one area where we have clearly failed as parents (her more than I): bedtime routines with the toddlers.

   Lincoln rarely is asleep before 9:00. Lincoln often is up near midnight. Lincoln rarely sleeps through the night, waking up because he is hungry, bored, sleepy (seriously) or because he's in the habit of waking up. Wyatt was much the same way when he was 2. I've been a miserable dad for years now. There, I said it.

   I know it's all about routine and discipline. Good parents probably have a system like this:
   * give kid a full, healthy dinner
   * brush the kid's teeth, wash their hands and face, put on their jammies.
   * throw the kid in the crib, turn off the lights. Kid is instantly asleep for 12 hours with no fussing.
   * write blog post that has more than 44 views
   * sleep a long, uninterrupted, dream filled night, waking up refreshed.

This was one of our better family meals. 

   I'm sure that's how it must go for most of you.

   Our routine is much less organized and much more full of me looking at screens. It usually goes like this:

  •    Should be making dinner for kids, but instead am ... um ... let's pretend I am working out.
  •    Serve kids a healthy dinner of jam.
  •    After eating healthy dinner, throw sticky, messy kids in the wash and sticky, messy clothes in the bath. Play on iPad.
  •    Lay in bed with Wyatt. Sing songs, read books (him to me, me to him), pray, call it a night. This is my one act of good parenting all day.
  •    It's 8:34. I know that if I turn out the lights, play with Link a little, and meander towards the bed, he will fall asleep. Instead, I turn on Netflix and he and I settle in for roughly eleven hours of The Office.
  •    It's 9:41. Lincoln is hungry and refusing leftover jam (it's homemade! calm down!). He eats snacks like bananas, applesauce, apples, string cheese, and yogurt. He often brings me the snacks from the fridge himself. This actually happens. He opens the fridge, grabs food, brings it to me.
  •    It's 11:02. I lay down with Lincoln in the spare bed, figuring he might sleep if I am there with him. He spends 28 minutes crawling across my face, leaving and coming back with applesauce pouches, and jumping on the bed. I am tired and trying to fall asleep.
  •    It's 11:56. Lincoln is asleep. Kicking me. I wake up and move to my big-kid bed. Lincoln will wake up at least one time, needing some sort of food.

   It's hard looking over that timeline and having absolutely no idea of where I went wrong. But it's getting old. In fact, the last week or so we've done a good job of wearing the boys out with playing (heading to a high school gym to watch basketball at 5:30 is the frickin' best), stuffing them full, turning off all screens once it gets dark, and putting those kids to sleep hard. It's one of the best things about Cara cutting back her hours at work: we actually have evening time together. Note: that's also one of the worst things. Having the kids sleeping long and well has other advantages too, like funny dream stories:

My mood: frustrated that I'm not doing a better job
Wy's mood: making music on the computer
Link's mood: wants to crawl on mom while she sleeps
Cara's mood: frustrated that I'm not doing a better job
Listening to: Wyatt's take on the music from the Kirby series of video games. (actually not bad)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Footprints in the Snow!!

I've made up the world's best game. It's great in that it gets kids outside, but you don't actually have to interact with them at all, and it's totally free. It's called Snow Tracker and it works like this:

Cara's best feature is probably her eyes.

1) Have it snow overnight. This part should be easy.
2) Get up before your kids. This part should be impossible.
3) Run around your neighborhood, leaving tracks for your kid to follow. It's important you do this in such a way that your tracks aren't confused with others, but you still do interesting things. Climb along a fence, climb through/over cars, steal a kid's bike for a while, etc. The tracks should probably end at your house, so the kid comes back home and has a cup of cocoa waiting for him, but you could also just end it at some stranger's house and leave them a note saying "Wyatt is probably hungry."
4) Make a video for your son explaining the game. Something like this, only try to be handsomer:

5) Hide in the house, and leave the video for him to find. Ideally, have his snow clothes laid out already. Let the fun take place while you sit and play video games.

Wyatt had a blast doing this. When he finally found me (I was actually in the garage), he said "Um, maybe that was super fun dad." We played it a few more times throughout the day.

(This is a game that also works at the beach - although in this case it's called Sand Tracker - provided your footprints in the sand can be followed and aren't easily blown away. It works great at the Oregon coast because there are so many dunes to hide behind, and no one is ever really there.)

One of the fun things to do with this game is retrace your steps together. One time we did this, and as Wyatt was telling me where I went and what I did, I saw an opportunity.

As we walked, I said "Look at how your footprints are right beside mine. It's like we were walking together, even though I wasn't with you!"

He said "Um maybe OK I guess but here you walked backwards."

"And look at how here your feet are dragging a bit more, as if each step is harder. Is this where you were feeling down?"

"Um no probably I slipped."

"Isn't it nice to know that I will always be there, with footprints, when it snows, sometimes?"

Wyatt ignored me and said "Is this where you made a snow angel? Or probably maybe you were trying to burrow through the snow but it's only like an inch thick."

"What about this part here, where it's only your tracks? Do you feel abandoned? Like all of a sudden, when you needed me most, I wasn't there for you?"

"Um probably no because you were in the garage playing on your iPad."

"No, my son, you weren't abandoned. This... this is the point where your burdens got so great I carried you. I carried when you couldn't carry yourself. You were about to get all mad at me for ditching you, but boy were you wrong! I bet you feel stupid."

"Um maybe incept probably no this never happened. You didn't carry me, dad. You didn't. You didn't, dad."

I think I got through to him.

On a related note, I am so proud of this apple. Snowstorms, ice storms, the harvest, the fall ... it's persevered through it all. Wyatt, my son, did you feel like that apple when my footprints vanished?
My mood: proud to play Snow Tracker and teach my son a lesson about poetry, or footprints, or sharing or something.
Wy's mood: wants to track all day
Link's mood: starting to feel pretty sick
Cara's mood: frustrated because there were better pictures of her I could've chosen

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Photos for your Pleasure!!

We've got 3 SD cards and two iPhones worth of pictures I need to get rid of, so let me store some forever for as long as the internet lasts here on my blog. The pictures are in no particular order, because I pulled them off each device and didn't bother to organize them. Get over it.

Uncle Kip got married in September. We got a lot of model pictures with the cute old timey truck that somehow matched their ties.

Yeah, that's the stuff. Hopefully this will be the last wedding I have to go to for like 8 years. When Cara gets remarried and invites me out of spite.


Not Cara's best.

We were making apple juice with the apples from our tree. Lincoln was very pleased to be a part of it all.

Now we know that cowboys really look up to Spider-Man. Also, I don't think that's Wyatt under there.

Pretty great picture, except for where Cara inserted herself rather rudely.

Words cannot express how much I love this picture. Wyatt is just doing everything right.

Link's not sure what to think about snow. His first!

Mean mugging, revisited.

Pictures of Wyatt smiling have been harder to come by, as he prefers sticking his tongue out or glaring lately.

Not Cara's best look.

They were either being towed behind the van at 30mph or I was pulling them at .3 mph. I can't remember which.

We have gotten a lot of mileage out of how absurdly cute this jacket is on Link.

This was during Wyatt's long-lived "I love umbrellas" phase.

Believe it or not, that is my best beanie. Not Cara's best picture.

Lincoln loved the horses at the wedding too.

I put this picture at the end because it is symbolic of something. I'm not sure what, but I bet you'll pick up on it.

What!? How'd this cute little nephew of mine get in here?!
My mood: generally irritable.
Wy's mood: wants to play in the snow
Link's mood: feeling sick
Cara's mood: not her best look
Listening to: James Taylor

Monday, January 2, 2017

Discerning Which Kid Is Cuter!!

 Pretty handsome guy here. And Lincoln is turning into a bit of a stunner himself.

   Do you guys remember when Harry started to look better than Will? I am talking about British royalty, of course. There was a distinct moment when it looked like Charles's royal genes were going to outweigh Diana's in the maturing Prince William's life, while Harry seemed to be pulling more from the Diana side. That's basically what's happening with Wyatt and Lincoln right now, but only on a much more dramatic and world-impacting scale. This will take me some time to unpack, so bear with me:

This is a picture I took of the princes. We were all at "Prince Fest" which, I know, sounds like a music festival but was actually a camp for princes or people who should be princes. I was a photographer. This was taken while Will shouted "Dang it you got mom's genes! And jeans!"
   Let's recognize. I'm sure you've noticed that Lincoln is cute. Like, WAY cuter than he used to be, and ... dare I say it ... cuter than Wyatt. It's true. There are two main factors here and let's start with the second because it's the most important:

   2) Kids get less cute as they get older. Wyatt isn't two anymore. And sure, he says things like "resplode" instead of "explode," "recide" instead of "decide," "resplain" for "explain" and "remember" for "dismember",,, and ... "remember," but Wyatt is firmly entrenched in the "telling jokes" stage of his youth, which I think lasts for about seventeen years. He only knows two jokes, so, I hope you haven't heard these:

Wyatt: *ring ring ring!*
You, with a phone to your ear: "Hello?"
Wyatt: "Is your refrigerator running?"
You, sadly: "Yes. *groans*"
Wyatt: "Well then you better go have to go catch it!"


Wy: Knock Knock!
You: Who's there?
Wy: Interrupting Cow!
You: Interruptin-
Wy: Moo!!"

If it was just these two jokes, that'd be barely tolerable, but now he's trying to make up jokes, which usually goes like this:

Wy: Hey Dad. Why did the house make pancakes?
Me: If this isn't funny you are grounded.
Wy: Because he wanted breakfast. Isn't that so funny!? That a house would want breakfast! Isn't that so much like a joke!?

"Isn't that so much like a joke," has become our most used phrase in this house, just above "Will you please just take out the trash it's been like three weeks!" It's hard because he is so excited to tell jokes, and they're never any good. What's more, if we laugh at it, it only encourages him to tell more, which we cannot have. But they just keep coming, and it is eating way into his cuteness.

1)   Look at that face. My goodness. This kid has gotten cute. And you can pair his actual-good-looks with his two-year-old, trying-to-be-a-person mannerisms and we have a downright cuteness coup on our hands.

I love how a two year old can communicate pretty much whatever he wants with only a handful of words and gestures. "Bus," "puppy," and "choo" tell us the shows he wants to watch (he could just say "boring," "lame" and "makes you want to harm yourself." The only show for toddlers that I can stand is the indefatigable George). He will bring us boxes of applesauce when he is hungry. He can open the fridge and find the yogurt. He brings diapers to us when he's gone potty (but then runs away as I try to change him). He can say hellos and goodbyes in ways that let you know if he actually cares if you exist or not. Anything he can't communicate, he can point to or instruct me to follow him by holding up his adorable little index finger. (When we walk, he holds my finger instead of my hand. It allows for great fart-joke opportunities. So when he wants to lead me somewhere, he holds up a finger. I then put out my finger, he grabs it, and leads me invariably to the pantry or one of Wyatt's toys on the mantel.)

Slightly oversize clothes and soaking wet shoes make for a stunning picture. 

Best of all, Lincoln gives the cutest, most excited "Whoa!'s" in history. They are the greatest thing in my life right now. I am hoping to get every second of his first snow on camera, and then splice his "Whoa!'s" with a Joey Lawrence montage.

Figuring out how to balance the raising of two kids isn't easy, and I don't know if I always do it right. Wyatt has a rough deal because he's been taught to share, and not to fuss or hit, and is able to speak. This means that when Lincoln takes, steals, fights, and fusses, Wyatt is stuck dealing with someone breaking his rules. He then whines and complains, yells at Link or lashes out - all things he knows not to do - and I have to parse out if Link took from Wy, or if Wy is overreacting, or if Cara is to blame (which is usually the case). What helps is that Wyatt loves his brother, and thinks he's just so cute. Luckily, neither of them have any idea of how cute they actually are.

My mood: been sick for about 5 days. Luckily it'll end right before school starts again.
Wy's mood: fussy today, but we worked past it
Link's mood: thinking about potty training himself
Cara's mood: sick of me being sick for about 5 days
Listening to: The Lumineers