Sorry I buried your feet

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there!

When I was five I went through a "pirate phase", everything was treasure and therefore must be buried.

When I was five I went through a “pirate phase”, everything was treasure and therefore must be buried.

My Mom has had to put up with a lot from me over the years and has always been there no matter what. She’s endured over forty years of my weirdness and now my offspring are carrying on this fine tradition.

It's all fun and games until the baby decides to play tackle football with Grandma!

It’s all fun and games until the baby decides to play tackle football with Grandma!

Thanks Mom for putting up with all these years of buried feet and up-your-nose photography. We love you.

"Wow, Grandma sure is tall!" taken by Zack (age 2)

“Wow, Grandma sure is tall!” taken by Zack (age 2)

In case you’re afraid that all my boys do is torture my poor unsuspecting mother, they can be rather sweet at times…

Mom and her newest grandson "Andrew James Husted" (3 days old)

Mom and her newest grandson “Andrew James Husted” (3 days old)

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Baby talk

As we get closer and closer to the due date for Andrew James, I’m trying to get our boys excited about the new addition to the family.

Move over Mickey, there's a baby coming to take your spot. Hope these two are ready for it.

Move over Mickey, there’s a baby coming to take your spot. Hope these two are ready for it.

Are you excited about getting a new little brother?

Josh: “His name is ‘Joshie’!”

Zack: “I have a brother named ‘Joshie’ too!”

Josh: “No, your brother is named ‘Zachary'”

Zack: “Hey, that’s my name!”

Josh: “Okay no, my baby brother’s name is ‘Vacuum Cleaner'”

Zack: “He no named ‘Vacuum Cleaner’, his name is ‘Chainsaw’!”

Josh: “Don’t put vacuum cleaners in your pocket.”

Zack: “No, pockets are for chainsaws”

Josh: “And baby brothers!”

At least they are kind of looking forward to the baby now, even if they do want to rename him. Don’t worry, when little “Chainsaw Vacuum Cleaner Husted” does get here, I’ll make sure to keep the boys from putting him in their pockets.

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Put that down and pick me up.

Hello, my name is Brian and I’m an addict, a technology addict.  There isn’t a minute of the day that I’m not far from my computer, my cell phone, the television, or my iPod. I still get plenty done around the house, but it’s not without the occasional interruption to look at my Twitter feed, browse Facebook, or check my blog. It’s become second nature to me to do and I hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten.

Ignore this and pay attention to ME!

Ignore this and pay attention to ME!

It’s hard to recognize how addicted to something you are until you have to go for any length of time without it, and that’s exactly what happened. Yesterday my wife dared me to go a day without any electronics at all. She didn’t think I could do it, but I’m just stubborn enough that I took her up on the challenge.

I left my iPod in the bedroom (I’d fallen asleep listening to it), put to the cell phone on the fireplace mantle, didn’t turn on the TV, and made a conscious decision to ignore the computer.

Turns out it was a real struggle for me. On more than one occasion the boys did something adorable and I found myself looking around for the cell so that I could tweet about it, or dash over to the computer so I could jot down a few quick notes for a future blog post. Even though I hadn’t touched the computer all day, it still chimed every few minutes when there was a new post on my Facebook feed. I’m proud to say I was strong, and I fought back the urges to give in. My devices stayed ignored, my email unanswered, my tweets unchecked, and my feeds unread. Sure, it helped that Kat was there and would know if I cheated, but I was too stubborn admit defeat anyway.

The day was a success. I hate to admit it, but my wife was right. I did get more done being “unplugged” than when I was distracted by all my electronics. The boys also had a lot more fun knowing that they had their Dad’s undivided attention. The only downside of this challenge is that now I can’t help having a twinge of guilt whenever I am on this computer or checking my cell phone. I suppose that was the whole point of this experiment, recognizing my addiction for what it is and being more aware of how I’m spending my time.

I'm so much happier when you aren't playing with this.

Hey Daddy, I’m so much happier when you aren’t playing with this.

I may still be hooked on electronics, but I’ll try to learn from this and limit my time spent online. There are much more important things to interact with around here anyways. Their names are “Zack” & “Josh”.

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How about baby?

I asked my sons Zack (age 4) and Josh (almost 3) what they thought about getting a new baby brother in just a couple months. These were their answers:

Zack: “I love baby Andrew. He lives in Mommy’s belly. When he comes out I’m not going to do anything with him.”

He's happy now, but we'll see how he feels when he has TWO little brothers to contend with.

He’s happy now, but we’ll see how he feels when he has TWO little brothers to contend with.

Josh: “Baby Andrew isn’t in my belly. I don’t want him in my shirts. I have my own shirts and baby Andrew is too little.”

I may have to live with him, but I ain't sharing my stuff with him.

I may have to live with him, but I’m not sharing my stuff with him.

Hopefully they’ll be a little more excited when we get closer to Andrew’s due date. I think we’ll have to work on this.

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Our Snow Day!!

Zack was the first to sound the alarm "It's Snowing!!"

Zack was the first to sound the alarm “It’s Snowing!!”

I had plans for this last weekend, I really did, but those all went out the window when Zack uttered those magical words “It’s snowing!” Josh soon joined him and was quick to point out “Look daddy it’s snowing outside. I love snow!” (This is especially cute being as he’s only been out in the snow once in his entire life).

Hey Mom, this white stuff is awesome!

Hey Mom, this white stuff is awesome!

Living in western Washington we don’t get to see snow very often and it’s quick to turn into slush. We had to act fast, so Kat and I decided on a change of plans. Out was the shopping trip to Costco. In was bundling up the family and going out to play in the white stuff. I’m sure the boys thought that we were crazy when we dressed them both in footy pajamas and then started layering outdoor clothes on top of it, but any argument they may have had quickly vanished as they realized that it was leading up to the entire family going out to play.

Okay Dad, now that we made these, what do we do with them?

Okay Dad, now that we made these, what do we do with them?

Neither of the boys has had much experience with snow so this was all pretty new for them. First on our agenda was going for a walk and once I showed them how to scoop up snow into snow balls, both boys were fascinated with making “snow blobs” of their own. They weren’t quite sure what to do with them however,  so they just carried them around for a while. Josh soon discovered that these “snow blobs” were the perfect size to be thrown, and Daddy made a great target. After that it was open season on me.

As expected, they team up against me. I suspect this won’t be the last time.

As expected, they team up against me. I suspect this won’t be the last time.

When we got back to the house we started building the kids’ first ever snowman. Zack was very helpful, making us a scale model that we could copy for the full sized one. Lacking rocks and carrots for a face we improvised with a broken toy fire helmet and pine cone, but I think it turned out just fine.

The boys put on the finishing touches on our "Snow Firefighter".

The boys put on the finishing touches on our “Snow Firefighter”.

By now we were completely soaked so we ran inside to warm up. While the kids had grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup we dried our boots over the fire and threw all our wet snow clothes in the drier.

After our pit stop it was back outside for round two. This time we stuck to our own yard and set to building a snow castle. The boys had a great time bringing me snow and enjoyed instructing me on where to put each part of the castle. In the end their design with two “windows” in front somewhat resembled a face, so Zack had me give it nostrils and a smile. Once I was done he told me “I love my Dragon Snow Castle” and gave it a hug, so I guess that means I did pretty good on my construction.

"This is the bestest castle ever!"

“This is the bestest castle ever!”

We didn’t get many of our chores accomplished on this “Snow Day”, but I think it was more productive in other ways. We had gone on a family walk in the snow together, the boys had had their first ever “snow blob” fight (aimed at me), we built their first snow man, and created their first snow castle. These family memories are more important than any “to-do” list, Costco can wait until next weekend.

Our happy little guys in their Snow Castle.

Our happy little guys in their Snow Castle.

Zack gives a hug of approval on the final product.

Zack gives a hug of approval on the final product.

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My typical morning…

An actual conversation with my kids this morning:

Zack: “I want milk”

Me: “Okay, here’s some milk”

Zack: “I don’t want the blue cup Daddy, I want it in the pumpkin cup.”(The cup with pumpkins on it)

Me: “Fine, here’s some milk in the pumpkin cup. Josh, you can have the milk I poured in the blue cup”

Josh: (crying) “I want pumpkin cup too!”

Me: “Okay, here’s some milk in the other pumpkin cup.” (I pour the milk into an identical second pumpkin cup)

Josh: (now screaming & crying) “No! I want pumpkin cup!” (Points to the cup Zack is drinking out of)

Me: “Zack, can you trade cups with your brother? I know they look the same, but he really wants the cup you have”

Zack: “But it’s MY pumpkin cup!”

*Both boys are now screaming and crying.*

Me: (trying to be patient) “I know that one is yours, but Josh would really like to trade with you. Could you be a good big brother and let him switch cups with you?”

Zack: hesitantly “Okay”

I swap cups and give each boy the milk that their brother was previously drinking out of. Josh takes a couple sips and finally stops crying.

Zack: “I want juice”

*Screaming starts again*

They're always so pleased with themselves when they've worn Dad down to a frazzle.

They’re always so pleased with themselves when they’ve worn Dad down to a frazzle.

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Who flipped the switch?

It’s amazing how quickly a little guy will bounce back from feeling bad, the parents… not so much.

Yesterday afternoon Zack came down with a bad cold. The poor little guy was pretty miserable. Sniffling, sneezing, buckets of snot, the usual. When I got home from work I could hear him coughing in his room, unable to breath due to the face full of boogers.

Last night quickly turned into one of “those nights”. You know the kind, up and down over and over, running in to check on a munchkin time and again. Ultimately we ended up dragging him into our room to sleep in our bed with us, hopeful that at least one of us would get some sleep.

Our plan was a disaster and Z didn’t do much better. He still woke several times from being stuffed up, but at least we were literally an arm’s reach away to help him.

Cut to this morning, Kat has staggered sleepily off to work and, thanks to an extra-large iced mocha, I’m barely functioning. I called Zack’s school bus driver and preschool teacher to let them know that he’d be absent today because he doesn’t feel good and didn’t get much sleep.

I swear as soon as I set down the phone the laughing started. Josh and Zack began playing and having a spirited debate over whether their Transformer Bumblebee toy was a “Robot-Car” or a “Car-Robot”. Since then it’s like someone waved a green flag and the two of them are off to the races.

Zack and Josh take a break from running around like crazy people to take a few pictures.

Zack and Josh take a break from running around like crazy people to take a few pictures.

In the last hour they’ve done laps around the inside of the house, stopped for “toddler photography”, played dress-up, petted the cat, ate breakfast, played in their trampoline, got dressed, spread legos all over our living room floor, picked the legos back up (under threat of death from me), and are now back in the trampoline wrestling.

Kids bounce back, much better than Dads in their forties do. Zack is probably going to be a little out of sorts today, but nothing that an extra-long nap, a few well-placed nose wipes, and some extra cuddles won’t fix. Kat and I will be lucky if the two of us have recovered from Zack’s being sick by tomorrow or maybe this weekend.

Handy hints for helping “Helpers”

I’ve learned over the years that the boys absolutely love “helping” me whenever I work on a project around the house. It doesn’t matter if I’m cleaning the garage, building a fence, or just doing the dishes. Whatever it is that I’m doing they want to be involved in it. Since there is little to no chance of discouraging my stubborn little monsters I’ve come up with a few helpful strategies that I thought I’d share with other Dad’s out there.

 

#1 A flexible time schedule

Whenever you do any task it's important to have close supervision.

Whenever you do any task it’s important to have close supervision.

What this means is that I’ve learned that anything done with kids hanging around is going to take much, much longer than planned. Interruptions have a way of doing that. Even if the boys are actively “helping”, there is constant stopping to break up fights, put shoes back on, change butts, and kiss boo-boos. What I had thought was going to be a weekend long job, could stretch out over several days. There’s no way to predict how much additional time will be needed, so it’s best to plan for the worst and then be pleasantly surprised if it didn’t take weeks to finish something that could have been done in an afternoon. 

 

#2 “Decoy Tools”

The boys "help" me disassemble our Christmas fence. Zack is ready to jump in with his toy drill if I need a relief.

The boys “help” me disassemble our Christmas fence. Zack is ready to jump in with his toy drill in case I need a relief.

When I work on a project and I know the kids are going to be underfoot (which is pretty much every project) I make sure to have plenty of extra screwdrivers, tape measures, or whatever else I’m using handy or better yet, toys that look like what I’m using.

Inevitably I’ll reach for something only to discover one of my little kleptomaniacs has run off with it or is by my side happily playing with that one crucial tool that I needed. Having toy facsimiles or extra “stunt” tools lets them have fun while helping me keep my sanity.

The boys have amassed quite a collection of miniature tools, vacuums, brooms, and other household items. As an added bonus, this has made huge difference with Zack’s sensory disorder. This kind of play demystifies the sounds that these items make which helps him cope with noises that may have previously frightened him.

 

#3 Distraction… Er, Involvement

Zack mans the full size swiffer while Josh has the kid sized version. As an added bonus, they may accidentally get the floor clean too!

Zack mans the full size swiffer while Josh has the kid sized version. As an added bonus, they may accidentally get the floor clean too!

While my little guys are still a bit too young to offer much real help, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to. When I plan a project I try to find things that they can do to feel involved.

It’s amazing how excited they get just doing a small task like dumping the dustpan, handing me screws, or putting loose nails in a jar. It can be tricky because the novelty of actually helping wears out quick and they’ll start entertaining themselves by just getting in the way.

 

#4 “Stunt projects”

Josh shows off the plastic hammer he uses "pulling nails just like Daddy"

Josh shows off the plastic hammer he uses “pulling nails just like Daddy”

Having a little project of their own goes a long ways towards keeping kids happy. If the kids see me busy pulling nails for instance, I’ll make sure that they have a few boards of their own (minus the nails of course) to pound on with toy hammers and pretend to pull out their own nails. Josh loves to “help” me do dishes, which in his case involves standing on a chair next to me endlessly pouring water from one cup into another while I scrub all the dishes.

 

#5 A Backup Plan

The guys take a Play-Doh break while helping Mom & Dad clean and organize the garage.

The guys take a Play-Doh break while helping Mom & Dad clean and organize the garage.

No matter what their level of fascination is with what Daddy is doing, they are bound to eventually tire of what I’m working on and want to be entertained (by me). This can get awkward, especially if I’m still knee deep in the task at hand and I can’t break away from it.

Having a backup plan ready can be a life saver. Just about anything qualifies as a “back-up”. The only rule is to make sure it’s something the kids really enjoy, doesn’t need lots of direct supervision, and will keep them in the immediate area (Play-Doh, coloring books, snacks, sidewalk chalk, etc.). A few well timed granola bars and a magna-doodle can be a real life saver.

Zack decides to "help" by filling one of my work gloves full of fencing nails.

Zack decides to “help” by filling one of my work gloves full of fencing nails.

I would have put “Patience” and “Sense of Humor” on this list too, but I think it’s a given. As with everything involving kids, having a lot of patience and a sense of humor is a must. Try not to stress out, appreciate the ridiculousness of the situation and enjoy the chaos that is unfolding around you.

Even when we have big equipment the kids have to get in the action. Don't worry, the landscaper was shut down when Josh ran in to "help"

Even when we have big equipment the kids have to get in the action. Don’t worry, the landscaper was shut down when Josh ran in to “help”

Best laid plans…

It’s crazy how easy it is for even the best laid plans to go awry. This past week we had planned to have a glorious three day long weekend filled with completing “honey do” lists, watching the playoffs, and going out to dinner with the boys.

I realize now that we were tempting fate with our unbridled optimism.

Friday night I got to sleep early (well early for me anyways) in hopes that I would wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to get a lot done. Saturday started off well enough, the only sign that things were amiss was when our little one Josh turned his nose up at eating anything for breakfast.

Josh "helping" clean the garage in Daddy's hat (before things went south)

Josh “helping” clean the garage in Daddy’s hat (before things went south)

As the day went on I tackled the garage, cleaning it out and creating a studio space where we can do future arts and craft projects. Kat kicked butt going through the piles of papers and filing them all accordingly. The boys had fun “helping” me in the garage (I’d planned to write a blog about this later), but as the day went on Josh got fussier and fussier. We had even talked about inviting my Mom and taking the boys out to dinner (IHOP or Izzy’s Pizza) but by evening Josh was just too cranky to deal with and Zack had started acting out of sorts too. Tired of being yelled at by our offspring, we decided for an early bedtime hopeful that they would feel better with some rest (again with the optimism).

This looks good now, just wait until it's spread all over the floor... yuck!

This looks good now, just wait until it’s spread all over the floor… yuck!

And that’s when it happened… the vomiting… and vomiting… and vomiting. Josh turned into some demon child launching the contents of his stomach all over his bedroom. While not as bad off as his little brother, Zack had a turn at getting sick too. Saturday night we spent debating whether or not to take our poor little guys into the ER.

I imagine it’s a debate that every parent has had with themselves time and time again. How sick is “too sick”? Under the circumstances he didn’t have a fever and seemed in good spirits so we opted for the watch and wait option. I stayed up until one in the morning with an eye on the baby monitor ever vigilant that our little guy didn’t wake up and start throwing up again (I also scored my personal best on Candy Crush). Jumping up at the slightest sign that anything might be wrong, we didn’t get much sleep. Thankfully though, the boys slept just fine, but the next day my wife and I were total zombies.

Josh was no longer the crankiest little butt-head this side of the Mississippi, but in his place we had a “snuggle monster” who refused to be less than an arm’s reach away. I have to admit, I did breathe a sigh of relief knowing that at least we’d get to watch the Hawks in the playoffs and not spend our day that the hospital, but our dreams of a super productive weekend had flown out the window.

A happier picture from a happier day, because quite frankly... when the kids are sick I'm not gonna be taking pictures. (and who wants to see that anyhow)

A happier picture from a happier day, because quite frankly… when the kids are sick I’m not gonna be taking pictures. (and who wants to see that anyhow)

One of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make to my life since becoming a parent is learning that there are no certainties. Kids are ever unpredictable, so I’d better get used to rolling with the punches.

Unfortunately I’ve also learned that if one of the boys gets really sick, it’s a good bet that I’ll come down with the same bug about half a week later. But that’s a blog entry for another time.

Oh Brother, “Your Brother”

I like to think I’m a patient man, I really do. But sometimes that patience really gets put to the test. My oldest son Zack has a bit of a speech delay which makes getting through to him a little tough sometimes. He is going to preschool and gets speech therapy once a week, so it’s improving, but it can still be infuriating at times.

How can someone who looks so sweet drive me so very very crazy?

How can someone who looks so sweet drive me so very very crazy?

Right now, the most annoying thing in the world is “Your Brother”. I don’t know when it happened, but once too many times while I was talking to Zack I referred to his little brother Josh as “Your brother”. Instead of making the connection between “Your ___” and “My ___”, Zack started using “Your brother” as another name for his brother Josh which drives me absolutely bonkers.

A typical conversation between me and Zack:

Me: “Where is your brother?”

Zack: “Your brother is in the living room”

Me: “No, my brothers are your Uncle Dick and your Uncle Bob, your brother is Josh”

Zack: “Uncle Dick and Uncle Bob aren’t your brothers. ‘Your brother’ is in the living room.”

Me: “He’s not MY brother, he’s YOUR brother. You should to say ‘MY’ brother is in the living room”

Zack: “My ‘Your brother’ is in the living room”

"Your brother"... I mean "My brother"... uh, "Little brother"... er, "josh"... or whatever.

“Your brother”… I mean “My brother”… uh, “Little brother”… er, “josh”… or whatever.

Hopefully we’ll get it straight sometime. I should learn by my wife’s example, she found a way to avoid this whole headache and just calls Josh “Little brother”.