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”

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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”.

The Yin-Yang Twins.

At this moment I have two little boys. Zack & Josh, and even though they are brothers, they often have little in common.

Since he was a baby Zack has always been my cautious methodical problem solver. He won’t do anything until he is sure that it is safe and nothing will go wrong. This can make playground visits, *ahem*… challenging. More than a few times we’ve found ourselves coaxing him across a platform that he’s refused to cross despite it being only a few inches off the ground (because it lacked hand rails), or squeezing one of our big adult sized butts into a kiddie slide just so that we can prove to him that it won’t collapse and send him careening off to his doom.

My wife Kat accompanies Zack on a slide while Josh impatiently waits for another little boy to move so he can go down by himself for the third time.

My wife Kat accompanies Zack on a slide while Josh impatiently waits for another little boy to move so he can go down by himself for the third time.

Josh on the other hand is our dare devil. His style is 100 miles an hour with his hair on fire, run first & look second. It’s unusual if he doesn’t have at least one or two bruises and band aids on him (we’ve already been to the ER twice). Fortunately he bounces well. We once let Josh run wild in a grocery store, within moments of being taken out of the cart he ran head first into a store shelf. Plow! He knocked himself right on his butt, then jumped up, said “oops!” and ran off again in a random direction. It wasn’t until after he’d taken off that I’d noticed the bewildered look on the face of a woman who had witnessed what happened and had been coming over to see if he was alright. Too late, crazy baby was already off to the races.

We're raising a crazy person.

We are raising a crazy person.

It’s not just their demeanors that are such opposites, but they also pull this yin-yang stuff at almost every meal. Breakfast will come to a screeching halt if Zack spills milk on the table so that I can clean it up, meanwhile Josh will be happily pouring Cheerios down the front of his diaper. Quite often one boy will nearly refuse to eat while the other one is a bottomless pit. Thankfully with this, they take turns. Josh might not eat much for breakfast while Zack can’t get enough, but then they’ll trade spots and Josh will chow down for lunch and Zack turns up his nose.

Zack takes after his mother and wakes up bright and chipper every morning. He comes into my room at 6:30 a.m. on the dot and wakes me up. His little brother is just like me and hates getting up early. The other day he didn’t stagger out of his room until nearly 9:00. I asked, “Hey buddy, how’s it going?” Josh glared at me and said “Uh-uh” and then went back to bed for another half an hour.

I discovered Zack had moved chairs into the kitchen so that his little brother can raid the cereal box while he "washes" dishes.

Zack had moved chairs into the kitchen so that his little brother can raid the cereal box while he “washes” dishes.

The two of them have teamed up and used their super powers against us a few times now. Zack will figure out how to escape or get into something they aren’t supposed to and then sends his little brother flying like a wrecking ball into whatever mayhem he can create (trashing the garage, armed with finger paints, chasing the dog with yard tools, breaking Christmas decorations, etc.)

Yet another wacky thing Zack talked Josh into trying.

Yet another wacky thing Zack talked Josh into trying.

What frightens me is the great unknown. And by “unknown” I mean… Andrew James. The new baby will be here April or May. What will be in store for us? Will AJ be the schemer Zack is, or the chaos magnet Josh is? Or will he be an evil mix of the two? Only time will tell. I do know this for certain. With three little boys running amok in our house I’m going to need a lot more patience… and super glue.

What the heck is a “Dadism”?

When I set up this blog I had little idea what I was doing (and still don’t), but I did already have a name for it “Random Dadisms”. So where does this term come from you might ask, or you may not. Regardless, I’m going to explain it anyways.

Whenever I find myself saying something ridiculously bizarre to the children, the sort of sentence I never in a million years imagined would come out of my mouth; I refer to it as a “Dadism”. Beginning about a year ago whenever I uttered this nonsense I started writing them down in the notebook app on my iPhone. The file is named “Random Dadisms” and hence, so is my blog and nifty new Twitter feed where I started posting them.

*Warning*… That’s the short version. Question answered, Dadism = incoherent Dad rambling. A further, long drawn out nonsensical explanation now continues. Proceed at your own risk!

Still there? Well alright, don’t say I didn’t warn ya…

Of course I didn’t just come up with “Dadism” on my own, I’m not going to try and pretend that this was my original thought or anything. It’s a term that was handed down to me by my own father, and I’m sure he heard it somewhere else too. Although in his case, what he referred to as “Dadisms” were just examples of his corny sense of humor disguised as advice. A few of his favorite gems were:

“Keep your mouth shut and let people think you’re a fool, or open it up and prove it.”

“The definition of ‘Expert’: an ‘Ex’ is a has-been, and a ‘Spurt’ is a drip under pressure.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, practice sucking seeds.”

“Necessity is the mother of contraption.”

You can see now how I came to know the term “Dadisms” as pretty much any insane thing that is said by a father.

A bit of background on the man my Dad, Warren Husted, was:

My father was from an older generation. Born in 1920 he was an army veteran who served his country during World War II, fell in love with a nurse, married her, raised two sons, and then when he was almost fifty he started a whole new life. He remarried, this time to a woman with four children of her own, had a “surprise” baby (me), became a civilian, and traveled the world.

The reason for this tangent about my Dad (but can it really be a tangent if I never developed a cogent thought to begin with?), is to show a bit of my inspiration for being a Dad. Or I guess I should say more accurately, my inspiration for the kind of Dad I want to be.

Four generations of Husted men.

Four generations of Husted men.

My Dad tackled fatherhood all over again late in life. In this picture the goofy looking kid on the left is me in my Dad’s lap, my grandpa Husted is in the middle and the man on the right is actually my big brother Dick. The little boy in his arms is my nephew Chris, just a few months younger than me.

While I recognize that Dad may have had his faults, he could be a bit of a dork sometimes, and great many of the things he “fixed” never worked quite right again, he will always be an example of the man I strive to be. To my little kid eyes he was a Super-Hero. He always took time to encourage me when I needed it, to help me wholeheartedly however he could, and offer up a cheesy joke whether I wanted it or not. I honestly can’t remember a time that Dad wasn’t in my corner. Granted, there were a few times when he was even a little too enthusiastic in encouraging my participation in some activities (The subject of future blogs I’m sure), but never a time when he wasn’t there to help.

Dad and Me

Among my fondest memories of my father will be his laughter and yes, that cornball sense of humor. Its funny how at the time, listening to his bad puns and his “Dadisms” used to drive me bonkers, but now those are some of the things I miss most. Dad passed away four years ago today and there isn’t a day that goes by since then that I can’t imagine his distinctive “chortle” and wish that he was here to see his grandsons grow up or to give me advice on how to be a better Dad. Zack was seven weeks old when Dad passed, so I’m thankful that he did get to see me as a father for a at least a little while.

Dad and Zack

Warren & Mary Husted with baby Zachary (1 day old)

I know that, like my father before me, I can be a bit of a dork at times (or in my case, a lot of a dork most of the time) and I might not always get it right. But I’ll do my best, and hopefully I can live up to the example that my father set for me. There are a lot of things that I never planned on as a Dad (like you can “plan” much of parenting to begin with), but I kind of enjoy the fact that I catch myself over and over spouting the same kinds of wacky things my father did before me. Sure they may not be his well-rehearsed corny jokes, but I think he’d appreciate the humor in my own brand of “Dadisms”.

So did any of my ramblings actually define the term “Random Dadisms”? Well, maybe not, but it did tell you a tiny bit about the incredible man I’m glad I got to call “Dad”. As for the whole “Dadism” definition thing, just scroll back up to paragraphs #2 & #3 in this post. Hey I did warn you about the whole meandering thing didn’t I? Oops, sorry… I’ll try to do better next time.

Trial by Zack

Like a great many people I knew that being a parent it wouldn’t be without its challenges, but I never imagined how exactly challenging it would be.

Our oldest boy “Zack” (now four years old), has always had his share of challenges. When he was born Z was severely jaundiced and after just a few days home, had to be admitted to the hospital to spend a week under special lights to reduce his bilirubin levels. Then when he was seven weeks old, while visiting family in California, he had to be air lifted to Sacramento and hospitalized for a week due to what turned out to be severe acid reflux.

Zack 1

As a new parent, it was hard to feel so powerless to help out someone you care so much about but couldn’t directly do anything for.

zack 2

Since then Zack has had problems with his health and has been diagnosed with a “learning delay”. Specifically he’s a bit behind in his speech & social skills and has a slight sensory disorder. Granted, all things considered, he is doing pretty good now and with some work will eventually catch up with the other kids his age, but it can get more than a bit frustrating at times.

Being our first child, at first we didn’t recognize the issues he was having. Folks had warned us about kids having tantrums and being fussy, but Zack’s were off the scale in comparison to what they described. Every night he seemed to reach “overload” and just couldn’t process the world around him. Because of his delays he didn’t have the skills to communicate what was wrong, and his own frustration boiled over into screaming for hours.

I’ve had other parents not relate to our plight. They think I’m making a fuss. They shrug their shoulders and tell me that he is just a “slow talker” and there is nothing to worry about. This is usually followed up by them relating a story about another child “Little Vicky didn’t talk until she was five and she turned out just fine”.

One thing about me, I’ll be the first to admit when I’m in over my head. Although I’ve wanted kids for as long as I can remember, I’m not too proud to ask for help. After doing some research Kat and I discovered the Washington State Department of Early Learning and got Zack tested. Thankfully Zack qualified and I was able to enroll him in their Birth to Three program which meant that I took him to playgroup once a week to be with other kids facing the same challenges and he also received in home speech therapy every other week. We also found a great resource in South Sound Parent to Parent which is a support group for parents with kids that have challenges.

At three years old Zack entered the school system and now attends preschool four days a week (with speech therapy every Tuesday). He has made great strides in his communication and coping skills. While loud noises still send him running, he has learned that if we warn him ahead of time, he can hide out in his room “to be safe from the noisies” and the vacuum no longer cause hours of crying fits. I’ve also picked up on a few tricks to help desensitize him to loud sounds and let him know that he’ll be fine despite the noises he doesn’t like.

zack 3

There are still plenty of times that he tries to tell us something and we have no clue what he is saying, but it’s getting fewer and fewer.

One the positive side, Zack has always had an incredible knack for problem solving. He loves puzzles (and has managed to defeat every attempt I’ve ever made and child proofing our home). His mechanical abilities are remarkable. As a downside for his little brother Josh (who has none of his brother’s challenges), whenever he tries to throw a fit, it’s downright cute compared to what Zack had already put us through.

Zack is an amazing little boy. I love him just the way he is and I wouldn’t trade him for all the money in the world. I just wanted to let other parents out there that may be concerned about their own kids to know, it’s okay to ask for help, and it does get better.

zack 4