What’s harder Parenting or manual labor?

I’ve missed a few days updating my blog but it’s been for a good reason. We made arrangements to get our septic tank pumped later this week, and to save a few dollars I had the bright idea that I’d dig the cover up myself. We had talked to the woman at the septic company who pulled up our records and gave us an “accurate” description of where the four tank lids were that I would have to uncover.

My lunatic children go crazy inside the house. I think I'm better off staying out here in the rain.

My lunatic children go crazy inside the house. I think I’m better off staying outside in the rain.

Saturday morning I set to work eager to get this simple job out of the way as quickly as possible. This being Washington, it was raining of course which didn’t help anything. Carefully following the measurements I was given I calculated where the first lid should have been. I say “should have been” because of course, that’s where it wasn’t. I dug three feet down and found nothing. Wet, tired, and a bit frustrated I wasn’t sure where to try next. This was when the boys came out to “help”.

They were thrilled to discover the dirt “Volcano” their Dad had built in the back yard. They climbed the dirt mounds over and over as I set about digging another hole in the yard hoping that this time the tank would reveal itself. Armed with toy sandbox shovels Zack and Josh decided I needed a hand. As I dug deeper they “helped” by replacing the dirt back into the hole while I was still standing in it.

As the rain came down, so did the dirt. One of the few benefits of having a shaved head is that when my kids sprinkle dirt on me, it’s just a matter of brushing it off. After another half hour of digging, the new hole had transformed into a semicircular trench that now connected to my previous excavation. The elusive septic tank was still nowhere to be found.

I was feeling defeated. What I had thought was a simple enough task, uncovering the four tank lids, had proven too much for me. All three of us were wet and muddy, but the difference between me and my young assistants was that they were still going strong while I was exhausted.

That was when fate (and Mommy) intervened. Kat told the boys to get back in the house to get clean and warmed up before they get too cold and miserable. Since I was already cold and miserable, I opted to stay outside and continue searching for the giant cement box that was buried somewhere in the yard yet continued to elude me. My energy spent, the only thing that kept me going was that I was just too stubborn to admit defeat.

Then, as I contemplated giving up once and for all I heard the noises coming from inside the house. It was total chaos. “I don’t want to change my clothes”, “Get off the bed with those muddy shoes!”, “I wanna go play!”, “Stop crying and take your shirt off”. And then the screaming started, and the crying, and the scream-crying. Should I go help, or stay outside and keep working? I had a choice to make, hard manual labor in the cold rain, or parenting my two crazed little boys. When push came to shove I chickened out. Opting for the easier of the two tasks, I began digging with new resolve.

My victory! At long last I found it! Our idiot dog poses outside in the rain next to the uncovered tank.

My victory! At long last I found it! Our idiot dog poses outside in the rain next to the uncovered septic tank.

Eventually I found the tank. As luck would have it, I had been only a foot to the left of it on my first attempt, but had then started going in the wrong direction with my subsequent holes. The kids finally stopped giving their Mom grief and got warmed up and now, victorious in my quest, I staggered inside to get cleaned up.

To celebrate we all went out to lunch. The kids were happy that they got to go out to a restaurant. My wife was happy that I’d dug up the tank, saved us some cash, and didn’t kill myself in the process. I just felt accomplished that I’d actually done something I’d set out to do, accomplished and exhausted… very exhausted.

Much calmer now, Zack reads to Josh on our way to lunch. (I generally don't take pictures of the kids when everyone is flipping out)

Much calmer now, Zack reads to Josh on our way to lunch.

I may have gotten away with it this time, but I know next time I won’t get off so easy. Sometimes being a Dad means that there are jobs around the house that only a Dad can do and I’m alright with that. I took advantage of the situation. My eight month pregnant wife wasn’t going to be out in the rain digging up septic tanks. It sucked, it was hard work and I’m out of shape, but I consider myself lucky having gotten off easy. Kat is the one that had to deal with riding herd on two rambunctious little boys that didn’t want to be cooped up in the house, and that’s a lot more difficult that just digging a hole any day.

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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.

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.