Archive for the 'Baby playtime' Category

Seven kids, one house, one Saturday

March 30, 2011

Andrew Hicks

2:20 pm

Tiffany and I have just spent an hour cleaning up our house to welcome, on the spur of the moment, one of her female coworkers, his husband and their five(!) kids. The female coworker has been successfully selling Avon products for the past two months, and my wife wants in. So they’re gonna try to get some Avon work done while her five kids, my two kids and we two dads hang out in the house.

In the front door they bound. Almost a half-dozen of them, all stacked right on top of each other in age, from 2 years old up to 8. Their parents brought over a giant bag of Popeye’s chicken for lunch, and with the herd of kids sitting around my kitchen table, Dad stands watch. He sneaks a bite of a chicken leg here and there while issuing fatherly instructions rapid-fire to each individual kid as needed.

I stare at this unfamiliar scene like I’m watching three-dimensional reality television, and I suddenly make a mental note not to bitch about my two-child workload for the rest of the day. The dinner scene is the most peaceful part of the visit. Once mealtime is up, the five kids and my 2 year old are turned loose throughout all of the upstairs, save the master bedroom. For me, all this seems like one part novelty, one part fun, one part tiring and one part complete chaos.


4:55 pm

In the past two hours, there have been toys strewn, crayons eaten and at least a hundred questions asked of me personally. My makeshift rubber ducky pond for the kids to play with has, naturally, resulted in a watery mess. The father of all these kids, knowing I’m a novice at corraling a roomful of preschoolers and elementary agers, has been giving me regular unsolicited parenting advice. Which I always welcome and take under consideration, of course.

I also hear about his typical day — wake up at two in the morning, deliver newspapers for three hours, return home, get the five kids awake and dressed and fed, drive two kids across town to one daycare, drop mom off at work, drive the other three kids to another daycare, return home, rest a couple hours, go pick up everybody from three different places, make dinner for everyone, give baths, supervise homework, put five kids to bed, have a tiny slice of personal time, then sleep a few hours until it’s two in the morning again. Once more, I will reiterate — not gonna complain about my two-kid workload for the rest of the day.

The other dad and I take a few minutes away from the rugrat cacaphony by going downstairs for a quick smoke that turns into a high-quality, 20-minute conversation about grown folks’ things. Dude’s cool, and he’s got a master’s in computer science. He knows things about the other side of the web game — in other words, not just the creative stuff like I do. We might be able to help each other. It’s a productive and enjoyable conversation, and it’s interrupted by my wife, who tells me she needs my help with Sarah, who’s crying her 2-year-old head off because of something one of the bigger kids did. Back to dad life.


5:45 pm

Tiffany realized, when Sarah’s toddler tears lasted far longer and were more dramatic than usual, that she hadn’t had anything to eat for hours. Oops, we both forgot. So I take Sarah over to the refrigerator to find something quick to feed her. She sees a trio of peppers — one red, one orange and one yellow — and is fascinated by them.

I let her play with the red pepper. She wants the orange one. I give her the orange one and, what the hell, she can play with the yellow one, too. She was just in tears in part because her uncharacteristically forgetful parents haven’t fed her in a long time. Keep her happy.

Sarah places the peppers side by side by side on the floor, OCD-style, with equal distance between the three peppers. She picks them back up, stacking them in her hands, and goes to set them down on the kitchen counter, again leaving equal distance between peppers. Then it’s into the living room, where Sarah displays the peppers — meticulously spaced apart, natch — on her little blue and white table.

I leave my daughter with her pepper toys, and it’s back to the fridge. I find and peel an orange , and I set it on a plate on the little blue and white table. The other kids crowd around. Everyone wants some orange. I divvy it up. Make sure my hungry daughter got a second piece. Then back to the kitchen. One more orange in the crisper. Kids are crowding into the kitchen. I show them our plastic scalpel-looking orange peeler. Let the oldest kid try peeling it. She’s pretty smart and intuitive about it. Then the peeler changes hands to a younger kid, and I feel like an irresponsible dude for a few seconds before I get it back.

The second orange is quickly devoured by all kids. I have one apple. It gets devoured. They start asking about the peppers. What are those? What do they taste like? Are they sweet? I remember I’ve already cut up a yellow pepper, so I ask the 4 year old if he wants to try some. He says he does. I give him a piece. He chews it thoughtfully and pronounces it good. Asks for more. Now they all want to try yellow pepper. They love it, they want some orange pepper now. The oldest kid wants her peppers steamed. It’s an orgy of fruits and vegetables. I feel like Jamie Oliver. Next will come the lesson on what’s really in your chicken nuggets.

Fifteen minutes later, we all say our goodbyes — every kid saying goodbye and thank you to each of us all at the same time. I promise to hook up with Other Dad on Facebook. The front door shuts, and the new quiet almost instantly permeates. The house is a wreck. I’m a little worn down, but I feel good.


Dad POV shot of Silas's dome.

Playtime with hangers

March 23, 2011

Daddy/daughter kite flying

March 10, 2011

Sarah and I flew a kite for the first time late Wednesday afternoon. It was my first time flying a kite in at least 20 years. I can only remember a couple instances of kite activity, and both times I had to run with the kite behind me to get it into the air. But it wouldn't stay in the air, it would crash back to earth, leaving me shaking my head. This time, the kite took right off, and Sarah was instantly mesmerized.

Here we are, watching the kite soar upward. This is our backyard, so there's a tree in one direction, and another tree in the other direction. And the wind is whipping the kite back and forth like Willow Smith's hair, so I can't let it get too high. Besides, Sarah likes it better when the kite's yellow plastic tail is close enough to the ground for her to jump for it and still not catch it.

That square yellow bucket, by the way, is half of a washers set bought for my family by a visiting friend a couple summers ago. Every time it's nice outside, I pull out the washer tubs and tell myself I'll master the art of tossing the red and blue rubber-metal rings for the next hoosier Memorial Day barbecue I'm at. And I never get any better. If the bucket was four inches wider on all sides, I'd make almost every shot. Also, if I was throwing from two feet away, I'd probably make almost every shot.

Sun setting. Kite stuck in tree. A good time to go inside and get some juice. I'm glad my daughter doesn't know the word "clumsy" yet.

Pictures of Saturday

February 12, 2011

The weather was beautiful today, somewhere around 45 degrees. Sarah and I spent an hour walking around the neighborhood and splashing in every puddle we found. This was the last splash before going back inside. Note the wicked splash action coming off Sarah's right foot in this shot.

The yellow stick is the base of some kind of Swiffer miracle dusting product we've never used. Sarah instead commandeered it for a play session made twice as productive once Mom and I showed her how to release and retract the white duster-holder arm thingy.

Silas smiles widely almost every time we make eye contact with him. But rarely does he hold his smile when the camera's out. More often, I get the Dumbfounded Baby look, which is still darn cute.

Not long after Sarah was born, Tiffany started saving all the caps to our laundry detergent containers. As you can see, we are not loyal to a particular brand and size of detergent, which makes the sorting and stacking of toddler play more fun.

Airplane Cry

February 11, 2011

Andrew Hicks

After four days of being late with my posts, I’m finally caught up. I can write in first-person present tense again. Which is a comfy-cozy feeling.

I stepped outside to take the trash out this morning and noticed it was a pretty decent, sunny day. Right now, 34 feels terrific, because it’s thirty more degrees than 4. So I stood out there for a minute and heard, over my shoulder, a crazy, demonic baby shriek. It was the craziest thing for a second, until I figured out it was just the noise of an airplane flying overhead. Good thing, too. I don’t think I’m ready to deal with Silas bursting into an Airplane Cry.

One of the grandparents gave Sarah a heavy hardcover book (it has not been dropped on any of my toes — yet) with classic, public-domain children’s stories in it. Most of which I’ve never heard of. Sarah always brings it over and acts excited for me to read it, but in seconds she’s bored to tears.

One story hinged on a character drinking some Irish coffee, and I was reading to Sarah while she was watching Baby Beethoven. So after she said, “What’s that?” and I noticed she was asking about a watermelon on the screen, I quickly realized I could explain the ins and outs of an Irish coffee to my kid but couldn’t accurately state just how a watermelon grows and ripens.

To sum up: Watermelon = research necessary. Irish coffee = no research necessary.

I just pigged out on cottage cheese, applesauce and grapes. What am I, five?


Our post on January 30 (“Penguin’s balls“) incorrectly stated the number of balls inside the inflated plastic penguin as 4. (Two pair.) There are actually only 3 balls inside the penguin, as the picture next to the blog text clearly shows. (One-and-a-half pair.) Dad’s Daytime Diary regrets the error.


Dirty looks from Indians

February 8, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew is apparently spending this entire week in Editor’s Note purgatory. It’s Thursday afternoon, and he’s just now writing Tuesday’s blog. Worse, he’s listening to Mr. Mister’s Welcome to the Real World album on cassette in the background. And he’s trying to come up with some obvious joke about how these days, for the Mr. Mister guys, it’s less “Welcome to the Real World” and more “Welcome to Wal-Mart.”

Andrew’s trying to think back to Tuesday right now, and all he remembers is going with his wife on her lunch break to take Silas to the doctor. Silas was about a month late to his six-month checkup — which, in the scheme of things, is probably a greater transgression than being two days late with a 500-word blog post. What prompted Baby Silas’s parents to get him to the doctor was noticing a couple circular dry patches of skin of Silas’s leg. Which they speculated might be some kind of infant ringworm infestation, and which their educated doctor quickly informed them was in fact just dry skin. Baby needs more lotion and salve**.

Tiffany took Silas back to see the doctor, while Andrew stayed in the enormous waiting area with Sarah. Who was having fun jumping on the painted hopscotch boards on the carpet but perhaps suffered from the fact that all the waiting room toys had been removed due to flu-spread concerns. She quickly found the only toys in the place, some elaborate wooden blocks that belonged to a little kid named Corbin with an ugly but nice mom who let Sarah play with them then hurried them back into her bag when Sarah got distracted and wandered further down the waiting area.

Andrew received one of his first “I’m disgusted at what a bad parent you are” looks from an Indian*** family who were waiting with their infant. Andrew guesses it was because he was unable to talon-claw his child’s shoulder before she went exploring in the restricted area behind the flu shot reception desk. He coaxed his kid back out and picked her up, but that wasn’t enough for the judgmental Indian family, who also didn’t look too happy that the reception desk lady rewarded Sarah for her transgression with a fragrant peach sucker.

Silas is about to cross the 20-pound weight mark, which to Andrew is exciting, but not as exciting as when Silas crossed the 16-pound mark and went from Not As Heavy As A Bowling Ball to In Fact Heavier Than A Bowling Ball. Ask one of the Mr. Mister guys where you can find a bowling ball, and he’ll tell you, “Kyrie Eleison… I mean, Aisle 12.”

* “You can find that gallon of paint in the hardware department and a $5 CD copy of my greatest hits in the electronics department. I had two hits. Both equally great.”

** Which, the Mr. Mister guys would tell you, you’d think lotion and salve for babies would be located in the baby section of Wal-Mart but actually are located with the adult personal beauty items. The Mr. Mister guys know their Wal-Mart layout. They’re proud of their greeter jobs.

*** 7-Eleven Indian, not Native American.


Super Bowl kids

February 6, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew once again dashed his daily productivity goal and did not have this blog posted before midnight. The culprit this time? Super Bowl XLV. Now, don’t assume for a second that Andrew cared a thing about the game. He had to double check which teams were playing before the game started so he wouldn’t look like a moron at the party. Andrew never watches football and, in fact, spent most of his high school years at a Christian school whose homecoming game took place on the soccer field against schools with names like Because He Died For Us Central.

Let’s not forget, though, Super Bowl is one of the major party days every year, and until just a few months ago, Andrew was a major partier. Super Bowl is only partially about the game. It’s also about gathering, eating a ton of food and talking over the game. Andrew estimates that this Super Bowl, the first since he quit drinking, he paid less attention to the game than when he was matching Anheuser Busch ads one beer per commercial.

The domestic takeover of Andrew’s life, though, was ever-apparent at this year’s Super Bowl party. He went with his wife and kids to the next-door neighbor’s house. Andrew’s two kids plus the neighbor’s four kids plus the neighbor’s best friend’s two kids plus another neighbor’s kid outnumbered the adults in attendance. Seven adults, nine children, and it was a completely new experience for Andrew to have his child playing in another area of another person’s house with other kids.

He had to frequently quit watching the game — no major sacrifice, but still — to go upstairs and check on his 2 year old, who was perfectly safe the entire time. Oh, and when one kid climbed up on Andrew’s shoulders during one of these visits and begged Andrew to take him for a ride, Andrew obliged him, not realizing that all the other young kids were going to see this, think it was awesome and each want their own turns. Then beg for second turns directly after completing their first turns.

Andrew quickly felt every bit of how out of shape he was, which he supposes is some kind of basic irony, considering Super Bowl is supposed to be the ultimate show of the atheletic strength and agility of the few contrasted with the passive, indulgent consumption of the many.

Oh, and Andrew wants to add that he was tired of people talking about Christina Aguilera messing up the national anthem immediately — partially because he couldn’t come up with an easy, decent joke about it. He is grateful, however, that the Aguilera incident caused entertainment gossip shows to dig up a hilarious 2003 clip of Michael Bolton having to check the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner” that he wrote on his palm. Funniest part was, people were still asking Michael Bolton to sing the national anthem at major events in 2003.


Baby Silas, ready for transport.

Penguin’s balls

January 31, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: For the sixth or seventh time (we’re not sure, and we hate doing math, and none of you are gonna take the time to go check, either) since taking the 2011 Post a Day challenge, Andrew missed the midnight blog-post deadline today. Andrew doesn’t like missing deadlines, but he would like to add that he has posted 31 times for the month of January and tripled the traffic to his site. So there.

Andrew’s kinda defensive sometimes. He has a lot of flaws, really. He procrastinates, he’s lazy, and we’ll be honest–we don’t get the whole Beefaroni thing either. It’s over-processed, cheap, and at room temperature smells like dog food.

You should see Andrew’s wardrobe, too. Probably half a dozen articles of cltohing purchased during his Great Old Navy Binge of ’02 are still in circulation. Don’t invite him to a formal occasion, or he’ll show up late wearing a wrinkled dress shirt purchased a half-hour before.

Oh, and Andrew has this pair of jeans he calls his Everyday Jeans. Why does he call them that? Because he wears them EVERY DAY. When it’s time for the E-Jeans to get washed, out come the Understudy Jeans, and sometimes he’ll wear those for four days in a row. Dude’s a slob. It takes more than one greasy permanent stain on an old gray T-shirt to make Andrew bounce it to the trashcan, too.

The guy’s so immature, too. Sarah and Silas have a 3-foot-tall wobbly penguin toy that stands up and has a see-through belly with four colorful plastic balls that rattle when the kid shakes the penguin. Earlier today, when Sarah asked her daddy to get the balls out so she could play with them, Andrew got a cheap laugh out of saying, “No, those balls can’t come out. You’ll never get the penguin’s balls away from him. He’s got two pair. He’s keeping ’em. That penguin’s got some serious balls.”

Cheap laugh, right? Well, we’ll make sure Andrew posts on time tomorrow, in the first person and everything.

Chinese butterfly earsheep

January 29, 2011

Andrew Hicks

Sarah has two new obsessions — rainbows and butterflies. We spent an hour the other day looking at Google Image results for the word “rainbow.” Only saw one tranny the entire time.

Then Sarah got really excited when I found a butterfly documentary on Netflix Instant. She climbed up on my lap to watch with me. Ten minutes in, there was a segment on butterfly sex, with the narrator remarking, “The female butterfly doesn’t want to mate, but the male engages in forced copulation.” Just another Butterfly Rape Wednesday at the Hicks house.

From my studious, regimented daily reading of the Wall Street Journal, I now know a Chinese mom would never let her kids look at rainbows or reverse-cowgirl butterfly sex, thanks to the article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” The piece is probably 2,000 words long and never once mentions the obvious answer — the Chinese probably make better moms because they’re only allowed to have one kid. I’ve got two kids and can barely keep up; I know a guy who can’t write his own name and has seven kids. I bet not a one of those seven practices violin for three hours a day.

Of course, I want the best for my own kids. I want to take advantage of opportunities and nurture their abilities. I need some of that Chinawoman mom discipline, applied first to my own life and then passed down to Sarah and Silas. Sarah seems to have natural talent for rhythm and dance, she can throw a ball at a predetermined target most of the time, and she’s becoming more masterful with letters, numbers and words.

Sarah runs words together now, too, which is adorable and entertaining. We had the Baby Mozart DVD on the other day while we were playing in Silas’s room, and Sarah said, “Look! Sheep!” I said, yep, that’s a sheep. And she said, “It’s got ears! Earsheep!” Which was just as clever as anything I could’ve come up with at the time. Two more years, and she’ll be ghostwriting this blog while dad sips Country Time in the backyard.

For those who don’t have very small children babysat by the TV set, Baby Mozart is a half-hour DVD that costs 15 bucks. Its music was all recorded free of copyright royalties by like two guys with synthesizers in a lady’s basement. Its visuals are still shots and action shots of toys and stuffed animals.

Cheap, simple, and Sarah has loved watching it since she was like 2 months old. The husband-wife team that made Baby Mozart sank $18,000 of their life savings to produce it, expanded it into the Baby Einstein franchise (Baby Bach, Baby Beethoven, Baby Hoobastank), then sold out to Disney a few years later and made buckets of money. They were geniuses, and though neither of them is Chinese, I suspect each was raised by a Chinese mother.


“American English is not to be confused with Antartican English which can only be translated by . .It is estimated by the that American English will be replaced by sometime before 1986…”

Giant Legos

January 25, 2011

Andrew Hicks

When Tiffany was pregnant with Sarah, she mentioned a few times that she hoped she could quickly have one more baby and be done. At the time, we didn’t think we’d ever connect with a second baby, considering the 16-year gap between Sarah and my stepson Josh. I agreed two would be the ideal number of babies, especially if I could get one of each gender, but I had a lot of hesitance and uncertainty about just how life-changing one baby would be, much less a second.

A big reason Tiffany wanted us to have two was that she didn’t want to raise another only child. Tiffany and Josh had a mother-son relationship and a best-friend relationship, considering each was the other’s main companion for many years. This time around, Tiffany wanted her new baby to have the benefits of a sibling close in age. Not to mention, when there are two kids around, the hope is, they will be happy to play with each other and not be lonely and bugging you to play with them while you’re trying to make dinner.

Now that Sarah’s well into being 2, I’m looking forward to the day I’ll be able to sit back and watch her and Silas play together. I can join in if I want, or I can be that proverbial dad on the lawnchair with a book, relaxing with his own pursuits while the kids scamper around, content being kids. That’s the ideal, anyway.

Right now, Sarah realizes Silas can’t catch or throw the little yellow, orange and purple plastic balls she likes to play with, so she runs to find me to be her fun partner. She does come over to Silas and say things like, “Here you go. Ball,” and gently drop it near him as if she’s hoping today will be the day he finally takes the bait. So far, Silas’s main form of playing is to grab whatever’s in his reach, pull it close and stare at it. Or try to put it in his mouth. And he rolls over. That’s pretty much his entire repertoire.

So sometimes, when I’m trying to get stuff done, I have a slightly annoyed inner reaction of, “Why can’t you go play by yourself? Do you think playing with the same dozen giant Legos for an hour straight is fun for a grown man?” Sometimes I offer up half-hearted protestations to buy myself a couple more minutes. But then I get down on the floor and play with the cards, play with the giant Legos, play with the little cars, and I see this little girl’s face light up with fascination and wonder.

Being right in the heart of a toddler’s discoveries is a privilege not everyone gets to experience. Not everyone who does experience it gets joy out of it. Me, I can never be sure how much time I’ll have this simple, early fun of parenting before Sarah grows up, gets complicated and develops a sense of sarcasm. Then the boys are going to start coming after her, and it’ll be a whole new headache.

In another couple years, the way I hit a wiffle ball up through the trees with the yellow plastic bat might not impress her anymore. Right now, I show off my uncoordinated, rudimentary sports skill and get a, “Wow, Daddy! Far!” I’ll take that kind of genuine hero worship from my progeny as long as I can get it.


Sarah, 7/10/10.