Mr. Mom: Days 2-11

So much for those daily reports from the front lines.  Ha!  I’ve rediscovered the truism that writing is a difficult habit to keep and an easy one to break.  I’ve become so used to not writing because I was busy working on higher priorities that it became easy to avoid writing even when surrounded by lesser priorities.

To be clear, taking care of Jonathan and Emma was hardly a “lesser priority.”  Rather, the task of keeping up with them became so all-consuming that the only peace to be had came when they went to bed for the night.  I would then find myself staying up until all hours in the morning doing the things I wanted to do and enjoying the silence far more than the prospect of sleeping myself into the next day.  Then I’d wake up groggy the next morning and accomplish even fewer things than I would have had I just surrendered to the Sandman when I ought.  It was a pretty sad little cycle.

Of course, it didn’t help that my adult interactions were rare.  Cassia has a pretty good support network of Relief Society sisters and at-home moms she interacts with.  There’s really no such thing for at-home dads, to say nothing of the notoriously individualistic priesthood quorums I’ve belonged to for the past decade.  Men in the Church just don’t tend to do things together unless it involves sports or the outdoors, neither of which I’ve done for years and both of which are especially difficult with a couple of preschoolers in tow.  So I’d stay up late to IM with Cassia, which always did a number on me because of the two-hour time difference between Utah and Georgia.  But it was always worth it to me to carry on an adult conversation with someone else, aside from the fact that she was my wife!

Looking at the sum total of our activities during those 11 days, we ate out a bit more than I expected, accomplished somewhat less than I planned, and watched “Horton Hears a Who!” more times than I ever thought possible.  But we still had a good time.

Brief Digression . . .

horton(Speaking of “Horton Hears a Who!”, I should add that I thought it was a pretty decent movie overall.  The animation was bright and colorful, and mimicked very well the style of Dr. Seuss’ original drawings.  A few sequences — most notably the climactic finale — were in my opinion even better than in the book.  Steve Carrell did a nice job providing the voice of the Mayor, which would mark the first time I’ve had positive feelings toward a movie he’s done, and I think that’s a moment worth recognizing.

The real weak link is Jim Carrey.  Is anybody surprised?  The Horton from the book is, according to my interpretation, a simpleton with a heart of gold and an awe-inspiring sense of loyalty.  He certainly does not act like a buffoon all the time.  Some of the things that character did in the movie really irked me, and I believe that either the character was re-written for Carrey or the animators chose to include most of his non sequiturs and ad-libs in the movie, similar to what the Disney people did with Robin Williams’ work for “Aladdin.”  While Carrey thankfully does not take the character into “Grinch” territory — this is a G-rated movie, after all — it’s enough to knock an otherwise splendid movie into the “alright” category.  And can someone tell me how everyone in Seuss’ fantasy world can belt out an REO Speedwagon tune at the drop of a hat?  Yeah, me neither.)

boltI also took the kids to see “Bolt” on Thursday, and thought that it was a pretty enjoyable flick.  It leans a bit too heavily on Hollywood in-jokes which are probably only funny to people familiar with the showbiz-saturated culture (and which may confirm your opinion of how shallow and unlikable many of those people are), but the endearing characters and fantastic animation help to balance it out.  The plot will be familiar to anyone who knows about Buzz Lightyear in “Toy Story,” but there’s enough that’s fresh here to keep it from becoming a tired retread of that older (and superior) film.

The most disappointing thing about the film itself was actually its shoddy presentation — in a first-run theater, no less.  The sound was quite weak, and the film print definitely looked faded and worn.  That’s what I get for waiting a month after its release to see it, right?  Well, I definitely expect better, especially after plunking down over twenty bucks to see it, to say nothing of the concessions I had to buy to keep the hungry horde at bay.  I’m confident that if we’d gone to the digital 3D screen across the hall that our experience would have been superior, just because digital film elements don’t degrade over time and extended use.  But I had no confidence in our children wearing the required 3D glasses for any appreciable length of time.  As it was, about two-thirds through the movie they got out of their seats and started running around the theater — thank heaven only two other people were there!  As strange as it seems to say it, I look forward to a proper viewing of “Bolt” when it hits the home market.  But at least the kids enjoyed it, or what they saw of it anyway.

The Scary Playplace

After the movie we went to Chick-Fil-A for dinner.  I had brought my laptop and intended to use the restaurant’s free wireless Internet while the kids had fun in the indoor play area.  That plan fell apart though when Jonathan and Emma reported “scary sounds” coming from inside the play area.  I investigated and found a speaker that intermittently played random car-related sounds when a motion sensor was activated.  I couldn’t find the sensor though, so it all seemed quite eerie to me.  I explained the source of the sounds to the kids and told them there wasn’t anything to be scared of, but as they were the only children in the play area the sounds were startling enough to dissuade them from playing much longer, even after I gave in and sat with them inside.  That Chick-Fil-A has subsequently become known as the one with the “scary play place,” which stinks because it’s the only one I know of close to us with free wireless Internet.

Tennessee Adventure Redux

I intended to take the kids to the Tennessee Aquarium and Children’s Discovery Museum in Chattanooga on Monday, December 22, but I felt so rotten when I woke up that morning that I was forced to put off the outing until Tuesday.  We had a grand time, though I of course forgot to bring the camera along to record pictures of the adventure.  There must have been fewer than 100 people at either the aquarium or the childrens’ museum, which does marvellous things to reduce a parent’s stress when trying to keep track of two constantly mobile children.  And I had an enjoyable time (believe it or not) simply because I decided to let the children set the pace.  Because we have annual memberships to both attractions I felt no rush to “see it all” to feel like I got my money’s worth.  It was such a relief!  We lingered at the places the kids wanted to stay in, and moved quickly past (or skipped) the things they didn’t.  It was an easy change of mindset that delivered huge dividends throughout the day.

Christmas presents

Beginning the first night Cassia was away, we were the lucky beneficiaries of a secret Santa who would drop off a wrapped present at our doorstep every night (or nearly so; some nights we didn’t get anything, and some nights we received two). What was in the box? Why, pieces of a nativity set!

The kids latched onto the tiny figurines rather quickly. They are both heavily into Legos, particularly the Lego men (or “guys,” as Emma affectionately calls them), so this was right up their alley. Unfortunately, Emma got a little too rough with the third figurine we received, and he lost his head.

shepherdboy

From then on I had to put each figurine on the fireplace mantle as soon as they were received. The kids were heartbroken at first, but they got over it before long.

I’m always the worst person in the world when it comes to surprises. Often an intended surprise is inadvertently revealed to me without my even trying to find out. So, I was pretty sure I had the identity of our benefactor nailed down, but I resisted the urge to find them out. After every knock at the door or ring of the doorbell I made sure to give the runner plenty of time to get away before retrieving the nightly gift, even though the kids were bouncing off the walls in anticipation of another “present.” Anyway, I’m happy to report I was wrong. We all expected to receive Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve, so we were a little surprised to not receive anything that night. However, another gift that had been hand-delivered to me by another member of the ward contained the Christ child in the one occupied spot of the otherwise empty nativity set package. It was a wonderful surprise.

nativityset

All’s well that ends well

When Cassia returned home on Christmas Eve, the house wasn’t nearly in the condition that I had hoped it would be, and I still had a pile of unfinished projects that I never got around to doing. (To my credit though, I did manage to take care of all the laundry and get the house cleaner than it had been in a long time.) It was good to have her back – I had remarked to her the previous night that I was getting so used to managing the home and family without her that it was getting harder and harder to remember that it was just a temporary situation. Pretty sad, huh?

All in all I held on to my sanity fairly well, and it felt good knowing that I was at least semi-competent as a parent. It was certainly less stressful than my regular day job, that’s for sure! And it was good to remind my older kids that yes, they do have a father.

2 Responses to “Mr. Mom: Days 2-11”

  1. After Cassia’s last post, I wondered how your stint as Mr. Mom went. Good to hear that you were triumphant :) I ought to do that to Steve one of these days . . .

  2. I think that’s a fabulous idea! Make sure you do it immediately after a particularly grueling period of school or work for maximum effect. :)

    Actually, I was rather surprised at all the comments I heard from people in our ward. They thought I was pretty amazing for taking on the responsibility – the most time any of them had spent alone with their kids was no more than 4-5 days. One of them even said to me, jokingly, “You’re making us all look bad!”

    I laughed it off at the time, but the more I think about it, the worse I feel for the sorry state of male parenting in our society.

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