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There I sat, with my Phineas and Ferb coffee mug in one hand and a stuffed Daisy Duck in the other, watching my little rugrats Saturday morning as they did what rugrats do.  Izzy was standing in front of the coffee table, meticulously transferring her Honey Nut Cheerios from one cup to another, while Jake practiced his rolling technique on the floor.  It was a typical Saturday morning in the Chaney Playhouse and the day had really only just begun. 

While I watched Iz hoist a bucket of magnetic letters over her head and dump them all over the floor, then crouch down beside Jake and try to feed him a capital “P”, it occurred to me that I wasn’t concerned.  Shouldn’t I have been worried about my 20-month-old dropping that bucket on my 5-month-old’s head?  Shouldn’t I be concerned that she’ll shove that P down his throat?  That’s when it hit me; I wasn’t worried because I knew what was going to happen.  Look, I’m not claiming to be the “World’s Greatest Dad” (although I fully expect to get one of those coffee mugs some day), and I know I have a lot to learn about kids, but I am pretty confident in my ability to know how the day is going to play out with these two munchkins.

With that in mind, I started thinking about how babysitters must feel when they take on a new child for the first time.  I never did any babysitting growing up, probably because all the kids I knew were around my age or older and there weren’t any babies in the family until I was married and thinking about babies of my own.  But for those of you who ran a babysitting gig, I imagine it was a little stressful the first time around.  I’m sure the parents gave you some kind of cheat sheet to tell you when the kids were supposed to go to bed and who to contact in case of emergency.  But wouldn’t it be more helpful to have some sort of guide detailing what to expect from the kids?  Something to the effect of “The Secrets of babysitting Iz and The Jakester”.

Well, for all potential babysitters of my kids, here you go…you’re welcome!

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is like crack to these kids.  I’m serious.  No joke.  No matter what terrible event has just occurred, if you put on an episode of MMC, you’re golden for the next 24 minutes.  This is especially the case with Izzy.  Jake is only 5 months old remember so his attention span is about as long as his hair.  But what little concentration he has, he’s able to muster for Mickey and the gang.  I’m convinced that Disney has embedded some sort of subliminal messaging within each episode because, well, just take a look at the below picture and you’ll see what I mean.  FYI- other shows that will keep Izzy’s attention include Handy Manny, Special Agent Oso, Phineas and Ferb, and King of Queens, surprisingly enough.  I may have had something to do with that last one.

Beware the power of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

Jake is happy if he is in any of four places: the floor, his bouncy seat, his exer-saucer, or your arms.  Keep rotating or he’ll let you know about it.  The friendly confines of the bouncy seat was the go-to for The Jakester until recently.  His new-found mobility (so far just rolling and scooting, not yet crawling, walking, or driving), has led to an increase in floor time and extended stretches of exercise in his saucer.  In fact, based on our workout times, if one of us was going to run a marathon (#1 on my list) it would probably be him.  Anyway, the key here is to find that point where he’s had enough of his current location, and move him to the next station before he falls apart on you.  This takes some trial and error but if you can master it, it’s smooth sailing.

Diaper changes are not a walk in the park with these two.  Respect the process or you’ll be sorry.  Diaper changes are the one constant when it comes to babysitting.  All little ones need them and diapers are essentially all the same so you’d think this would be the one thing you could do with your eyes close.  Well, let me warn you, don’t just mail it in.  Izzy may play it cool when you first lay her down but if you don’t give it 100% effort, the next thing you know you’ll have a crazy, naked, 20-month-old running wild through the house.  She’s quick, deceptively quick, so be prepared.  As for Jake, he’s not going to get away from you obviously, but he’ll make changing him quite a task.  His newly developed flexibility allows him to maneuver into positions you didn’t think were possible and getting a diaper on him is like something out of a rhythmic gymnastics routine.  I don’t have any secrets or special instructions on this one, sorry.  Good luck and God speed.

Don’t use the word “nap”.  We like to refer to it as “a rest”.  If you tell Izzy it’s nap time, it won’t go well.  I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but at some point the word “nap” took on the same meaning as “worst possible thing to happen to me ever”.  One day we told Izzy it was time to take a nap and she went right to the steps.  The next day when we attempted the same thing, her eyes welled up with giant “I hate you Daddy” tears and she threw a tantrum, the likes of which I  hadn’t seen before.  After several days of fighting the nap battle, we tried referring to it as something else and after numerous failed attempts, we struck gold with “rest”.  Really try to remember this one because it’s very easy to slip up and say N-A-P.  If you do, batten down the hatches because a storm’s blowing in.

Don’t bother cleaning up toys while the kids “rest”.  It is a gigantic waste of time.  I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure this one out.  After a whirlwind of activity during the morning hours which included playing with, or at the very least touching, every single toy we own, Iz would head for her rest leaving the family room looking like the “morning after” scene from The Hangover.  Seeing the level of destruction, I felt obligated to attempt some sort of clean up while the kids were down.  Once awakened and rejuvenated from her rest, Izzy saw the tidied up room as a blank canvas ready to be painted with toys, stuffed animals and magnets of all shapes and colors.  The point here is this, don’t worry about how bad the room looks when you’re only halfway through the day.

The dinner menu is extremely limited these days.  Don’t veer from it or the food will wind up on the floor rather than in Izzy’s mouth.  When Iz first started eating real food (I’m not talking about the mushy cereal and processed squash), but actual human food, she was like a garbage disposal.  Everything from pasta to meat to vegetables and fruits went in this girl’s mouth without resistance.  Today, things are a little different.  The list of foods she will eat has been whittled down to mac and cheese, pizza, broccoli, and rice.  Sometimes she’ll surprise us and actually eat part of whatever we are having for dinner, but generally speaking, these are your options. 

Despite how silly you may feel while doing it, Jake loves goofy baby talk and nonsense soundsSwallow your pride on this one because when he gets grumpy in the evening, it’s the best way to cheer him up.  Look, we’ve all made silly faces and noises around babies when we’re trying to get them to smile or laugh.  Unless you have kids though, that’s probably the only time you make those faces and noises.  Well, dust off the baby talk because Jake loves it.  Don’t worry, no one’s watching.  We don’t have one of those baby cams hiding inside a teddy bear or anything like that…or do we?  Anyway, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed, no one will know.  Unless of course Jake has been secretly tape recording us these last several months and is preparing to out us all.  Nah, that seems unlikely…I hope.

Bedtime is like a chess match, bring you’re “A” game or they’ll beat you down.  Ok, Jake’s pretty easy when it comes to bed time.  By 7:30 or so, he’s ready for that sweet nectar we call formula and then it’s off we go to bed.  Izzy on the other hand is quite the opposite.  First, you may have to throw on an episode of MMC just to get her in the zone.  Next, be sure to give her the stuffed Daisy Duck she seems to be so attached to right now or else she’ll be calling out for her like she just lost her best friend when you go to lay her down.  Now here’s the tricky part.  We’ve gotten accustomed to reading a couple short books before bed.  You know, a little “Goodnight Moon” or something Dr. Seuss related.  Even a slightly out of tune version of “Snuggle Puppy” finds its way into the nightly ritual most days.  The hard part is putting an end to the assembly line of books.  Before you even get to the last line, she’s already heading to the shelf for another one.  Give her 2 or 3 but cut her off there like the old man at the bar who’s had one too many Captain and cokes.  If you let her keep going, she’ll walk all over you until you look at the clock and it’s freakin’ midnight.

So there you have it.  Those are some of the keys to a successful day with Iz and The Jakester.  They may throw a monkey wrench into things from time to time like a random crying spell or a diaper explosion, but for the most part they tend not to buck the trend.  Use this guide wisely and don’t let on that you know their secrets.  They may still be shorter than a yardstick, but they know how to work the system.  Good luck to you…and if you can somehow get through an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse without saying “Oh Toodles!”, more power to you.

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