Monday, December 29, 2014

Babysitting lesson ~ my column from Sunday's paper

Teachers and mothers of young children will snort with laughter when they read this. But I’m an uncle who only babysits occasionally, so I guess the following was an easy trap to fall in to.

It was the Friday before Christmas and the kids got out of school early. My niece asked if we’d consider keeping our six-year-old great nephew Jordan and his classmate Ella.

Both of us were off that day, so we agreed. Jilda is an old pro at keeping youngsters occupied, but me, not so much.

The day started out roughly when Jordan’s big-red dog tried to play with Ella, who didn’t realize the goofy dog was playing. She came out of the tussle with a scratch on her cheek and fear in her eyes.

After the dust settled and the frayed nerves were calmed, the real fun began. They decorated and baked Christmas cookies. The cookies ended up with more sugar sprinkles than cookie dough, but that’s part of the fun. When they finished, they had green fingers, and red tongues.

Next came painting Christmas ornaments for their mothers. In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to give them old tee shirts to wear over their clothes while painting. But the label on the jars said the paint would wash out of clothes. Let’s hope that’s true.

After baking cupcakes, making Christmas cards, and several other projects, Jilda started to look a little wilted.

I’d been sitting on the sideline, but jumped when the coach put me in the game.

It was still quite chilly outside, so I got them in the laundry room, which also serves as our TV area. They watched some Christmas shows but quickly grew bored.

Soon they noticed the mountain of cardboard boxes we put behind the couch until the weather permitted us to burn them.

Some of them still had the Styrofoam peanuts and white spacers in them, which are used to protect the contents of packages during shipment. One of the boxes was big enough for a kid to sit in. They asked if it would be OK for them to play with the boxes and I thought, “ANYTHING TO KEEP YOU OCCUPIED IS FINE WITH ME!”

This turned out to be an unwise decision, because faster than I could say “Home Shopping Network,” there was Styrofoam everywhere.

With all the jumping and tossing, the Styrofoam pieces became statically charged which allowed them to stick anywhere. The kids had tiny chunks in their hair, sticking to the side of their faces, and down their pants.

The TV room looked as if it had been snowing inside for days. I tried to do damage control and clean up the mess before Jilda came in and busted us, but the perimeter expanded. Jordan and Ella were hysterical with laughter.

Upon hearing the commotion, Jilda ventured a peak inside. She started laughing too.

The kids moved on to other activities leaving the cleanup to me. I swept the big pieces and then attached the hose to the vacuum cleaner. I sucked up a bag full of tiny chips from the floor, the couch, and the walls.

After finishing, I went into my bathroom to get a few moments peace. Looking in the mirror, I saw pieces of Styrofoam that looked like tiny snowflakes on my head, my beard and in my ears.

That evening when the parents retrieved the kids, Jilda and I looked like those mug shots you see on the post office wall.

Every day is a school day.

Happy 2015.

A few drops of gas on a rain-slick parking lot.


  1. Wishing you a very happy & Prosperous New Year ..Thanks for all the support! Keep writing! Keep lighting!…BEST PRAYERS FOR FUTURE!!

  2. Haha Rick.... it's tough entertaining children for long periods of time... the things they can get into

    Have a great rest of the week ;-)

  3. You have sealed your role as the BEST UNCLE IN THE WORLD. It doesn't take much to win a child's heart and it frequently begins with a fun memory. Great column.

    Happy New Year, Rick!!

  4. Hahaha! Great story. Never a dull moment with young kids :)

  5. Snort, snort, Rick that was one of those precious moments that would be hard to forget. I bet you still look good with styrofoam pellets on your head and beard. hahaha. That was a great photo opportunity.
    Happy New Year.

  6. too cute. it's the simplest things that bring the best joys. :)

  7. A large box full of Styrofoam pellets. An ideal plaything for children. Please tell me you had some static free type of spray to help clean up the mess.

  8. Funny story, cook photo. Hope your new year is filled with more memory-making moments, sans the Styrofoam. ha! Susan

  9. It's been ages since i watched small children. I don't know if I could do it again.

  10. Anonymous5:24 PM

    Happy New Year, Rick!!

  11. I loved the babysitting story. You sound like a fun guardian for the kids. Your gasoline smear is gorgeous.

  12. beautiful drops of gas there. Good uncle and aunt, whew!

  13. I taught school for so many years and every level from first grade to grade twelve, so I'm am well aware of the possible hazards that can take place if you lack experience with any of the various age groups. They vary from level to level, but the good news is that they usually survive and so do you! Sounds like you got quite an education that day...they do teach us as well!

  14. I'm smiling, well actually laughing. Some days are diamonds, Some are STONES!
    The best and a better day....


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