I was playing with the baby on the kitchen floor this morning while the girls were getting dressed for school when I noticed three marbles in the baby’s hand. That’s enough to scare any parent so I asked her nicely for the marbles. The baby reached out and just as my hand reached hers she pulled it back and laughed.

My wife, looking over my shoulder, said that was my influence on the children.

The baby repeated this three times until I gave her my serious face and she handed them over. I quickly put them on the kitchen chair behind me and put a shirt over it and distracted the baby by tickling her stomach.

After a minute of that, I called out, “OK Dudes, everyone in the van.”

“Dudes?” my wife asked and looked at me kinda’ funny.

My six year old sensing I was in some kind of trouble said, “He says that all the time. And he’s really really mean and sometimes he gives us cookies for snack even though we like carrots….and…”

I cut her off by announcing to the room “Rotten Egg!” which means that whoever is last in their buckles to go to school is the rotten egg. So this silenced everyone as they scattered out the door, pulling on each other to get in the van first. And my wife just kinda’ looked at me.

“I don’t call them dudes all the time,” I smiled and lifted up the baby.

You see, my wife is somewhat concerned the children are being…hmmm…how shall I say this…overly influenced by me. You see, I’m home with the children every day.

Many years ago we decided it would be best if I worked from home so that the children would have a parent at home at all times. It was the best decision we’ve ever made. But, on the other hand, the four girls are around Dad a lot. The boy, essentially uses me as a sparring partner all day but I guess that’s expected.

But my girls are into superheroes. Not so much Barbies. The Barbies we do have are now used mostly in what I suspect is a game of CSI Barbie in the playroom because there are Barbie body parts in the most unlikely places.

But back to this morning. Now, I’ve actually been the rotten egg 3068 times in a row but it’s not really fair because I have to buckle the baby. And today was no different. As I got in, the six year old put her foot over my buckle and I pretended to struggle with her until my wife could buckle herself. So that’s 3068 times now.

Today was a special day at school which was why my wife was home. Today was Wax Museum Day Today for the third graders. Essentially, all the third graders had to dress up as a historic figure, stand as still as nine year olds are able to until someone comes along and pushes a paper button on the floor which prompts them to recite their little speech about who they are, what they did to make them famous, and the date of their death.

My daughter and I, in practicing for this, learned just about everything there was to know about Helen Keller. She had her exactly one minute speech down perfectly. We had it timed well.

But anyway, it was all really quite cute. Within ten minutes everything was set up in the downstairs cafeteria. And my daughter looked great in her costume that my wife made. We walked right up to Helen Keller and said hi. She didn’t respond. “Hey dude!” I said and waved my hand, pretending not to know the rules.

My wife said “Ha! You called your daughter dude.”

“One time slip up,” I said.

My daughter could hardly contain her smile at my expense. But she resisted an all-out smile because, you see, the children were being graded partly on their ability to stay in character and enunciate their memorized one minute speech. Well after I pushed the button with my foot my daughter came alive and delivered her speech loudly and perfectly just the way we practiced. As she finished I winked at her and she couldn’t completely contain her smile. I was so proud. Her teacher was right behind us and she told her what a great job she did but my daughter was in character and hardly looked at her.

I noticed the enunciation part was really tough for some of these tiny historical heroes as I walked around to the other historical figures. Henry Ford said, “My zzzzzzz Ford…..January….zzzzhzhhzhzhzh……carriagezzzzhzhzhhzhzzhzhzhzhzhzhzhzhzhzhzzhzhzhzhzhzh….died……”

Honest to goodness that was all I got. I told him he was great. He said, “zzzzhzhzhzh.” (I guess he was still in character.)

Amelia Earhart threw a pencil at Pocahontas and St. Francis told on her. That was pretty cool.

But back to my Helen Keller. Never has such a proud and knowledgeable Helen graced the basement of a church. She was loud and articulate and I was beaming. Even the baby in the stroller was awed into silence and only partly because the marshmallow Pop Tart had gummed up her mouth so much that her tongue was stuck to the roof of her mouth.

But then I decided to have a little fun. Every time the baby, my wife and I passed my daughter, I pushed my daughter’s button with my foot and she’d have to do her routine again. My daughter is a big rule follower. (She gets that from my wife)

My wife asked me to stop even she thought this was funny the first time. The second time not so much. The third time she was trying to block my way to the button. Helen wasn’t too pleased either. Her speech was now a blazing 45 seconds when I pushed the button. I could still see the trace of a smile on her face though.

Then the children from the other grades came down to see the Wax Museum. It sounded like a herd of hippos coming down the stairs. Very noisy hippos. My seven and my six year old were already hand in hand like they always are. They went right up to Helen Keller and pushed the button. There was a big audience now and once again Helen was great. After her speech, we all scattered and walked around to see the other historical figures.

My wife got into a conversation with the principal of the school and I took my one year old to the bathroom because her diaper smelled like she’d eaten some historical figures. Mental note: No more Pop Tarts.

My wife and I met again in front of the best Helen Keller ever. When I got there I could see that Helen wasn’t too happy. It seems that my seven year old had been standing there the entire time just pushing the button and smiling brightly at an increasingly perturbed Helen Keller, who was about to go pre-Anne Sullivan on her sister but was still (amazingly) unwilling to break character. The speech was now about 30 seconds and enunciated in a heated growl.

I quickly shooed the seven year old away who joined the six year old at the snack table. And my wife kinda’ looked at me funny. Somehow, this was my fault?

When it was over, my nine year old came running up to us for hugs (and snacks). I hugged her and told her she was the best Helen Keller ever and that I think I would remember the speech for the rest of my life. My nine year old said that the first time she did the speech she could see me saying the words right along with her.

And then she added to her sisters, “Oh, I just want to thank you all for pushing the button so many times because it really showed how kind you are and reminded me what wonderful sisters I have.”

My seven year old smiled and said, “You’re welcome” and giggled with the six year old. Then they grabbed pretzel rods and started giggling together about the things little girls giggle about.

Once again, my wife kinda looked at me funny.

But my daughter’s teacher interrupted us by telling us what a great job she did and that she would get the highest mark.

So at the end of the day we all came home together in the van. My four year old boy started talking about the Montauk Monster that was found on the coast of Long Island. The girls chimed in wondering if it was the subject of some government funded mutation device. They knew about the Montauk Monster because they saw it on this blog.

So my wife kinda’ looked at me funny for this too but I was driving so I just pretended to stare out at the road.

We both did homework with the children and I gave baths. And around dinnertime my wife went into the kitchen. The one year old just happy to have Mom home followed her everywhere. My wife noticed the shirt sitting on a kitchen chair and lifted it off as she passed it. Of course the marbles I’d hidden there spilled out all around my one year old’s feet. The baby looked up at her mother incredulously and said, “Duuuude!”

I think my wife and I are going to have a talk later.