Labor Intensive

We visit my in-laws on Cape Cod from time to time. One day may include some work that needs to be done around the house. Like other homes and families, spring and summer days may involve mowing the lawn. An autumn day would involve some raking and bagging.

Sometimes a day might call for a project larger than some simple yardwork. This happened recently on, of all days, Father’s Day. A day that normally calls for father’s everywhere to relax and be celebrated was a day this father and my wife’s were called upon for a project.

It is only fair to mention it wasn’t just the fathers who answered this call. My wife was among the others who assisted in this.

We started at the beginning. We needed to dig a hole. I grabbed a shovel and broke ground. Dirt was dug. Dirt was cleared. It was moved to a tarp that could be moved if we needed more room. The Boy assisted wherever he could. The whole was measured. It wasn’t quite deep enough. I did more digging. Some rocks were struck, dug out, and removed. When I do projects like these, I’m always hoping I come across some type of artifact: an old coin, a relic from early settlers, a remnant of an Native American village. No such luck. Just rocks and dirt.

The hole was done. We measured to make sure. It was deep enough. We mixed the concrete. I helped to mix. My arms were sore from digging and now they were getting a different workout from mixing the concrete. I asked Wife if she noticed the workout my arms were getting. She looked at me like I was weird. She still hasn’t fully realized how wonderful I am.

We scraped the last of the concrete. It wasn’t enough. We needed another batch. My father-in-law and I go to the hardware store for more concrete. I put the bag on the counter and move it from the counter to the truck and from the truck to the backyard. Concrete is mixed and poured. Poured and smoothed and still not enough. It’s time for another trip to the hardware store for more concrete. We’re still in the midst of Coronapalooza. Restaurants are open but sparsely populated. I suggest to my father-in-law we stop somewhere for a beer and maybe some chicken wings or onion rings. We can just tell the folks at home there was traffic on the street and a line of people at the store. My idea is turned down.

We return home. I bring the new concrete to the backyard. I lug it, pour it, mix it. Wife still doesn’t notice my arms. The lack of notice can be sad sometimes. The latest batch is laid out. The concrete dries and sets. We have successfully installed the base for the new clothesline.

Poured and set

Fun and Games

School is out. Children all over are rejoicing. Home-schooling parents are rejoicing with them.

Now is the time for a glorious respite from the routines of math, English, and science. Attentions have turned to swimming and riding bikes. I have been looking forward to this time. It means I can stop being a taskmaster making children fix an inverted letter or number and start doing things and having fun.

Or so I thought.

I wake up to the same routine I had when we were home-schooling. I get my coffee, check mail and comments from adoring fans and readers, do a little writing and enjoy the time I have to myself before the Miracles of Christ make their appearance. Inevitably, they do and we begin the daily routine.

One of The Gaggle is usually the first one up. This child proceeds to find a screen to satisfy their minute attention span and begin their morning. Alas, the battery is dead or dying and the child comes to me with the disturbing news. Can I plug it in? I could but the child knows where the plugs are and could plug it in on their own. This, of course would require some effort and there is a smart TV plugged in and ready to be watched. Could I plug it in for them. I could but I am in the middle of something and, as I said before, everyone knows where the plugs are.

The Gaggle walks away huffing and rolling their eyes. I had the audacity to tell this poor, innocent child to do something on their own. The humanity. Who does that?

I return to my reading and writing for a few seconds. The Gaggle returns. Where is the remote? I have no idea. I don’t watch the TV in the living room. Can I help find it? I ask if they have started looking for it. “Well, I don’t know where it is.” I tell them to try looking for it. Another eye roll. More huffing. I hear muttering complemented by blankets being thrown about the living room. No one helps. No one cares.

I get up from my work to check on the latest Amnesty International case. I ask what the problem is. “I just asked if you could help,” is the answer. I direct The Gaggle to the arm of the couch where the remote has been the whole time. After the program has been selected, they ask if I can get them breakfast. I direct them to the pantry where the cereals are. “But I’m watching something.” That’s nice. This is a state of the art remote control complete with a “Pause” button. They can pause the show to get their cereal. Another eye roll. Previously, this same child was able to move a stool and get whatever they wanted on the top shelf of a cabinet or the pantry. Now they are helpless.

That’s The Gaggle. Let’s move on to The Boy. The Boy is in elementary school and this is the time I have been waiting for. No strollers. No high chairs. Summer is here and that means hours of throwing batting practice. Maybe a game of catch. Baseball or football. I don’t care. He can pick. A break for lunch and then some more playing.

Wrong. We play catch for a couple of minutes and then he is inside. He needs a break. He has to use the bathroom. He needs a drink. Whatever it is he is doing, the call of Roblox or Minecraft has captured his attention. Baseball can wait. Outdoors can wait. He has all day. We have all summer.

The backyard is to the right but The Boy has found something a little more interesting straight ahead and to the left.

Other members of The Gaggle are playing with Kitty and hanging in their room watching YouTube. The Oppressed has my phone and is trying to explain to me why most of my music is, at best, questionable.

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School’s out. Now, get out.

This new week brings us to the end of another school year. The Oppressed, The Boy, and The Gaggle welcome the end of another year in elementary school and high school and the added challenges brought upon by home schooling in this gauntlet they call “Coronapalooza”. God willing, the little Miracles of Christ will return to a physical school building when September rolls around with its gentle reminders of changing seasons and crisp air that brings cooler and eventually colder temperatures.

Another project nowhere near completion.

But all that is in the future. Now, we rest and savor the warm weather and look fondly upon the memories created by the ungrateful walking miracles who have never endured harsher treatment than the cruel injustices imposed upon them by Yours Truly. These assignments were not handed out by their beloved teachers they came to know and love within the friendly confines of their school. Nay, these blatant violations of humanity and common decency were thought up by me. The same one who refuses to let them drink soda with every meal. The one who won’t allow them to stay in front of the television all day everyday.

Gone are the mornings of running around looking for a charged device for an already-started class meeting. We will fondly remember the six-hour Polish Hostage Crises over copying four or five sentences and having three words done at the end of said six hours.

We will not be chasing cherubs around the backyard or down the street while a yet-to-be completed math assignment (or problem) sits on the table. Reading a book (or a word) together will wait until the leaves turn and weather changes. Then, at that glorious change of the seasons, the children will be (please, Jesus) palmed off to the teachers who will no doubt be eager to make up for lost time and hear about what they have done over the summer and how they are ready to resume work in the classroom.

School’s over. Goodbye.

Yes. The time now is for campfires and more lamenting about how bored they are without a screen. Stars? That’s nice. They can learn about that on Wikipedia or YouTube. We don’t want s’mores. We want ice cream. There’s no ice cream? Why don’t you love us? The smoke is getting in my eyes. The big spray smells. We’re bored. Can we watch TV?

Daddy needs a drink.

Rightfully Mine

I find myself losing more and more to a certain child in my home.

One of “The Gaggle” has been with us for a few months and this child has since infringed on things, animals, and people that I hold dear. This person is a nice person: Helps when we need it, asks for help when they need it. They even ask when they need or want to use something. But sometimes…

Kitty and I have taken a liking to each other. I had always been a “Dog Person” until Kitty came to us. With The Wife at work and the Miracles of Christ at school, it was just me and her. We hung out. She kept me company while I folded clothes, washed dishes or cooked. I would wake up with her on or next to me. A couple of confirmed kills in the Mouse Department have cemented her standing as a beloved member of our household.

The Gaggle will run into the house, sometimes body-checking me out of the way. She will yell, “Kitty!” and find her and pick her up. She will cuddle Kitty and make sure I see them in a moment of tender cuddling. The Gaggle smiles. Kitty and I are not amused.

Exhibit A

I once got a Nintendo Switch for my birthday. I use it when I can. The Miracles of Christ have a new found interest in video games. God forbid The Boy plays Pac-Man or Space Invaders with me. (He’s still learning and I try to keep it simple for him.) Everyone, including The Gaggle wants my Switch and “The Legend of Zelda”. It was nice when I wanted to kill a few minutes with the game. I constantly hear a knock on the door. “Do you have ‘Zelda’?” “Can I use it?” “Can I use it now?” “Are you done, yet?” Now, I can barely get my hands on it. It got so bad, Wife bought me another Switch and is considering buying another copy of “Zelda”. I would rather defend what’s rightfully mine. It’s gone so well thus far.

Exhibit B

My cat. My Switch. My wife… Yeah. My wife, too. At the end of the day, The Gaggle and Wife will sit down to some insipid, mind-numbing television show that has since been cancelled (big surprise). I used to get some time alone at the end of the day with Wife. Now, she has decided to kill brain cells with The Gaggle while The Boy and The Oppressed explain to me why they need to sleep in my bed.

‘Rona

(Sung to “Lola” by The Kinks)

I’m stuck here at home with five or six kids

Where they just want screens and want to drink

Coca-Cola

C-O-L-A Cola

The Gaggle has to sneeze. The Oppressed needs to cough

They do what they must. In a laughing voice they say “’Rona”

R-O-N-A Rona, Ro Ro Ro Ro ‘Rona

Well, I’m not the most intelligent guy

But when the homework starts it nearly breaks my mind

Oh the ‘Rona, Ro Ro Ro Ro ‘Rona

Well I’m not dumb but I can’t understand

Why they can’t figure math but can unlock IPads

Oh ‘Rona, Ro Ro Ro Ro Rona, Ro Ro Ro Ro  Rona

Well, we watch movies all through the night

Sometimes the fireplace has light

The Oppressed or The Boy is on my knee

I wish I could sit with their mommy

Well, I’m not the most intelligent guy

But why is Nintendo Switch

Missing again? Oh, ‘Rona

Ro ro ro ro ‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona

I can’t run away

I just lock the door

I lay on the floor

And I start to read

Then I look at them ‘cause they found me

Well, that’s the way that it is everyday

And it will continue to be that way with the ‘Rona

Ro ro ro ro ‘Rona

Two boys and three or four girls

It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world

With the ‘Rona

Ro ro ro ro ‘Rona

Well, Coronapalooza started in March last

The bourbon and scotch are running out fast

The Gaggle smiles with my Zelda game

The Oppressed and The Boy will both do the same

Well, we had a cleaning and learning plan

And the kids are saying no way to that plan

With the ‘Rona

Ro ro ro ro ‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona

‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona

‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona

‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona

‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona

‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona, ro ro ro ro ‘Rona