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

Men at Work

We had a small problem in the backyard recently. The ladder to the swing set broke. It wasn’t too bad. It was just certain rungs and just one side that needed to be fixed.

This is to be expected. We’ve had the set for years and our yard was the yard that everyone congregated at before Coronapalooza hit us. Countless children have played in our yard and made up numerous games in and around the swing set.

The trouble was brought to my attention one day. I stopped what I was doing to survey the damage and figure out what could be done. A brilliant flash then hit me. I looked at The Boy, who has told all who will listen that he will be working 10 jobs when he grows up. To our benefit, one of the jobs he will work will be in construction. I asked The Boy if he wanted to do a construction project. He enthusiastically said, “Yes,” and ran inside to grab his gear: Reflective vest, tool belt, helmet. We went to the basement to get a measuring tape for his belt. I grabbed a claw hammer, some pliers, a staple gun. I wait for times like these when I can do something with my son. Cartoons and baseball is still a no-no, so I take what I can get.

The father-son repair project “Before” photo. There is no “After” photo.

We get to the swing set. The Boy needs to measure the steps that are being repaired. He measures and marks them with a pencil. I haven’t removed the nails or the staples yet, but he needs to measure anyway. I remove the staples and nails. The Boy measures again. I line up the rungs and staple them in. Some need more than one. No problem. It just may take a minute or two longer than expected. Suddenly, The Boy needs to use the bathroom. He just went before he started, but he’s Union. On his way back to the project, he sees his bike. He just wants to ride it for a minute before he comes back to work. He never came back. His vest is on the patio. I pick it up along with his measuring tape and the rest of the tools and put them back on the bench. Our two-minute bonding session comes to an end.

Film Lesson

Monday through Friday is for schoolwork. You’ve read about the drama. You’ve read about the running and the yelling. The blood, sweat, and tears that produce a sentence with a word-count that fits on one hand.

On Friday, we celebrate the end of the week with Movie Night. Movie Night happens on Friday and Saturday Nights. We have spent the past few weeks working through the “Avengers” franchise. Good movies. The Boy picked Pokémon. I didn’t think it was terrible. Some members of the household have respectfully disagreed.

My turn to pick a movie is coming. Some members of The Gaggle have dreaded this. I have discussed movies with them from time to time. I love movies. I love talking about them, referencing them, and quoting them. I love all types of movies. On Halloween for example, The Oppressed and The Boy love watching “Frankenstein” and “Dracula”. They are old movies, but the children love them nonetheless.

For one of The Gaggle, a movie being old is reason enough to not watch it. Anything made more than 10 years ago is too old and not worth her time. She says the main problem is me being too old and that is why I can’t pick a good movie. Movies that I think are good (“The Magnificent Seven”) are really bad, and if I pick a terrible (“old”) movie, (“Chinatown”), she will go to her room and not come out.

This has been a point of contention between the two of us. Everything about me is old: My movies. My music. I’m old. She calls me, “Boomer”. Delightful child.

I could educate her about movies but that would mean stepping away from the daily house and homework duties. Wife is working 20 hours a day and the children think this is one big vacation for them. Their daily chores only get in the way of that. A break would be nice. I guess there’s always Movie Night.

Dish Duty

The Oppressed got moved to laundry. We ran out of clean clothes. Another of the Gaggle took over dish duty. Aaaannnd…

Like every other house, things have been pretty busy here during Coronapalooza. We decided everyone here should have some extra chores to do since me, The Wife, The Oppressed, The Boy, and The Gaggle are all pretty much inside the house 24/7. Speaking of blessings, I’m not sure if I mentioned this but an additional child from the neighborhood comes and stays with us during the day while Mom is at work.

The first round of chores went rather well. I was on dish duty. One of The Gaggle did laundry and she was very efficient with it. After a while things got changed up to break up the monotony. The Oppressed got moved to laundry. We ran out of clean clothes. Another of the Gaggle took over at dish duty. Aaaannnd….

She needed a little bit of a learning curve. That’s where I come in. I am an expert when it comes to easing children into work and responsibilities, so you can imagine the train wreck you’re about to read about.

We started easy. I gave her the things to put in the dishwasher. I washed. She dried. We both put things away. She had to put a plastic cup in the cabinet. She said she couldn’t reach. I reminded her it was closer than the candy she can get at the top shelf of the cabinet. I saw the lip stick out. I saw the look of hope disappear from her eyes. Her bottom lip was quivering. Her hands went up in the air.

“Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “No one else has to do this. Just me!”

The gaggle enduring her daily torture.
The never-ending pile is behind her.

No one else was doing laundry, I explained to her. At this point, no one was doing laundry. No one else was cooking, but that wasn’t the point. The point was, the children I did love were assembled in front of the TV playing with the Nintendo Switch. My Nintendo Switch, which I haven’t laid my hands on in about two months… But I digress.

There are other things to go into the dishwasher, but they are under things that need to be washed by hand. I wash. She dries and puts them away. She’s about to put away something that still has water on it. It’s running down the side. I tell her to go over it one more time. More crying. More lamentations. Tears of my children. The ones I love are enjoying themselves. She is a slave. No one else is doing this.

She throws herself around the kitchen. She falls to the floor in the direction of the open dishwasher. Her face misses the corner of the door by millimeters. She yells. I pushed her. I punished her for not working. She wipes her face on the towel. I have washed five dishes during this episode. There are more things to dry but she needs a new towel. “You wiped your face on that towel,” I tell her. “You need a new one.” She throws the towel in the air. She has to get a new towel. Where are the towels? I tell her they are in the same place they’ve been for the past six month. She goes to the drawer for another towel, muttering to herself about her lot in life. Her mistreatment. The shame of it all. The humanity.

Home-fooling Around

Our adventures in parenting include taking care of our own children, children in our neighborhood, and some foster children. Our record of biological/foster combo is five. With the recent addition of a child from our street coming over for the day while her parents go to work, we now have a new record of six. Thank you. We’re very proud.

Like other households from sea to shining sea, we are tasked with home-schooling our children. This is easy with some children (The Gaggle). It’s not so easy for others (The Oppressed and The Boy).

We normally start school around 9:00. This is about an hour later than when it started when our children actually “went to school”. Sounds good, right? You’re starting later. You’re waking up later. You know lunch is going to be longer. This sounds like a good deal. Unless, of course, you happen to be The Oppressed or The Boy.

The Boy’s assignments consist of writing exercises. There are three-letter words in front of him. He identifies the letters. says the words, and then writes the words. Apparently, this is work more in line with PhD candidates. Rather than just say and write the 10 or 12 words in the assignment, The Boy would rather pitch a fit and try to run to Wife. Wife is working at home. The Boy sure she’ll save him from this torture. Writing words. Who does this to children?

Five hours. Six words.

In the afternoon, after a leisurely lunch, I have The Boy sit down and do his reading. I am a taskmaster if you don’t know this already. Just ask the Miracles of Christ. I select a book that may have about 20 pages, large type, and pictures. Allow me to explain “reading”. I read the book and he chimes in when it comes to “the, as, a, now” and other challenges that make “War and Peace” look like something you start and finish on a subway ride.

The Boy tries to run. He wants another book. This one is too hard. (Google “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”.) I’m mean. He hates me. No one else does this to their children. In the time he spends throwing himself down on the ground and cursing my name, we could have read this book and “War and Peace”.

The day is done. The Boy goes to bed and prays for himself and the rest of the abused, overworked children around the world who have to read two or three words on a page. I sit down with my laptop and a bourbon and start writing more words in one night than children have to read in an entire week. This, of course, is a lie. Just ask the children.

Larry the Tree

Larry’s memorial. The sign reads,
“Here lies Larry the Tree X(“

We had a tree growing in our front yard right next to our driveway. Yes: had. The tree was dying for a long time and we had been getting rainstorms and windstorms. We didn’t want to take the chance of the tree falling on our house, or worse, falling down on a child.

We called a tree company to take care of the tree, who was suddenly “Larry” and a beloved member of our family according to The Oppressed. She vehemently protested the decision to, “murder Larry”. The execution was carried out on Earth Day of all days.

The oppressed protested. She was furious. Trees give us oxygen to breathe. We’re killing the Earth and its inhabitants if we take this tree down. I explain to her a tree is not giving oxygen if there are no leaves (needles) on it. The tree is already dead. All this is fruitless against a nine-year-old expert on trees and ecology. We don’t care about the environment. There is a mark on the cruel, heartless men who have killed Larry. Wife and I, who are paying these men, are just as culpable.

The deed was done. Larry was cut down, ground up, and taken away. The stump was all that was left of Larry. The tree workers were coming back to grind the stump. The Oppressed wasted no time in constructing a memorial for Larry to remind the neighborhood and the murderous tree workers of what had once occupied the spot on our front yard.

There is a positive to this story. The Boy asked the tree workers if they could put another tree in Larry’s place. When the workers returned to grind the stump. They left a Japanese Maple tree. The Miracles of Christ were overjoyed to see it.

Faith restored

Kitty

My family owns a cat. She was a birthday present for The Boy, who loves cats and always wanted one. We’ve had Kitty for over a year.

Kitty leaves no stone unturned when she is searching the house for mice and other pests.

Kitty and I came to bond over time. It happens when you’re a stay-at-home parent and you stay at home. Kitty learned her way around the house. At feeding time, Kitty gets excited when she hears the silverware drawer open. If she doesn’t hear the silverware drawer open, I walk into whatever room she’s in and show her the fork. Kitty gets excited and follows me with a purr to her bowl.

Kitty is sometimes too friendly for the other people in the house. Kitty will fall asleep on Wife. If Wife tries to get out of bed, Kitty sometimes doesn’t want to get off her and sometimes will get in her way.

She can also be found with The Boy sometimes. The Boy will wake up and see Kitty at the foot of his bed. He will get up, grab Kitty and lay back down, handling her like a little teddy bear. Kitty’s eyes get big and her paws reach for something-anything- as she feels herself fall backwards onto the bed and The Boy.

Kitty likes to explore. Sometimes it’s hard to find her. Shake a jar of treats. You’ve never seen anything move so fast, although there was this one time I was working early in the morning. Kitty was trying to negotiate her way across my table. I was trying to write and drink coffee and keep a pile of books from toppling over. Kitty was doing well until she hit something and started to fall over. I stuck my hand out to catch her. I didn’t get her but, well… She peed. I ran to the bathroom and washed my hands three or four times. After some warm water, a little soap, a Brillo pad, some turpentine, and a blowtorch, I think I was alright.

Shopping and Fun

We have a lot of people stuck in the house during Coronapalooza. Luckily, there are enough screens to go around for everyone. Luckily, the weather is improving and I get outside and do some work in the yard.

Sometimes an errand needs to be run and I will try to bring one or two of the children with me as wife is stuck at home working in the midst of all this.

One day, I had to go to the grocery store. There are a lot of people here eating three meals a day and the stores need to be replenished. This time, I had to go with two of the older children. I’ve been dealing with elementary school children most of the time. Now, I will have teenagers with me. What could possibly go wrong?

The three of us get into the car armed with a shopping list and the necessary gear for food shopping: facemasks, gloves, sanitizer. I never thought I’d be wearing a mask into a store, but here we are.

The two teenagers, a brother and sister, start arguing as soon as we leave the house. They’re arguing over something dumb and sophomoric. I’m starting to think it may have been easier to bring the elementary school children with me. They continue to argue all the way to the store. I pull into the parking lot and remind them we are about to go into the store and everyone needs to start acting normal (That’s the Number One rule the kids have when we go somewhere). The sister immediately rolls down her windows and yells, “‘Allo, dawlin’s. Do ya fancy a spot a’ toy?” She sits back and rolls her window back up. She’s proud of herself and her message to the masses. She can’t understand why I’m watching her the whole time from putting the car in “Park” to the time we get out of the car. She also can’t figure out why I lock the windows when she’s in the car.

We get into the store. I get a carriage. Both children (again, teenagers) argue about who will push the carriage. Once one gets a turn, they don’t want the turn and want the other to push. The other suddenly doesn’t want to push. I push the carriage. We go down the aisles that have what we need. They ask why we can’t go down this aisle.

“Because there’s nothing there we need,” I explain.

“But it’s fun.”

Of course it is. That’s exactly why I go to the grocery store. It’s fun. Sister can’t understand my judgmental look.

Someone in another aisle sneezes. Sister yells, “Corona!” I stop the carriage and offer another look. She turns to see her brother picking something. She doesn’t want that and tells him to pick something else. She is about to grab another kind when he sticks his hand out to prevent her from reaching for the item. She says, “C’mon! Stop it!” I ask them why the teenagers have to make a commotion in the store while there are four-and-five-year-olds setting a better example.

We go to another aisle. Sister picks something. Brother tells her its the wrong kind. Sister tells him to shut up. It’s what she wants. I try to wheel the carriage away from them but they see me and catch up.

We get to check-out. They continue to argue. I tell them to go ahead and wait for me while I get rung up and pay for the groceries. They’re still arguing. I still don’t know what they’re arguing over. Probably something most pressing, I’m sure. I’m finally done and we leave the store. They ask when they can go shopping with me again.

Soap Gets in Your Eyes

I sing this to myself from time to time. A lot of pain could be avoided if the children could learn what “Close your eyes” means.

Sung to “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by The Platters

They asked me how I knew.

There’s no way it’s true.

I of course said, “Fine.”

At least close your eyes. Soap gets in your eyes.

They said, “I need to hide. You just hurt my eyes.”

When it’s not a lie,

You must realize soap gets in your eyes.

So, I dodged them and their many jabs.

To think they would heed my words.

And today their sight has gone away.

I have too much soap (Too much soap).

Now screaming kids will cry.

I cannot see why.

So, I sigh and say,

If you close your eyes, nothing in your eyes.

(Soap gets in your eyes, soap gets in your eyes)

Soap gets in your eyes