Doggie May Care

“Walkin’ the dog. I’m just a-walkin’ the dog.” – Rufus Thomas

My children are enterprising. They are constantly seeking new ways to be productive. Whether it’s a way to make money or a way to give back to the community, they are able to come up with ways to improve the world or save up for something they would like to buy.

The Oppressed is usually the one who comes up with these ideas. She thought it would be a great idea to have a lending library on our property. It has been a hit with people in our neighborhood and beyond. There is barely enough room to fit any more books sometimes. That’s when I make a few selections and make room for the next person who wants to come along and be generous. I help her help others.

The latest idea from The Oppressed was a dog-sitting service. Wife would see messages on social media from people looking for someone to take care of Spot or Fluffy for a period of time while they went away. They would come with their pooch a few days before the vacation so doggie and The Oppressed could get acclimated to each other. It seems like a good fit. Doggie returns at the set time for the actual visit and The Oppressed goes to work.

Wife and I help out at times with the dog. We have a little experience with keeping a dog. We had one a long time ago. This dog was a handful. He singlehandedly pulled up the floor on our porch. He chewed bookcases and clawed doors. I think we went through four rugs in our house because he kept peeing. I could go on and maybe I will in another installment of these fantastic adventures, but the point is that Wife and I are experienced when it comes to dealing with problem pets.

At least three dogs who have entered our house during this endeavor have left us presents at various times in various places in our house. One dog tried to mark his territory on a mesh-wire wastebasket. We’ve also had some other problems like a dog whose breath was so bad we could smell their breath from the opposite side of the room. I bought some dental chews hoping it would help things. It didn’t. The dog would want to lick us and we would have a stench on our legs or feet or whatever doggie was trying to lick. We felt bad about it but the dog smelled bad.

Small dog

I sometimes will join The Oppressed on a morning walk with the dog of the moment. It gives me a chance to get some exercise and talk to the Oppressed. Of course, nothing in going on and everything is great. The same story, by the way, with the older children. You’re obviously reading from half of the greatest parenting combo in the history of Parenting. Our kids are great. Nothing is wrong. They’re great. It’s obvious Wife and I are wonderful.

Of course, there was one time my status as wonderful, perfect parent may have come into jeopardy. In the middle of one night, one particular tenant was being restless and whimpering. Wife and I were woken up by the sounds of a pained pooch. I thought the dog maybe needed to be walked, so I got dressed and took the dog for a walk. This was a strong, good-sized dog and they posed some challenges for me as we saw a skunk up the street. I was able to hold on to the dog and save the both of us from getting sprayed. We returned home. The dog was still whimpering but not as much as before we left the house. Wife and I told The Oppressed about the midnight walk and she was most displeased when she found out I walked the dog without her. This, of course, was her job and she should have been included in this situation that had arisen in the middle of the night. I thought I was doing her a favor. I should have known better.

Big dog

T-Ball Basics

Like you, Corona screwed a lot of things up with my family. Loyal readers of my heartfelt stories know the challenges faced when it came to homeschooling the Miracles of Christ. You may also recall the fun times when I coached not one, but two baseball teams last spring. Due to Coronapalooza, our season got pushed back to the first week of August and like most T-ball teams, this crop of kiddos comes with their challenges as we tackle the fundamentals.

Given where we are with this whole pandemic, I’m guessing we’re lucky to be doing this at all. We’re slowly easing back into group settings and six kids on a baseball diamond seems manageable. Even when they are in their extended dugout, the tikes are able to keep a safe distance. When our team is up at the plate, my attention is divided between the dugout, the batter, and the baserunners. I’m making sure the batters hands are in the right position. I’m making sure the batter has a level swing. I’m making sure everyone is keeping a safe distance in the dugout.

I also have to make sure the runner on first doesn’t run after the ball. That’s happened. The runner chases the ball, picks it up and will try to throw it. I tell them to not pick it up. They then look around for a fielder to hand it too. If these kids don’t make it in baseball, they certainly have a solid grip on etiquette and manners.

We wear masks on the field. Again, I need to multitask. One fielder is chewing on their mask. Another is making a pretty sand mound… And then there is our future Major Leaguer. This kid doesn’t have an agent but they are able to make sure they have ample water breaks in the middle of the inning. It gets hot out there and they need a drink maybe every other batter. And what happens when you drink? You got it. Said future union dues-payer likes to make sure they are able to use the bathroom as often as they can. Sometimes, I will remind this player they just got a water break and how can they need another one already. That’s when Marvin Miller remembers he hasn’t used the bathroom yet.

Yes. It’s been a rewarding season. I’m still reminding kids to use the gloves they are already wearing instead of trying to catch the ball with their bare hands. Although catching with their bare hands is a small improvement. Some still run away hiding their faces when the ball comes to them.

My Kids won’t Eat

Drake wants Heineken and Jack Daniels.

Taylor Swift wants Starbucks Grandes delivered to her before 11 a.m.

Mariah Carey wanted bendy straws to go with her champagne.

Every diva has their food demands when it comes to what it will take to get them to perform. They don’t even need to be an entertainer preparing for a show before thousands of adoring fans. It can be a child who needs to get up and ready for camp.

Loyal readers of brave-daddy have seen and shared the heartwarming stories of the ungrateful Miracles of Christ. The daily struggles begin when they are told it’s time to get up and face the day. Once they grace us with their presence, they inform me of their displeasure with the day’s menu. There is always one we can count on to be up and out of bed long after they’re supposed to. When this happens, the menu is narrowed down to a piece of fruit or a granola bar. A granola bar. The humanity! This also happens when the children take their sweet time deciding what they want to eat. Time is running out and the menu will reduce to what can be made and consumed in the remaining time they have.

Morning requests are usually something like pancakes. I tell them that’s not possible. We need to get ready. People need to get dressed, pack their bags. Have cereal. Can I get it for them? It’s out of their reach. These are the same little darlings that will move a chair to the cabinet for the candy that is on the top shelf. But no, these are divas and they insist of the highest standards of service. Lady Gaga has her smoothie station. My children need cereal pulled out, poured out and served. Or maybe a breakfast burrito. Why can’t we have pancakes?

Keep in mind these children are running around at camp. They bring water with them. We also try to make sure they have something to drink with breakfast. They want juice. I give them juice. Are you going to drink your juice? Sure. Drink your juice. I am. (They’re not.) It’s time to go. We’re in the car. I hear a voice say, “I’m thirsty.”

This isn’t limited to breakfast. There are plenty of examples of dinner where the children are led to the table and disgusted at the swill and slop before them. Marinated meat. Fresh vegetables. Who does this to children? They don’t want this. They don’t want that. There will be threats if the menu doesn’t change. Strikes. Protests. Polish hostage situations behind bedroom doors. They won’t come out until there are acceptable items on the menu.

I don’t negotiate with terrorists.

Sharing My Finds

Like you, I do what I can to stay healthy. I ride a bike. I take walks. I went to a gym before Coronapalooza. I have been trying to lose or maintain my weight for a while. Some weeks are better than others.

I recently took a walk one night and someone was smiling down upon me on this particular constitutional. I passed a house with a table of boxes. These boxes contained books, CD’s and movies. I still read hard-copy books and collect and listen to CD’s. I read digital books and listen to digital music but I still like books and CD’s.

I was excited to return home with my new finds, one of which was a Genesis CD. I love Genesis. I was listening to it on a CD player (an earlier birthday present) as I was dealing with the mountain of dirty dishes and making dinner. Dinner just happened to be a recipe from a cookbook; another find. I was preparing a delightful batch of Pork and Red Chili and listening to my new find when one of The Gaggle come into the kitchen. Said Gaggle asked me what it was I was listening to. How old was it? What? Oh my God! This turned into another lecture about my questionable taste in music, which led to my questionable taste in movies. I told her I can’t help her if she can’t appreciate or recognize good music. She says, “Whatever,” she says. I’m old. She can’t help me.

My glorious find.

Time for dinner. The Pork and Red Chili was enjoyed by everyone except for The Oppressed, who is a vegetarian. Even The Boy seemed to like it. He tends to skip meals that contain spices or more than two ingredients, or don’t involve takeout

A similar incident occurred when I was driving with The Oppressed. I had a CD in the car. She was not impressed with my selection and proceeded to take my phone for more acceptable music. Fortunately, The Oppressed likes the Veruca Salt album I downloaded on my phone and she proceeded to play “Benjamin.” It’s one of the very few selections I have, CD or digital, that The Oppressed will tolerate.

My Cat won’t Behave

We’re having some issues with Kitty. I don’t know if she’s entering adolescence (she’s 15 months old) or if we have a bona fide psycho kitty on our hands.

Our little angel. Just don’t ask Wife.

There is still a matter of who, exactly, Kitty belongs to. Technically, The Boy got her for his birthday. Being home, I spent a lot of time bonding with Kitty. One of The Gaggle thinks Kitty belongs to them. They will take Kitty to their room. They will pick her up in front of me and tell her how nobody loves her more than them and they are the only one who cares about her. I say that’s a little immature and insecure on their part. The Gaggle says, “No it’s not!” The Gaggle goes to their room, this time, they don’t bring Kitty with them. I take this opportunity to spend a minute with Kitty. I pick her up, rub her head, and tell her who really loves her.

Kitty will also spend time with me and wife at night. This can be good. This can be bad. It’s bad for Wife. I think Kitty likes Wife more than she likes me. Wife disputes this but facts are facts. Kitty is always spending more time with her. It’s nice until Kitty jumps on Wife. This seems to happen just as wife is falling asleep. Wife is peaceful and rested and then Kitty comes into the room and jumps on Wife. Wife is rudely awakened. Specific threats are made regarding Kitty’s future in this world.

Wife likes to keep a cup of water on her nightstand. Kitty knows this. Kitty likes water; Not the water in her own dish, but she likes water. It has become a point of contention between Wife and Kitty. Kitty sees the cup of water. Kitty can’t pick up the cup so she will try to stick her face in the cup to drink it. More often than not, the water will end up out of the cup and on the floor. This always seems to happen early in the morning, two or three hours before Wife is supposed to get up.

One time, Wife thought she had a good idea and put two books on top of the cup of water. Kitty couldn’t see what was in the cup, so she tried to get the books off of the cup for a better look. As a result, everything, books, cup, and contents of said cup were knocked to the floor. Wife cursed Kitty’s name. I hustled Kitty out of the room and closed the door. Kitty was meowing at the door, doubtlessly to see if Wife was alright. I got towels from the bathroom and helped clean up what I could. Kitty is still meowing from the other side of the door. I tell Wife that Kitty is only trying to apologize. Wife didn’t believe me.

Art Depreciation

I carried the equipment back to the van hoping my last half-ounce of sanity would hold out for the ride home so I could hide somewhere until the next crisis presented itself. Unfortunately, the next crisis presented itself before the bag was dropped in the van.

I was the proud coach of not one, but two baseball teams last year. I coached The Oppressed and one of The Gaggle on one team, The Boy on the other. Both teams presented their own unique challenges. No matter what team had the practice or the game, I had more of The Gaggle sitting on the bench presenting an additional set of challenges to my parenting strategies and my overall sanity.

There was one particular afternoon where I had to remind myself I love my children and the work I was doing on the baseball field. It had been a challenging afternoon with the budding stars of the diamond that day. I had the usual two children telling my why one should be playing first base and not the other one. Another child was mesmerized by the blades of grass surrounding them, the occasional dandelion in the grass, and anything else not relating to baseball. I found that to be rather odd since baseball was the reason we were all gathered there on that particular day.

The game that particular afternoon mercifully came to an end. I carried the equipment back to the van hoping my last half-ounce of sanity would hold out for the ride home so I could hide somewhere and recharge until the next crisis presented itself. Unfortunately, the next crisis presented itself before the bag was dropped in the van.

I couldn’t help but notice the back of a seat had been touched up a bit by an artists touch. Now, the van at that point had been seven or eight years old but I didn’t recall artwork being included in the list of options when we bought it.

Art exhibits ‘A’ and ‘B’

I took a deep breath and calmly called the children to the back of the van. They dutifully assembled and saw the work of art that wasn’t there that morning. I asked them if anyone wanted to take credit for the new work gracing the back of the seat. There were no takers. We get home. Everyone sits at the table. The first thing I do is demand that anyone with “Stupid Pills” hand them over to me that very instant. There is obviously some mental damage here and I need to curb it.

Next, I inform all of the Miracles of Christ that everyone will be punished until the Real Rembrandt steps up and lays claim to the work. They hear me. They understand but they all tell me, swear to me that no one sitting at the table did it.

We begin the days-long interrogation process. Extra chores. No screens. Early bedtimes. The Oppressed is mad at whoever the culprit is. She, as well as the rest of the innocent parties are missing out on screens: the vital staple of any child’s development and well-being. One of The Gaggle offers to take the heat for everyone for the sake of getting it all over and done with. The rest of the Miracles of Christ will owe them down the road.

My wife and I play a guessing game every night. Whodunnit? We have our guesses and theories supporting those guesses. All of the guesses are good and the theories are intriguing. We don’t act on any of these, of course. We still wait for the guilty party(ies) to take it upon themselves to tell us what they’ve done. We have ruled out one of the children because of a “Tell” they have when they do something wrong. The “Tell” is not there. We figure they’re not involved this time.

Wife and I continue to wait for a confession. The children are put to work in the backyard. All of them, including the one we think is clean. There’s a lot of land to be mowed and tended to. We also have trees with falling branches that make it difficult to cut the grass. The Miracles of Christ are charged with removing the sticks from the grass and moved to the patio. This was happening on one particular day when the social worker of The Gaggle came to visit. She saw the children at work and felt this was a little excessive, even if our vehicle was vandalized. I thank the nice lady for bringing her opinion to my attention.

Time passes and someone cracks. They cave. They did it. Was there anyone else. No. They acted alone. Wife and I have the confession we have been waiting for. The rest of the children are off the hook and we discuss the proper punishment for the individual. But wait… There’s more! The guilty party had an accomplice. Said accomplice was sitting back letting the other take the heat. Brilliant child. A budding mastermind. Somewhere on the other side, Al Capone probably did a facepalm.

Punishments are handed down. I assess the situation and determine the retribution to be exacted. Wife thought the punishments were excessive and feels we should tone them down. I agree under protest. We hand down the sentences and wait for the next crisis to befall us.

Small (Very Tiny) Talk

I started a new job recently. It’s not great. Not glamourous. It is physical but that’s okay. Most of the work I’ve done is physical/manual labor and those types of jobs love me and like to keep me so I guess this is nice and convenient.

We have since moved on from home-schooling to vacation time and I am proud to tell you all of our children have passed and have been promoted to the next grade. The Oppressed. The Boy. The Gaggle. Everyone made it. I’m making another drink.

The Oppressed and The Boy are in camp. It’s a great place. It’s nearby and many of the parents I talk to would like to know if there is a program for grown-ups. This is a camp located within acres on acres of woods. There’s a pond, a pool. You can do archery. you can paddle a canoe. You get there in the morning, swim, play kickball, and eat lunch. After lunch you can go out in the canoe, do a little more swimming, hang out with your friends, maybe have a snack. You play another game and then you can go home. Sounds like a pretty good way to spend a summer day. Right?

My children seem to think so… I guess. I can’t get them to tell me anything about it. I get home. I have dinner. I ask the kids how camp was. “Okay,” they tell me. What did they do? “Stuff.” Care to elaborate? They don’t.

I finished dinner one night. The Oppressed has commandeered Wife’s phone. The Boy is watching YouTube videos. I ask both if they would like to take a walk and talk about their day at camp. The Oppressed runs away. The Boy is too tired.

I guess I’ll just pour a drink and do some writing.

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 her 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.