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. She got excited when she heard the silverware drawer open. Sometimes she wouldn’t hear the silverware drawer open. On those days, I walk into the room 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. I try to bring someone with me since Wife is stuck home too 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

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

A Morning in the Life

Before the days of “Social Distancing” and the latest, newest “Normal” (Can we please stop with “New Normal”?), my days were filled with overworking the Miracles of Christ, force-feeding, and violating inalienable rights. My responsibilities, of course, were nothing compared with the burdens of the cherubim.

As you sit in your home/office/bunker waiting for the pandemic to subside, I wish to give you a glimpse into our morning routine and show you what it was like before we were self-isolating.

5:30-6:00 – Wake up. Have coffee. Turn on laptop and do some writing.

7:00 – Wake The Oppressed, The Boy, and The Gaggle. Head to basement to get clothes out of dryer and load the washer or empty/fill the dishwasher.

7:15 – Return upstairs to check on Cherubim. The Oppressed wakes again and says she needs to sleep more because of the tough day she had at school. The Gaggle is brushing her hair and getting ready to head downstairs. The Boy wakes up saying, “I don’t like you.”

7:20 – The Gaggle comes downstairs and gives her order for breakfast. The Boy comes downstairs. When asked what he would like for breakfast, he smiles and says he needs to think. The Oppressed comes downstairs wrapped in a blanket and complains how cold it is.

7:25 – The Boy would like pancakes. I tell him it’s too late for pancakes and he will have to settle for cereal, toast, yogurt, or fruit. These are not acceptable options for a child growing up in a first-world country. The Oppressed concurs and, under protest, accepts a bowl of cold cereal. I ask the children what they would like for lunch, they all choose school lunch. The selections here (ham, cheese, roast beef, PB&J, Fluff) are more in line with a North Korean labor camp. I clearly don’t love my children.

7:30 – A bus arrives to take The older Gaggle to school. They are up, dressed, and fed. They made their lunch the night before and grab their coats and head out to the bus.

7:40 – Inform the Miracles of Christ we are leaving in 25 minutes. The Oppressed leaves a half-eaten bowl of cereal on the counter. I remind The Oppressed the bowl needs to go in the sink. The Oppresses hangs her head and groans. She has to do everything and threatens to tell her teacher I think she is my slave.

7:45 – We are leaving in 20 minutes. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” the Miracles of Christ respond. Tell the children they need to brush their teeth. The Gaggle brushes her teeth, finds her shoes and makes sure her coat and bag are by the door when it’s “Go Time”. The Oppressed brushes for 20 seconds, maybe 30. The Boy needs help getting toothpaste on his toothbrush. The Gaggle and The Oppressed are upstairs but I am the only one who can help him. I am in the middle of doing dishes but I am told I have all day for that. Wife is on a conference call. A tantrum is welling up inside The Boy. I run upstairs to avoid a Polish hostage crisis.

7:55 – Ten minutes to “Go Time”. The Oppressed is furious at having to brush her teeth a third time. (It’s her second, but try telling her that.) The case against me is mounting when she finally gets a hold of Amnesty International. I remind her I’m a licensed foster parent and a Little League coach with multiple CORI’s run and passed. I like my chances.

8:05 – Kick the tires. Light the fires. I tell the children it’s time to make tracks. The Boy can’t find his shoes. The Oppressed can’t find her bag. I remind them everything is on the porch by the door. “Not those shoes.”

8:15 – Everyone in the car. Ready to go. The Boy needs to use the bathroom. I remind him we’ll be at the school soon. We arrive at the school. Children spill out of the car and run into the school. Can they beat the bell? They make it. I always pull up to the entrance. I leave the school giving signs of solidarity and support to other parents.

8:20 – Return home to fine various snacks and folders in the porch and kitchen. Round up the articles and head back to school to leave them with the secretary.

Corona!

The Corona Hype has everyone worked up and stocking up toilet paper like booze during Prohibition. Everyone here at the house is dealing with the outbreak as best they can. School is cancelled for three weeks. We have stocked up on supplies in case of a quarantine and the children see the supplies and think The Wife and I are throwing a party just for them.

We think we are all set and then the time comes when we actually need something. One of us has to go to the store. I park in the back of the lot to avoid the throngs of hoarders fighting for a space closer to the store. It gives me exercise and a chance to say an extra “Hail Mary” before entering the Retail Colosseum. I only need two or three things so I don’t need a carriage.

I browse the toilet paper aisle just for laughs. There’s a couple of packages left. For the right price, I can tell you where I was.

I come home and tell The Wife of the fun I had at the Colosseum. We check on two of the kids who are coughing and dealing with a bout of asthma. One of The Gaggle sneezes and then yells, “Corona!” Another is in bed a lot. My wife and I look at each other and pray our house is not another statistic.

Wife works from home. She had a cold (a gift from The Gaggle) just as Coronamania started to grip the nation. She was told to stay here. There may have been a restraining order involved. I don’t remember.

We’re trying to teach our children “Social Distancing”. It’s working well, especially when our children climb into bed with us. I’m trying to figure out how to cover my face and still breathe at the same time. I’ve carried children back to bed a couple of times. They find their way back. Children need to be right up against me in bed. I hear another cough. I roll my eyes.

A souvenir photo from the Colosseum.

Water Torture

Cleanliness is next to godliness. My children being clean are miracles of God.

There are certain things the children here need to do. More often than not, whatever the task, I tell them the same thing: This can take 10 minutes or it can take three hours.

Luckily, my children’s showers don’t take three hours. It may feel like three hours to them. For as long as my children have been taking baths and showers, there is some type of mysterious power that makes them forget English, or maybe it’s just the soap and shampoo in their ears.

The process starts innocently enough. I turn on the water. I tell them to wet their hair. This is where the wheels come off. They need a washcloth. The water will get in their eyes and sting them. They’ll jump in the pool without hesitation but water coming out of the showerhead can impair their vision.

Remember the part about forgetting English? We are mastering “Close your eyes.” Basic stuff. I’m still trying to figure out how to say it in English. Maybe there’s water in their ears. I’m not sure. Whatever the problem, the children don’t quite understand what to do in this situation. This is when The Boy runs out of the shower to the closet for a washcloth. If it’s a good day, Spider Man or Paw Patrol are right on top and we can resume. The wet footprints lead him back to the shower, which is now too hot and we have to spend a few more minutes adjusting the temperature.

We get the right temperature (it’s the same one as when he left it but I let him think he fixed it). He has his washcloth and I am ready to wash his hair. But wait. He has to get the washcloth wetter than it was. I’ve already started to wash his hair and he is trying to put the washcloth under the water. Shampoo gets in his eyes. He’s blinded for life for the third time this week and he hates his dad. Screaming. Mayhem. I wipe his eyes with one hand while holding the washcloth under the shower with the other. I wipe his eyes while being told I’m the one who did this to him.

Shampoo is done. A little conditioner. Rinse out the washcloth for the second round. We need a break because he can feel “it” running down his forehead. I try to say, “Close your eyes.” It clearly came out wrong or it was the conditioner getting in his ears. He can’t see. He’s blind.

We’re almost home. I just need to help washing. I reach for the soap. The Boy turns and grabs the body wash. There’s still conditioner running down his fore head and the ground is wet from the running shower. I’m dying one thousand deaths while trying to hold on to his arm while he is reaching for the body wash. Conditioner gets in his eyes. He’s dying. I’m mean.

I finish washing and rinsing. I turn off the water. The Boy turns the water back on because he was supposed to turn off the water. He turns off the water. He runs to his bedroom. I follow him with the towel hoping no one is at the front door, which just happens to have a view of the open bathroom door.

“Drying off”

The Boy

I have a son. He is like a typical boy in a lot of ways. He wants to be a fireman. He wanted to be a policeman until a trip to New York City. He saw members of a SWAT team. He now asks the same question every time he sees a police officer: Are you SWAT?

The Boy sometimes gets into bed with us at night. On nights when we are truly blessed, we will have The Boy and The Oppressed with us. Thankfully, Wife had the wisdom and foresight to buy a king-sized bed.

I woke up in the middle of one night and found myself near the edge of my side. Wife was near the edge on her side with The Boy smack in the middle. This was the perfect scenario for me and I carefully maneuvered over The Boy to sleep next to Wife; something I haven’t been able to do since our little Miracles of Christ graduated from crib to bed.

The Boy woke up as soon as I settled down next to Wife and immediately became aware of the transgression. He got out from under the covers, screamed, “No!” and pulled me back to my side. His springing into action awoke Wife who looked over her shoulder to see what it was that was sounding like a SWAT Raid. The Boy continued to pull me back and inform me where was my side was and that Wife was HIS Mom.

I announced, “I miss my wife!” as The Boy settled back into bed next to Wife and went back to sleep.

Mom: Check. Me: Check. Okay. We’re good here.

Math Problems

I try to help children with their homework. By helping, I mean I will help them find the answer. I refuse to give them the answer, much to the chagrin of The Oppressed and various members of The Gaggle.

There are times when I try to help children find the answer but they don’t want my help. They have the answer and it is right. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them to check their work. I need to find other ways to get them to check their work.

One such incident occurred with The Oppressed. She was doing math homework and was confident she had done her homework without getting a single problem wrong. Part of doing their homework includes me, the taskmaster, checking their homework and (gasp!) making them correct their mistakes. The scars are many. The therapy will be expensive.

I told The Oppressed to go over one specific problem. She wouldn’t. She got all of her answers right and she is good to go.

This is a good time for me to mention The Oppressed has informed me she needs a cell phone to help her deal with the multiple challenges and demands of elementary school.

“Listen,” I say to her. “Are you sure this is the right answer?”

She is sure.

“Okay,” I say. “If all of these answers are right, then I am obviously wrong. If I am wrong, we will stop everything we are doing right now. We will drive to the mall and get you a cell phone.”

Her eyes lit up. She almost dropped her homework.

I continue. “We will get the newest, latest phone they have. We will get the biggest data plan they offer.”

She smiled wide.

“We will download the YouTube app and we will not leave the store until we have created an account for you.”

Christmas had arrived. All of her dreams had manifested. Everything she had possibly wanted was coming true. All in one night.

Alas, eight times eight does not equal 60. She was stuck with playing games on a phone I stopped using six or seven years ago and continues to be deprived.

Favorite Sayings

I find myself repeating certain things to the little Miracles of Christ. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or what they are doing. It seems different situations or actions bring out the same responses. It doesn’t matter which one is doing it or where we are. I want to share a sample of these nuggets with you. Some are lines from movies I’ve seen. Others are gleaned from anecdotes I’ve heard. Whatever they are, wherever they came from, I want to share them with you because they help me cope in certain situations. I hope they can help you if you find yourself trying to communicate with your children.

What the hell?

For the love of God/Pete/Mike/All that’s good.

You’re sucking my will to live.

I’ll tell you in Spanish: No.

I can’t even.

What made you think that would be a good idea?

I can’t miss you if you don’t leave.

I want to play guitar for Aerosmith. What can I tell you?

Make me say it again.

Are you out of your mind?

Give me strength.

Let’s pretend we’re in the ___ grade.

I’m going to sell you to the lowest bidder.

You’re entering a world of pain.

What part of “No” is giving you trouble?

If life were fair, there’d be no rich people.

Dinner at Plymouth

One of my favorite places to visit is Plymouth. Wife and I went there on a spur of the moment when we started dating. It’s still one of our favorite places to go and spend a day or two.

Our itinerary has changed since we’ve been blessed with the little Miracles of Christ. It’s been less browsing in wine stores and more hustling through whatever we’re doing so we can be back at the hotel before (perish the thought) the pool closes.

One particular hostage crisis occurred with The Oppressed on a day that was balanced with adult and child activities. The Wife and I decided we would have a small lunch during the day, not too much. We had plans for dinner. Wife and I noticed a French restaurant across the street from where we were staying. There was a menu posted outside. We looked at the menu and then looked at each other. Wife is a Foodie. She loves restaurants, nice restaurants, restaurants where the waitstaff walks up to your table dressed up in a nice suit and, off the top of their head, recites the specials, including where it came from, what it’s cooked in and how it’s presented.

Wife and I pretty much knew what we were going to order. We noticed it pleased God that this restaurant should offer some dished the Miracles of Christ would enjoy. Perfect. It was going to be another trip to Plymouth capped off with a night at a restaurant we hadn’t yet tried. I could taste the Grand Marnier right there.

We headed downtown for our days activities and The Oppressed saw Domino’s. The look on her face said it all.

“Can we go to Domino’s?”

“No. We decided where we’re going.”

“I want to go to Domino’s”

“We’ll be back here another time. We can do Domino’s then.”

“But I don’t want to go to that place.”

The barrage had started. Wife and I didn’t expect this attack but it wasn’t the first. We met the initial charge with redirection. From there, we recalled the items on the menu and told her of all the offerings from the bill of fare. Things she herself loved. Things she had been constantly asking for. Things you couldn’t get at a pizza shop and we could get pizza anytime back home, and we have. We don’t have a restaurant like this where we live. This is our chance.

Wife and I offered a Thanksgiving Cornucopia of reasons why our wisdom had led us to this restaurant just as God had led the Pilgrims to Plymouth centuries ago. After a day of travelling and sightseeing, we would enjoy a feast of plenty and give thanks for the bounty the nice people in nice suits would be placing before us.

The oppressed wasn’t having it. She continued to batter us like that first winter of 1620-21. I was noticing the shelter of our reasons that protected us from the harsh winds and punishing weather of an elementary school-child and her demand for a pizza she had seen on TV were overpowering our plans for dinner. My vision of enjoying an appetizer and then a drink with my wife despite pestering children was going up in a flambé. The elements were punishing.

That evening, we sat down to a large pizza served with buffalo wings, paired with a variety of soft drinks served by the cup.

A parade down the middle of Plymouth. This was one of the calmer moments of our excursion.