Monthly Archives: November 2010

My House = Grand Central

I had nearly this many kids in my house today, except none of them sat still this long. Except to eat.

With county public schools closed today for parent-teacher conferences, my house has been like Grand Central with no less than nine additional children passing through along with a passel of parents picking them up and dropping them off. And then there was the daring rescue involving a ladder and a 4-year-old.

We belong to a neighborhood babysitting co-op, so while watching a kindergartener and a 3rd-grader, I got my annual cardio-sprint workout in a kickball game with those two boys and my own son, Eddie. Then my station wagon’s rear-facing 3rd-row seat was pressed into service when we picked up my 4-year-old daughter Carla from preschool at noon. I had almost forgotten that her classmate – with the same first name – was coming over to play for the afternoon.

So I had five kids at my table for lunch.

And I survived!

I even got the picky eater (one of the babysitting co-op boys) to eat a tiny triangle of ham sandwich. I just bribed him with cookies sent by the preschool classmate’s mom. Practically giddy from a peaceful lunch with almost no goofing off at the table, though not a ton of eating, either, I start to think about more children of my own. But I quickly remember how awful 3 a.m. feedings are.

At the moment the two co-op kids walk out my front door, in from the back walks Eddie’s 7-year-old’s buddy, Harris, and his little brother, Sean, to present Carla with some homemade art.

Net change in number of kids: 0.

But Eddie and Harris go for Kickball Round 2 in the alley while Sean stays to do crafts with the girls and me. When Sean finishes, we join the big boys in the alley (and lock the front door so abductors and pervs won’t get the girls).

Then my at-home-dad pal David wanders along while his car is stuck in the repair shop. His 3-year-old daughter and kindergarten-age son had had enough of the neighborhood playground, so he decided to see if we were home. And for a fresh pair of undies after the 3-year-old’s potty accident. I seize the moment and got a consult on a problem electrical socket (the friend is currently rehabbing his house).

Back in the alley, my neighbor Sandra announces that two hours before she’s supposed to leave town to care for her own sick mom, her 4-year-old just locked them out of the house. I hand over my ladder so she can reach a second-floor window. By the time my daughter and the preschool playmate get wind of what’s going on, they want to see the “break-in,” too. Along with David and his two kids, we all head down the block to watch. When I find Sandra, in heels, halfway up the ladder – precariously angled and upside-down – I decide this is no time for a lady to break into her own house. I flip the ladder around and climb up, eliciting howls of laughter from the neighborhood kids as I haul my carcass through the window.

Crisis averted, door unlocked, preschool playmate picked up, at-home dad buddy and kids fetched by wife. Game over?

I find a chair in the alley and plop down to feel good about myself and my daring rescue. Then I start to wonder how many kids I’m supposed to have at the moment. Minutes later, however, my 7-year-old wants to play Wii with Harris and Caleb, his 2nd-grade classmate and son of the formerly locked-out neighbor who is now pondering giving me a key.

Normally, I’m a huge Wii obstructionist. (It’s Mommy’s – we can only play when she’s home. Or, only if you finish your homework first and unload the dishwasher.) But I figured he played outside for 3-1/2 hours, so why not? In they go, as Carla stays outside with Harris and Sean’s parents.

I settle into the kitchen to start rice pilaf and my super salmon recipe (top with equal parts soy sauce and pancake syrup; bake at 350 for 30 minutes – or 40 or 50, if you forget about it). Then Carla wanders back in and joins the Wii party. Then Sean comes in. Then comes Neil, who lives down the alley, brought by Harris and Sean’s dad. I’m sure Neil’s mom was around somewhere.

Total number of kids in my basement: 6.

How did this happen?

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Make Your $&@^# Bed!

Do we see a made bed here? No! We do not!

Don’t the kids want finally to go buy the second Wii remote they’ve been saving up for since July? Don’t they want to get wood to burn for s’mores night? Don’t they know that I will burst into flame if I have to say one more time – on a Saturday – “Get dressed and make your bed before we can go.” Huh? Don’t they? HUH?

Oh wait, my kids are 4 and 7 and have the attention span of spastic rodents.

Mommy finally got the Wii she wanted for her birthday four months ago. I’ll admit it’s not been the massive time-sucker I had feared. Primarily because the main rule is that it’s Mommy’s Wii, so we can only play it with her. The other rule is that you have to be on your feet when it’s your turn to play so you don’t turn into a typically American couch potato. Everybody else, however, must remain seated – or else you might get hit in the head, like happened to my Lovely  Bride twice in 90 seconds when our son first tried out his cousins’ Wii.

I’ve even relented to the point of occasionally allowing before-school Wii time, as long as – you got it – people are dressed, teeth are brushed and beds are made. For Pete’s sake, JUST MAKE YOUR @&$%!# BED!

I’ll admit the games are fun – my wife and I have even played some after putting the kids to bed. But as soon as we set the thing up, we realized it would be handy to have a second remote so two people could race cows at a time, for example. So we started a savings plan: the kid jobs that usually earn 25 cents a pop – emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming the rug – will be matched (from the Bank of Dad, naturally) if the money goes into the Wii jar. There’s been the occasional whole dollar put in for exemplary handwriting or super-good behavior, but otherwise, saving up has been a long slog.

So you’d think this morning when we count the money to find we’re 19 cents short of the $58.29 we need, Eddie would jump at the chance to earn the last bit. I had in mind that today we’d let the dog off-leash at the park, then check out a new barbershop, buy some wood for our fire pit and s’mores then hit GameStop to buy the remote and maybe even celebrate with lunch next door at Denny’s. Oh, and we need bread.

But instead, he makes his room into a spider-web of purple and blue yarn, then wanders into the living room witha  book and settles into our super-comfy giant yellow swivel rocker that my dad took to California in 1963 (thrice reupholstered since).

Dad: Were we going to try to do anything today?

E: Go to GameStop.

D: Do we have enough to buy the Wii remote?

E: No.

D: What should we do about that?

He turns back to his book.

D: Weren’t you going to rake leaves to earn the rest of the money?

E: Yes… I’ll go get my shoes on to rake leaves.

I realize it’s totally normal for 7-year-olds to be so easily distracted, according to some book I read. But why doesn’t the incentive of getting to buy this remote provide any motivation? Why do I have to turn into Miss Hannigan’s male twin to keep him on track? When does the ability to focus kick in? Do I go passive aggressive and just fritter away the morning on my own, only to tell the kids at lunch that we’re not getting the remote because nobody ever made beds? More likely, I’ll tell them that if beds aren’t made by the time I get back from walking the dog (so much for some off-leash time), then nobody’s getting a Wii remote or s’mores night until next weekend. Ugh, I can hear the whining now.

Fifteen minutes later, he’s still not back. And I hear the sounds of lots of scotch tape being used. Sigh.

Time for me to go act like a grownup.