The road to Hell is paved with Pampers

Diapers. When will I see the last of them?

I’ve got one kid still in diapers, and he doesn’t seem in any big hurry for us to move on.

The amount of money I’ve spent on diapers makes me a little sad that my boys will have to find a way to pay for college on their own. If only I’d followed my instincts and raised these kids in a barn, with a shovel and a hose, we might be able to pay for college one day. Instead, we enjoyed years of warm, dry bottoms. Who can say if we did right?

Big Man wears a size 5 diaper. He’s worn a 5 since he was about six months old. That was two years ago. I can’t bear to get him a size 6, because the kid on the size 6 box looks like he’s about eight years old. I don’t want to give Big Man any ideas about how it’s okay to just do your own thing if it feels right. It’s not okay. He’s going to have to make some tough decisions before community college slips out of reach too.

He’s not even 3 yet, so I don’t want to rush him, except I want to rush him. I’ve been buying, changing, and smelling diapers almost constantly for 8+ years. I’m ready to put them behind me, figuratively, for the few years I’ve got left before I have to start putting them behind me literally. God knows I lack the resources to afford Pampers and Depends concurrently.

"You toss him up in the air and I'll catch him in this."

“You toss him up in the air and I’ll catch him in this.” (Image: Esther Bubley, U.S. Farm Security Administration)

Big Man seems very content to remain in diapers for the foreseeable future. Once in a while, he will tease us by asking to go on the potty, but this is not an evolution so much as it is a precious chance to toy with our emotions. The only smell better than the aroma of one’s own dirty diaper is the smoky odor of burnt parental hopes. It’s a toddler thing.

My wife is not as eager to get out of the diaper trade as I am. She would start all over again with a new baby in a heartbeat. If she had her way, she would always have an infant in the house, which is the definition of insanity. She’ll keep wanting new babies while she’s playing bingo in the Sunshine Home.

I like babies too. They’re cute and nice to hold for a little while, but when it comes to owning any more of them, I’m cashed out. I’m too close to the light at the end of the diaper tunnel to turn back. I’m so close I can almost not smell it.

All I need now is for a certain little boy to get serious about earning an Associate’s Degree.

Then it’s a few good years of freedom, and off to the Sunshine Home. Unlike my wife, when I get to the Home, I’m not giving a single thought to changing another diaper, not even my own.

The right man for the job

We had some heavy snow in early December. Around Christmas, it warmed up. Then, it rained. Our sump pump saw all this melt and rainwater coming and tried to run for the hills. It didn’t make it to the hills, but it shuffled just far enough to unplug itself. I can’t even blame this on a kid; I’m convinced the pump worked its own plug free of the outlet.

Hours later, the pond on the basement floor alerted us the pump’s cowardice.

When your basement floods, it’s good to have friends. Thanks to my wife, we have these. (I’m in charge of the gas and electric.) Good people stepped up with loans of wet/dry vacs and fans that helped us get things cleaned up in a much shorter time than I anticipated. For that, we are thankful.

A flooded basement also affords you a good opportunity to assess the general helpfulness of your children. Yeah, they all want to help make cookies, but who’s really ready to get down and dirty in a crisis that doesn’t result in treats?

Big Brother went bowling with his buddies. I can’t really blame him. If I could have gone bowling while somebody else cleaned up, I would have.

Buster played on the Kindle. I’m sure he was playing a flooded basement game to collect useful restoration tips for me.

Big Man was the true first responder of the day. As soon as he woke from his nap and got word of the trouble, he called for his boots. All his years of training on the family vacuum cleaner had been building toward this day. There was water on the floor and a shop vac to be manned. It was his moment.

No task is too big; no boots too cute.

No task is too big; no boots too cute.

I’m not upset at the other boys for not rushing to help. This kind of event is not the same adventure for boys their ages as it is for Big Man, and I certainly did not need all three of them underfoot as I cleaned. In the end, Big Man helped out more by providing spiritual comfort, cuteness, and perspective than by the amount of water he sucked up. He was the right guy at the right time for the right job. That’s why he came to help. Children have a way of knowing these things.

I’m glad the others kept out of the way of my cleaning and of Big Man’s cheering me up. It worked out perfectly. Well, almost perfectly. It would have been just a little better if the other two were upstairs helping somebody make some cookies for when the basement work was done.

 

Christmas: Let’s do this thing!

Christmas observations and tips from Big Brother, Buster, and Big Man for the enjoyment of boys and girls everywhere.

Daddy didn’t run away from home on Christmas this year either. He threatened to do it two or three times like always, but we’ve been around this block before. He always acts like he’s headed for the door, but we all know he loves how exciting and noisy we make Christmas for him. Besides, he’s not going anywhere when there’s still a ham in the oven. And after dinner, he’s too fat and slow to escape.

We brothers do our best to keep Daddy engaged on Christmas. He’s says he needs a minute of peace, but we know he’s just saying that so he won’t put us to any trouble. But it’s really no trouble for us to keep things lively for him. And since he’s almost a hundred years old, it’s important to keep his mind in the game.

Keep you candy handy. You'll need all your strength to rip open these packages.

Keep your candy handy. You’ll need all your strength to rip open these packages.

Daddy gets out his camera on Christmas morning when we’re getting ready to open presents. This is kind of like his little challenge to us. If he has time to take more than five pictures before the unwrapping swirls out of control, we haven’t done our jobs. That’s why we’ve all just got to pitch in and start unwrapping stuff. Daddy tries to keep us taking turns or something, but Santa didn’t put all these present under this tree so we could sit around and talk about them. It’s every man for himself.

The best thing to do on Christmas is open up all the boxes with your new toys in them and dump everything out on the floor.  Toys come with a lot of pieces nowadays and it’s important to get all the pieces together in one big pile. That way, when you and your brothers start hounding Daddy to assemble all your play sets, he’ll have all the pieces for any of them he needs in one central location.

If you have anything that needs batteries (and you do – lots of things), make sure you bring that to your parents attention right away. It takes about 538 batteries to get through the holiday. Your parents will never learn this and will only have stocked up about 400 batteries, so you need to get as many as you can before your brothers hog them all up. Otherwise, you’ll be staring into a drawer with nothing left but those useless, rectangle batteries they used about a million years ago and Mommy and Daddy keep around for nostalgia.

This is going to need batteries - lots of batteries.

This is going to need batteries – lots of batteries.

Here’s a fun fact about Christmas dinner: it’s a complete waste of your time. Wouldn’t you rather be playing? Even if you secretly like ham, pretend it’s one of the 9 billion foods you don’t. You’ve already loaded up on candy from your stocking, and if you get a little peckish later, you’ve still got a candy cane full of ROLOs and two caramel Santas in reserve.  You don’t have time for a sit-down meal; protest it.

Christmas is a time to stay wound up as long as you can. After all, you want to make special holiday memories for Mommy and Daddy.

 

Just put the ball through the hoop; it’s that simple

The most recent video gaming system we have is a PlayStation 2 from around the turn of the century.  The older boys turn to it when they need a change from their small screen games.  “Can we play a game on the TV?” they ask. This is my chance to tell them about the olden days, before Wi-Fi, when the only choice we had was to play our games on big screens plugged into the wall. Those were hard times.

After my sermon, if no good sports are on TV, I might let them use the appliance to play like the old people did. Their favorites have been Simpsons games, from back when young people used to watch that show and use products associated with the brand. These are one-player games, and I have two boys chomping to play, which means taking turns, a rotten system for having fun.

To overcome this difficulty, Big Brother and Buster have begun competing at sports games. In these long, school-less days before Christmas they’ve discovered a college basketball game. Seeing them play this together is much more entertaining than watching them destroy Springfield with the Plow King truck.

Big Brother plays on a real basketball team and has a good understanding of the rules. He knows what all the buttons on the game controller do and how his virtual players respond to his actions. Buster knows the ball is supposed to go through the hoop. You get points for that. He’s happy just to hold a controller in his hand, as long as he’s mostly sure pushing its buttons has some vague relationship to what’s happening on the screen.

This disparity of understanding leads to a mismatch. Buster has won every game so far. Instinct? Luck? Virtual motivational skills? I don’t know, but it’s funny to watch.

Our strategy is to win.

Our strategy is to win.

Once the score gets into double digits, Buster has to ask who’s winning.

“You are,” Big Brother moans.

When I ask him how the game is going, Big Brother complains about his team. “It’s not me. My players can’t make any shots.”  That may be true, but a coach takes responsibility for making his players better.

Big Brother starts out playing as our Spartans, but last time he got so discouraged he switched, in an act of outright betrayal to his father, to the University of Michigan. Buster doesn’t care which team he plays; he’ll motivate his guys to put the ball in the basket.

“Hello, Blue Jays,” Buster mocked as his big brother’s new, blue team took the court.

“They’re not Blue Jays,” Big Brother bristled. “They’re called Michigan Wolverines.”

“Hello, Michigan Wolverine Blue Jays.” Buster’s already taken trash talk to an esoteric level.

Big Brother has been a good sport, but sometimes his frustration gets the best of him. He tries to trick his brother into taking full court shots. “Shoot it from there and you’ll get 9 million points.”

Buster doesn’t need 9 million points. He’s already up by 21 with two minutes remaining.