Thursday morning in pictures

On Thursday morning, Mommy went to work and Big Brother went to school. Buster didn’t have school until afternoon, so he, Big Man, and I spent the morning together. This is how we spent our time.

Usually, when Buster and Big Man decide to play with the same toy, it leads to the outbreak of hostilities within two minutes. On Thursday morning, there was some kind of magic in the air. When they played nicely together for more than three minutes, I ran for the camera to get a rare shot of tranquility:

Railroad barrons at peace.

Railroad barons at peace.

These days I can’t get out the camera without them clamoring to take it away from me and do some of their own shooting. Buster was fastest to the camera and took these pictures of Big Man:

Then it was Big Man’s turn. Big Man quickly learned the ON/OFF button doesn’t yield memorable photographs. Moving his finger to the correct button, which it barely reached, made a big difference:

After the photo session, I left to boys to play (without the camera) while I put away some laundry. I’m logging that chore right here, in case my wife didn’t notice. I should have had them take pictures of me folding shirts as proof.

Then I got out the vacuum, because I can be a good boy who does helpful things around the house from time to time. Vacuuming is a nice, light, cool-down chore after the heavy exertion of putting away laundry.

Each of our children has gone through a phase of adoring fascination with the vacuum. Big Brother and Buster have both put that phase behind them. Now that he is old enough to actually vacuum effectively, Big Brother hates no appliance more. Buster is indifferent to the machine. He too will learn to hate it when he is asked to push it for five minutes and this ruins his entire day.

Only Big Man lives still in the throes of admiration for the mighty vacuum. The moment it appeared, he was all over it, unwinding its cord and plugging it in. I no longer live in the hope that this toddler-vacuum love affair will last into years of productive house cleaning. I’ve been burned before. It’s now merely a matter of letting a boy learn to hate the device at his own pace. And letting him enjoy the bloom while it’s still on the rose.

After vacuuming came lunch, which may or may not have undone all the cleaning already accomplished. No photographic evidence has survived. If you want an idea of what it was like, maybe you can Google images of “all Hell breaking loose.”

But, hey, I fed the kids. That’s the important thing.

We’d all be sunk without her

I’ve got the easy part. I go to work at the same time every day. I get to have a relatively stable schedule. Occasionally, my day gets twisted around a little bit, having to drop off or pick up a kid here and there or stay home with them when they’re not in school. It may get me frazzled from time to time, but it’s still the easy part.

These many time-twisting tasks fall to my wife on all the days between my sporadic turns. On top of this, she works. She doesn’t have the luxury of working a full-time job, because the combination of children, time, and space won’t allow it. She works part-time jobs – several of them concurrently.

This requires a certain amount of daycare, for any of the boys who aren’t in school at any given time, and when I can’t take time off to be with them. She sets up the daycare. Honestly, it would drive me crazy making all the complex arrangements she manages, but she takes it in her Supermom stride. I don’t know how.

My wife is the most adaptable person I’ve ever met. Not only does she have to juggle jobs while juggling children, she also has to be able to reinvent routines for everybody when the old ones don’t work anymore. With children, things can change quickly, and she might have to leave behind people and places where she had hopes and plans to find a situation that works better for her family. Just the idea of this task daunts me, but she always seems to be able to pull it off. She always bounces back and finds a new way that works.

Don't we make a handsome couple?  And one of us is on top of things, too.

Don’t we make a handsome couple? And one of us is on top of things, too.

She must think I take all this for granted sometimes, and maybe she’s right. I’m human, and sometimes I get lost in my own issues. But I am always amazed at how, when the system seems near collapse, she bounces back and discovers a new way to make things work. I’m not that resilient, and I don’t know anybody else who is.

Our boys have always been the stars of this blog. My wife is funny, too, but that’s not the primary reason she deserves a little ink here. The fact is, our lives would not be anywhere near as fun or funny without her smoothing out the bumps for us. This is why she’s a superstar. This why I love her so much. And this is why we’re all lucky she’s the one masterminding the hard parts.

Gone Boy

It was just like one of those horrible Lifetime movies my wife makes me watch with her on Sunday afternoons when we could be viewing something culturally redeeming, like football.

I was just about to step into the shower before work when my wife opened the bathroom door and asked, “Where’s the baby?” He’s still the baby at two and a half.

I scanned the tight quarters of our bathroom. “He’s not in here.”

“He’s not in his bed,” she said. She smiled when she said this, because Big Man has been known to wake up early and go downstairs to start his day without telling anybody.

She went out and I turned on the water. Big Man was surely downstairs getting his crayons out, setting up to draw on some important papers or maybe the living room wall.

Something made me stop. I went out, meeting my wife coming up the stairs. “I can’t find him downstairs,” she said.

We went into the boys’ room. The blinds were down so it was still pretty dark. We could see enough to recognize Buster, sleeping peacefully in his bed. Big Brother was all knotted up in his blankets. Big Man’s bed was empty.

Everything I saw when I first looked at his bed.

Everything I saw when I first looked at his bed.

We went downstairs and began turning on lights. The illumination revealed my total nakedness (don’t dwell on this image; your mind’s eye might go blind) but no sign of Big Man. Maybe he was in the pantry, foraging some breakfast. Nope. He might be under the dining room table, concocting breakfast from escaped bits of last night’s dinner. Nope. There was no sign of him downstairs.

“All the doors are locked,” my wife reassured me. Neither of us was smiling anymore. I’m sure she was recalling the same news reports I was of children being stolen at night, right out from under their parents’ noses. We’d viewed these reports with skepticism, until now.

A search of the guest room revealed nothing, except that my heart was beginning to beat faster. I returned to the boys’ room and turned on the light, no longer concerned with disturbing anyone’s sleep. Big Man’s bed was still empty, but in the light I saw what I’d missed before.

From behind the skirt, hanging down below his bed, protruded one toddler-sized foot. I lifted the skirt and there he was, zonked out like a happy little fugitive, underneath his bed.

Upon closer inspection . . . If not for that protruding foot, he would have only been discovered by the K-9 Unit.

Upon closer inspection . . . If not for those five protruding little piggies, he would have only been discovered by the K-9 Unit.

My heart rate slowed as I took my shower. When I got out my wife reported that our roving sleeper had found his way back to the top side of his mattress.

As I was getting dressed, he sauntered into our room. We asked him where he’d been. He trotted back into his room and pointed under his bed, as if that were the most normal place to be.

We asked him why he was sleeping under his bed. “Wawee under there,” he replied. Wawee is what he calls Buster.

Typical boy. Blame it on your brother.

A simple (breakfast) plan

Saturday mornings I feed the boys breakfast. They all like bacon, and some of them like pancakes. Since there are no two foods they all like, this meal choice is the closest thing to a winner. A box of donuts has a greater chance of universal acceptance, but there are only about half of all Saturdays when I consider donuts a meal choice.

Bacon and pancakes are not difficult for a man to cook. They are a considerable challenge for a man and three overzealous helpers.

The electric griddle must be plugged in, and we’ve got a guy for that. Big Man, the self-appointed plugger inner and lighter upper of all things, will lodge a complaint with his union if anyone else attempts to push the cord into the griddle.

Bacon is first on the cooking surface, and everybody wants a part of that wonderment. Bacon is nothing less than a miracle. All the disciples need to be near it, nurturing it along its journey to delicious.  None recall how it spit grease at them last time – how could something so precious do a thing so uncouth? Daddy knows bacon’s dark side; the helpers are moved to pancake duty.

Forget the fireworks next July 4th. We're all going to enjoy the thrill of cracking eggs.

Forget the fireworks next July 4th. We’re all going to enjoy the thrill of cracking eggs.

Everybody wants to pour the pancake mix, but nobody knows when to stop pouring. I make them stand down and pour the mix myself, explaining I don’t want the whole box dumped out. It turns out the box is almost empty so I end up pouring it all into the bowl. “I could have done that,” Big Brother mocks. He’s right, so I quell my impulse to hit him over the head with the empty box.

The egg is the most coveted part of the entire pancaking process. I’m a remedial egg cracker. My wife bought me a special device to help me gain confidence. It was cheaper than a copy of Egg Cracking for Dummies. Everybody yearns to operate the egg cracker. It’s Big Brother’s turn. He cracks the egg flawlessly, but balks at the task of removing the slimy shell from the device.

My egg cracker for the specially challenged with Big Man's best Kilroy impression in the background.

My egg cracker for the Specially Challenged, with Big Man’s best Kilroy impression in the background.

Buster adds the milk as I hawk over him, shouting, “Stop, stop, stop!” after every few trickles, in constant fear he will let it all flow out into our bowl of pancake soup.

When Buster gets the proper amount of milk in the mix, or close enough, Big Man mounts his kitchen stool and stirs. I should be monitoring the bacon, but I’m busy keeping the bowl from sliding off the countertop.

Buster chides me for letting the bacon cook too long. I don’t believe it’s overcooked, but Buster is not completely confident in my ability to help him cook bacon.

We cook plain pancakes first. Then Big Man and I add blueberries. Big Brother doesn’t like blueberries. Buster only likes blueberries when they’re in a muffin I’ve been saving for myself.

Despite too many cooks in the kitchen, breakfast happened, but everybody lost their lust for helping when it came time to clean up.

The vast potential for growth in this job means he'll be able to see what he's mixing one day.

The vast potential for growth in this job means he’ll be able to see what he’s mixing one day.