All this sentimental garbage

I was feeling pretty lousy on Tuesday, so I went home early from work. Mommy and Big Man were leaving to take Buster to preschool. I climbed right into bed, hoping to take advantage of a silent house to get some rest.

Tuesday is trash pickup day for us. A half hour later, I heard the garbage truck stop in front of our house with the associated noises of its hydraulic lift and our bin clattering around.

At the same time I heard Mommy and Big Man return home. Big Man was crying like the end of the world. His wails were so loud I feared he’d had some kind of run in with the garbage truck or its machinery. He’s just the type of kid to want to run and put his hands all over a big, dangerous truck.

I listened to Mommy’s footsteps on the kitchen floor below. There was nothing urgent about them, so I knew Big Man was not hurt. He was most likely crying because Mommy wouldn’t let him go play on the truck.

As she brought him into the house the mystery was solved. “They take our trash away every week,” Mommy consoled him. “Do you want them to just leave all that garbage here?”

Apparently, he did. He was sure he was going to miss that garbage.

Anyone know where I can set up a tax-deferred account for future hoarding therapy expenses?

"I'm sure there's something I can still use in there."

“I’m sure there’s something I can still use in there.”

 

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.

 

Sibling rivalry: Talking Dogs versus The Loop of Agony

The cooler, wetter weather has caused us to move much of our sibling rivalry fighting indoors. There are plenty of indoor toys, let alone game screens, to argue over, but our latest, loudest feuding has been over Netflix.

Buster likes Star Wars shows, especially those that combine the franchise with LEGOs. What could go wrong when the two most awesome things in his world are combined? These programs may not be very entertaining for adults, but at least they are not fingernails-on-chalkboard painful like his second favorite: Power Rangers. There are many different incarnations of Power Rangers, and some stab at my brainstem less brutally than others. The most plentiful episodes, though, seem to have been produced by a Junior High A/V class under a substitute teacher.

Even Big Brother’s eight-year-old sense of production values is offended by this Public Access Channel version of Power Rangers.

Buster’s greatest Netflix adversary is Big Man, with his weakness for talking dogs.

Big Man loves puppies, a group that includes all dogs, regardless of age. He likes the baby puppies best, but even the old puppies are good. There are lots of tolerable dogs in cartoons, but Big Man doesn’t care for cartoons. He likes live-action movies. While it seems quite natural for Scooby-Doo to talk, I get a little freaked out when I hear Don Knotts’ voice come out of a real dog. Don Knotts’ voice was unsettling enough when it came out of Don Knotts.

Will the real Deputy Fife please stand up?

There are more movies featuring talking puppies than you probably imagine. As a parent who has now watched a good many of them, this makes me sad. The only thing that makes me sadder is that somehow there aren’t enough movies featuring talking puppies.

I’ve learned not to lament the discovery of another talking dog movie. Finding another talking dog movie is a minor miracle. A new talking dog movie gives us a 90 minute reprieve from having to watch the old talking dog movie one more time. That’s something to be thankful for.

Buster might not mind the dog movies if they didn’t take away from his Star Wars/Power Rangers time. As soon as he sees the first hint of closing credits, he’s on the remote. Big Man’s movie is over and it’s his turn to choose. It’s only fair, except that when a Power Rangers episode ends, the next episode starts automatically. This may be the single greatest cruelty anyone has ever done to me. I call it the loop of agony.

power-rangers

Go! Go! Power Rangers! Go! Go! Unplug the TV before the next episode starts!

You might think this would be the perfect time for me to go out into the peaceful, cold rain and read a book. I would be content with that, but the kid who’s not watching his choice isn’t about to let me go where there be mud puddles without sloshing along beside me. Besides, everyone else in my family is counting on me to convince Buster that Power Rangers is really over before the next episode auto-starts.