The beasts awaken

Mommy’s new job means she leaves the house each morning before we four boys wake up. Mommy is the big winner in this new reality, because none of the men she leaves behind wake up pretty.

The first to wake up is Daddy. He is not a morning person, but he has seen enough dawns to realize the world wasn’t designed for night owls, and he must suck it up, even as he bounces off the bathroom door frame, which he walked into sideways.

After Daddy showers and shaves, he wakes up Big Brother. Big Brother is also not a morning person. He knows 7 a.m. is a horrible time to wake up. This makes angriness a constant part of his morning routine. Big Brother shuffles to the bathroom to assemble his many complaints for the day and do an inventory of all the aches that, in a just world, would keep him home from school.

Next to rise is Buster. He is less of a non-morning person. This is not to say he won’t be in a bad mood in the morning, it’s just that he is equally likely to be nudged into surliness in the afternoon or evening. Buster often wakes up by himself. He gives Daddy a nice hug, and it all goes downhill from there. Making him brush his teeth could be the thing that sends him into a funk. Or it might be the criminal lack of donuts for breakfast. Asking him to write out his spelling words before the test is a surefire way to send him into a spiral of grunts and foot stomping.

Children who study their spelling words can win handsome plaques. Or maybe it’s for clean teeth. Probably not a donut-eating award. Image: Harris & Ewing

Big Man is the wild card. Sometimes he wakes up early and sometimes he pushes sleep to the limit. Big Man is unlikely to be angry. He’s just very sleepy. Even when he gets up early, he often drags his blanket downstairs to curl up on the floor. He likes to stay in his pajamas, regardless of where he needs to be. He takes his time about getting around to breakfast. Big Man’s saving grace is that when he puts up a stink, at least he argues using English words instead of grunting his rebuttals like his caveman brothers.

Of the four, only Daddy shows any urgency about getting people where they need to be on time. The poor, hopeless man struggles against the current of chronological apathy every day, and every day it comes near drowning him in tardiness.

It is a maelstrom of his own making. Who gave Big Brother a nature that recoils from the rising sun? Who gave Buster the expectations of a prince in the robes of a pauper? Who gave Big Man the English language, to spout in endless explanation of why it’s not yet the right moment to put his shoes on, instead of just putting his damned shoes on?

I don’t know. Maybe it was Mommy.

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Cows don’t ask for extra desserts

People say cows have three stomachs. This is not true. Cows actually have one stomach, consisting of not three, but four distinct parts. It’s a large, complex stomach, but it’s only one organ.

Why am I, out of the blue, choosing this time to correct the mythology surrounding bovine digestion? Well, isn’t it just a crying shame that cows and their eating habits are so widely misunderstood? I mean, who gets blamed for all the most dangerous farting going on in the world today? Cows, that’s who. It’s so unfair.

Also I’m about to use this intro to transition to a human topic:

You know who does have three stomachs? My kids.

The smallest of the three stomachs is known as the Broccoli Stomach. In some anatomies, this is referred to as the Green Vegetable Stomach, but since the only green vegetable two of my three boys will condescend to eat is broccoli, we call it the Broccoli Stomach.

The Broccoli Stomach is so small as to be barely there. It fills up after the consumption of just a few broccoli florets. Since the digestive structure of these children does not allow any green and/or healthy items to pass beyond this stomach, vegetable consumption is severely limited.

The next stomach is known as the Dinner Stomach. This organ is larger than the Broccoli Stomach. Its main distinguishing feature is that it expands and shrinks, depending upon what’s for dinner. Chicken nuggets, pizza, and burgers with bacon on them can make this into a stomach of useful size. Any food roasted in herbs, or dishes with too many combined ingredients, will make this stomach shrink to the size of the Broccoli Stomach.

“Come along, Bessie. Let’s get you to the dessert line before all the good cud is gone.”

The largest of the three stomachs is the Dessert Stomach. The Dessert Stomach is too large to fit inside a child’s body, but by some miracle of biology, it’s in there anyhow. This stomach has strict standards and will absolutely not accept any overflow from its smaller brethren. Though quite large, it must reserve all its space for sweets.

Though highly discriminating, the Dessert Stomach always has room for more cookies and other treats that fit its strict requirements for entry.  Its motto, “No cupcake left behind!” exemplifies its commitment to provide safe haven to all the homeless sugar in the world.

Through this three-stomach system, evolution has provided children with the remarkable ability to execute their primary functions (bouncing off walls, jumping on beds, and leaping onto napping fathers) without being held back by the weight of too many vitamins or inhibiting proteins in their bodies.

If you wonder how a child can say they are so full to the top that they cannot eat one more bite of dinner, and then ask for ice cream in the next breath, puzzle no more. The miracle of the three-stomach system accounts for this world-benefiting phenomenon.

Nature is an amazing force, and did I really need that nap anyway?

It’s Snowdaypalooza!

In the past couple weeks our schools have had at least seven snow days. It might have been more, but I lost count in the delirium of the cabin fever. Being housebound with three boys, preschool through 5th grade, felt like a bad episode of Big Brother at first. Then it began to feel like Lord of the Flies.

Our first two snow days were the result of an actual snow storm. When that got cleaned up, the Polar Vortex saw its chance to swoop down on us, giving us high temperatures in the neighborhood of -3° F (-19°C). I’m glad there’s now an official name for a good old-fashioned cold snap. Things are more dramatic when they have names that are capitalized. People might not understand closing school for an arctic blast, but having the Polar Vortex descend upon you is serious business.

That moment you realize the cold spell you see coming is actually the Polar Vortex.

After two days of keeping kids at home, the Vortex got bored and moved on. The temperatures rose to near freezing. Yay!

Ice storms. Boo!

The ice storms had names too, because that’s how storms roll these days. I don’t think it’s a good idea to name storms. It makes the storms competitive. Every storm wants to be remembered by name, so instead of just enjoying themselves and scooting through on the trade winds, they get as nasty as possible to leave their marks: “Winter Storm Gretchen was here! Boom! Two inches of ice! Power outages! Downed trees! Plus, I made you fall and bruise your ass! Won’t forget old Gretchen now will ya?”

I didn’t learn the names of the storms. I won’t play their games. My ass bruise will always be a nameless tragedy.

Anyway, our house shrunk to the size of chicken coop over the course of the innumerable snow days. At first, the boys were excited at having no school. They expressed their pleasure by running headlong into each other and executing other WWE maneuvers. They screeched for the sake of the noise and balked at any and all activities carrying the least stench of learning on them.

As time passed, they began to expect each coming day to be one with no school. Too often their expectations proved correct. The thrill of the surprise vacation waned. In their ennui they ran headlong into each other and executed other WWE maneuvers. Bored, they screeched for the sake of the noise. In their desperation to live free within their homebound world, they balked at any and all activities carrying the least stench of learning on them.

It got a little tiring, especially since I made them start each day with horrible school stuff like reading, spelling, and practicing the violin. The protests were loud and grating. But at noon we had a lunch fit for three kings to complain about, followed by an afternoon of parental surrender, tablet screens, and PlayStation.

Today we have school again. I deserve a vacation. Maybe going to work will seem like one.

 

Our glue guy

I watch a fair amount of college basketball. Over the past few years, I’ve heard the TV commentators using the term “glue guy” when referring to certain players. The “glue guy” is a player who exerts leadership and keeps the team playing together through difficult moments. He keeps the team from falling to pieces; he is the glue that holds them together.

Big Man is our family’s glue guy. It’s not because he holds us together when the going gets tough. That would be a tall order for a four-year-old. Big Man is our glue guy because if we find any two random things in our house affixed to each other, it’s a sure bet he’s the one who bound them.

Glue Guy isn’t really even the best description for Big Man, since we don’t let him loose with actual glue, outside of an occasional Elmer’s glue stick. He’s more of a tape guy, or random adhesive strip guy. Sometimes he’s a long piece of ribbon strung between chairs guy.

Of the tape consumed in our household, 12% is used wrapping presents. The other 88% is used by Big Man to stick stuff to other stuff. As one of three boys, Big Man lives in a house of many broken things. When he discovers one of these items, he brings it to me for fixing. If I tell him it is beyond repair, he scoffs. “We can tape it,” he replies as he hurries off toward the utility drawer.

Big Man fixes things with a will. No amount of tape is too much. Sometimes the fixed item resembles a ball of tape more than whatever it used to be, but that’s the price you pay for repairs when you keep the Krazy Glue on the high shelf.

Big Man’s fascination with adhesion is not limited to broken things. Sometimes it’s part of research and development. It’s about making our daily lives easier, like when he ties bathrobe belts across the bottom of the stairs. Aesthetics plays a part too, illustrated by the many decorative things he’s affixed to our living room walls.

When I decide to freshen up the walls, I know where all the painter’s tape is.

As far as I know, nobody ever taught Big Man to tie knots, yet every cord or string that can pass for a rope in a boy’s imagination is tied in hearty knots to two separate things in our house. We’re good to go if we should ever find our house battling rough seas. Everything is lashed down tight.

Old phone cords are the new rope.

You never know what you will find tied or taped together in our home. We can only hope Big Man incorporates more subtlety in his engineering before he grows to reach the top shelf and truly becomes the “glue guy.”