Homeless caveman squats in area sunroom

You can’t really call a room with coordinated throw pillows a man cave. It’s the closest thing I’ve got though.

My house is too small and my family is too big. I have only three children, but my boys have a way of building themselves in to a horde. They are everywhere, and even when you can’t see them, you can still hear them.

I lived many years in our home without feeling the need for my own special space. In the past year, things have changed. First, the living room TV has been taken over by video games. I have two kids addicted to PlayStation and one kid who is happiest when his brothers are playing it. Intently preoccupied boys have not one second to waste vexing a younger brother.

Second, I recently discovered I can read again, after a 10 year hiatus, if I hide myself well enough. Being better equipped to distract themselves now, these bloodhounds don’t hunt me down as constantly as they used to. I might be able to slip away for 20 minutes of solitude.

I need a sanctuary.

The bedroom doesn’t make for a good man cave, and it’s the first place they look. The basement is too cool and humid, and occasionally it floods. I’m not trying to spelunk in my cave. I just want to watch sports and read.

Over the summer, I discovered I could slip away to the Three Seasons Room to catch moments of peace. I even read an entire book out there, over three seasons. These stolen moments were a delight, but I can’t say I established a man cave.

Color coordinated pillows. Humbug! I can hardly bring myself to nap on them.

There are many flaws.

  • The name, Three Seasons Room, is pretty generous. It’s more of a Two Seasons and Spare Change Room. Maybe round it up to 2.5 seasons. November through March are cold, barring a very mild day with hours of sunshine.
  • The room is right off the kitchen, so if any kid needs help getting an emergency cup of juice, I’m the first responder.
  • It was furnished by the lady of the house, which means it’s tasteful, and worst of all, inviting. It has matching stuff, no neon, nor any of the other assorted, tacky paraphernalia that tells people to zip it when the game is on.

    Breakfast nook with table centerpiece. I expect this to become a man cave essential any day now.

  • I made the mistake of putting a Roku TV in there. It’s kind of a poor man’s smart TV. It’s a TV with an average IQ that seems genius compared to the dim-witted TVs I’ve always had. Now, anybody can watch Netflix movies at the push of a button. Maybe I don’t know enough about man caves, but I don’t think they’re meant for men to watch Smurfs with their families on football Sundays.

My 2.5 Seasons Room is not much of a man cave, but it’s a baby step forward. I’m not greedy; I don’t need a whole cave. I can live in a man cubby for a while.

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Saturday morning porcupines

It’s early Saturday morning. I don’t know what time it is. The clock is on my wife’s side of the bed and I’m not awake enough to raise my head to look. Even if I could see the clock, I still wouldn’t know what time it is because my wife keeps it set at a secret number of minutes in advance of the actual time. She feels this helps her get up earlier. The exact discrepancy is known only to her, or perhaps to no one at all.

I’m thinking how nice it will be to scoot over and cuddle up to my soft, warm wife. That’s so much better than getting up for work. Saturday mornings are awesome. I will scoot over in a minute, as soon as I am awake enough to control my body.

I feel a jostle at the foot of the mattress. Something climbs up onto the bed and crawls up the middle. It lets a draft in as it lifts up the blankets to climb under. A sharp elbow pokes me in the back. Icy little hands and feet sting me as they steal the warmth I’ve labored all night to accumulate. You’d think he slept outside without a blanket. Another sharp edge cuts me. I’m fully awake now.

The bed is jostled again. Another sharp, cold creature climbs up the middle and burrows himself under the covers. This one attacks my wife and I hear her react to the icy sting.

Saturday morning just got real.

Going to need a bigger bed

Everyone is all smiles when the children pile into the parents’ bed.

Somewhere, way over on the other side of the bed, I have a soft, warm wife. She is a forlorn dream now. With two active porcupines tearing it up between us, we might as well be on different planets.

The porcupines start talking to one another. One tells the other to roll over, or move his leg, or redirect his sharp quills toward the proper target: a parent. They begin fighting over their respective positions. “Stay on your side!” the six-year-old tells the four-year-old, as if either one of them has any claim to a side of this bed. It’s half serious kick fight, half gigglefest. I take most of the kicks; they keep the giggles to share between themselves.

Mommy demands they leave the bed.

They protest. They don’t want to leave. There’s no place they’d rather be.

Then lay down and be quiet, Mommy commands.

They obey, for up to 10 seconds. Then the jostling begins anew.

Mommy and Daddy decide to get up. A pair of skinny arms enfold us both. Don’t leave, the porcupines beg. Mommy’s and Daddy’s bed is nothing more than the biggest trampoline in the house when Mommy and Daddy aren’t in it. Of course porcupines love jumping on trampolines, but that doesn’t compare to rolling around together in the warm, safe fort between the two bookends of security.

Saturday mornings are awesome.

******

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Your virtual pal,

Scott (a.k.a. Snoozing)

 

 

The fraud in the frozen foods aisle

One Saturday I got a sudden and mysterious knot on my knee. It was swollen, but X-rays showed no damage, and the doctor concluded it would probably heal itself. As a precaution, she advised me to pick up some extra-strength pain reliever.

We all went to the store together on the way home from the doctor. I was feeling pretty good, so I suggested we pick up our groceries while we were there. My wife thought that was a fine idea and immediately steered me toward the bay of motorized carts for disabled shoppers.

I attempted to persuade her this mode of transportation was unnecessary, but you know how a wife always thinks her husband is just trying to be manly in public, because a wife thinks her husband perceives himself always with a large S on his chest and a blue cape on his back? It was like that.

She’s awfully insistent when she is trying to save me from myself. She says stuff like: “Oh, you’re embarrassed to ride that? How will you feel when everybody sees you fall over in the middle of the store?”

She won – not because her position was strong, but because she can tolerate a louder argument in public.

Somehow, my wife failed to take pictures of my embarrassment. She must be slipping.

Walking toward the go-cart I limped more than medically necessary, in case any passersby wondered at my justification for commandeering Granny’s ride.

Once mounted, I experimented with positions to make my leg appear more busted. I even considered riding side-saddle to insinuate an inability to lift my leg over the front of the seat. I discarded this idea from fear my wife would loudly offer to bring me my corset and parasol.

I settled on keeping my leg rigidly straight, inviting onlookers to imagine a poor man who could not bend his knee. I also decided to ride out on my own, putting as much store between myself and my always-conspicuous family.

Riding my lonesome trail, I imaged all eyes on me, casting suspicion on my need for special accommodation. I passed a fellow traveler, a young lady, robust and healthy, in no way manifesting a requirement to ride the aisles, except for the crutch proudly displayed behind her handlebars.

Damn! If I only had a crutch, all these haters would be silenced!

The self-conscious grocery rider learns these carts make the beeping noise of a construction vehicle when backing. In a Saturday superstore, there are an alarming number of obstructions that force reversing.

I had almost become resigned to my trike when I saw him: a man older than me, with one less leg, striding toward me on one crutch. There is no condemnation quite like riding past an upstanding amputee.

My impulse was to get up from my bicycle basketful of groceries, and march out of the store. But this would prove how little I needed my mechanical advantage, so I bowed my head until the man passed.

I found my family; we bought our groceries; then I parked my vehicle and walked out of the store like the fraud I am.

Everything’s going stale, except the vodka

With three boys, it’s a challenge keeping foods fresh in their original packaging. Little boys can’t read the instructions on packaging. Older boys can, but reading is a chore reserved for schoolwork, not to be mingled with the pleasures of gluttony. You’d swear our victuals were opened with a sledge-hammer.

The impatience of hungry children leads to bags and boxes ripped beyond recognition, incapable of keeping contents fresh until the next feeding frenzy.  This serves the little piglets right, and would be a great lesson, except sometimes Daddy seeks an edible morsel from the pantry.

We have lots of random foods sealed in storage containers.

Sometimes you can’t blame the kids. Some foods have been packaged to combat freshness.

Exhibit A

 

embrace the stale

Defuse this time bomb.

Saltines, in their waxy, rectangular sleeves, have vexed me since my first bowl of Lipton Noodle Soup.  I learned how to mix the soup powder in water 45 years ago. I’ve still not figured out how to open a sleeve of saltines.

I feel like a bomb disposal recruit trying to defuse the end of a saltine packet, gingerly tugging at the corners, visualizing the package blossoming into a neat square opening. In spite of my great care, I will send a gash halfway down the sleeve.

Even when opened perfectly, there is no good way to close up a sleeve of saltines for later. After the first use of saltines, I might as well throw the remainder of the sleeve away.

Exhibit B

I consider the 1/3 portion that will be wasted as tribute paid to the Universal Baking Mix Gods.

The bag inside a box of Bisquick is recycled from old bullet-proof vests. You have to be a strongman competition winner to open it with your bare hands, and if you do, you’ll find yourself lightly breaded. You can cut it open with scissors, if you have scissors tough enough to pierce Kevlar.

Bisquick does not deteriorate like saltines, but I find myself spilling a good portion of it, pouring it from the bag I mangled during the “attack with sharp objects” step of my baking recipe. When the bag is empty, I can get three more pancakes from the loose mix accumulated at the bottom of the box.

Exhibit C

Do they still even make the triangular hole punch can opener anymore?

Dole makes delicious pineapple juice, but was it packaged in 1918? A sealed can of juice? I suppose that makes it easier to ship to our troops fighting Kaiser Wilhelm.

As it happens, pineapple juice is a great mixer for vodka. When you’ve made vodka your summertime choice for that after-getting-the-kids-in-bed relaxer (because it’s much cheaper than scotch and goes good over the rocks with pineapple juice), you’ll want a supply of pineapple juice that will keep in the fridge. No matter how you manage to open it, a metal can is hard to close up again.

That liquid in mason jars in my fridge isn’t liquor. It’s pineapple juice, which I happen to mix with my liquor, which, by the way, comes in a bottle, with a cap, that I can put back onto the bottle to keep its contents safe and civilized. Now that’s packaging!