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.


A boy’s natural biological urge to vacuum

Now that Santa has rewarded her devotion with a new and useful vacuum cleaner, my wife is no longer crippled by inferior equipment and can finally display her vacuumin’ acumen to its fullest potential. Nobody hits a carpet with more gusto than she does.  If vacuums could pick up juice stains, you’d be able to eat off our carpets, as our children often do, juice stains notwithstanding.

I am starting to suspect that our baby has inherited an appreciation for a quality vacuum cleaner from his mother. I don’t know for sure which chromosome carries the Vacuum Cleaner Appreciation Gene, but I’m pretty sure he’s got it, and I’m equally sure he didn’t get it from me.

I haven’t run any experiments on this hypothesis, but I think a lot of babies would be afraid of the vacuum cleaner, or at least be indifferent to it. Our baby chases it. He follows the vacuum cleaner around as if he wants nothing more than to give that glorious dirt buster a giant hug. He is absolutely fascinated by the machine.

boy chasing vacuum

Vacuum wrangling tip #1: Dress appropriately for the job. A proper rodeo clown outfit tells the world that you a serious vacuum chaser.

I recall him following the old, junky vacuum around sometimes, but I don’t think that was for love of the machine. I think he was just looking for the crumbs it turned up and left behind it so he could see how they tasted. There was no better way to discover interesting crumbs in our house than to follow the old vacuum and sift through its tailings.

boy approaching vacuum

Vacuum wrangling tip #2: If you want to catch a moving vacuum in the open, you’ve got to take the right angle to intercept its path.

Even when the new vacuum is not on, the kid can’t stay away. He has to touch its various parts and see how they fit together. It’s a really good vacuum, but I can’t help but think that he is working out some improvements in his head. Maybe he’s trying to figure out why the wheels don’t fall off, because every vacuum he’s ever known before had wheels that fell off.

boy with vacuum cord

Vacuum wrangling tip #3: Get a firm grip on the animal’s tail; he can’t get away if you’ve got his tail.

boy with vacuum attachments

Vacuum wrangling tip #4: Take the bull by the horns. If you can’t find any horns, take it by the upholstery attachment.

Come to think of it, his big brother has a bit of a vacuum fixation too. If he spots a floor sweeper in a restaurant, look out, especially if you are part of the wait staff. He’s tripped a waiter or two in his zeal to make dining room carpets more appealing to customers. It turns out that carpet sweepers don’t pick up juice (or wine, or beer) stains either.

boy reaching out toward vacuum

Vacuum wrangling tip #5: Become one with the beast. Soothe it with gentle caresses or, preferably, a Vulcan mind meld.

Without the benefit of any professional psychological assessments, I’m going to posit that my family’s fascination with vacuum cleaners is a good thing. Yes, it may be a little unusual, but I look at it this way: if these kids are that enthused about the prospect of pushing a vacuum, they have already set themselves upon the slippery slope that leads to mowing the lawn. When the boys discover how much louder, hotter, sharper, and  generally more dangerous lawn mowers are, they’re sure to want to trade up. Call the vacuum a gateway machine; it works for me.

Dear Santa, please bring us a gift that really sucks this Christmas

My wife wants a new vacuum for Christmas. Before anyone mounts their “this-is-the-21st-century.-How-could-you-think-of-giving-a-cleaning-appliance-to-your-wife-as-a-Chritmas-gift?” ponies and rides to the sound of the guns, let me explain. She doesn’t normally ask for cleaning equipment for Christmas, and I don’t usually get her such gifts. Cleaning is as non-festive an event in our household as it is in the households of people eons more enlightened than we are.

Vacuuming is different, though. She vacuums every day, if she can manage it. It’s a comfort chore. It’s like certain types of yard work to me. I don’t necessarily look forward to the work, but I can be alone with my thoughts when I’m doing it, and I feel better knowing it gets done on a regular basis.

Our old vacuum has suffered many infirmities. One of the wheels keeps falling off. I tried to fix it with that crazy putty stuff they used to hawk on TV all the time until they convinced my wife to give me some one Christmas. Now, when the wheel comes off, as it does quite often, it leaves crumbs that look like gray, dried Play-Doh.

the wheel keeps coming off

Anyone know if we can extend our Triple-A coverage to our vacuum? We seem to be plagued by “flat” tires.

The hose from the floor unit to the canister leaps free of its connections at random times. This would greatly affect the vacuum’s usefulness, except that it doesn’t really pick up much when the hose is firmly in place. Any lint or crumb that is big enough to be seen with the naked eye has to be carefully hand-fed to the machine. What happens to dirt too small for the naked eye is anybody’s guess. I’d say our vacuum just plain sucks, except it doesn’t, and that’s the problem.

The one thing our vacuum does pick up is cat hair. This is no great accomplishment, considering that anything in the same house with a cat picks up cat hair, regardless of how sincere are its attempts to avoid it.

The hook that the cord wraps around is broken off. We have to wrap the cord around the shoulder and torso of the machine like a bandolier. Add a sombrero and our vacuum might have ridden with Pancho Villa. Whomever it rode with, there can be no doubt that it got shot off its horse a few times.

villa directing battle

“The enemy line is crumbling. Send the vacuums around the flank to mop up. Also, make a note to bring mops to the next battle.” (Image: Wilbur H. Durborough)


I would have bought a new vacuum at the asking, but my wife has been too wise to ask for one. She knows I would have picked up another $84.99 model and presented it as if it were the end of her worries for all time. She’s sick of burning through these Fisher Price vacuums, and now she wants a good one. And if you want a good one, you’d better get somebody reliable, like Santa, involved.

vacuum wears his cord like a bandolier

With his bandolier firmly in place, he’s ready to ride. Before he accomplishes any marauding, his horse will throw a shoe and he will limp humbly back to his village to recover.

My wife has been a real trooper, putting up with our shameful vacuum for far too long. I just hope Santa has been watching to see how good she’s been. It’s out of my hands now. All I can do is point out the need and the deservingness. By the way, Santa, if you’re reading this, please consider it a letter to you.