Monday, May 08, 2006


In Which I Am on the List...

I realize my post about the Brownie's birthday last weekend was running a little long, so I never got a chance to tell you about what she gave me on her birthday.

"Dad," she said, snuggling up against me on the couch as we watched Bambi 2 (one of her birthday presents). "I really love you."

"I love you too, honey," I said, but I was bracing myself. Because, as most of you parents know, unsolicited professions of love--while often heartfelt--are also often nothing more than enormous slabs of butter that your children are slathering on you. My Dad used to call it "Vaseline-ing the broom handle." A set-up for words you don't want to hear, usually news of something broken or overflowing, or a request for something inconvenient and/or expensive

I know, I know, it's terrible to think that your sweet angel child of light would be so calculating, would stoop so low as to use that most beloved of phrases as a preamble to something self-serving. I should feel terrible for thinking such a thing.

And I would. If I didn't turn out to be right so often.

"Guess what I made?" she asked. And at this I softened. She had received a few coloring and sticker books from assorted aunts and uncles. Maybe she really was just being sweet and wonderful.

"What is it?" I asked, perking up.

She held her hands behind her back. "Pick a hand!" she said.

I guessed left. I was wrong.

I guessed right. And I was, well, right. The Brownie beamed at me and handed me a folded piece of paper.

"Thomas helped me with the writing," she said, and I unfolded what I foolishly thought was a poem of some kind ("Roses are red, Violets are blue, Daddy's the Best, and Brownie is too!").

It was not a poem. It was a list:


In case you require a translation, it read:


Fix mi bik with train weels

Fix the Foxhol door

Do mi new fan up in mi room

Find Foxo [this one was highlighted specially]

Mo the gras

My daughter's first to-do list. I was almost in tears.

No, really.

I reviewed the list carefully with her. Okay, yes, sure, she has a bike of her own now and the training wheels need to be put on before she can ride it. Fair is fair.

"Um, what's wrong with the Foxhole door?" I asked.

"Um, it sort of broke," she said.

Sort of broke? I thought. It's a small door in her closet made of inch-thick plywood. Did she grab a pry-bar and yank it off its hinges? Did she have Jet Li sneak in and put his foot through it? What?

"Um, how did it sort of break?" I asked.

"Um, well," she began, "Kendra and I were playing in my room last week and the just broke! Kendra pulled the handle off and gave it to me."

Incidentally, the Brownie has the 5th Amendment encoded in her DNA. She NEVER admits to being the guilty one, especially if there's anyone else nearby to blame it on, and even if it means implicating innocent parties. Like the time she opened up Thomas's stuffed boa constrictor with a pair of safety scissors and took all the stuffing out. When I asked her point-blank who did it, she gave this tiny shrug and said, "Blazey must have, Dad! You know how he chews things!" When I reminded her that Blazey was at the animal hospital recovering from a recent nose operation, and that furthermore there were little wisps of stuffing sticking out of the safety scissors that were still in her hand, she switched stories without missing a beat. "Well, I meant that Blazey bit it before he went away," she said in an exasperated huff. "I was just trying to fix it. With my scissors. That's all."

(The best part is, she said this in a tone of voice that suggested the problem here was not her eviscerating her brother's toy, but my being too obtuse to grasp her simple and reasonable explanation. God help us if she's ever in a car accident. I can just hear her telling a cop, "But I was just driving along when that pedestrian jumped into the street and hit my car!")

Number three on the list coincidentally happened to be number three on a similar list handed to me by Her Lovely Self not long ago. The Brownie has the world's worst ceiling fan/light in her room. Aside from being--what's the word? Oh yeah--UGLY--it's old and very worn-looking. The blades and the motor assembly are tricked out in a flaking, faux brass finish that brings to mind a down-at-the-heels whorehouse. The effect is only intensified by the light fixture installed directly beneath the fan. The globe itself is so opaque that even the light of the 100-watt bulb inside can't penetrate the glass to sufficiently illuminate the room.

Also, I don't think it's properly installed. Mind you, this is just a suspicion of mine, based solely on the fact that when I turn the fan on high, or even medium speed, it starts wobbling back and forth like an upside-down top, until it eventually swings in enough of an arc that the fan blades start hitting the ceiling on either side. And as we're heading into warm weather, we made a formal decision as her parents to exchange the existing fan for one that was somewhat less likely to fall on our baby and in the process slice her up like so much lunchmeat.

Number four is not so much a job for me as it is a vocation. I swear, I should have my own Discovery Channel show because every night--and I mean EVERY night--I am dispatched to the furthest reaches of the house to find her beloved stuffed fox, which she takes everywhere with her. Once she gets everywhere, she puts Foxo down and promptly forgets where he is. But she can't sleep without him so guess who roams the downstairs, lifting seat cushions and feeling around under furniture? Usually, I find him under a beanbag or behind the sofa, but I have also recovered him from the back of a van (not our van, either, but a neighbor's), under a colander in a kitchen cabinet and once, quite memorably, inside a box of maxi-pads.

This was different, though. Foxo had been missing for most of the week. It was time to do some serious thinking outside the maxi-pad box if I was going to find him.

Finally, I got to the bottom of the list. "Mow? Do you really care whether I mow my the grass or not."

"No," she said. "That's just in there to make Mom happy. She says you never mow it enough."

(Which by the way is a complete falsehood. I mow it at least every other week/month.)

Well, it was raining a bit on her birthday, so I was safely able to delay mowing for a few days. Ditto the training wheels, since the Brownie wouldn't be riding in the rain (you'll be pleased to know that both tasks were successfully completed this weekend. And both jobs occurred without incident--no accidental wrapping of myself in the bike chain, not setting myself afire with the mower--so we can safely skip over these tasks, yes?)

Since the Foxhole and the new ceiling fan were both jobs that required being in the Brownie's room, I grabbed the necessary tools for the fan and headed up to the room to see what tools I might need to fix the door. To my surprise and delight, the "breakage" of the Foxhole door consisted of nothing more than the small knob coming off its screw. So I simply went around to the other entry to the attic (where the Foxhole is located), found the screw on the floor on the other side of the Foxhole door, popped it back in the hole and screwed the doorknob back on.

While I was there, what should I find lying in the depths of the giant green bean bag in the Foxhole? What else but a certain stuffed fox? Man, 10 minutes on the job and I was already two for five!

And so it was with no small amount of smugness and confidence that I hastily erected my aluminum stepladder and, as the Brownie (and Foxo) watched from the doorway, I climbed up with my screwdriver, pliers and assorted electrical tools and accessories.


I loosed the screws on the lamp globe and gently lowered it onto the Brownie's bed. As I prepared for the slightly more laborious task of removing the faux brass motor cover, I fished in a pocket for my flashlight. It was a rainy day, remember, and the room was just a little too dim for me to see well.

The Brownie must have realized this too. For, just as I was holding the flashlight between my teeth and aiming my screwdriver at the first screw, she helpfully cried up, "Daddy, you need the light on!"

Before I had the chance to say anything (and if I had had the chance, it would have come out, "Moowwwnt!" what with the flashlight in my mouth), the Brownie flicked the switch on the wall next to her. Next thing I knew, the dazzling glare of the lamp's bare 100-watt bulb flared in my face like a paparazzi flashgun. It was so bright, it physically hurt my head.

But not nearly as much as the heavy, tapered, and surprisingly sharp fan blades that suddenly whirred to life...

She was only trying to help, as so many of us have done over the years.
Ouch! Jeez, MM, everything happens to you, doesn't it? You know, I was cringing as you described your ascendance up the ladder. I just knew something bad was going to happen. Hope your head is okay.
Four out of five ain't bad MM-
Flip the breaker switch you goober! Can't play around with that electrical stuff! Lock Out, Tag Out. All that good stuff is for your own safety.

But it made a great story!
I know The Brownie would never do that on purpose...

would she? :->

Seriously MM, you are like Mr. Magoo, what with your penchant for walking into near misses with death and all.
I gotta tell you, MM, your blog is like crack cocaine.
See, we don't have kids. We'll never have kids. Long story. Sometimes I hurt like hell, and sometimes I rejoice, and OFTEN I do both in the act of reading just one of your blog entries.
Thanks for allowing me to live your life vicariously. And I hope to God your headache has faded.
Ouch. That was surely wince-worthy at the very least.

As for The Brownie, well, she's taken wrapping daddies around little fingers to a whole new level.
As soon as I read "Daddy, you need the light on!", I said, "Oh no, no, no!"

Yes. Out loud.

I'm surprised nobody's complained about the cliffhanger yet, because this one is a real doozy!


God help us if she's ever in a car accident. I can just hear her telling a cop, "But I was just driving along when that pedestrian jumped into the street and hit my car!"

You realize where she gets this gift from, right?
Oh, god...! Do you think HLS would like your blog community if we banded together and got you a protective bubble?
What are you? A cat? How many lives do you have?
I'm thinking that the next question isn't so much "what happened next?" as it is "so, how many stitches did you require THIS time?"


Just keep repeating: She was trying to be helpful... She was trying to be helpful...

T. ;)
I remember one time when I was handing my dad a pair of wire cutters and closed them right as I handed them to him, cutting his finger pretty good. To his credit, he didn't lose it and smack me.
Hahahaha, I'm sorry, (snicker)...haha, I'm laughing too hard to type....(guffaw) was only inevitable that something happen. Remember who you are reading people.

Shane's right Mr. Magoo - MM, it all fits.
And I know you're father is probably groaning right now that the first thing he taught you about electical work is "Shut it of at the breaker, by Jesus".
Well, I guess we can safely conclude that your head wasn't cut off, since you're writing this for us, but OUCH!

You surely have a guardian angel, MM, otherwise you'd be dead long ago.
Oh dear. Like everyone else, I thought...When is he going to write about the part where he SHUTS OFF THE BREAKER??? Sharfa is right...what would your dad think?
Also, I'm quite relieved for your and your entire household that you found Foxo. My son has a red blanket that he takes EVERYWHERE with him and, like Brownie, leaves it everywhere as well. He also cannot, under any circumstances, fall asleep without it, so many many times I have done an exhaustive search of our house, the garage, the yards, the neighbors yards, etc. before bedtime. I have looked for that blanket with more determination than I have when I misplace my wallet or house keys.
So, I know that had to be the most important thing on her To Do list. Let's hope she didn't repay you by slicing you open :-)
Can we please see a photo of Foxo?
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