Wednesday, November 19, 2008


In Which We Are A Little Too Distracted...

“So was it carjackers?” Thomas asked, a trifle nervously.

“I really don’t know,” I replied, setting a plate in front of him. It was 7 hours later on Friday and, miraculously, all three of my children were still alive, even though I was the only adult in the house to take care of them. Thomas, ever the worrywart, wanted to hear all the awful details of the incident in the parking lot. The only problem was, I couldn’t fully oblige him. “There were quite a few cops, but they were all busy and I couldn’t ask them what was up. Then an ambulance showed up and the EMTs were clustered around a woman who had a bloody gash on her face. She was sitting next to a van with its doors open. I suppose it could have been carjackers, although I didn’t see anyone sitting the back of a police car, looking like they’d been arrested.”

I turned back to the stove to get the rest of dinner distributed. From her elevated throne (also known as the high chair), the Éclair was shouting orders at everyone, but mostly at me. “More, Daddy! More!”

“Say ‘please,’” the Brownie hissed at her sister. The Éclair goggled at the Brownie and gave her a very serious look, then a big smile. The Éclair worships her big sister.

“Peeze. Peeze!! PEEEZE!” she dutifully barked at me--in precisely the same bossy tone as when she was shouting for “MORE!” I brought her a small plate and baby spoon with which to feed herself and also to apply the food to her clothing as a kind of messy accessory item.

I sat down with a whoosh, realizing this was the first time since morning that I’d actually had a moment off my feet. Jesus, I’m exhausted. How does Her Lovely Self do it? I wondered, not for the first, nor the thousandth time.

Thomas wasn’t willing to give up our less-than-family-friendly dinnertime topic. “Yeah,” he said, acknowledging my earlier point. “But the carjackers could have got away!” he pointed out.

“Well, it’s possible. But the lady could have just fallen and hurt herself,” I answered back, pausing only to shovel food in. I was ravenous. “I checked the Web sites for the local paper and TV stations and there was nothing on there about it. And you know, I called the police officer who works with the neighborhood watch here. He says the carjacking rumor is just that--a rumor. There’s been no increase in carjackings in the area. There have been only two or three reported this year, and those were all on the dodgy side of town.”

Thomas looked at me and chewed thoughtfully.

“Yeah, but those are only the ones people reported to the police. How many are there that DON’T get reported?” he asked.

I sighed. Thomas rarely misses an opportunity to fret about something. I needed to nip it in the bud, because otherwise he’d be up all night--and making sure I was up with him. More importantly, he was likely to make me start fretting, too. And I had been committed to having a fret-free weekend.

I distracted my son after dinner in the usual fashion--with a movie. The Brownie chose it this time--some hopelessly soppy melodrama involving orphans and dogs. Thomas usually pooh-poohs the Brownie’s movie choices, but this one seemed to calm him down. By bedtime, he was much more relaxed.

“Are we still going to that store tomorrow?” he asked, as I tucked him in. I had already put the Éclair to bed and as soon as she was down, I started to crash. I could not remember the last time I had been so tired. So I gave Thomas a bit of a vacant stare.

“The store,” he clarified. “The one with the used toys and comics and videogames.”

“Oh!” I cried, suddenly remembering. Thomas was referring to a sort-of junk shop I’d found in my lunchtime drives around the city and environs. The proprietor at this particular store did indeed deal in used video games and old toys--specifically old Star Wars toys, which Thomas was keen to sift through and spend some birthday money on. “Yes,” I confirmed. “We’re definitely still going.”

Thomas smiled then, but a trifle warily. “But that store is on the dodgy side of town, isn’t it?”

“Well, not really. Sort of, maybe. But not really.” And by that, I meant “yes it is.” I’m terrible at lying to my children.

“Well, it’s okay,” Thomas said. “I figured out a way to stay safe from carjackers.” And then he told me his big idea.

“I dunno, buddy,” I answered. “I don’t think that’s gonna work.”

But Thomas was not to be swayed. “Sure it will. Can’t we try it?”

“Welllll,” I looked out the window, thinking. I absently noted a nearby window thermometer. It was in the 30s and it wasn’t going to be much warmer tomorrow. In fact, they were calling for snow. My mind was drifting like snow, too. Heavens, but I was exhausted...

“Dad?” Thomas asked.

I shook myself. Dear God, had I really almost dozed while standing up? I turned back to Thomas. “Well, we’ll try it. But it’s important that we just use common sense and lock up the car. Okay?”

“Okay,” he agreed, then rolled over and was asleep in moments.

Or at least, I assume he was. Myself, I don’t even remember leaving his room and crawling into my own bed. But I must have, because I awoke around 6 the next morning, fully clothed, and also fully surrounded. To my left, Thomas sat on his mother’s empty side of the bed, holding the Éclair in his lap. They were watching cartoons on our small TV. To my right, and totally hogging my pillow, the Brownie lay, still asleep, blowing moist bubbles of air in my face. I tried to move, but couldn’t: Blaze lay atop the covers, but positioned himself more or less fully between my legs, oriented so that his snout was perfectly aligned with my rectum, his nose separated from my ass by only a few inches of bed linens. How can he possibly find that comfortable? I wondered as I thrashed, helpless and immobile as a butterfly pinned to a collector’s board.

“Oh good, you’re awake!” cried Thomas, as he watched me try to roll myself over, but fail impossibly because of the dog. I at last convinced the dog to move, flopped over onto my back, and promptly found myself staring at the Éclair’s bottom as Thomas dropped her on me. “I think you need to change her,” he said, adding helpfully, “she has some serious funky butt.” That’s his code for a poopy diaper.

“Funky futt!” the Éclair agreed, as she squirmed around on the bed, her bottom practically emitting vapor trails such as you normally see on cartoons involving skunks.

And with that, my Saturday began in earnest.

I swear, there was not a single empty moment to my Saturday, not from the second I got up to change that funky butt to the moment I lost my temper. Every time I completed a task, or tried to engage in some meager survival function--peeing or eating, for example--I was beset by some new request (made typically in the form of a scream or shouted order).

“Dad! I can’t find any underwear!”

“Daddy, Lilbeth need you!”

“Um, Dad. Is there supposed to be water in the hall outside the bathroom?”

“Dad! I can’t find my shoes!”

“Daddy, Lilbeth want up! UP!”

“Dad, Blaze just threw up some yellow foam. I scooped it into this cup. Look!”

“Dad! I can’t find my ass with both hands!”


“Don’t drink out of that one, Dad! It’s still got some foam in it!”




And so it went. By noon, I was seriously put out, and you would have been too if you had been so harried that you almost drank from a cup full of dog bile. I started using my Shouty Dad voice and sent everyone to their rooms—including me. It was time for the Éclair’s nap anyway, but she was willing to postpone that for several minutes of good, quality screaming from her crib. I closed the door to my room, fished some earplugs out of a suitcase in the closet and sat on the bed, rocking and hugging my knees to my chest, mostly just to see why crazy people do it (I’ll tell you why: it’s actually very comfortable).

But after about two minutes, I realized I was feeling nervous about not hearing anything, so I got up and took out the earplugs.

Silence. Uh-oh.

I crept out of my room and peered through a crack in the door to the baby’s room. The Éclair was sound asleep. I poked my head across the hall, and spied Thomas up in his loft, reading. From down the hall, I could hear the electronic pinging of my daughter’s GameBoy. She looked up when I stuck my head in her door.

“Hi Dad,” she said sheepishly. “Sorry I bugged you about finding my clothes.”

“It’s okay,” I answered. “Sorry I got all shouty. I’m just not used to taking care of you guys by myself and I guess I got a little out of control. I really want us to have a fun time this weekend, but sometimes I get overwhelmed.”

“It’s a lot of work, raising kids,” the Brownie said. “Mom tells us that all the time.”

“Well, she ain’t kiddin’,” I answered.

“No such word as ‘ain’t’” the Brownie said absently. She was already turning back to her game. So much for a nice bonding moment with my daughter.

About an hour later, we were all feeling much better for our time-out, and when the Éclair woke up, I announced we would head off to the shop Thomas wanted to visit. It took us a few minutes to round up shoes and jackets and for Thomas to take care of one or two things he said would “make us carjack proof.”

We were quite the motley crew heading out to the van. Outside, the wind was blowing under a dark, forbidding sky. Sunset wouldn’t be for another hour, but already it seemed like dusk had set in. I wasn’t at all surprised to see the first few flakes of snow pelt by as we got on the highway and drove around to the south side.

We found the shop quickly on a side street of dilapidated buildings. To get there, I had to drag the kids past a filthy, forbidding alley, and a couple of equally filthy winos crouched in doorways, one with his hand out for spare change. Thomas eyed them nervously, worrying I suppose that they might be bandits in disguise, ready to spring up and waylay us. But these guys weren’t going anywhere. We proceeded unmolested to the shop.

Thankfully, it was a neat, fun place, run by a friendly proprietor who did some good-natured haggling with Thomas before making a deal on a box Star Wars vehicles Thomas decided he couldn’t live without.

So it was a happy, somewhat distracted boy who accompanied us back to the van. Sadly, I could not say the same for the Empress of Everything, who was screaming in outrage. I had had to restrain her in the store, see, otherwise she would have knocked over every pile of toys and stack of used game consoles she could find. Now she was crying--screaming, really--right in my ear. I had a ferocious headache building behind my eyes, and now I was freezing cold too. In our hour in the store, the sun had almost set and a fierce icy wind was ripping around us. The Brownie dashed ahead of us to the van, partly to escape the cold, but mostly to escape her screaming sister, I think. I opened the van’s sliding doors with my remote and she clambered in. Thomas handed her his carton of acquisitions, then climbed in himself.

“Dad! It’s freezing in here!” Thomas cried. “Can’t you start the car?”

The Éclair was fussing in my arms, and I realized it was going to take me more than a minute to secure her in her car seat. So, ignoring the admonition of the Mommy who’d caught me doing this the day before, I opened the driver-side door, stuck my key in the ignition and turned the van on. Then I stepped back out and leaned in through the sliding doorway nearest the Éclair’s baby seat. The Empress decided to put up a fight. She took one look at the car seat and began screaming, “No! No! NOOOOO!” and bucking her body like a tiny horse.

I have to say, I was pretty preoccupied, what with wrestling my daughter into her seat. So between her squirming and screaming, I had failed to notice the two men who had just stepped out of the alley behind us. They were walking straight toward us, hoods drawn over their faces, hands jammed into their pockets.

Thomas did see them, though.

“Dad!” he hissed, suddenly scared. The men were getting closer.

I got one of the baby’s arms into a restraint, but she was kicking me now and I was losing my grip on her.

“Dad, turn around!” Thomas said sharply. I heard him, but only as background chatter, not registering the alarm his voice betrayed. The men were maybe a dozen steps away, trotting now, picking up speed.

The Brownie noticed them, too. “Daddy--" she said, and since she was sitting in the seat next to the Éclair, I could hear her. But even as she spoke, the Brownie was moving to the safety of the back row of the van. From there, she called out, “Come here! Come here!”

“I’ll get in in a second!” I snapped, not really hearing the tone in her voice either. I was still too focused on wrestling the baby (how could such a little person be so strong?). “Hold still, honey,” I muttered to the Eclair, as I finally snapped the harness together and secured her in her seat. My ears were ringing from her screaming.

The two men were now directly behind me, almost close enough to touch me, but I was completely oblivious to them.

Out of the corner of my eye, Thomas was tugging on something. It looked like he was yanking on his seatbelt in an agitated way. Then he finally found his voice. “DO SOMETHING!” he bellowed, his voice as loud and commanding as I’ve ever heard it.

“Wha--?” I asked, finally turning my attention to my surroundings.

I may have been late in responding to my kids, but I have to say: It was a good thing I looked up when I did.

Otherwise, I would have missed seeing the moment when all hell broke loose...

AARGH! I'm so scared for you! But I'm assuming everyone survived because you lived to tell the tale. And at least it's not a victorian serial where I have to wait a WHOLE MONTH for an update!
Good God. Let's hope Thomas's idea works!
DAMMIT MM! You can't do that to us!!!!
You completely suck!!!!!!!!! Do not leave us hanging!
No fair!
I cannot wait to see the cup of blaze's bile tossed all over these two hooligans, for that has to be what they are. You never misdirect us, do you?


And your description of not getting to sit, pee, or eat without being shouted dozens and dozens of demands is exactly a day with my kids.
D*MM*T! WHY must you torture us?? why?!?
Lucky for you, we love you so much. Otherwise this cliffhanger $%*) would have to stop!

Come on then, finish up!!!
My life is always so BORING compared to yours. But I'm sure the next segment is worth waiting for...
You are killing me with yet another cliffhanger!!!! You've got to stop this, really. Looking forwards to the end of your tale.
Oh hell.. a cliffhanger!!

But oh my goodness, how I laughed during all this. I recognize myself in this ... it's so true!
ACK! finish it already!! And we all know you won't get a shower until HLS gets home. Just found and throughly enjoy your blog.
SERIOUSLY!! I'm going on vacation at the end of today (5pm) to be exact and I don't want to wait to read the end of the story until December!
See? This is why he why he tries hard to hang on to his anonymity...Grrr.
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