Laundry has always seemed an uphill battle. As soon as the washing machines shut off and the dryers finish their cycle, more dirty clothes inexplicably appear out of thin air. Of course, no one seems to know who dirtied their clothes. Almost as if little people paw into the children’s drawers and pranced outside in them during the night.
Wife cut the children free from their home studies early one Saturday and we all wandered over to my parents. Yes, when the schooling gets behind Wife will make them study on the weekend, provided she is up to the extra work. But sometimes even Wife needs her rest. That was how we ended up sitting in my mother’s garden with my parents and several of my siblings while the children literally ran off all the pent up energy that was nearly bursting from their little bodies. Strangely, it seems to be the same kind of energy they build up when they clean the house. Huh?
I sat in a remarkably comfortable wire patio chair and absentmindedly rocked for the baby that I was not holding. After almost ten years of constant babies, I sometimes find myself rocking or swaying out of habit, and it can be embarrassing. However, as I was in a rocking chair, nobody noticed. As I sat and visited with my family, I just noticed out of the corner of my eye that some of the children were playing around and in the lower branches of a pine tree.
Some part of my mind woke up memories of long ago when I was nimble enough to scale the tall trees and light enough for the higher branches to hold me. I remembered looking out onto the world that spread out below. Even though I had just been among the landscape, it always seemed to fall away as I left it behind and disappeared into the green world high above. And if my mother happened to see me, which happened quite often as children like to show-off their achievements, she would usually have something close to a panic-attack when she saw me ten, twenty, or even thirty feet high, and demand that I play closer to the ground.
While I remembered and lost the thread of the conversation around me, we all heard several of my daughters squealing for our attention. After a minute of pondering what the children wanted us to see, we saw it, or rather saw them. #1 was a little way up the pine tree, but the excitement was all over #4 who had made her way up to the very top of the tree. Once their grandmother saw my daughter way up there on the thin branches she let out a squeak that brought me right back again to my childhood.
Predictably, my mother made both of the girls climb down so that she could be sure that neither would fall out. I’m glad to see that some things never change.
There are two phrases I hope to never again hear. The first is, “The dog pooped on the carpet.” The second is, “There is a snake in the house!”
In the early hours of the morning, about two thirty, I was wakened out of a dead sleep by the shrill cry of #1 proclaiming the second phrase. I don’t remember sitting up. I think rather that I jumped from a laying position straight up in the air, landed on my feet, and made it all the way to the door before my eyes caught up with me and opened. Once the bedroom door was open, I could see down the hall to where a scared little girl’s eyes were fixed.
I quickly scanned the hall for the rattler in the dim light, but instead of the familiar dark diamond pattern, I saw white stripes? At first my mind was unwilling to believe it, so I just stood there, drowsy in the hallway. Wife shouted from behind me, inquiring where the snake was, and all I thought to answer was, “Let my eyes adjust!”
After another minute, I was able to declare, to everyone’s relief, that it was not a rattlesnake. To which Wife quickly demanded, “Then what is it?”
“I think it’s a Kingsnake.” After turning on the lights I could properly see the black and white ringed reptile hugging the wall. Sure enough, it was a Kingsnake. Now what?
A rattlesnake I would have killed, no matter what, no matter the mess. But a Kingsnake, well that’s just a horse of a different color. A person just doesn’t kill a Kingsnake. Kingsnakes are nice snakes. They’re good luck to have around your house. And on top of everything, they eat rattlesnakes! That meant I had only one choice, I needed to catch it. And like any man with only half a nights sleep under his belt, I just dove right in.
Be aware, at that point Wife shut the bedroom door, just in case it got away from me and continued to slither in the direction it was pointed in. It was kinda giving her the evil eye.
Looking back, I think I did pretty good. I only got bit once, and the snake was safely let loose in the trees outside. Good luck for my house.
So now I have one problem, how did it get into the house? Wife wore boots indoors for the next day, certain the Kingsnake was just the forerunner of a snake invasion. While I reject that assertion; I am never the less baffled as to how it made its entry.
One thing is for sure; when visiting the bathroom in our house at night, step lightly and carry a big stick.
I stood in shocked silence as the scene played out before me. Don’t worry, no one was hurt or damaged. Instead I witnessed #3 brought to tears as #1 performed the chore of #3.
It all started when Wife and I were in our bedroom conversing. I foolishly began to lead the conversation. In only a couple of sentences I had Wife gagging on some idea that apparently did not agree with her pregnant state.
She called out for #3 to bring her a glass of water… as she felt my water from last night was unsuitable for the purpose.
Unknown to Wife, #3 had her head in the sink brushing her teeth. #1, observing her sister was occupied, jumped into action and got the water for her mother.
Now that was when the problem started. #3 caught her sister half way. “AAAA! I wooor ga do dat!” she mumbled through a thick froth of toothpaste and the toothbrush still in her mouth.
“I’ve got it,” replied #1. “I’ve got it!” thrusting out her right hand to ward off her oncoming sister.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” shouted #3 grasping for the glass while at the same time carefully avoided dripping the white froth that circled her mouth. She knew she would be in trouble with her mother if she dripped toothpaste on the carpet.
“Honey, I didn’t know you were brushing your teeth,” Wife piped in. “Go finish brushing. She’s already brought it to me.”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” #3 stomped back to the bathroom in a flurry of blonde hair. A couple of rooms over I heard the bathroom door slam and bounce back open (the latch is broken.)
I had no idea what to do. Before me was a child who was absolutely offended that someone else did her work. It is true that Wife and I have attempted to instill a good work ethic in our children. We only want them to perform any task they undertake to the best possible outcome of their abilities. I suppose that this outburst is a proof that at least #3 has taken our lessons to heart.
I mean, I knew we were good, but I had no idea we were that good.
Car-seats, shoes, seatbelts, and left-over-food, all expected to be found within our van, but a goat?
This whole episode started out innocent enough, as they all do, when Wife was having tea at my mother’s house. Yes, my mother serves tea to visitors. That day she entertained my wife as well as one of my aunts, who in walking over to my mother’s was followed by her entourage of small dogs and her goat who thinks she is a dog. And you thought the goat was just a ploy to get you to keep reading.
But before we get to the goat, picture the impromptu tea party. My mom gets out her good teapot and the matching cups complete with saucers. Sugar and honey are put into their separate pots, also a matching set. And the whole scheme is laid out on a lace table cloth. I won’t even try to get into the tea brewing specifics. Last time I did that, I just got yelled at.
Around that round table sat Wife, my mother, my aunt, and a couple of my sisters. They sipped tea in between their exchange of information and bits of family trivia. While in the midst of their visit, #1 came dashing into the room, horror etched on her face.
“There’s a goat in the van!” #1 screamed.
The tea party stilled while the women looked at one another. All the women except my aunt that is, she only hung her head in understanding and then walked out of the house with #1 in the lead. The rest of the women craned their heads out the window to see the goat pleasantly munching trash in between the front seats of the van.
#1 pointed accusingly to the van intruder who was as tall as she was. My aunt then set to work at yanking her goat out. The goat resisted, as she was enjoying whatever the french-fry’s had turned into. It took a little doing, but the goat finally surrendered to her owner and exited the van with a mouth full.
When Wife told me about the adventure that night we had a good laugh at our child’s expense. I said with a chuckle, “You know, it was good she saw the goat as soon as she did. Otherwise you might have had an unpleasant pile of presents left in the car for you.”
The Christmas tree is up and Wife has started her Advent long decorating that might end Christmas Eve. The Children have repositioned the Nativity set twice now, and Wife has reset the Nativity set twice now. The stockings have been hung up with uneven spacing and I have been scolded for pointing that out. I suppose she is right however, if it really bothered me I should fix it. Good thing I’m fine the way they are.
Needless to say, we are in the Christmas season. Four Sundays of Advent, Christmas Eve and Day, and the twelve days after until Epiphany, (the day the Three Wise Men showed up) how good it is to celebrate Christmas the Catholic way.
While we anticipate the coming celebration of the birth of Christ, our children have written and rewritten their wish lists. Saint Nick will have a sled full this year. And speaking of Santa Clause, #1 gave me a unique explanation about him last Sunday.
I was searching under a bed for one of the boy’s church shoes. #1 was hovering behind me when she said something that caught me off guard. “Daddy, Santa lives forever because he doesn’t have any children. Is that right?”
I was playing tug-of-war with a spider at the time and responded from beneath the bed with a typical, “I don’t know, we’ll see.”
She did not press the subject any further and I assumed she forgot about it relieving me of correcting a sticky subject that she was able to make weird, I was wrong.
A few days later when Wife was searching for the missing box of Christmas ornaments while #1 was following her around. Among her near constant jabbering she told her mother, “Santa and Mrs. Clause don’t have children because God gave them the gift of immortality. They would be sad if they had to watch their kids get old and die. They would be sad wouldn’t they Mom?”
Stumbled in the search, Wife told the little girl, “Yes, I think they would be.”
Finding herself vindicated, #1 bounced away to join her sisters.
Wife told me later about her explanation and said, “Looks like she thought it through.”
A time will come when she and the other children will learn the truth, but right now it is so much fun to see the Christmas magic in her that I used to know at her age.
Walking in the front door I came upon all four girls with their heads together bent over the globe on the dining room table. They were deep in discussion about which of the very colorful continents was the North Pole. The guesses ranged from Florida, to Egypt, to somewhere in western Russia.
When the children realized I was behind them, little squealing girls insisted on my help. Like any good home-schooling father, I attempted to ignore them and walk away, but they saw through my deception and I was roped in.
We started with an educated guess from #1. “Is this the North Pole?” she asked as she pointed to some point in the Mid West.
“Ummm, not quite. It’s more like up here.” I then pointed to the proper place on the globe.
“Ohh, this is the North Pole,” said #1 as she tapped the plastic degree plate at the top of the world.
“No, that’s… something else. It’s under that, I mean…” As I looked upon the row of confused faces I was suddenly aware of just how a rat felt in a maze. I hastened to explain myself as I pointed to the empty ocean at the top of the world “It’s right here, but there’s no land. It’s all ice, but they don’t show ice on a globe. Ah…”
With my lightning quick mind I found myself changing the subject. “The South Pole has land, you see. The North Pole doesn’t, but the South Pole does.” We turned the globe upside down and a couple heads bonked as they leaned in.
I got a lot of “ooh’s” before someone asked, “What’s that?” pointing to Brazil.
So we did the Point-at-a-country and dad-will-read-what-it-is game all the way to dinner and into the meal.
About half way into the meal, and a full five minute after we put the globe away, #2 announced, “I don’t want go to the North Pole, I want to go to the South Pole.”
Well, I thought, I guess she really was listening to.
Not bad for a home-schooling dad.