“There’s a Snake in My Boot”

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.

Kingsnake caught!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.Snake in a Bucket

 

 

NOT IT!

The little blonde head of #3 bounced up and down with the chestnut of her sister, #4. Their combined flighty hair gave the impression of a miniature sandstorm. Squealing with the glee known only to the very young, they flopped onto the couch and slid onto the carpet. Suddenly, #3 jumps to her feet with an idea. “Let’s pway a game,” she declared.bouncing around

#4 jumped up with her sister and agreed, “Yes, let’s play a game. But what game?”

#3 scrunched up her face with thought. With hands on her hips, her mind visibly worked behind her eyes which gave the illusion of stuck gears. Without warning the gears broke free and spun rapidly. “Hide N Seek!” she announced.

“Yeah!” squealed #4.

“OK, now see who’s it. Weady? One… two… phree…” then she screamed as loud as she could, “NOT IT!”

A split second behind her sister #4 shouted, “NOT IT!”

#3 pointed at her sister. “AHHH! You said it last. You it.”

#4 protested that it was not fair. So the “One… two… phree… NOT IT!” followed by “NOT IT!” was again played out with the same results.

The next time #4 counted off. “One… two… tree…” and she then shouted, “NOT IT!” and #3 followed that time, “NOT IT!”

#3 looked questioningly at #4. The process was again repeated… again with the same results. The two stared at one another both sure that the other was cheating.

At that point their older sister walked by. #1 wanted to join the game too. This time she would count off. “One… two… three” and oddly she was the first to shout out, “NOT IT!” Maybe the countdown was rigged.

#2 popped her head in and wanted to play with them as well. So she counted down, with the same result that she was the first to declare ‘not it’ and therefore could not be it. Again, they would do it again. Now, #5 and #6 were shouting “Not It!” just because everyone else was.

At last, in the midst of children screaming at the top of their lungs “NOT IT!”, #1 shouted above the din, “OK! OK! I’ll be it.” They all quieted down. “What am I it for?”

The girls looked from one to another with blank expressions and shrugged their shoulders.

The End of the Line

At some point every young child has to learn that their parents are the absolute authority. A contest of wills, so to speak. I believe that it sets the tone for the majority of their relationship. In my household, that contest usually happens when the child is between one and three years. With some children it seems to last an entire year. When the child grows to that point (known to some as the terrible twos) Wife and I must be firm, but even I was unaware of just how firm we could be.Leashed

#6 is just conceding to our authority, while #7 has just started to resist. And so, he foundEnd of the line himself in the middle of a forest tied to a tree. Now it sounds worse that it was. If you have read my last post, then you know we had just been camping. It just so happens that was the time #7 chose to be… uppity.

I have heard someone say that a one year old shouldn’t be expected to respect boundaries. Well, I say that if there is a newborn in the picture and a slue of siblings that

To

To

need tending, then he’s going to respect boundaries real quick. And those boundaries include, keeping within sight of his parents (meaning keeping out of the road or out of the forest), and keeping out of the fire (meaning keeping all limbs out of the campfire no matter what.) And that combination led to the leashing of #7 to a tree.

He screamed at his mother. He screamed at me. He screamed at

And Fro

And Fro

the leash and the tree. He stretched the tether as far as it went and screamed. He swung to and fro like a pendulum and screamed. He wrapped the leash around the tree and attempted to pull it over, and when that did not work he screamed. When the other children came over to play around the tree with him, he

ran to the end of his line and

And the tree did not move.

And the tree did not move.

screamed.

No matter how hard anyone tried to distract or comfort the little boy, he would not be soothed. “Liberty before security” apparently is his motto. While I might encourage that attitude later in his life, right now father and mother know best. He’ll see it my way eventually.End of the line

 

*No children were harmed in the writing of this post. #7 was released upon the return to his natural habitat.*

Reality and Children?

It never ceases to amaze me just how differently children see the world. As if our eyes evolve over the ten or so years into something close to reality. Either what they see doesn’t exist, or what you want them to see, they can’t; as though we see in color while they see in ultraviolet.

We can be looking at the exact same cage at the zoo and my little ones just can’t find the gorillas, but they see the blue jay up in the tree or they freak-out at the spider in the bars. Any parent knows what I’m writing about, or if not you will in good time.BIG SPIDER

Here’s another, #2 just got a puppy, and the puppy and his poop are her responsibility. Now when I found puppy poop in the front room I gently informed her to “CLEAN IT UP!!!!” Then for some reason the flustered child was unable to locate said poop. After what seemed to me a reasonable time of pointing it out, I nearly had to put her nose in it.

And it’s the same when they clean their rooms. “Mommy, it’s clean!”

Wife doesn’t even have to poke her head in. “No it’s not! Look, there’re toys there and there, and what about all the dirty laundry? Do you see it?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

At times like that I even wonder if we are speaking the same language.

However, I do see something in their eyes that makes me remember magic. When I’m holding the baby and he is looking into empty space with amazement and wonder written all over his face and my mother says, “Oh, he’s looking at the angels.” I speculate if he really is.

When the #4 is tracing out with her eyes the lines in rocks, I am curious if she can see something in the granite that eludes me.

When I see all the children huddled up on a bolder watching the same sunset they have seen all their lives, I wonder what I am missing.

Too often I think we adults are sucked into “reality” and loose out on the beautiful world God gave us. I find my mind crowded with taxes, phone bills, credit card bills, and grocery bills. I get so caught up in the rat-race I almost forget the green leaves, the blue skies, and deep waters. But God has blessed me, for always before my eyes are the ever present smiles of my children, and in my ears is their never ending laughter.

We all seem to loose reality now again. Sometimes me, and sometime my children.puppy food

The War of the Stones

One morning I was splitting wood in the yard with #4 and #5 looking on. They played musical logs for a while, and asked many silly questions as children do, and soon became bored with both. They began to re-explore the yard as I started to split wood once more.

In little time #4 had found two prizes. She hurried up to me, arresting my attention and presenting her prizes, while #5 tried to arrest her attention from behind. “Look Daddy,” she squealed. “I found two wocks. They look like teeff.” She rethought it, “Dwagon Teeff!”#4's rocks

I acknowledged how interesting they were and waved them back so I could continue my work.

They walked back and the little boy still pleaded to hold the rocks. After a short time the little girl thought of a way to satisfy her brother. She turned to him, holding the stones behind her back. “OK, OK, here’s what I do, I will trow the wocks and whoever gets them gets them. I will count to thwee, weady, I will count to thwee. Wait ‘til I count to thwee! One, two, THWEE!”

And, true to her word, she threw the stones. However, the rocks became airborne at the same moment she started to run. Her strategy had put her at least a pace ahead of her brother. The outcome was foreseeable. “I got them!” she said while #5 shouted, “Aww, nuts!” No joke, he actually said it.The rock of #5

This game played out several times before #5 just quit and began to search for his own unique rock; and it was not long, not at all.

He came trotting back not to show me his rock, but his sister. When she asked to hold it he said, “I phrow it, and we see who gets it first. I count to phree. One, two, phree!” And when he threw the stone, he was already at a dead run which ended with him shouting, “I got it!”

After two bouts of that, #4 came whining to me. I dropped my tools as I started a gut wrenching laugh. “You just did the same thing to him not two minutes ago. I’m not going to get after him for doing the same to you,” I said as I wiped the tears from my eyes.

#4 scowled, frowned, and I think was even able to touch the tip of her nose with her eyebrows. Knowing she would get no better response from her mother, she turned back to #5 and proceeded to tell him just how much better her rocks were.

#5 was perfectly content with the rock he had. Though I had my doubts whether it was the same rock he had at first.My rocks are better

Putting God in the Center

Here’s a funny fact. When someone asked me the other day how I “do it” (I think she meant survived) with so many children, I simply answered, “We just do.”

Now when the same question was posed to a preschool teacher, a good friend of Wife, she answered, “They do it because God is the center of their family.”

When I sat back and looked at it I thought, Ya, she’s right. Wife and I (mostly Wife) try very hard to teach our children their faith. Most of the children can recite all the common prayers. Granted, they have a lot of slurred words and a whole lot of W’s in the place of R’s. We also do our utmost to be good examples, taking the children to Mass (despite the inconvenience of the early morning hour; and the company of the children) and they can watch their parents receive the Sacraments regularly.

We have just now entered a new phase of our life. The children are now coming of age and growing up.

This Saturday, #1 received the Sacrament of Confession for the first time. I watched her wait in line, nervous and yet focused. She took it very seriously. I could actually see her examine her conscience as she sat in silent, penitential prayer. She was not just going through the motions; she really understood what she was doing.

I hope to see all the children develop that way: from repeating prayers, to an understanding of prayer, and into a real relationship with God.prayer

 

A Perfect Child

Here’s an observation I had, take it as you please, or more likely just leave it where you found it. However, it seems to me that many parents are quite obsessed in manufacturing their average 2.06 children to as close to perfection as possible. From braces, to nose and ear jobs, to mole and birth-mark removal, they are not only eliminating the financial means for a medium sized family, but also eliminating the unique qualities of their children.

This was brought to my attention with the onset of our seventh baby. #7 has ears that stick out, almost obnoxiously. Almost every time he was taken to the pediatrician we were told, without our inquiring, that there is nothing that the doctor can do to fix his ears. I was unaware that we wanted to fix his ears. That must have been a frequent request in the doctor’s office for him and his staff to assume we wanted our baby’s ears fixed.Floppy ear

I shrugged my shoulders. #1 has a birth-mark on her arm that looks like a nasty burn. #3 also has floppy ears. While #5 has a horrible incessant whining in his voice. Alright, perhaps the complaint about #5 was unfair, but my point is unless the child’s “defect” is causing them real harm, (an overbite that prevents them eating, or a foot that’s on backwards) why take it away?

I guess I could say that we don’t need a perfect child. If there is something “wrong” with one we might as well say, “Let’s see what the next one looks like.” We have plenty of children to spread out the perfection on.

Now you might be saying to yourself, “Who is he to be making such a bold statement? What does he know?”

I admit it, you may have a point. I stand just under six feet tall. I have naturally straight teeth. I have twenty/twenty vision. And I am told my posture is impeccable. So what do I know? I know the kids will grow into their own, and birth-marks, or floppy-ears, or pigeon-toes will be a part what makes them… themselves. Often the children will even take pride in what makes them so unique.pigeon-toes

To end I would say; if they were good enough for God to make them that way, then they are good enough for me.

And to you who think I am a mean spirited parent, yes I will buy the kid braces if they have a significant overbite.

 

Plastic Superhero

Superman, Thor, George Washington, Davy Crockett, Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and dad are some of the greatest heroes of all time. Admit it; even you thought your dad was the toughest guy around at one time, able to lift impossible weights and solve any problem. Now I find myself in the same role.

Often, while watching an adventure film, the hero will perform some incredible act of heroism, and like clockwork, one of the children would ask, “Can you do that, Dad?” and the rest would turn their little heads to hear my answer. That is a lot of pressure to put on one man, and it multiplies with every child’s glowing eyes.

At times I feel a man in a costume, a look-alike, or a plastic superhero capable of no more than that of a dresser drawer. Gray hairs, I am turning gray not from the stress of day-to-day life, but from enormous amount of expectations heaped on my shoulders by my very own children. Adults have the experience to understand that one cannot do everything. My children have not yet learned that life lesson. I have trouble teaching that to them, so I end up in an endless circle attempting to not disappoint them. I have become a “sometimes hero,” or a “maybe hero.”

Plastic SuperheroWhen #2 sees Batman beating up a villain and asks, “Can you do that?’ And I respond, “Maybe.”

When #4 sees Barbie rescued by the prince she asks, “Have you done that?” To which I respond, “Sometimes.”

Yet as the children mature, so do their questions. After watching a film in which the hero spends ten years trying to get back home to his wife, #1 asked me, “Daddy, would you spend ten years to come back to Mommy?”

And that was one that I could certainly say, “Yes, I would.”

I suppose there is hope for me yet. As long as all the children mature slowly, I think the transition will be tolerable. If the kids turn out to be smart, I should fade in their eyes from Superman to a wise man, to whom they should always listen to. Well, here’s hoping; but now I need to go and stop the moon from falling out of the sky. “Be right there kids.”

The Santa Explanation

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.

True troubles

This morning I awoke blurry eyed and in all respects a bit down cast. After a long night of painfully watching the election coverage, I had to get up early for work the next morning. A quick check on the final results before I left the house didn’t help an already sour mood caused by a lack of sleep.

Taxes in California are going up. We have a man in the White House who is in favor of more taxes. As well as a Mayor inSan Diegowho is also in favor of more taxes. These were the troubles that daunted me as I walked into the living room.

There I was met by all the children except the baby. And sitting on the couch were three of the girls steeped in a very heated argument. #1 and #3 were ganging up on #4. The disagreement I walked in on went something like this:

#4: “It’s Tuesday!”

#1 and #3 in unison: “No! It’s Wednesday!”

#4: “Naha, Gramma GG said it’s Tuseday!”

#1: “It’s not Tuesday any more, it’s Wednesday.”

#4 spotting her father: “Daddyyyyyyyyyyy!!!! Is today Tuesday?”

Shaking my head: “Sorry little one, yesterday was Tuesday, today is Wednesday.”

#4 grows a frown.

And I thought I had troubles.