I am a stay-at-home father of five, which often seems like twenty-seven. I am a writer, which often seems like a stay-at-home father of five.
My day for your consideration.
I wake up (sort of) and lay in bed for a few minutes thinking about my day and the characters of my WIP (work-in-progress for future reference). I am excited to make P on my WIP. Then my wife drops our nine-month old on the bed. Quick kiss, quick “I love you,” quick screeching of tires, quick leave me to the (wolves) kids.
Without opening my eyes, I get a grip on the baby’s ankle so he can’t crawl of the bed. Without opening my eyes, I am unaware that my three-year old has launched herself from the nightstand toward my person. She is just the right length to simultaneously hit my chin with her forehead and my uncharted territory with her knee(s). You reap what you sow.
The blood from my tongue draws less inner attention than other recent injuries, but is still consequential enough to make me sound like a sleestack. I probably also look and walk like one at this time of day.
“I want ceelo!” (cereal)
“Ok.” (Let me get up, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth and get dressed)
“I want ceelo!” (cereal)
“OK.” (please. just give me a second)
“I want ceelo!” (still cereal)
“OOOOOK!” (I am going to chuck you down the stairs) “I’m coming!”
I walk down the stairs following the human projectile, carrying the baby (possibly still by the ankle–he doesn’t care) and find my 5th and 3rd grader arguing over whose turn it is to pick a Netflix show. They both like each others shows, so it doesn’t matter, but in the geo-political world of the two-story house on Swift Falls Way, the power-grab is key to happiness. Or so it is for my two oldest. I impose sanctions and turn on Sesame street.
My adopted child is usually not arguing with anybody. He’s new, he’ll learn. But my problem with him is the lego stuck in the bottom of my foot. It makes it easier for me to tell him, “No, I’m not making bacon and eggs this morning. Have a bowl of ceelo.”
While feeding the baby and getting most of the mush into his mouth, I shout question-orders at my two oldest.
“Do you have your homework?”
“Do you own a comb?”
“Is your backpack ready?”
“Seriously, do you have shoes that match?”
Getting them ready to walk out the door for school is strangely like herding cats and earthworms at the same time. It’s a real head-scratcher.
But it’s a victory of sorts. I’ve gone from five kids in the house to three. Writing is in sight. I long for my messy desk and keyboard with the sticky Kkkkkkkk.
I finish feeding the baby and take him to the kitchen sink to wash his feeding off his face and hands and hair (and somehow my eyebrow). With baby still under arm, Heisman style, I get my three and four-year old situated in front of Netflix and ask what they want to watch. (Seriously, I don’t know HOW my 3rd and 5th grader got into fighting over Netflix). I can usually get them settled on Dora, Diego, or for some reason, Johnny Test.
I step into my office (the endzone) and spike the ball (err, gently put the baby on the floor with a random collection of toddler and dog-safe toys). It’s time to write.
“Naked Barbie, Naked Barbie, Naked Barbie….”
I curiously get back up, baby-gate the baby in my office and go into the other room to find my four-year old (boy) chanting “Naked Barbie,” and holding the object of his desire in a very adult position of desire.
“Dude! Go play legos!”
(I’ll admit here, that most of this post is a compilation of several real events over the course of several real days, but the Naked Barbie affair happened five minutes ago)
Back to writing. HA!
My son is now crying over his legos. In our unique house, we have a unique boy who is missing some fingers and dealing with deformities in the fingers he does have. Like a good father, I tell him to go play with legos. Now, he actually loves legos. It’s not a cruel joke on him, but he often needs help and as is evidently customary in this house, the way to ask for help is to cry and throw things.
But at least he’s crying over frustration with legos and not sexual frustration with Naked Barbie. Take your victories where you can.
So we build an “airplane” (I’m not the greatest with legos either) and he is happy.
Back to writing. Remove computer speaker wire from baby’s mouth, remove baby from under desk and sit down.
“Daddy, Dora is over.”
“Daddy, I want another Dora. I want the one with Diego and dinosaurs.”
“You want a Diego?”
“No, I want the Dora that has Diego and dinosaurs.”
I used to fight the specificity of her requests, but there’s just no productive outcome to that. It is Season 3, Episode 10 if you’re wondering. The Dora series, not Diego. Do NOT try and sneak in the Diego series, which DOES have an episode with dinosaurs, but that’s not good enough for my little princess. I love her.
My dumbphone reminds me that I have forgotten I have a doctor (shot) appointment for the baby in an hour. I need to bathe him, dress him, and clothe him so as to appear non-neglected. I need to do this times three. Mid-bath, the dumbphone yells at me. It’s the school calling. The school gets mad when I don’t answer, so with one hand on the baby (keeping his head above water) and one hand on the phone (keeping my head off the evil school secretary’s chopping block), I discover that my 3rd grade daughter is sick and needs to be picked up. I hear her oscar-winning cry in the background and know that I need to pick her up, not because she is sick, but because the evil secretary might bake her into a pie if she keeps crying.
I yell at the little ones to get in the car and I rush downstairs with the baby (do not rush downstairs with a baby), his hair and my shirt and shorts still wet.
I toss everyone in the car and (screeching of tires–you should see all the rubber on our driveway), we head off to pick up one “sick” kid and take one non-sick kid to the doctor, where all four kids will find a reason to cry, only one of them legit.
I love our pediatrician for the simple fact that they continue to let us in their office. Yada, Yada, typical story, the one kid who got shots got no lollipop and the three who were along for the ride got lollipops. The baby didn’t understand the situation completely, but knew enough to glare at his siblings with contempt. I actually laughed out loud at that. He did get one semi-edible treat. He sucked the band-aid off of his finger where they poked him for a blood test.
We get home and my 3rd grader plops on the couch, turns on an episode of iCarly that I can now quote entirely, and asks what’s for lunch.
“Lollipop, dear. Enjoy.”
Unfortunately, I realize that I do need to put food in my kids. Just as unfortunately, all I have in the pantry is diced green chilies and cream of something soup. I don’t feel like taking my herd to the grocery store, so I make the regretful decision to go through the McDiarrhea drive-thru and get the good deal… 400,000 “chicken” nuggets for $4.99. And since I’m there anyway, I might as well get a large fry for me. And an Angus Mushroom Swiss, hold the mayo. And a diet coke, easy on the ice.
(have you ever noticed that? They fill the entire cup with ice and then squirt two ounces of soda over the ice. Seriously, drive-thru attendant with the diamond lip ring and purple hair, look in my minivan and sympathize with me. Don’t short me on my caffeine.)
We get home, we eat, we watch a continuous loop of Diego, Dora and iCarly (who, coincidentally, went to my elementary school… much, much later than I did, though), until everyone is good and loaded with ammunition to be fired later.
Time to pick up my 5th grader and argue about homework, threaten to take away soccer practice, and (I can multi-task) take my “sick” third-grader to her sewing lesson at the same time. I know I should have kept her home to prove a point, but I already paid for the lesson and, well, let’s be honest. I can keep my kid count at four for another hour.
I drive everyone, minus my “sick” third grader, home and put the three smallest ones down for a nap. It’s quiet, minus the clanking of dishes being put improperly into the dishwasher, but I don’t complain. Choose your battles. The dishes ARE in the dishwasher, and WILL be exposed to some degree to hot water and soap. I have learned to live with this.
I open up my WIP to make P and am blocked. The pre-waking thoughts and ideas are gone. And right about then, hello again Angus Mushroom Swiss. At least I’ll get some thinking time.
Then my son, my oldest and longest friend out of the kids in the house, asks if I want to watch a show with him. He likes cool stuff like History and Discovery channel offerings. I can’t say no. I do like the quiet moments with kids, and I like that he and I have common tastes. I do a lot of bad parenting, but I do take advantage of moments like this.
So after watching Bear Grylls eat a raw squirming trout he just pulled out of a frigid lake (while his cameraman is sucking a Starbucks and eating donuts), the wife gets home and asks what is for dinner.
Shoot. Dinner. Why does that keep happening every day? People are so demanding.
Still have not been to the store, so we have diced green chilies and cream of something soup over freezer-burned chicken. Hey, it beats raw trout. My 5th grader, who has soccer practice in seventeen minutes, eats about as fast as a teddy bear. I yell, he rolls his eyes and takes half a bite. Lather, rinse, repeat, get in the car.
“Do you have your soccer ball?”
I tap the steering wheel in the running car, listening to the Angels lose on the radio, and start screeching the tires before the mini-van door is even closed with kid and soccer ball inside.
“Do you have your water?”
This is my fault. I should ask all the questions in one single run-on sentence.
We are late to practice, where I get secret joy in my son having to run laps for being late. I pop into my camp chair, pop open my netbook to type my first words of the day and the “plug into power source” warning comes up. Bust.
Luckily there is a B&N across the street and I can go browse and almost-always-silently curse all the authors and all the time they must have to sip coffee and smile, while typing out a novel a month. Soccer practice ends, as does my cursing of Stephenie Meyer, and we head home. I send my son to shower, where he will dump his sweaty clothes in the bathroom. Luckily they won’t land on the floor. They’ll land on yesterday’s sweaty clothes and an entire unrolled roll of toilet paper that nobody will claim responsibility for. I make the nite-nite rounds to other kids who are crying for hugs and kisses. I shut all the bedroom doors, maybe (likely) more forcefully than is appropriate and yell through the bathroom door, “please use soap!”
It’s wife time. We sit down and flip on Netflix. We watch an episode of Damages (Glenn Close gives me nightmares) and follow that up with the lighter side, How I Met Your mother (Doogie Howser makes me laugh). This particular episode involves a contest between Doogie and Ted to see who can “close the deal” with two girls at once. My wife asks me if I’ve ever done that. I answer (truthfully) “no,” and chuckle. She knows this, and she wouldn’t do it either, but she looks at me with a frisky grin, and suddenly my day is looking up and I’m calculating how much time is left in Doogie and Ted’s contest.
Fifteen minutes later, the show is over and my wife is sleeping. I guess she doesn’t HAVE to be awake, but I’d feel bad if she wasn’t. So I nudge her and send her upstairs to bed, content (sort of) to finally sit down and write the Great American Novel.
My brain is tired. Mashed. It’s the first symptom (for me) of full-blown Igiveupforthedayitis. To tired to fight it, I decide it’s time to lay in bed and wind down with a chapter or two (or twenty if I get hooked) of whatever fiction series I’m reading. I plod upstairs with heavy feet and droopy eyes to find my wife laying wide awake in bed, reading.
Nope. I already am too far into Igiveupforthedayitis. I lay down, pull the bookmark (a Borders receipt, an antique) from the book and read while silently cursing the author and his endless amounts of time to write.
Tomorrow will be better. I’ll surely get a chapter or two written.
(there were nine kid interruptions during this vent session)
(and I probably COULD have written a chapter or two in that time)
As the great Comic Book Guy once said, “Once again, my underwear has become caught on a cowcatcher.”