everyday ordinary bonus chapter
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Early this morning, B and I heard Ren jump out of his bed and land hard on the floor. Then B said, “Pretend you’re asleep.”
I’m Supposed to be the Grown up
There are those days when you just don’t feel it, but you’re still the parent and things must be done, like providing food and doing laundry. Now that my kids are in middle school and elementary school respectively, they can, more or less, dress themselves and, more or less, feed themselves. But I remember those times when my kids were little and I had to be the grown up, like that one night when Ren—my second born—was a toddler and he took off his diaper in the middle of the night and then called for me. I was tempted to let him go naked, but I figured it would be more work for me in the morning. I grabbed the dry diaper off the floor where he threw it and tore off a piece of duct tape from the roll sitting on B’s nightstand. (He had been fixing something in the bedroom, and as the saying goes, “If you can’t fix it with duct tape, you’re not using enough.”) I duct taped the diaper back on Ren. I covered him with a blanket and staggered back to bed. That happened twice. Clearly, I didn’t use enough duct tape the first time.
The morning came quite early. Ren bellowed my name, and I lay in bed pretending to be asleep, it was easy. I just couldn’t get my eyes open. Didn’t help that I stayed up way too late reading sci-fi, post-apocalyptic pulp fiction. But after the third bellow, I finally dragged myself out of bed feeling a little like I was living in those post-apocalyptic times where toddlers ruled.
By early afternoon when the boy was napping on the couch, I lounged on the couch in my PJs next to him. It’s not like I didn’t do anything that day. I did go to the market in the morning for a caffeine fix—an outing for which it was totally unnecessary that change out of my jammies. B was getting dressed, so I turned on the Power Rangers for the kids and headed out the door after I grabbed some cash from B’s wallet and his car key. I didn’t want to dig for mine in my handbag. I also grabbed a rain jacket and donned my strappy black Crocs before I drove to the market a half mile from the house. I stumbled my way through the aisles and was back home before B had to leave for work and drop the girl off at school. There were no ensuing challenges at the market. No embarrassing encounters or wardrobe malfunctions, which, as you know is a risk for an early-morning pajama outing especially when you don’t put on supportive undergarments. One of my friends told me once that she almost always drove her kids to school in her pajamas. She said that if she were ever in an accident the first call would be to her sister, who lived just a couple blocks from the school and who was instructed to bring her a bra. I don’t have a sister who lives close. And if I called B to tell him that I was in an accident, I do not believe the first question he would ask is whether or not I needed a bra.
Equally as important as much choice attire was that I didn’t even brush my hair before I left the house to go to the market.
And I let the Girl go to school without brushing her crazy, long blond hair…or her teeth. I let her go without a sweater or checking her homework. For her attire, I even grabbed an undershirt for her to wear from her dirty clothes basket. I sniffed it first, and it was fine. I also didn’t feed her breakfast, but I gave her instructions to eat breakfast at school and to buy her lunch at school as well.
I did manage to fix the boy a peanut butter sandwich—on white bread—for breakfast. He also ate apple slices, but I let him read a comic book at the table. (He was a toddler. He really only looked at the pictures.) I also gave him a small cup of soda pop.
For my breakfast, I finished my giant cup of caffeine. Then I ate yogurt with granola and an apple because I have lots of apples and the yogurt required me to do nothing more than remove the foil lid. Later for lunch Ren and I ate potato chips—and only potato chips. They were good. They were a special kind of chip that B picked out and instructed the kids not to eat. I made a note to replace the potato chips the next time I went to the market.
In the morning before he left for work, B brought down his laundry basket because he was out of clean underpants. Earlier in the day when I let the dog outside, I started his wash, but then his clothes sat in the washing machine awaiting transfer to the dryer. I remembered during Ren’s naptime that I should do something about it, but the washing machine and dryer were all the way in the mudroom, which is through a door on the other side of the kitchen, about 50 feet from the couch. I thought I might go to the mudroom later, to let the dog go outside, but I knew that if the clothes actually made it into the dryer that day, they would not get folded when they were finished in the dryer. B’s T-shirts and jeans would wrinkle. Fortunately, B was more likely to notice the missing chips than the wrinkled clothes.
After Ren’s nap, I gave him a snorkel not because he knows how to use it and not because we going anywhere near water. I needed to distract him from taking my cell phone, and the snorkel was lying on the table within arm’s reach. It was either the snorkel or the chess set, also within arm’s reach. I almost chose the chess set. The snorkel belonged to Ash. She would yell at me if she saw Ren playing with it because she would know I was the one who gave it to Ren. The day before Ren took my cell phone and sent a text to the man at FedEx, who responded with a question mark. After Ren sent the text, he played a game of chess on my phone. It cost me $11. I didn’t want to spend another $11 on a game of chess, so I gave him the snorkel. It worked, and Ren left my cell phone alone.
B called once that afternoon to ask me how my day was. I told him we were having a great day. He then said he would pick up Ash from school. That made me smile, and then I ran upstairs to put on actual clothes so that he didn’t think I spent all day in my jammies.
A little while later, B brought Ash home, and then he headed back out. He and some guys from his band at church were attending a bass guitar clinic in Philadelphia. He said they would grab dinner along the way. He said he would be home late and don’t wait up.
I fed the kids pancakes and apples for dinner because I had a box of pancake mix and still lots of apples. The Girl had homework and chores to do, but I didn’t make her do either. I wasn’t doing any chores so why should she? Instead, we sat on the couch to eat our pancakes and watch TV. I let both kids stay up way too late. Just before we headed upstairs, we piled our dirty dishes into the sink. As I turned out the lights in the kitchen, I made a note to do the dishes in the morning because there was no way I was going to do them that night.
Ash wriggled into her jammies and hopped into bed. I duct taped a diaper on Ren and rocked him to sleep instead of just putting him in bed. They’re only little for a while, and I loved rocking him. I even sang a song. Then I was exhausted. I crawled into bed.
B did come home late. He decided to sleep on the couch so that he wouldn’t wake me. This meant his half of the bed was unoccupied.
Sometime in the middle of the night, I got up for a bathroom break. When I returned to my bed, I found it occupied, first by Ash and then by Ren.
“Someone is sleeping in my bed,” I said to myself. “This bed is too full.”
Since the couch was unavailable, I wandered into Ash’s room. “This bed is too high,” I said looking at her loft, “and her room is booby-trapped.”
There were a hundred surprises lying in wait on the floor for an unsuspecting and barefoot intruder. I left and went to Ren’s room.
“This bed is too small,” I said staring down at miniature-sized cot with rails, “but it is unoccupied and only six inches off the floor.”
I arranged the pillows and blankets and crawled into Ren’s bed, pulling my knees to my chin. My head bumped against the headboard. My feet kicked the kickboard. I fell back to sleep and dreamed I was being shipped overseas in a box where I could never fully extend my legs and arms.
Early in the morning, I opened my eyes and saw Ren staring down at me with his duct-taped diaper in hand.
I made a note that I would be more of a grown up the next day.
Between Heaven and Earth
My kids—like your kids, too—have become quite ingenious at evading chores, and even bedtimes. When it comes to doing dishes or folding clothes, Ash will at first avoid the chore altogether. When that tactic fails, she will find either me or B and engage us in a philosophical or spiritual conversation of enormous depth. Sometimes it works, and her chores are successfully postponed. Ren tries, too. His go-to tactic is something more guttural that involves throwing himself on the floor, flailing about, and whining loudly. When that fails—upon the threat of parental intervention—he will try another ploy, “Momma, I feel like I just need a hug.” We hug a lot. The chores still get done. But, Ren has been watching his sister and learning.
Tonight, it wasn’t a chore he was trying to evade, it was bedtime. After a bit of a battle, in which I was winning—if it still politically correct to use that word—Ren got out of bed and came to me, “Momma, can you please tell me how the sun causes all the planets to rotate and spin about the sun?”
“Yes,” I said, and before I realized it, I had taken the bait. “It’s based on gravitons and gravity between any two objects. It’s dependent on the distance between the two objects and the masses of the two objects.” And that was just the start of it. We launched into an entire discussion on the size of our sun, its lifecycle, and how it would eventually become a red giant, consume the earth and other planets, burn up, explode into a nebula, and then become a white dwarf before settling in as a black dwarf for all eternity.
“So it will become a black hole? Black holes are bad,” he said.
“Black holes are not bad; it’s simply part of the life cycle of a star. But our sun is not large enough to become a black hole. The most our sun will do is become a black dwarf, a dead sun that simply exists in space.”
“But I don’t want that to happen,” he said with tears in his eyes.
“By the time that happens, there will no longer be a planet earth.”
“What about the people?”
“They will be living somewhere else.”
“Yeah, heaven,” I said.
“I still don’t want our sun to die,” he said sorrowfully.
“Our sun, as it exists now, still has about 5 million years of hydrogen left in its core to burn. After that, it will burn helium for over 100 million years as it expands to a red giant. As it is expanding, the sun will grow larger and larger until it consumes the planets in our solar system,” I explained.
“So our sun won’t become a black hole? ‘Cuz black holes are bad.”
“Black holes aren’t bad, but if we were traveling in space in a space ship, we would do everything we could to avoid a black hole. Just like snakes aren’t bad. They can be dangerous and poisonous, and we will do everything we can to avoid them,” I said glancing at the clock and realizing that our entire conversation just took 15 minutes. “Now, I think we have covered this topic completely. It’s time that the sun in your room goes dark and you get sucked into the black hole in your bed.”
“Momma, can we talk more about black holes?”
“We can talk about black holes tomorrow. Give me a hug good night.”
He hugged me, “Alright, good night, Momma. Have fun being sucked up by the black hole in your room, too.”
Jupiter, Saturn and Then...
When B and I picked Ash up from her final day of 2nd grade, we took her and Ren out to lunch to celebrate. The lunchtime conversation ran everywhere from what movie Ash watched in class that day to our upcoming annual trip to New Hampshire when out of nowhere Ash stated oh-so-matter-of-factly, “There’s life on Venus.”
The rest of us stopped talking and turned to her.
“There is. There is life on Venus,” she repeated. “Scientists found plant life on Venus, but we can never go there to see if there is other life on the planet.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“It’s too hot. We would burn up.”
“It’s too close to the sun,” she said.
“That’s a fair assessment,” I said.
“But it’s not the closest planet,” she said.
“What is the closest plant?’
She paused for a moment and then said, “Mercury.”
“You’re right. Do you know the order of the planets?”
“Well, Mercury, Venus,” and then she paused long enough for B to jump to say, “Mars.”
“Not Mars,” I said. “Earth.”
“Have things changed since we were kids?” he asked.
I was puzzled. “Changed? I’m not aware of any major planetary shifts in the past few years. Earth is the third rock from the sun.”
B flashed his ornery, little-boy smile, “Hehehe.” It was a setup, and I had taken the bait. I do that a lot.
Ash continued, “Earth and Mars. What’s next?”
“Is it Jupiter and then Saturn?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “And then it’s…”
B’s eyes widened, and he started to fidget a little.
“And then it’s,” she said, “Uranus…”
“URANUS!” B shouted loudly, except it came out like, “YOUR ANUS!”
The restaurant went silent. All eyes turned toward us. A hostess dropped a stack of plates, an elderly lady in the corner gasped, and the four and five-year-old boys at the table next to us giggled.
Ash clenched her teeth and seethed, “Daddy!”
B sniggered and said quieter, “Your Anus.”
“You were just waiting for that one, weren’t you?” I said.
“I guess it was kinda loud.”
One day, Ash was “cleaning” her bedroom while B and I sat in the office just outside her room watching her “clean” and waiting for her to be finished with the task. The process was agonizing so we passed the time surfing the ‘net talking about the news, the weather, and whatever else seemed interesting.
I casually mention, “There’s going to be a meteor shower this weekend.”
Ash calls out from her bedroom, “What’s a meteor shower?”
“This one is the Perseid Meteor Shower. The meteors are actually pieces of the Swift-Tuttle comet. It happens only once every 133 years. It’s going to look like a lot of shooting stars.”
“Oh, I want to see that! I want to wish on a shooting star!”
B said, “I wish…”
“Don’t say it out loud, Daddy. It won’t come true,” she stated with urgency.
“I wish…Ash would clean her room,” he finished
“Now it’s not going to come true,” she said.
“I didn’t actually think it was going to happen anyway.”