On Thursday Scramble, I take an old post from one of my blogs -- my blogs currently make up 24.8% of the entire Internet -- and repost it to all my OTHER blogs. This post appeared in 2008 on my blog "Thinking The Lions." Thinking The Lions focuses on funny stories about me, and the things I do with my family, and the things I do when I'm supposed to be working, and the things I do when I'm supposed to be doing the things I do. Also, I post poems there on Fridays.
Always carry the pooping toddler behind you, not in front of you.
That way, when the pooping toddler poops, it will not fall directly into your path, causing you to step in it, which will cause you to think oh my god this is possibly the grossest but most hilarious emergency I've ever been a part of, and which will also cause you to stop, take that sock off, and then continue on your way to the potty chair, which you have left upstairs, and upstairs is an awful long ways away when you are carrying a naked, pooping, and now upset toddler at arm's length.
That's what I learned last night, as I was helping to clean up the kitchen after tacos and smoothies made in the new blender using the high-end "Whole Foods" fruit we had, both of which we had because Sweetie got them for St. Nick's Day.
I'm not sure why "St. Nick's Day" exists, or even if it does exist outside of my family. I always wondered if it existed outside of my family when I was a kid, too, when we would, in the beginning of December, get candy in our stockings. Never presents or anything, just candy, which always included one of those giant, straight-up-and-down candy canes, the kind that would splinter when you bit them, so that if you sat on the brown couch eating them and watching channel 18 -- channel 18 was the only channel worth watching most of the time back then, because it was the only non-network channel, so it showed reruns of shows and cartoons in the afternoon, as opposed to showing "Phil Donahue," a show that by my memories was on at least 17 hours a day on all three networks in the late 70s and early 80s-- if you sat on the brown couch eating your candy cane and watching Channel 18, you would have parts splinter off and fall on your chest and be covered with sweater-fuzz, making them inedible. You would also get little tiny peppermint shards sprinkled down your chest and stomach, giving you a minty smell and a crackly feel the rest of the day.
No other kids ever seemed to get stuff for St. Nick's Day, which was why I thought maybe it only existed in our family, but, then again, I was the kind of kid who never really knew what was going on, either, so maybe everyone was getting St. Nick's presents, and I just didn't know it because I spent most of my time in fourth grade reading the "Emil" books and playing one-on-one football on recesses with Kevin Donnerbauer, the kid with only one thumb, and what time I didn't spend doing that I spent drawing "vipers" from Battlestar Galactica and getting beat up by Dean Larsen. None of which really lead one to conversations about whether or not the other kid celebrates "St. Nick's Day."
When I married Sweetie, I learned that she, too, celebrated St. Nick's Day, and that she celebrated it through presents, which seems odd, since Sweetie is always telling me how poor she was growing up, stories about poverty that make me feel even more guilty than I do most of the time about my relatively-privileged background. I, as a kid, generally got presents like the Millenium Falcon with Actual Cargo Bays for hiding Han Solo, or my "official" Dallas Cowboys helmet, or the Lego set that let me build an actual Lunar Landing Module (which I still remember was called the "LEM," even though I don't remember why it was called the "LEM") or any of the the 1000 other toys and junk my parents got us for Christmas, and that still wasn't enough, as most years there were plenty of junky things we didn't get. Realizing that, that I was so spoiled and privileged and didn't appreciate it, serves the valuable purpose today of making me feel guilty, guilt that I channel into areas that society desperately needs, like "working hard" and "giving to charity" and "telling my own kids how lucky they are that they have so much stuff, compared to how little stuff I had," which is only true comparatively speaking, because I had a lot of stuff, but my kids have more stuff, and they, too, do not think they have enough. Yes, The Boy has a great big TV in his room and a DVD player and a Playstation 3, but he still pines away for an Internet connection that would let him play Playstation online against other players, even though the other player he would mostly play against is his friend, who lives next door, and who would probably come over to play anyway, bringing his own TV and Playstation 3, so that they could harness the awesome power of the Internet to play a game against each other sitting two feet apart.
So the guilt I carry around lets me lay some guilt on The Boy and his sisters for having so much stuff, something that I do to relieve my own guilt and also to make sure that they have guilt when they grow up, so that they will work hard and give to charity and be good people and guilt-trip their own kids, and the Circle of Guilt will continue.
I don't guilt-trip the Babies! yet, because they're too little to feel guilty about anything, and also because they don't really want anything. We have not yet bought them that many toys -- all of their toys except the slide and their car fit into a laundry basket -- but we have bought them toys, and they generally ignore those toys and play with anything else.
Mr Bunches, for example, carries around a small red practice golf ball that Middle gave him. It's made of foam rubber and he has it with him at all times. I've never known anyone to have a "Security Golf Ball" but he does, and he gets upset if he can't find it. He got so upset the last time it was lost (we found it behind the Only Surviving Plant in the house) that Sweetie took precautions and found a second one, a Spare Emergency Golf Ball that is kept carefully hidden in the Babies!'s room. We all also make sure, at all times, that we are aware of the Red Ball: "Where's his red ball?" we ask each other, when moving Mr Bunches from one room or level of the house to the next.
He can't be fooled, either -- give him a different color practice golf ball and he'll throw it aside. Give him a different kind of red ball and he'll squeeze it to test it out, and if it doesn't give a little like The Red Ball, he'll toss that aside, too.
Losing his Red Ball is one of the few things that upsets Mr Bunches. He's pretty easygoing. The only other things I've seen upset him are when someone leaves the room he's in, and being whisked away to poop on the potty chair rather than on the living room floor, where he thought it was okay to poop because, after all, he was naked.
Mr Bunches was only naked because I felt sorry for him and also because I needed both hands free to clean up the smoothie mess that I'd created making smoothies on the blender I'd given Sweetie for St. Nick's Day, a blender that was big and expensive and more big and expensive than a St. Nick's Day present should be, but I tend to give Sweetie big and expensive presents because, like I said, I feel guilty about my privileged background and Sweetie manages to dredge up more guilt by telling me stories about her own unprivileged background.
I might tell a story, for example, of how I had all these Star Wars action figures and I used to set them up in elaborate scenarios in my room in which the dresser with its four shelves was the Death Star, because the books on the bottom shelf could be the trash compactor, and then I might say that I wished I'd kept those Star Wars figures because maybe they'd be worth money, and then Sweetie will say something like this, a story she actually told us:
"I didn't have action figures or dolls when I was a little girl. We couldn't afford them. I had marbles, though, that my grandma gave me. I used to pretend the marbles were people and play with them and make them go shopping."
Imagine hearing that on the heels of your story about having an actual Boba Fett that shot missiles. Then imagine yourself standing in the department store thinking "Should I get her that blender she asked for even though it's very expensive?" and as you think that, you remember that Sweetie, as a kid, had to have her marbles have adventures, things she couldn't even dress up or fix the hair of or whatever it is that girls do with their dolls and toys.
And then imagine standing in that department store, pushing your Babies! in their stroller, and feeling terribly guilty about having been so privileged, and deciding that yes, you will buy her the blender, and you'll also get her some other stuff because she deserves it, but then you get distracted and think How would a marble be a person? And did they have names? Were they, like "Judy The Marble?" Did she make them walk, or just roll them to the Marble Shopping Mall? And then before you can get the blender or answer those questions, Mr F leans over and starts trying to knock over the pile of Christmas dinner plates you're stuck in front of.
Mr F got to try to knock over a lot of things last week, as we finished up the shopping for Sweetie's St. Nick's Day present. Her entire present was that blender that she asked for, and a bunch of high-quality fruit from Whole Foods, and a Whole Foods $10 gift card (which I threw in to top it off, but which is useless because $10 at Whole Foods will get you one grape) and a book of smoothie recipes that had lots of recipes for smoothies made without yogurt, because Sweetie likes smoothies but hates yogurt. Or I should say, Sweetie wants to like smoothies, something she tells us all the time:
"I want to like smoothies," she'll say, "But I just don't like that yogurt."
When I ask why it's so important that she like smoothies, she answers: "Because they're cool."
Finding the blender was the easy part -- the department store had blenders, lots of them, some of them as high-priced as $159. I did not get guilt-tripped into buying that. Marble People or not, I don't buy $159 kitchen appliances. I settled on a tough-looking red blender that had an "Ice Crusher" feature. That sounded good (if not very romantic or Christmas-y) to me. Getting the fruit was also easy. It was the book that was tough, because I had Mr Bunches and Mr F with me in their stroller, and I had to go to three different bookstores to find just the right book of smoothie recipes, which meant three different nights of pushing the Babies! through bookstores, bookstores with shelves that were very close together and packed with books that were ripe for the plucking, so that as we walked down the aisles Mr F and Mr Bunches would reach out and grab books and toss them on the floor, and I would quickly scoop the books up and put them back more or less in the region they came from, hopefully also getting all of the "Teddy Graham" crumbs and smudges off of them. So if you are shopping for a book at any of those stores, the odds are that the book you want is about five feet further down the aisle, and you'll want to wipe it off a little before buying it.
I also could not stop the stroller, because they'd get really antsy then, and start arching their backs or taking off their socks and shoes and throwing them, and if there's anything that gets you judged to be a bad parent, it's having barefoot kids out in a store in December in Wisconsin. Plus, people don't think it's so cute the third time a shoe gets flung at them.
Most of the shopping, then, was done with me handing them "Teddy Grahams" and trying to calm them down and distract them by talking to them and singing Mr F's favorite song ("All I Want Is You" from the "Juno" Soundtrack) quietly as we walked through the aisles, and when that didn't work, I'd try to quickly scan the books as we walked by. When I'd see a book I thought would be good, I'd scoop it up and keep pushing the stroller, checking out the book with one hand and pushing the stroller with the other hand, eventually looping back to drop the book off more or less where I'd gotten it (I could tell by the trail of "Teddy Grahams.")
I had to do that because in public, I'll do anything to keep the Babies! happy, and also because I'm a pushover. I think I'm a tough dad, but I'm not, and I just give in to the Babies! demands no matter what the cost to me personally is. I will let them, for example, out of the cart while we're at the drugstore picking up cold medicine, even though I know that it will be physically impossible for me to hold both of their hands and get out my wallet to pay. I let them out of the cart and hold their hands and then, when it comes time to pull out my wallet, I let go of Mr Bunches' hand for just one second I hope and pull out the $20 Sweetie gave me, but it's no use: Mr Bunches has taken off towards the back of the store, laughing, and I have to scoop up Mr F and tell the lady behind the counter "put the change in the bag" and then I carry Mr F with me while I chase Mr Bunches around the rack of cold medicines in the back of the store, twice, before grabbing him and going up front carrying both boys to grab the bag, which hopefully has my change in it, and head outside.
Even then, I'm such a pushover that I feel bad for Mr F, who didn't get to run around the pharmacy, and I wonder if I should give him a chance, too. But Mr F gets his own special treatment, like when I keep playing The Tackle Game with him even though I'm afraid that he's given me a concussion.
The Tackle Game is Mr F's favorite. He invented it, and as you'd expect of a game invented by a two-year-old, it's pretty simple and also violent. In The Tackle Game, I sit cross-legged on the floor, and Mr F goes into the other room and then comes running at me while I say "No no no no no" in a scared voice (note: I'm not acting) and he then plows into me and we fall over backwards and I tell him he's very strong and how'd he get so strong? Then we do it all again, for about an hour. And I keep playing The Tackle Game under the most adverse conditions, like when Mr F the other night caught me just behind the temple with his forehead, causing him to momentarily cry until I calmed him down by tossing him in the air a few times. He was fine. I, though, was seeing stars and had a splitting headache, one that instantly set in and spread down to my jaw and my neck, and one that I still kind of have, two days later. But I kept playing The Tackle Game, and didn't let on to Mr F that I thought maybe I had a concussion.
That pushoveriness is how Mr F and Mr Bunches ended up running around buck naked on St. Nick's Eve, or the night of St. Nick's Day, or whatever. We'd eaten dinner, which was tacos and chips and non-yogurt-containing smoothies that I'd made using Sweetie's new St. Nick's blender, and I was helping clean up before taking the Babies! upstairs for their bath, and Mr F started getting into the wedding cabinet, which is the only thing in our house anymore that both contains glass and is in arm's reach. It's a curio cabinet with glass doors that's filled with wedding mementos and champagne glasses and pictures from our wedding and things like that, and we'd move it, but it's really heavy and it wouldn't be right to put it in the garage, anyway, so we guard the wedding cabinet using the high-tech method of taking the piano bench and the round table and laying them down in front of it, a giant barricade that completely fails to slow down Mr F, who likes to open and close doors, hard, to hear the bang! they make. Mr F frequently gets into the wedding cabinet doors, which make a satisfying glassy sound. He hasn't yet noticed that every single thing inside that cabinet is breakable, but it's only a matter of time.
While I was cleaning up last night, Mr F got into the wedding cabinet, and I got him out and tried to distract him from that by dropping him on the couch. That's "The Treatment," a game he and Mr Bunches like. In "The Treatment," I hold them and swing them back and forth and say "1... 2... Treatment!" and then drop them on the couch.
And, yes, "The Treatment" is a lot like "Cloverfield," but there are subtle differences that experts will note. Differences like: In "Cloverfield," I'm a monster, who walks around roaring Cloverfield! and then picking them up and dropping them on the couch, while in The Treatment, I am just Daddy, or sometimes Dr Slider, and I do not roar, but I do count. Cloverfield The Monster would never count. He's a monster.
"The Treatment" did not work on Mr F, who headed back to the wedding cabinet, so I took the next most logical step, which was to strip him down to his diaper. You would have to live in our house for a while to understand why that was the next most logical step, but it was. And it worked: soon, Mr F was down to his diaper and we were hollering, as he ran by, "Woo-hoo!" which is what we do when nearly-naked two-year-olds run around our house. (We even call it "Woo-hooing." "Do you want to woo-hoo?" we'll ask the Babies!, who will answer with "guck.")
Then, Mr Bunches wanted in on the Woo-Hooing, so he came over to me and I stripped him down to his diaper, too, but that wasn't enough: he wanted the diaper off.
So I put my foot down. As he pulled at his diaper and looked up at me and made pleading noises that were kind of like words but not really, I said: "No. You've got to leave the diaper on."
He pulled at it more and pulled at my leg.
"No," I said, firmly. "The diaper stays on."
He whined a little, looked sad, and pulled at his diaper, forlornly. So I caved in and said "Fine," and stripped the diaper off, which Sweetie might have objected to but it was my day to be in charge, so she didn't say anything other than that I sure am a pushover, and I then stripped off Mr F's diaper, too, letting them run around naked while we continued cleaning. I figured, they'll get some naked woo-hooing in before their bath, and I can get this cleaned up so that we can just relax," and I went back to cleaning the blender, but within about two minutes, I heard Sweetie yelling that Mr Bunches was pooping, and I rushed out there to see Mr Bunches by the Only Surviving Plant, with Sweetie holding a magazine under his butt.
I picked up Mr Bunches, who looked surprised, and held him at arm's length as we went through the kitchen, where he dropped part of the load and I stepped in it, forcing me to stop and hold Mr Bunches in one arm while I took off the now-needed-to-be-burned sock, at which point Mr Bunches got terribly upset and started crying, so I got the sock off, and got him upstairs into his room and sitting on the potty chair.
By then, Mr Bunches was thoroughly upset and was bawling, and I didn't want him to form some kind of permanent negative pooping attitude -- what if he ended up always being constipated because he was worried that if he pooped he'd get scooped up and whisked around? What if he went crazy because he was so scared of pooping? How would that affect my plans to have him and Mr F star in their own show on Disney so that I can retire? -- so to fix that, I told him it was okay, and then when that didn't work, I cheered.
"Yay!" I said, and started clapping. He looked surprised, but stopped crying and looked at me. "Yay!" I said again, and cheered some more. "What a good boy! Yay! Hooray! Good job!" and I kept clapping while he sniffled and then cheered up and then he gave me a hug.
We cleaned him up and then, still naked, I took him back downstairs to clean up the mess. I forewarned Sweetie and Middle to cheer for him, too, so Mr Bunches walked, naked, into the kitchen, to a standing ovation of Mommy and his sister clapping and cheering, while Mr F looked a little jealous, like he was wondering if he should poop, too.
With a lot of bleach, we got the floor clean, and we got the Babies! up to their bath and got them dressed, and spent the rest of St. Nick's Night playing The Tackle Game and watching their new movies they'd gotten for St. Nick's Day, and I had learned a valuable lesson, which was this:
Next time, put more ice cream into the smoothie.