Not Her Brother’s Keeper (Thankfully)

My wife and I discover with disturbing frequency that one of the unique perils of having two children is the peril created for the one by the other.  She doesn’t mean anything by it as far as we can tell, but my daughter keeps finding creative ways to commit fratricide.  She really adores her brother though, which is probably the trouble: her affections are not gentle.

The Bible’s Bad Example

One day my daughter discovered a large basket, of the sort used in gifts.  She was really excited and asked nicely to play with it.  It was a basket, not a knife; we didn’t think it could be dangerous.  In fact, we decided to enjoy her excitement and see where it took her.

At first her ambitions seemed harmless enough.  She started packing the basket with a blanket and pillow.  We assumed she was going to use it as a crib for one of her toy animals.  She’s fairly fond of creating beds for her toys.  Fortunately we asked.

Instead she wanted to recreate the Biblical story of Moses, a baby brother, being put in a basket in a river by his big sister.  She thought it particularly convenient that we had supplied her with the baby brother she needed for the game.

Permanent Hide and Seek

She likes hide and seek.  She’s still at the age when she hides in obvious places but doesn’t mind everyone knowing where she’s hiding as long as they make a show of pretending to be confused.  In fact she’ll tell us where she’s going to hide and then tell us to look for her somewhere else before we “find” her there.  It’s all charming.

One day she decided that she would hide under our laundry basket and some pillows.  She had so much fun there that she wanted to share the experience with her brother, even though he didn’t want it.

We caught her as she was pushing down on a pillow-filled basket from which there came a muffled but thoroughly unhappy wailing.  Apparently she figured that he just didn’t understand how to hide, so she needed to wedge him into place to teach him.

More of a Good Thing

My son is vocally afraid of water–bath times are always a treat–however one day while he and his sister were outside, she started splashing him from the baby pool.  I rushed to intervene, only to discover that he was delighted.  Every time she splashed him, he laughed and bounced and showed that he thought this was a great thing to do.

I have worked for years (largely without success) to overcome my daughter’s fear of water; I figured if my son discovered early that water was fun, that could only be a good thing.

The next day though, my daughter decided to take splashing to the next level.  More exactly, she decided that if her brother liked a little bit of water splashed on him by his sister, he would like it even more if she pointed our garden hose at his face.  Apparently his gurgled screams were no indication to the contrary.

A Crown Other Than Gold

We have these plastic rings–I think they’re supposed to be pool toys–and they fit very nicely on my son’s head.  They look like crowns or halos.  Even better, he enjoys having them on his head, and will sometimes put them there himself.

This is the origin of the game Ring-head.  He puts a ring on his head; we all cheer and shout, “Ring-head!”  He takes the ring off; we all wait expectantly.  He puts the ring back on his head; we all cheer and shout again.  Repeat as necessary.

He laughs.  We laugh.  Everybody lives.

Then his sister decided to vary the game by using other objects she found around the house.  Towel-head worked.  Bucket-head worked (because the bucket is small).  Toy-head mostly didn’t work, but was still enjoyable since my son seemed to enjoy various toys rolling off his head

Plastic-bag-head did not work.

* * *

We’re pretty sure she’s not doing these sorts of things on purpose.  As I said she actually adores her baby brother.  (This is an entirely new concern about her eventual teenage years: that she might accidentally kill any boy she has a crush on.)  I’m more worried about what’s going to happen when he’s a little bit bigger and more coordinated.  He may start adoring her back, and things here could become ridiculous.

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And Then I Sneezed (Part 2)

The first time I fell down the stairs in our old apartment, I learned two things.  First, I learned that falling down gets more painful with age.  More importantly though I learned that my wife is only helpful in situations that can’t be confused for slapstick.  Sadly, I gave myself countless opportunities to confirm both lessons.  Eventually we moved to a place without stairs.  So far we have never found a place without slapstick.

My wife likes it when people fall down.  She’s not malicious about it–the same part of her likes it even when she falls down–she just appreciates the silliness of it, especially when people fall suddenly.  This is easily the best way to make her laugh.  (In fact as she read the above paragraphs, she laughed heartily just from talking about it.)  I suppose this might be why she married me; it’s the arena in which I am most suited to provide, and being a manly (clumsy) sort of husband (goofball), I provide abundantly and often.

All of which is relevant because my cereal situation had certain hallmarks of physical comedy.  I should have anticipated my wife’s reaction.  I’m getting ahead of myself.

I believe I left off with the sneeze heard ’round the house, by which I mean my average sort of sneeze, which can be heard even by people who are merely near where I live, not only by people who live with me or who are around me.  I sneeze loudly and with commitment.  Consequently, I try never to sneeze with reservoirs of fluid on my body.

I recently failed.

If you’ll remember, I was lounging in bed underneath a veritable vat of chocolate cereal, the size of which can only be properly imagined or justified if you think about the caloric intake that someone of my size requires.  All of those calories have to come from somewhere.  (Not that I’m in danger of wasting away, at least not in anything short of geological time.)  I prefer to get them all at once; that’s just efficient.  I also prefer to get them through chocolate, although that’s more a personal than a practical consideration.

Either way, I was trying to do too many things while balancing cereal on my belly.  In the event you have never done it, when one sneezes, one’s belly moves suddenly.  When a bowl of cereal moves suddenly, the situation can develop into a full-fledged (albeit exaggerated) catastrophe very quickly.

I like to imagine that time slowed down, and that some sort of evocative music played.  It would be like those scenes in movies in which the fragile thing the heroes have heretofore protected gets suddenly tossed into the air and everyone watches, horrified but unable to help.  One person, in such slow motion as to give us time to consider how the human face distorts while shouting, dives toward the object?  Will he or she catch it?  Will it shatter on the floor?  What will happen?  We have time to wonder.

I had no time to wonder.  I found out very quickly.  I would not be able to catch the bowl of cereal, no matter how much I distorted my face in the manner of an action hero.  Instead I dumped the entire thing on my lap.  (It might have made a deep and resonant rushing noise, like that made when someone shatters a large aquarium and the water surges out across the floor as though seeking revenge.  I wouldn’t know, because a part of the heroic face distortion is yelling incoherently.  I take my heroic business very seriously, so I yelled incoherently as is proper.  When someone makes a movie about this–since it is the pinnacle of drama–I will leave it to post-production to add in the surging sound of milk and chocolate spilling across my legs.)

Here’s another piece of important information about me.  Being a large person, I have been gifted with what might be politely termed “a gigantic posterior.”  I suppose it might not seem gigantic relative to the rest of me, but if it were on a smaller person it would certainly inspire something like awe or pity, depending upon one’s view of Sir Mix-a-lot.  It is manifestly heavy, because I am manifestly heavy.

You can probably imagine what happened next.  Having cold cereal in my pants, in addition to the general shock of the spill, caused me to sit up.  Sitting up concentrated all of my weight in one area.  The mattress beneath me responded as mattresses do.  Suddenly, I had formed a large bowl shaped impression in our bed.  The cereal obligingly returned to it, like a soggy sort of homing pigeon.

Thus, in a single action, I transferred the bowl of cereal from above me to below me.  First it was sitting on me, and then I was sitting in it.  It was particularly unpleasant, but I couldn’t figure out how to extricate myself without making the mess worse.

Luckily my wife arrived only a second later.  Unluckily, it was not someone else who arrived instead.  My wife came into the room and saw chocolate cereal splattered all over the place, as though someone had edited a crime scene the way television stations edit bad language in movies, through innocuous but thoroughly awkward replacement.  She started laughing.  She kept laughing.

Actually, she just kept laughing.  If you listen carefully, you can probably still hear her.

And Then I Sneezed (Part 1)

There’s something to be said for learning from one’s mistakes, but someone else will have to be the one to say it.  Meanwhile, I am sitting here in the same position which only yesterday caused both a mess and a hassle.  That is to say, I’m eating cereal in bed.

Let me back up.

First, and this is important for understanding all the rest, I have an odd body.  It’s odd in numerous irrelevant ways–I suppose that’s worth a general claim to general oddness–and one particularly relevant way.  My chest is, if not malformed, otherwise-formed.  I know there are any number of technical names for it, because I’ve been told them any number of times, but I conveniently forgot them all in any number of ways.

I will, for the moment, say that my chest contains a cup-holder, or bowl-holder, especially while I slouch.  Fortunately for me and my incessant need to place cups and bowls places, I nearly always slouch.  I’m something like a thousand feet tall (if we round up to the nearest thousand), so slouching is a way of appearing human-sized.  And, as it happens, a way of increasing the convenience features of my otherwise-formed body.

It might also be convenient to add here that, as a thousand-foot tall man, I eat rather more than is regularly labeled “1 serving.”  The difference between my serving size and the usual serving size is rather like the difference between a kitten and a cat.  Regular folks eat portions that are kittenish.  I eat portions that are more tiger-ish.  I eat the kitten’s portion, and then the kitten, and then a candy bar.  And then, having had a snack, I sit down for a large dinner.

I’m not conspicuously gluttonous with food in general–my wife complains that I never eat enough, actually, or used to before her compulsion to feed people was constantly and impressively satisfied by our son–although I certainly can’t claim that I’m never gluttonous at certain particular times.  I just eat my few meals in very large portions, as befitting my status as a giant from a children’s story.

Either way, having decided to eat an entire bag of cereal while sitting in bed….

Let me back up.  Our cereal comes in bags.  This is apparently more convenient for someone, although almost never for us.  The bags are supposedly re-sealable, because they’re often quite large and one might need to preserve the freshness of the unused portion.  (If one were not me.)  Unfortunately, whatever machinations went into making bags which were sealed to begin with but re-sealable once opened, almost always manifests as bags which are impossible to open without tearing through the part that’s supposed to re-seal.  Or, if you’re very tired and your daughter is loudly and repeatedly demanding cereal that has been thus locked away in the bag, you might use your giant-ish strength and completely rip the bag in half.  In any event, boxes are immeasurably more convenient, but not available in the bulk sizes we require.

I’m not sure why I included any of that.  What I meant to say was that my wife had to work while I was trying to eat, and since our daughter had woken our son up early from his nap, it fell to me to try to sooth him.  (How that became a rant against our cereal bags, I cannot fathom.)  With that in mind you can hopefully picture the scene.

I was sitting on one side of the bed, my usual side, which is where I have my computer so that I can work while the rest of the household sleeps.  I had a entire bag of cereal and maybe a quart and a half of milk sitting in a bowl in my personal (and entirely private, don’t try to use it for your own cereal) bowl-holder.  My infant son was laying beside me among an array of distracting toys, but was generally unwilling to be distracted by them.   I was trying to sooth him while also distracting myself on my computer.  While sitting under a wash-basin sized reservoir of chocolate.

Perhaps I should have mentioned that my enormous portion of cereal was of a chocolaty variety.  I’m not sure it’s important.  Sure, it explains the color of the stains on…  well, everything, but the stains aren’t really the part of the story I think anyone cares about.  (I could be wrong.  Perhaps there are professional cleaners who read this and think, “Ooh, a challenge.”)  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Well, not far ahead.

If you are imagining the above situation at all like it actually happened, you can probably imagine how inconvenient it would be to sneeze at that moment.  It was actually even more inconvenient than that.  My sneezes scale up even more than my portion size.

Alas, I am out of time.  Tomorrow I will try to describe what happened–using grand language commensurate with the sublimity of the great lumpy chocolate waterfall I created–as well as describe how my wife, in emergencies like this, is entirely unhelpful.