Tag Archives: creative writing

The Mess and the Madness

My demolition team – the madness in my method.

Most nights are stressful, sure.  I mean, you can’t raise kids – any number, not just the kids I’m raising – and not have your days being just a little befuddled by the actions of your children.  I had no idea, though, just how crazy my evening was to become, simply from the actions of four small people.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I was already a lot tired and more than a bit confounded on my way home.  I’d physically had an exhausting day.  I also had an announcement of my news manager leaving that threw me for a bit of a loop.

I should have seen it coming.  I was at the State Capitol today doing an interview on a story I hope to run tomorrow and my personal cell phone rang . . . while I was on the work cell for my story.  My oldest daughter is on the other line, panicking a bit and out of breath.
“Dad, the blinds are falling down!”
“What do you mean they’re falling down?!”
“There’s these clips that hold up the blinds over the sliding glass door.  They’re really heavy, we’re trying to hold them up, and my arms are almost asleep.”

She wasn’t crying or anything, sounded more frustrated and upset than sad and freaked out.
“How many are still attached,” was my question.
“One.”
“Well, see if you can get it down without breaking it.  Those are expensive and it’s NOT our house!”
They got it off and I told them I’d look at it when I got home.

Getting home, though, the house looked like a police action had been fought in the main rooms of our house.  The front room was filled with old school projects – ones that weren’t out and hadn’t been removed from their backpacks on Friday – the last day of school.  You might think they were packing for Thursday’s trip to Nebraska but you’d be wrong.  No real reason, just paper and crap strewn across the floor unceremoniously.  I moved into the kitchen where the table was moved about 5 feet toward the front room and the chairs upturned and moved around.  The 8-foot-tall vertical  blinds were now horizontal and in front of the sliding glass door.  The pans from last night Hannah swore on penalty of death she’d clean when she woke up had somehow bred and multiplied like a family of rabbits.  In the living room there were more school papers, Legos and video games.  The blinds in that room were now sideways and askew, like a painting whose wire slipped off its hook and now sat at a 45 degree angle.

“What the hell happened in there?!”
“Well, we were trying to watch John Carter on  DVD and Hannah yanked on the cord for the blinds and this fell out.”
Abbi handed me a spring that apparently is the one key mechanism to the entire mechanism.  One small, flat, piece of metal that somehow balances heavy, vinyl blinds that I don’t even own.  I saw dollar signs floating out of the windows.

Bear in mind I still have about 5 loads of laundry and suitcases to pack and have yet to get the checks from the IRS for our tax return I filed three months ago so paying for parking and luggage will be fun at the airport Thursday.

I had planned on making pizza for dinner – something I make homemade so that we at least feel like we had some semblance of homemade dinner for the night.  But I couldn’t even get to the stove to fry hamburger or the countertop to spread out dough.  It was mess squared.  This after my exhausting day of walking around the capitol all day and chasing interviews that didn’t want to talk with us . . . not necessarily.

I immediately barked at Hannah – “you know, I let you go to bed last night because you said “is it OK if I wash these when I get up Dad?”  What . . . did you wake up 15 minutes ago?  It’s 7:30 in the evening, Hannah!”
“Oh.”
“Yeah, ‘OH,’ what the hell happened in here?!”

I sat on the couch and surveyed the carnage that was strewn around me.  I got a myriad of apologies.  Abbi said “it’s no one’s fault, really” and I wanted to punch her.

You see, in a moment of absolute stupidity only a teenager and her siblings could have mustered they decided it was too hard to see the TV, watching a DVD, and decided it’d be a great idea to put blankets over the windows.  Now, I get that.  It’s bright.  Maybe the afternoon sun was reflecting on the TV because my middle child in a moment of iron man strength broke the shades so they couldn’t shut.  But if you put blankets on said shades, would you, with them hung over the edge and all but attached then yank on them from the bottom pulling with all your might?  My children did.

So now I get to walk through the house and pick up my dead and healing those I can.  I spent half an hour trying to figure out what they did to the kitchen blinds.  I managed, while Hannah cleaned the dishes, to make dinner.  I threw out what I could and the boys informed me “at least we cleaned up the recycling and took it out, Dad!”
My response?  “Where’d you put it?  The garbage cans are still out on the curb!”
“Oh.”

I now hate the letter “O”

After they all went to bed I sat on the couch in the midst of the battlefield and just stared around.  I watched a movie with my daughter, staring at the room at the end and she headed to bed.  I tried to fix the blinds in the living room too, but stared there at them wondering what to do next.  The horizontal blinds were now semi-vertical.  Vertical blinds horizontal.  My head, back and legs hurt.

God help me, though, I’ll miss this.  Well, not the destruction and damage.  THAT, my friends, is never fun.  But even the balance I need to strike and the push to keep the kids in line and shape their day.  In three days I’m without them for the entire summer.  Not something I’m actually looking forward to.  It’s not that I have a choice, particularly now.  When new management comes in, contract or no, you need to put on a good showing so that you look good.

So I start to clear the battlefield when I decide to just leave it, for tonight anyway.  The morning will feel particularly worse with all this damage surrounding us, but I can let the kids forage for space themselves this morning.

They drive me to madness, they really do, but without the madness, you don’t really know if you’re sane, do you?

Those Mysterious Things

My amazing kids, taken by “Hunny Bee Photograpy”: Amy Renz

There were always a lot of things about having kids that confounded me.  Not the least of which was how each and every child – and I have four of them: two girls and twin boys – has such varied and differing personalities.  My oldest is such a girl, and I mean total, romantic comedy, sighs at the cute guy, wears a dress and wishes she could make herself even prettier than she is girl.  My middle isalltomboy.  If she could find a way to make a living rolling in the dirt (but not have to have an ounce of athletic ability) she’d do it.  Then there are the twins: one is built like a wrestler, has a ripped mid-section, and though he could probably kick the ass of every kid in the 3rd grade has the warm fuzzy personality of the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man before Ray wished him Evil.  (For my Ghostbusters fans)  Noah, on the other hand, is the blonde-haired, blue-eyed male clone of his Mom.  He poses.  He smiles, but he’s got the brilliant analytical mind of my brother and the need for attention of his Mom.  He gets bored and cannot control his temper.

I see the seeds, the strands of DNA that made them who they are.  I don’t know how the changes in their lives will affect them, though.  I always laugh at those massive debates about cloning: how they need to know the ethics; if there’s a problem that they might start making people for body parts; if the clones will be human beings or simply “things” to be watched and experimented upon.  The thing they don’t take into account is the mysterious world and the experiences we all feel.  If I raised my 4 kids in a lab, never seeing the world, never experiencing life, never having then losing a Mom, would they be the kids they are today?  The answer is an unequivocal no.

Here’s teh reason why: my kids have been deeply affected by their experiences.  They are products of their environment.  If they were left to become only the personalities they were born with – and they all had different personalities the moment they were born – their lives would be completely different.  When we were in Texas, Hannah had horrible, unrealistic fears.  She was scared of the dark.  She would worry and get depressed having to walk with me or her Grandpa to the public school across the street.  Abbi was getting big hair and even did cheerleading one year.  Sam was outgoing and massively flirtatious.  Noah – got everything he screamed for.

When me moved to California, it was different.  Abbi toned down and wasn’t as flambouyant – partially her Mom’s doing as she discouraged “acting”.  Sam was still a flirt, Hannah a tomboy and Noah – screamed and screamed because he got what he wanted that way.  His Grandma hated the shrill tone.  Andrea hated telling him no.  As a result, we had literally every . . . single . . . Thomas the Tank Engine model train.

Left to that path, all four would have fallen.  Abbi would be a Pharmacist and not sure if she really liked it, wondering her whole life if she could have been in drama.  Hannah would still be scared to death of the dark and every little thing, smothered by her Mom and Grandma and medicated because it was easier.  Sam would flirt to his detriment, being crushed, even when he is 9 and the girl at the register at Home Depot is 18.  And Noah . . .

Noah had the biggest change.  Losing his Mom was a major blow even though he showed the most reserve and poise of all of us.  While he has had a massively difficult year, having a hard time controlling his temper and his impulses, he is a far different kid than he was.  When Andrea was around he would hug me, play around, and the moment she got in the door tell her everything that was wrong with his day, setting her off, getting what he wanted.  He would scream, holler, say “this is the worst day ever!” and just throw tantrums until he got his way.

Almost to the day after Andrea passed away, he changed.  I have never – not once – heard that phrase “the worst day ever” leave his lips.  Not since March 26th, 2011.  That, you see, was the worst day ever.  He’s no angel, don’t get me wrong, but he’s not who he was.  I tell him we don’t have the IRS check so I can’t get the Nintendo I promised – not yet.  Two years ago, he’d have screamed until we got it for him, even if it meant we couldn’t eat and I tried to resist strangling both him and my wife for allowing him to have it.  While he can’t always keep his hands to himself, the fact remains that if I tell him to cool it, he cools it.  When I say we don’t have the money, he waits.  Sure, he asks . . . over and over again . . . but what kid doesn’t?  I’d be disappointed if he didn’t.

Please don’t take this as a dissertation about how life is better without my wife.  It’s not.  We’d have gotten here, just not as quickly I suppose.  But all four kids are now products of their environments.  Abbi is a little less selfish.   Hannah not on medication and a lot less scared.  Sam is a little more cautious.

Those mysterious things, the real world creeping into their lives, they are what drives us now.  They are what make me proudest.  They are what make me realize I’m a little better too . . . because of them.