The Best Idea He Ever Had

Monday is pizza lunch day at the elementary school, the only school without a cafeteria where one could buy lunch in a pinch. . . if, say, one overslept or forgot to get lunch meat, or just couldn’t fricking deal with the prospect of making that many goddamn sandwiches again. Therefore, Monday has long been our throw-money-at-the-kids-and-let-them eat-crap-at-school day.

When school started up again after the holidays, CC issued a mandate: each of the four kids who have not yet graduated will be responsible for making school lunches one day each week.

Monday plus 4 kids making lunches each one day a week translates into both of us getting a whole extra thirty minutes’ sleep in the morning. That’s almost better than sex.


It had to be a rule laid down by him. I never would have been able to make it stick. First off, they wouldn’t have believed me. Then, when they realized that I meant business, they would have been stuffing fistfuls of dry cereal (if there was any left) into sandwich bags and hurling them at each other on the way out the door going, “Here’s your lunch!”.

But now, the night before their allotted day, they make the sandwiches. They gather the snacks. They label the bags and put the cold things in the fridge. There have been some interesting but predictable occurrences. Like the lunchmaker gets the most coveted snacks. And how the day that we were nearly out of bread, #4 equally dispersed the hateful heels from two loaves of bread so that everyone got only one, and no one got stuck with two. Except for herself; she was exempted from heels and got the last two regular pieces of bread. She left one heel for CC and I to share for toast.

The bread hates you too.
The bread hates you too.

Last night #2 came into the living room full of angst.

#2: I would like to state for the record that I HATE that wheat bread for sandwiches!

Me: That’s what you said when I bought white bread! What do you want?

#2: Well, I like that OTHER white bread!

CC: I bought a loaf of that- it’s on the counter!

#2: I KNOW! That’s why I used it for my sandwich.

Me: And you used the hateful wheat bread for everyone else’s sandwich?

#2: Well, yeah. That way there will be more of the good white bread for my sandwiches later.

Me: When has that concept ever worked at any time for anything in this family?

#2: We’re out of goldfish.

My favorite part of this whole thing, maybe even better than the extra sleep, is what they’re writing on each other’s lunch bags.

In retrospect, it should have been obvious but we didn’t see it coming: My darling baby brother, Fart Face, Booger.

But #5, having Friday as his lunch-making day, has the entire week to think up retaliations for what his sisters write on his bag.

The girls underestimated him. My favorite last week was Don’t forget your ointment!



We have a time-honored tradition in my house of going to great lengths to keep treats to ourselves.

It goes with the territory in a family of this size. Some boxes of goodies don’t have enough for everyone to get even one.

Often we hide things we like, in the pantry, in the fridge, in the freezer. We hope they won’t be found; we hope we won’t hide them so well we forget about them.

Sometimes we hide them in our rooms. Usually the dogs find the treats then. It’s a real bummer when your dog manages to climb to the top of your desk, smash one of two wedding china tea cups that you own, and pulls your purse down from the highest shelf only to dump it upside down and root out your Godiva stash. Bummer for you and the dog. And then you again, after the vet bill and the carpet cleaning and the sad, sad fact that you are, once more, out of chocolate.

Marking treats as one’s own by licking them and posting a warning regarding said licking happens in my house. That’s usually pretty effective at keeping the poachers at bay.

Lately, they’re resorting to threats.

It’s a total set-up. Leaving your fund raiser cupcakes on the counter where everyone can see them, with a very clearly written, expressly detailed threat on the box.


Simple. Clear. To the point. Of dubious plausibility.

But everybody is afraid to risk it.

They think, Will she know if I just lick the frosting? Does she really have them counted? Would she really, really really cut my hair off in my sleep? Well, if she did, she’d get in trouble! Except my hair would still be cut off.

They think, No, she wouldn’t follow through. Would she?


They wonder, Is a cupcake really worth it? Do I feel lucky?

One member of the family does.

Score one for Dad.

Screen Ban

We have a Screen Ban at our house from 11am-5pm. This is a new thing for us, just started the day after school got out for the summer. Music is allowed during this time but no other internet, no TV (exception granted for the Olympics), no video games, no movies.

It’s been a good move, though the kids might beg to differ. Of course it isn’t perfect- they complain, sneak whenever our backs are turned, watch TV at friends’ houses. But other things have happened too. Sometimes they’ll hang out on my bed and read while I’m folding laundry. The dogs get an extra walk. We go to the pool. They play board games. They help me in the kitchen. They make stuff up.

#5 asked if he could make a fort recently during the Screen Ban hours. An indoor fort.

I was a big fan of forts when I was a kid, both indoor and outdoor. Indoor forts we made by stringing sheets and sleeping bags over artfully arranged furniture. My sister’s brilliant contribution was the addition of a box fan, placed just so in order to extend a sheet into a “room”. Outdoor forts we made with whatever wood we could find in the patch of woods behind our house: scrap lumber, branches, sticks, logs. Outdoor forts rocked because you could add to them over the days; you didn’t have to dismantle them to give your mom the sheets and chairs back.

#5 mostly makes indoor forts because we don’t have a yard or woods per se, unless you count the property that doesn’t belong to us and contains all the trees that keep landing on our house. He did make an outdoor fort once but I literally couldn’t get to it when he wanted to show it to me, it was in such a steep and treacherous part of the “yard”.

He wanted to make a fort this day upstairs, and offered to take it down before dinner because it uses all of the dining room chairs. He didn’t want to make it downstairs in the music room because #2 was down there and, I quote, “She’s really annoying when you’re trying to build a fort.”

If you asked her, she would probably say the same thing about him.

Once he made the fort, he started working on me to let him sleep in it. He even offered to take it down so everyone could eat around the table and then rebuild it. I’m just so thrilled any time something non-electronic happens that doesn’t involve arguing or tears that I relented. It was pretty cool- it came out round inside.

This picture was taken the morning after, before 11am. Hence the TV.

My permission secured, he went to work on getting #4 to sleep in there with him. Because it’s a little scary and lonely to sleep in there by yourself.

When I got home from work, it was odd how dark and quiet the house was. The dogs were crated, #4 and #5 were asleep in the fort and the sitter was on the couch using her laptop. We said goodbye in whispers but the dogs woke up anyway.

The dogs were so totally discombobulated by the fort. They whined in the crate because there were nearby laps they weren’t in. I let them out to take them outside but they beelined for the fort instead. Except Jack couldn’t figure out how to get in it, so I helped him.

Go in here, Jack.

Then came a series of nails on the floor and much dog activity. In and out and all around the fort. I took them both outside briefly but afterwards neither one would calm down at the same time, all the while crawling in and out of the fort and on #4 and #5’s heads.

I went to forcibly remove them, but #4 protested sleepily and said that Casey was under the covers, which she was. Somehow Jack also ended up naked, which makes him harder to grab because he’s quite wiggly and there’s nothing to hold on to when he’s naked. Well, nothing good anyway.

At this point, #5 sat up halfway and said, “Why is it so hard to sleep?”

I told them if the dogs got too annoying to put them back in the crate and went back in our room to read.

More whines. More nails on the floor. I heard the crate door open and shut, twice. Then more whines. Lots and lots more whines. The crate door opened again, and then there was the unmistakable sound of Puggle Demolition Derby.

One of these days I’m going to record that. It defies description. My friend Jeremy, who is owned by two pugs, refers to it as “weaseling”.

#4 and I opened my bedroom door at the same time.

Me: Are they being annoying?

Her eyes were wide and she nodded vigorously: Yes!!!

So I let them in and squished their little heads together in an embrace, reminded them I was the big dog and told them to calm the hell down.

Them: wiggle wiggle


Them: wiggle wag

Me: Big dog! That’s me.

Them: whine

Me: Shut it.

Them: lick

Me: awwww.

Everyone slept after that. #4, in fact, managed to sleep until ten a.m. which earned her this picture that she doesn’t know I took.

I noticed she also added a fan. Aunt Beth will be proud.


Did you ever build forts as a kid? Is anyone else doing screen bans this summer? I told my chiropractor about it and he thought it was brilliant; then he told his kids and now they’re pooling their money to take a hit out on me.