When I awoke this morning, the only way that I knew that I hadn't been slaughtered by an errant poltergeist overnight was the feeling of cotton slowly swelling my groggy, befuddled head.
Ye gods, what a night!
I went to bed early because I was horrifically stuffy and exhausted. Everything I did yesterday seemed to sap my strength, as if I were Sisyphus constantly struggling to make some kind of progress against the Herculean task of watching two largely self-sufficient children all by myself while nursing a head cold.
Even the nap wore me out!
But the sweet release of sleep was not to be mine. I couldn't take Nyquil for two reasons: firstly, I needed to be aware for the inevitable break-in by some sociopath hell-bent on slaughtering me in a gruesome, SAW-esque fashion. I needed all my powers of detection at peak strength to be ready to detect and flee from just such a problem.
Secondly, if one of the children hollered for me overnight and I didn't respond, they'd complain to mommy, and then I'd wish that a homicidal maniac had broken into the house.
So I settled down to a non-drugged sleep. The sacrifices I make for my children! But sleep came slowly because, as I may have mentioned before, our house is haunted by the heavy-breathing floor-creaking daddy-creeping ghost from hell. And I swear I heard scratching on the roof all night, but I'll be darned if I'm going to open the door and discover my dead boyfriend's body hanging by his heels and then have some hook-handed maniac hunker down in the back seat and slaughter me as I drive home.
Or, you know, something like that.
Worse, when I did finally drift off, I awoke from time to time with a river of snot flowing freely forth from my sinuses, and I had to towel it off with tissues. And then I had to repeat the whole thing again, going back to sleep with all the scratching and screeching and me wetting the bed with no small regularity.
I was pretty parched by morning. Plus I had enough tissues stuck to my head with snot that the kids thought I was a mummy and hit me with a dictionary.
The first thing I did (after rubbing the imprint out of my forehead) was to take a shower. And let me tell you, I'm coming around on this whole "bigger hot water heater" thing that Wifey's been pushing lately. She just might be onto something.
Then I went downstairs and started heating a cup of hot water, when I realized that there was no coffee to be had. So I did what any normal person would do: I howled obscenities and tore the cupboard apart.
And there, in the back, I found it: "NEW NESCAFE DESSERT COFFEE: NOW WITH LESS ROACH AND SHOE SHAVINGS!"
Ooooh, baby! It was caffeinated! I don't care if it's made from goat foreskin; I'm drinking that stuff down!
From the first sip, suddenly a chorus of angelic voices resounded throughout the kitchen, and I swear I levitated a few inches off the ground. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! I am saved, brothers and sisters! Saved!
Take that, Wifey!
Now I was full of vigor and ready to go. All was well with the world! So I loaded the kids into the car and we went to church. Not much to say about that, except that we arrived well before the time we usually arrive when Wifey is here with us. Not that I'm saying that she's the delay, I'm just saying…
I better stop now. Let's just say all went well.
When we got home, it was time to start laundry. I don't know if you've ever tried to sort and wash and dry laundry with a seven and nine year old, but this is not the easiest of tasks.
First came the complaints, which I deftly parried by asking them if they wanted their DS's to become my property until Mommy returned.
(It's fortunate that they don't realize this is totally a bluff: I mean, am I really going to take the thing that distracts them in complete silence for hours at a time just because they're being a pain in the ass? Of course not! If Wifey doesn't come back, which is a distinct possibility, I'm going to marry those DS's and give them guardianship over the kids, since I'll expect them to do a good bit of the raising of the children.)
Second came the questions: does this white shirt go in lights? Do these black pants go in darks? Can bears climb trees?
This last one from the boy, for no real reason. I told him it depended on the bear, and he starts running through all the bears he knows: what about Polar Bears? Grizzly Bears? Winnie the Pooh? The Country Bear Jamboree Bears? What about them, huh?
I told them it didn't matter since all bears would be extinct soon under the world government's "Earth for Earthlings" policy, and that seemed to satisfy him. When they questioned me about it, I told them to ask their teachers, who were all big fans of the United World Government.
That'll learn those meddling teachers for criticizing my kid's lunches and sending home shitty little notes about telling your kids to be "friends" with everybody.
What if some other kid's a jerk? I tell my kids that if some kid is hassling them, just aim for the face and punch as hard as they can, since most children have a glass jaw. I even give them punching lessons.
Well, when mommy's not around I do. Not that I did that today. Or at least, not that I'll admit to.
After laundry was well started the kids wanted to know what was for lunch. I convinced them to do scrounge, where we just dug up whatever. So the girl and I polished off the chicken man from yesterday (not a man who is a chicken, but chicken bought from a man). And the boy had a hot dog.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the end of the leftovers.
The next few hours are kind of a blur. I remember telling the children to leave me alone, and I remember them not doing it, and I vaguely remember telling the girl to go do her homework or something, but quite frankly, it feels like I spent about forty years in solitary confinement with a speed-addicted two-year-old jonesing for a hit.
I realized as evening wore on that we'd need to do something for dinner. I was about to propose ordering Chinese when I remembered that Wifey has hexed the house to rise up and destroy us if we don't follow her list. So it's time the check, for the first time, what Wifey's put on the menu, because she doubtless bought the ingredients too. Or so I dearly hope.
And the lucky winner is: tuna casserole!
Well isn't that just great? The boy's favorite meal, which unfortunately requires preparation and lots of dish-washing before it's all said and done. Not coincidentally, this is also something Wifey doesn't particularly care for, nor does the girl.
So it falls to Daddy to make this, and yet both children know Wifey was the one who prepared the menu, so she gets all the love and adoration from the boy for including his favorite meal. It's like being married to Machiavelli sometimes.
Wary of having glass shards in close proximity to my testicles again, though, I dutifully followed the menu. So I'm cooking away when the girl wanders in.
"Can I help?" she asks.
"Sure! Grate a block of cheese!"
See, in our family, when a recipe says "sprinkle cheese" what it really means is "put a six-inch layer of cheese on top." Because cheese is like freedom: the more you have, the better off you are.
Then the boy wanders in. "Can I help?"
"Sure! Set the table."
"No, I want to help cook," he says.
"I don't have any job for you."
"Oh," he looks around wistfully. "So then can I have some cheese?"
So we're putting all the ingredients together, and when the girl dumps the cheese on top of the casserole, I see something that horrifies me: her nails contain the dirt and grime of several weeks beneath them.
"Did you wash your hands like I asked?"
She shrugs. "I dunno. I don't remember you asking."
"I'm pretty sure I did," I say. "Those nails are filthy, and you've been fondling our cheese for the past ten minutes!"
"This one's fine!" she protests, holding up her first finger. I see that it has, in fact, no nail.
"What are you talking about, doofus?" I ask. "You don't have a fingernail there."
"What?" she looks at her finger. "I did when I started. I remember because I had just cleaned the dirt out of it using your toothbrush, because this is the finger I pick my nose with, and I want it to be clean."
Serenity now. Serenity now. Serenity now.
So I was faced with a dilemma: to eat, or not to eat, the tuna-and-booger-fingernail casserole. On the one hand, it's just whatever fingernail's made of. It's not harmful. On the other hand, it's a fingernail. Although, if you think about it, it should have been semi-clean. But on the other hand, it's a fingernail.
I ended up deciding to eat the casserole. Oh, don't make that face: if you screwed around with the damn thing for thirty minutes in a cursed house, you'd cook and eat it too. So just spare me your high horsing.
But I will admit that I scrutinized dinner a little bit more judiciously than usual.
After dinner, we were cleaning up when a foul, wretched smell reached my nose. It seemed like a mix of stinky cheese, unwashed socks, and motor oil.
"Shh!" I warned the children. "I think we have a prowler in the house. Probably a Frenchman."
I hefted up a golf club and began creeping through the house. But no matter where I went, he was one step ahead of me, his foul odor lingering behind him but me catching neither sight nor sound of him.
Finally frustrated, I stopped.
"Have you found him yet, dad?" the boy asked.
I took two whiffs and replied. "Yup," I said. "And he is you."
"Ha ha!" the girl laughed. "You stink!"
"I can't stink!" the boy protested. "I just showered, uh, you know, uh,"
"That's what I thought," I said. "And what about you, little missy? When did you last wash?"
"I went to swimming on Monday," she said haughtily. "So you can forget about me smelling bad."
"Both of you in the shower," I insisted. "You know your mother wouldn't let you go to school stinking like this."
"But mom's not here," the boy said slyly.
"Yeah," the girl said. "And you're cooler than she is."
Now, I have to admit, I was tempted: it's not like the kids sleep upwind of me or anything, and the lure of being "cool" is pretty strong. And they do go to swimming on Mondays, which is a lot like taking a bath.
But letting your kids wallow in their own filth is the sign of being a bad parent. It's also a sign of being a hippie, and the last thing I want to raise is a hippie.
(Slight digression: there are lots of things I can handle my children deciding to become, up to and including a lawyer. But I will feel that I, as a parent, have failed if my child goes on to become, in descending order, an environmental engineer, reality-TV star, sociologist, or hippie.)
So I took the children upstairs and washed them. But since it was close to bedtime, I had to give them a DAW, or Daddy-Assisted Washing. This is where I control the water and hose them down, then they wash off, then I rinse them. Kind of like in a prison movie.
The girl went first, and all went well. She knows the drill. Then they boy came up. I should have foreseen trouble based on how giggly he was when he got in, but stupidly I foresaw nothing.
At one point I have to put shampoo on his head. So I hand him the shower nozzle and say "hold this perfectly still."
Which, translated into child language, means "Spray me in the face with this and then drop it and let it spray me all over with hot water while you stand there and cry that there are bubbles getting in your eye."
After he got out I realized that his armpits were completely dry, while mine were totally soaked.
Do you suppose Wifey will notice if there's only one child when she gets home?
Then it was off to bed for them, and now Daddy's going to go have some quality time with a soon-to-be-empty unopened bottle of whiskey.
Only eight more days left.