Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mischief managed

Summer vacation will be over in three weeks and I finally screwed up enough courage to take them all to the public pool just a few weeks ago. I wouldn't have batted an eye at taking them to our neighbourhood pool back in Eno Trace, but a public pool is an entirely different matter. A public pool is so big and it's difficult to have your attention (and limbs) be pulled in five directions at once (especially around water; I can never quite relax when I'm around water with my children).

But it really ended up being just fine. There are paid lifeguards at the pool, so that's a nice backup (though they're just kids themselves!). Rachel and Miriam mostly went off on their own because they are big enough to swim on their own and go on the slides and that sort of thing. Technically Benjamin is big enough to swim on his own (though he's not big enough for the slides yet) but I don't like him getting too far away (unless his sisters know that he's their swimming buddy for a given amount of time). He's really a pretty good little swimmer and the pool really doesn't get very deep, so that really only left me with Zoë and Alexander.

I was holding Alexander and Zoë was paddling around nearby while Benjamin was diving down to the bottom of the pool ("to the Mariana Trench!" he told me). Suddenly Alexander started screaming bloody murder.

"I didn't mean to do that!" Zoë said, visibly surprised.

"What didn't you mean to do?" I asked, quickly checking to make sure nothing was horribly wrong with my baby.

"I didn't meant to do that," she repeated.

"What did you do?" I asked.

She simply hung her head in shame.

"Did you...bite him?" I asked after wracking my brain for a minute.

"Yes," she admitted. "But I didn't mean to!"

"Where did you bite him?" I asked but I never quite got a solid answer from her so we did a few laps around the lazy river while I soothed the poor baby. It was only when I was drying him off at the end of our swimming session that I found the bite mark on his arm—it lasted for days.

Later Miriam was giving Benjamin a ride on her back and their heads collided and he split his lip open. Oh, and Zoë got a bloody nose, too. I can't even remember how she did that!

But no one even came close to drowning so I'll consider that run to the pool a success.


*****

Speaking of bloody noses, Zoë got another bloody nose on Saturday afternoon. 

Grandma has a little roller coaster in the basement and while the roller coaster is fun, it is also rather safe. That's fine for some kids, I'm sure, but my kids have invented ways to make it...more fun (and also dangerous). They'll go down backwards or side-saddle or, as was the case on Saturday, standing on one leg. 

Zoë went down in a graceful arabesque several times without any problems, but on her last run, Benjamin came around the corner and tripped over a pillow that was on the floor, kicking it into the path of the roller coaster, causing Zoë's ride to stop rather abruptly. Ordinarily this wouldn't have been a problem, but since she was balancing on one leg she simply flew over the handlebars and landed flat on her face.

Andrew cuddled her and helped her with her bloody nose, but in the end she decided that the only thing that could make her face feel better was to have cereal for dinner (so that's what we did). 

On Sunday afternoon we were downstairs in the basement, enjoying the stillness of a house with only five occupants (all our company is gone and Grandma and Grandpa took Rachel and Miriam to Las Vegas with them). Zoë showed us how she'd gone down the previous afternoon (this time without falling) and then I interrupted whatever Benjamin was doing to ask him if he'd apologized to his sister yet (because even though it was an accident, an apology is always nice). 

"Benjamin," I said. "Did you ever apologize to your sister for..."

"Oh! Sorry, Zoë," he said saccharinely. 

Then he cocked his head at me and shot me a puzzled expression. He had no idea what he was apologizing for, but—by golly!—if it wasn't just the most sincere apology I've heard in a long time!

"For kicking a pillow into her path while she was going down the roller coaster, causing her face plant, and giving her a bloody nose," I prompted.

"Oh, yeah, that. That was an accident," he said. 

"And you apologized for it very willingly," I said. "Thank you. It's always nice to apologize, even if something was only an accident."

*****

He's a good little big brother. 

Last night Zoë was having trouble sleeping and instead was screaming her protestations into the night, which was rather vexing for the rest of us. Finally, after Andrew and I had both gotten up twice to try to settle her down (and had taken her potty, gotten her a drink, changed her music twice, tucked her in, rubbed her back, sang her songs, found every little toy she asked for, left the door open and a light on...) I told her that was it.

"Mommy and Daddy need to sleep," I told her. 

She started kicking and screaming again. Benjamin moaned from the top bunk. 

"Will you come down into her bed?" I asked. "She's lonely."

"I will if she'll stop screaming," Benjamin said. 

"Does that sound like a good deal?" I asked her.

"Yeah," she sniffed. 

So Benjamin climbed in beside her and I tucked them both in. Zoë was up at her usually time this morning but we let Benjamin sleep in since he'd taken one for the team last night. When he got up, I asked him if he'd woken up in the right bed (sometimes if we move him in the middle of the night he doesn't remember how he got there and it's kind of funny).

"Yup," he said.

"You're sure?" I asked.

"Yup," he said.

"You woke up in your own bed?" I asked.

"Yup," he said.

"But...how did you get there?" I asked. "Didn't you sleep with Zoë last night?"

"Nope. I just stayed with her until she fell asleep (kind of like you and Dad do sometimes) and then I sneaked back to my bed."

Yes, that's the mark of a good big brother.

*****

Still, he gets up to ordinary six-year-old mischief. 

Last Saturday the water coming out of the taps was suspiciously hot. Andrew gave Zoë a bath and she came out looking like a little lobster, poor girl. 

"Didn't you test the water?" I asked.

"No," he said. "I just turned the dial to where I usually do. She'll be fine."

"She's red all over!" I protested (but she was, in fact, fine). 

Later I went to take a shower and turned the dial to where I usually do but noticed that the shower was way too hot so I turned it down. A lot! By the time I turned it down to a tolerable level it was squarely on the cold side of the dial—yet it was still mighty warm. 

I polled our household about this on Sunday morning. Everyone agreed that their showers had been exceptionally warm (and that it had actually been difficult to make the water cool enough). 

When Andrew checked on the water heater he found that the temperature knob had been turned up to "maximum." Now, we're not sure where the knob was before and all the children vehemently deny twisting any such knob, but I'm 100% convinced that some little fingers were behind the scalding hot water running through our pipes. I am 97% convinced that it was Benjamin (though we will probably never know the truth) because I caught him hiding by the water heater one day and scolded him for it, but scolding does very little for this boy. 

He needs his punishment to suit the crime. 

*****

Today he was bouncing on the couches in the living room, which is a huge no-no. I reminded him of the rules and asked him to stop, to which he replied (while still bouncing on the couch), "I will if you put my in gymnastics because I'm pretty good at this stuff."

His sass earned him a rather swift time out, which isn't actually a very creative punishment at all, is it?

But that doesn't mean that I'm never creative.

*****

Benjamin and Zoë wanted to help make Rachel's birthday cake, a triple-layered, pudding-filled Grecian masterpiece. I let them help me even out the middle layer of the cake, using the cake leveler. And then I let them eat the scraps because I had no plan for them. While they were eating their cake scraps, I left for a minute to fetch something I needed. 

By the time I came back, Zoë had cut a huge piece of cake for herself (and was busy eating it). 

She'd also taken a little taste from all the other layers I'd already baked (a little fingerful right from the center of every pan).

I was beside myself with rage. I had wasted an entire nap time baking that cake! Soon Alexander would be up and my hands would be full of baby but I wasn't finished baking because now I needed to bake replacement cake (sure, I guess I could have glued the layer together with frosting, but that's never worked well in my experience and it was kind of a load-bearing layer so it needed to be all one piece). And how had she done so much damage in such a short amount of time?!

"Go outside," I growled. "I can't even with you right now."

The kids must have sensed that I was serious because both of them trotted outside. But they were back at the door within minutes. 

"Back out!" I ordered. "I'm not ready to see you yet."

Out they went again, only to turn around and come right back

I honestly don't know why my kids can't just stay outside sometimes!

So I marched outside, grabbed the hose, and cranked it on. Oh, how I ached to just spray them right then but first I had to let all the hot sun-baked water run out of the hose. I tapped my foot impatiently while I waited for the blast of cool water, annoyed that I'd lost my element of surprise as Zoë came running over to me.

"Oooh!" she exclaimed. "I want to play with the..."

I pulled the trigger and water came gushing out of the nozzle, soaking Zoë in seconds, shocking her to her core (so perhaps I hadn't lost the element of surprise after all).

"With what?" I asked. "You want to play with the water? Well, here you go!"

"Stop! Stop!" she shrieked, running away. 

"Fine," I said. "But you're in quite a bit of trouble. You did not have permission to cut the cake up like that. Now I have to make another cake and I'm pretty upset about that. I need some alone time while I fix things in the kitchen so you have to stay outside until you're completely dry."

"And Benjamin can stay with you!" I added as I closed the door.

She ran away sobbing and I didn't see her* until about forty-five minutes later when she cracked the back door open and said, "Can I come in now? I'm not in trouble anymore! I'm all dry!"

I'm not sure that punishment really suited the crime, but spraying her with the hose was certainly cathartic. Plus, she could stay outside without me worrying about her overheating because she was soaking wet, and she really seemed to understand that Mommy was too cross to be crossed.

It's probably a good thing summer vacation is nearly over.

* By this I mean that she didn't try to come back inside the house. I did, however, check on her from the window and (a) stopped the two kids from playing some crazy game with a rebar stake they'd pulled out of the ground from beside a tree, (b) stopped the two kids from using Grandma's garden gnomes as game pieces, (c) rescued her from the ants that started crawling all over her when she sat by their anthill for too long, (d) you get the picture (they're always into mischief, these two)!

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