Three kids with ADHD typically equal chaos, but last Thursday I had two extra kids, plus my two crazy dogs, and Mike was out of town. Normally, this would not be a problem, but the stars were not aligned in my favor.
Fascinations with a Stiff Critter
I should have known the evening would be a far cry from the mundane when Annie and Charlotte, our visiting six-year-old, came running inside, panting like Shaggy and Scooby fleeing a ghost.
“What’s going on?” I ask in innocence.
“Coco [our dog] killed a squirrel,” screamed Charlotte.
“Oh yeah?” I said as I looked into Annie’s 13 year-old eyes hoping for some common sense clarity.
Instead, I got a wide-eyed drama queen saying, “No, it’s true, Mom. There’s a dead squirrel near the trampoline.”
I was not in the mood for theatrics. I still had to check homework, fold several loads of laundry, and cook dinner for five kids, one of whom is a diehard vegetarian. (Obviously not one of my kids since they have perfected a dramatic rendering a of anaphalactic shock at the sight of green on their dinner plate.) While I was pondering this, I heard Annie say to Charlotte, “Come on. Let’s go bury it.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I said, “You are not touching a dead squirrel.”
“Why not?” Charlotte asked in a pitiful tone with puppy dog eyes. “It’s dead. We have to bury it.”
Before I could respond, Annie jumped in telling Charlotte that, in fact, they should not touch the dead squirrel because it might have diseases—like what? —Like rabies or something.
Piggybacking I said, “Yep. That’s right. Charlotte, their dad will be home tomorrow and he is the dead squirrel picker-upper. Why don’t you all just play inside?”
But, Charlotte was not so easily placated. The next thing I know she is lying on the tile, sideways, with her mouth wide open. I stared at her hoping she wasn’t having a seizure and said, “What?”
“Mrs. Turner, this is what the dead squirrel looked like.”
“Oh okay, well that is a bit disturbing. Why don’t you go upstairs and play with Legos.”
Flu Mist for Pups
The other kids were still working on homework so I wrestled with some laundry for a half hour and then headed to the kitchen to piece together some meal that was for vegetarian and meat lovers alike. As I was setting the table, Annie and Charlotte marched down the stairs looking for markers, glue and dye, but all I could hear was, “Has Coco and Freckles (our dogs) had their flu shots?” Flu shots?
Annie was quite animated saying, “Oh yes, they’ve had their flu shots.” I’m still puzzling over why dogs would get flu shots when Katie, my sarcastic one, wanders in and says, “Actually, they prefer the flu mist.”
“Good one, Katie,” I whisper aside. Flu shots indeed! “Do you mean rabies shot?”
“Yes,” said Charlotte with a deep furrowed brow, “babies shots.”
Annie must have seen I was about to explode in laughter, so she tried explaining, “Charlotte is afraid Coco or Freckles will get rabies from the dead squirrel.”
Thinking I don’t need a six-year-old meltdown four hours before her mom can come get her, I quickly turn to Charlotte and say, “Oh yes, our dogs always get their rabies shots. They are fine.”
“Good because what if Freckles jumped up and bit me? I’d end up like this.” She proceeded to do her dead squirrel imitation again.
“Okay then. Charlotte, first I’m sure the dogs did not kill the squirrel. It probably fell out of the tree and hurt itself. Second, the dogs would never really disturb a dead animal.” Of course, I know differently (See my post “The Vanishing Varmit”), but a little white lie seemed the way to go. Unfortunately, my little lie would come back to haunt me.
“Are you sure?”
“Positive,” I said. I sent them back upstairs to play not even caring that Annie was carrying Elmer’s glue, markers and food dye for their “project.” I was finished with talk about dead animals.
Other Worldly Revenge or Just Bad Dogs?
I then walked into the den, and spied the deflated carcass of Will’s stuffed animal. (I was sensing a theme.) Then I stood back to take in the entire room, which was covered in the innards of Will’s stuffed puppy. Annoyance coursed through my veins because I knew this was Freckles’ handiwork. (Although for just a blip of a second, I wondered if the dead squirrel had a vengeful ghost targeting stuffed dogs.)
“Hello!” I say to Charlotte’s sister, Olivia, who hadn’t moved from her lounge chair for an hour and a half. “What happened here?”
“Huh?” she said looking clueless. She was finishing the last chapters of what she called a “really good” book so Olivia never even noticed the dogs ripping the limbs off “Puppy.” She had no idea they had redecorated the room with fluffy white entails. “What happened?” she asked. I said nothing, just stared at her thinking, “Really?”
Nothing chaps my britches more than stuffed animal guts all over the den. It’s a pain to pick up, and the little pieces float in the air landing all over the house. So, I did the only self-preserving thing I could think of. I ignored it. Instead, I called all the kids down for dinner, which was a lovely combination of turkey noodle soup, curried lentils with wild rice and sautéed zucchini, and a big bowl of watermelon. Quite eclectic and not necessarily award winning, but I must say they all found something to eat.
The kids were just chatting away about which grade was harder, 7th or 8th grade, with Charlotte declaring it was definitely 1st grade, so I slipped out of the kitchen with my broom and dustpan. It took me a while, but I was able to pick up all of those white gauzy pieces littering the den. I told myself that after dishes were done, I would search the house for the fly-away remnants. In the meantime, Annie, Katie, Charlotte and Will went upstairs to play. Only Olivia remained downstairs.
My White Lie Comes Back to Bite Me (Not literally)
As I swept up the leftovers of the poor stuffed animal, I chatted with Olivia about her book. Then I turned the corner into the dinning room and stopped dead in my tracks (that was a bit of foreshadowing; a little creepy music is cued). What was staring back at me was the dead squirrel just as Charlotte had described it, lying stiff on its side with its mouth wide open. I stopped midsentence, shivered and called Katie downstairs. Katie is like the man of the house when her Dad is gone.
Olivia could see my spastic reaction, and she kept asking, “What? What is it?” I was so skeeved out, I could only wave her over. When Olivia saw the fresh carcass, she squealed and then started laughing. “Not funny,” I thought. “It’s not funny that there is a dead rodent in my dinning room.” Then, I started cursing Mike in my head because he was out of town, and it was clearly in his job description to deal with dead or unwanted animals in the house. It’s listed right between “take out garbage” and “kill spiders and roaches.”
Katie was not much help. When she saw the squirrel, she too burst into laughter. Meanwhile, I waved my hands to hush the girls because I didn’t need Charlotte coming downstairs acting all Sherlock Holmes with her questions. I turned to Katie and said, “Katie, do something.”
Of course, she looked at me like I had three heads, and said, “What do you want me to do?” On cue, Olivia reappeared with a small empty box, just the right size for our dead rodent friend.
“Ok, Katie, you hold the box, and I will sweep it into it.”
Even though she was still laughing, Katie nodded in agreement. My hands felt weak. Sweat formed on the back of my neck. I was so afraid that the darn thing would move if I touched it, but I managed to sweep the dead squirrel into the box. Then, I did the oh-so-grown up thing, and ran to the other side of the room shaking out my arms, whisper-screaming, “Oooo! Ooooo! That was so gross.” Apparently, Katie thought my behavior was quite amusing, and she started cackling so hard the darn squirrel popped out of the box.
When I saw this, I wanted to cry. I said, “KATIE, what did you do?”
“I’m sorry. I was laughing so hard, the thing flew out of my hands.”
“And, what do you mean by ‘flew’? Is that damn rodent alive?”
“No, I just dropped it.”
My stomach started turning because I had to touch the thing again, but that was the least of my problems. When Katie and I were doing the squirrel shuffle, Olivia went upstairs to tell Charlotte not to come down.
“Brilliant,” I thought.
The next thing I hear is, “Mrs. Turner, can I come downstairs? What is going on down there?”
“Nothing Charlotte. You and Annie just keep working on your project.”
“Oh, we’re done, Mrs. Turner.”
“Fabulous,” I thought. The last thing I wanted was a shaken 6 year-old or worse a Charlotte saying like a broken record, “I thought you said the dogs wouldn’t touch dead animals.”
I turned to Olivia and in my best angry loud whisper said, “Go up there and make sure she does not come downstairs.”
Still laughing, Olivia said, “Why me?”
With a heavy whisper scream and one eye bulging, I swished her out of the room with a “You know darn well why.”
Thinking I had only minutes for Olivia to contain Charlotte, I turned to Katie, “Come on, Katie, let’s do this.” So I swept the furry carcass into that box like a pro—a professional what I don’t know, but at least I did not squeal and dance around like the last time. “Now take this outside and throw it in the garbage.”
Just then Olivia bee bopped down the stairs wanting back in on the squirrel action, but neither one wanted to put it in the trash. “I don’t care what you do with it, just get it away from here,” I said as I literally pushed them and their cardboard coffin out the door.
That was just in a nick of time because Charlotte came running downstairs asking to see the squirrel. Now I knew Olivia had sold me out. “Oh sorry, dear, Katie and Olivia went to give it a proper burial.”
“BUT I WANT TO SEE,” screamed Charlotte. “I want to sing a song and put flowers on its grave.” Any other day, I would have found that charming. Not that night.
In my head I just said, “Um, no.” But, out loud I said, “They had to go all the way across the street, and it is too dark outside for you to be running after them. Besides, they are probably already on their way back.”
Annie chimed in, “Why don’t we go upstairs and say a little prayer for it?” I could have kissed Annie when Charlotte said, “Ok.”
Thirty seconds later, Katie and Olivia came in and slammed the front door shut. They were visibly out of breath, but I couldn’t tell if it was from so much laughing or running. If Annie and Charlotte were Shaggy and Scooby, then Katie and Olivia looked like kids in training for Ghostbusters. “We took it to the ditch and dumped it,” Katie said.
“You dumped it where?”
“In the ditch.”
“You mean next to the house with the three young kids? (Nod, nod) With or without the box?”
“Without. That’s on the front porch.”
What could I say? I told them I didn’t care what they did with it, but I did wonder how the ditch was any better than the garbage can.
The Giant Dog Slobber Sponge
I finally settled everyone and started sweeping up the floating innards when I heard, “Um, Mom? Can you come up here?”
Now, I am beyond annoyed. “Noooooo, I’m still cleaning up the dogs’ mess.”
“But, Mom, I think you are going to want to see this.” It felt as if all five kids were jumping on my last nerve.
“For God’s sake, just tell me what happened,” I yelled up the stairs.
“Well, you know Will’s bed?” That’s all I heard. Annie didn’t need to say another word because I knew that the bed, with the memory foam topper, was left exposed while I washed Will’s sheets. “…a big hole in the middle of it, and stuff everywhere.” If the dogs had been in front of me, I would have seriously considered pouring them a big old bowl of anti-freeze. Lucky for them, they made themselves scarce.
While considering canine homicide, Will half walked and half fell down the stairs with the remnants of the ripped up memory foam topper on his head. Four giggling girls followed him carrying more foam debris in their hands. Will threw the foam pad over the stair landing, and the half eaten mattress topper flopped irreverently on the floor. While I’m simultaneously rubbing Will’s rug burn marks and scolding him for throwing the topper over the landing, Charlotte laid down on it telling me she was ready for bed. All I could think about was that Charlotte must be laying in a giant sponge soaked in dog slobber. There’s no way her mom would be happy with that.
“Charlotte, honey, you can’t lay down on that.”
“Why not? It’s comfy.”
“Yeah, but I need to put it in the garbage can.”
“Can’t I sleep on it first?”
Again, I thought, “Um, no,” but said, “Annie wants you to sleep in her bed.”
Those were the magic words because Charlotte would do anything for Annie. So, I called up to Annie saying she should help Charlotte get ready for bed. Like a dutiful babysitter, Annie handed Charlotte her PJs and promised to read her any book she wanted.
Once my little visitor went upstairs, I scooped up the rather heavy remnant and dumped it into the garbage can. I stood draped over the garbage can, alone except for the mosquitos, for at least five minutes just trying to collect myself. I was put-a-fork-in-me done. Done with messes and carcasses, done with overly amused teens, and done with little white lies. They all needed to go to bed.
But, when I walked inside, all I could hear was noise—Charlotte asking questions, Katie and Will fighting over the laptop, Annie singing obliviously while getting her room ready. So much noise. The only one not making noise was Olivia who was trying to decide which book she should read next. (Sounds simple, but it was truly a puzzling dilemma for her.)
My patience had not worn thin; it had been thrown into the ditch with the dead squirrel, so by this point, I turned into a screaming lunatic. I’m sure I looked like Cruella Deville minus the spotted coat. “That’s it! Settle down! Everyone get ready for bed,” and I stamped my foot for good measure. Do you know how invisible I felt when no one stopped what he or she was doing? I could have thrown in the proverbial towel and gone to bed myself, but instead I talked myself into persevering. So, I marched up the steps to scream louder—proximity had to help. I called each child by name and told him or her to get ready for bed or else. That “or else” thing still worked for my kids.
I didn’t have time to follow up because just then the phone rang. It was Lisa, Olivia and Charlotte’s mom. I stared into Olivia’s grinning face as I flagrantly lied to her mom. “Fine. Everything is totally fine. Quiet actually. Yes, low-key night. Yep, they finished their homework. She’s in bed with Annie listening to a book. Okay see you in 30 minutes.” Olivia just shook her head. I wanted to say, “Don’t judge me, child,” but I did not have time.
Thirty minutes. That’s all the time I had to do all the dishes, sweep up all the memory foam bits, make Will’s bed, and check the last of the homework. I was putting way the last mug into the dishwasher when Lisa tapped on the front door.
I asked her about the concert she went to as we walked up the stairs to retrieve her precocious six-year-old. We found Charlotte and Annie asleep wrapped in each other’s arms. Lisa said, “That’s adorable.” All I could say was, “Yep.” Olivia gathered her books while Lisa tiptoed downstairs with a sleeping Charlotte in her arms. After the “thank-yous” and the “no-problems,” I stood at the doorway while mother and daughters walked to their minivan. The last thing I heard was Olivia saying, “It is so much fun staying with the Turners.”
“Oh yeah, in what way?” said her mom.
At that point, I shut the door and turned off the porch light, and whispered to no one, “Just another night in paradise.”