Learning Lab

(scene opens in dim early morning kitchen)

Me: Alpha, get your jacket, its cold out.
Alpha: It can’t be, it was 50 yesterday.
Me: Its also 5:15 am in the morning, hence colder than high noon. Also, welcome to winter in the Midwest. One day 50, the next day -50. Get your jacket.
Alpha: No, I’m good.
Me: 11 degrees. Jacket and gloves.
Alpha: No, I got pockets.
Me: I get that you think you’ll be fine, because you’re going straight from car to school, but having the jacket in case we break down is also a good idea.
Alpha: We’re not that far away, I can walk to school from where ever we break down.
Me: (paralyzed with lack of caring) Fine. Get in the car. Dad’s car. He’s parked behind me.
Alpha: Oh. The shitty cold car?
Me: Without seat warmers? Yeah.
Alpha: (leaves, standing ground on not getting jacket or gloves)

(cut scene to inside mini-van, windows edged with heavy frost)

Alpha: Is the heat even on?
Me: Yeah, its an old car, you have to give it a little time to warm up.

(time passes)

Alpha: Is the blower even working?
Me: Ayup. Takes a lot of work to warm up from 11 degrees.

(more time)

Alpha: Why is it so cold?
Me: Gosh. If only there was an article of clothing you could have brought with you that would have kept you warm. Maybe with sleeves and a hood? What’s that thing called? A ja-quet?
Alpha: (non-committal teen-age harumph)
Me: (smug)

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Royal Matters

(scene opens in towel strewn bathroom)

Me: (stripping down toddler) Okay, first we’re going to go potty, then brush our teeth, and then bed time!
Delta: Four story! (holds up three fingers)
Me: One story. Now, get up there and go potty.
Delta: (runs to potty, looks in) Someone did’t flush! (points, outraged)
Me: Its okay, get up there and we’ll flush after. (gets up off the floor)
Delta: No! I flush! (flushes the toilet, stands arms folded to watch)
Me: (sigh) Okay. We’ll wait. (mutters under breath) Princess.
Delta: Not a princess! I an king!
Me: My apologizes, your majesty. Can we go potty now?
Delta: (climbs onto the toilet, doing victory head bob) I an king! I an king! I want four story because I an king! (holds up three fingers)
Me: (starts prepping the toothbrush)

Survival Skills

(scene opens in cluttered kitchen, close up on thermometer reads -30 outside, 50 inside)

Me: (in multiple laters, stocking cap, fingerless gloves, pouring coffee into thermal travel mug)
Gamma: Mom, can I have my water bottle?
Me: (concentrating on the hot) Sure, go ahead and get it.
Gamma: (puts it under dripping-to-prevent-freezing faucet)
Me: Here, let me help. (fills it)
Gamma: Not too much!
Me: (hands it back) Why not? Wait, what are you doing?
Gamma: (takes to ice maker, stuffs full of ice) I’m a master of surviving and preventing heat stroke. (said proudly)
Me: (sighs and nods approvingly) Good job.

Opportunity strikes

(scene opens in tossed dinning room)

Alpha: (thinking himself clever) Mom, if people evolved from monkeys, why do we still have monkeys?
Me: (shock) Did you just seriously ask me that question?
Alpha: (bravado wavers a bit) Yeah.
Me: (anticipatory stretch, cracks knuckles) I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Sit down while I learn you good. Its been a while since I used the Anthro degree. (picks up pencil to sketch out hominid family tree)

(time passes, multiple cut scenes follow, science happens)

Alpha: (whimpers)
Me: There. And that’s why, my little hairless ape, there are both monkeys and human beings. Before you decide this play this trick again, the same goes for dogs and wolves. Unless you’re dumb enough to think that pre-historic saber-toothed Bichon Frise roamed the earth hunting undersized mammoths.
Alpha: (slinks off to kitchen to do dishes)

Time, Time, Time

(scene opens in dim dinning room)

Alpha: (comes in foyer, shedding snow)
Me: (concerned) What are you doing home? Did they cancel track?
Alpha: No, I have homework.
Me: (appalled) ….you ditched track to do homework? You’ve missed all of last week’s practice already! How much do you have?
Alpha: I have to finish the late worksheet.
Me: That’s it? (temper rises) How long do you think that’s going to take you?
Alpha: (hesitantly) All night?
Me: You actually have no clue how much homework you have on any given night, which is amazing since you never bring homework home.
Alpha: (defensively sullen) I didn’t think I could run if I had homework.
Me: (shakes fists at the sky, shrieking) School. Practice. Homework. Dinner. Bed. There is time for all things under heaven! What kind of life do you think you’re going to live where you can clear your entire calendar for twenty minutes worth of work?
Alpha: (tearfully sullen) A life on the streets.
Me: (collects with difficulty) Even street people have a schedule in an effort to survive. Thank you for making homework a priority.

(Alpha exits, Mother screams silently and tears out hair)

Responsibilities

(scene opens in early morning dinning room, windows still dark)

Me: (still in bathrobe, coffee in hand, obviously up before go time)
Gamma: (bright, bubbly, dressed for school, playing on kid Kindle) Momma? How come you get to travel all the time and not me?
Me: (glances at 5:30 am clock time, to early to talk) Dunno.
Gamma: Is it because you’re the adult?
Me: (sighs) Maybe. (clutches coffee, closes eyes)
Gamma: Is it because you’re famous?
Me: (opens eyes) Not exactly. I’m Nerd Famous. Its a little different.
Gamma: (crosses arms) Well, I’m famous too. I’m the Princess of Dreamland and I should get to travel!
Me: (presses coffee cup to forehead) Well, if you’re the Princess of the Dreamlands, then maybe you need to spend more time there. Your people need you.
Gamma: (turns up nose, pokes at Kindle)

Science might happen

(scene opens in oddly clean kitchen)

Beta: What are we having for dinner?
Me: (cleaning down counter) Ribs.
Beta: (distressed) I don’t like ribs! I have all the ingredients for my quesadillas and I haven’t made them yet.
Me: (affronted) What do you mean you don’t like ribs? Its cow. Cow is steak. You like steak.
Beta: It has bones!
Me: Steak sometimes has bones in it! Think of it as steak on the cob! You can eat it with your hands!
Beta: (tilts head) Can you do that? Cook steak on the cob? Around the corn?
Me: (stops cold) I…don’t know. I suppose you could. Get some really thin steak, tenderize it, get a good rub, wrap it around the cob and then grill?
Beta: Like really thick bacon.

(both pause, re-considering life goals)

Me: Wow.
Beta: Yeah. Wow.

(music crescendos, fade to black, cut to car commercial)

Distilled

(scene opens in busy Starbucks, camera follows tea carrying individual through crowd to fireplace seating area)

Me: (looks up from phone, sees Childhood Bestie) Hey.
CB: Nice seats. (settles in)
Me: Right? Very comfy. (picks up cooling coffee, takes a sip, flinches and grimaces)
CB: (WTF look)
Me: Christmas blend. (grimace intensified)
CB: And?
Me: (another cautious sip) Tastes like 2018.
CB: (nod of understanding)

Fashion Commentary

(scene opens in parlor)

Me: (scrutinizing daughter) Did you get those pants from grandma for Christmas?
Gamma: (jumping around) I don’t know.
Me: I like the color, but they look awfully snug.
Gamma: That’s just the fashion, momma.
Me: (frowns) I’m not a big fan of jeggings. Do you like them?
Gamma: (bouncing on a mini trampoline) Yes! They’re pretty!

(follows several scenes of daughter running through room, mother staring perplexed)

Me: (resigned) Gamma, come here please. I need to look at those pants.
Gamma: (obediently walks over, turns round so mom can check tag)

(camera close up on size 4T)

Me: Oh dear gods, you’re wearing your little brother’s pants.
Gamma: So?
Me: You’re eight. He’s three. Go take them off and change into something else!
Gamma: I was wondering why they were a little tight.

Behind the 8 Ball

(scene opens at New Year’s table, Dominion being set up amid the snacks)

Me: Alpha, where are you?
Alpha: (offscreen, sullen) Here.
Beta: C’mon dude, we’re going to play a card game!
Alpha: (deeper sullen) No.
Me: (frustrated) Alpha, would you please come to the table? It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re doing new family traditions. Could we play some games, please?
Alpha: (storms into the room) No! I don’t want to do nerd things! I don’t want to be a nerd!
Me: (dies a little, mists up) Oh honey, you have no idea how badly you’ve already lost that fight.

New Year Spirits

(scene opens in rainy parking lot, loading groceries in the car)

Beta: (going as slow as possible, everything weighs a thousand pounds)
Me: (exasperated) Is there a problem, Beta?
Beta: You didn’t get me bubble gum. Or Coke.
Me: (incredulous) I got a crate of flavored hot cocoa. I got hot pretzels. Sparkling cider. Doritos. Pizza rolls. Lemonade, chocolate milk, and Goose Island root beer. A box sampler of Jelly Belly beans! Pie and whipped cream! You’re going to pout about Coke and bubble gum?
Beta: (sags a little and mumbles) But I like Coke and bubble gum.
Me: You are my saddest panda. That’s your spirit animal. Sad Panda. If you listen very carefully, you can hear the saddest trombones in the background, playing for the world’s saddest panda. (makes sad trombone noise)
Beta: (sags further, the embodiment of suffering) But bubble gum….
Me: We have so much New Year’s eve snack food, you won’t have time to chew bubble gum. Trust me. Get in the car, Sad Panda. Its cold out here.

In Jokes Make Everything Better

(cut scene-flashback, opens in foyer of Universal Studios hotel, two people having a conversation)

Me: (quietly) Beta, you’ve been talking about food all day.
Beta: I’m hungry all day.
Me: (epiphany moment) Beta, do you eat your feelings?
Beta: (serious face) Yeah. (dork face) Its because they’re so delicious.
Me: (letting it go, talks for other times) Well, its because you put cheese on them.

(flash forward, six people in parked van, most red eyed from crying)

Everyone: (collectively mired in personal misery and sorrow)
Husband: (reaches out, touches wife’s arm gently to get attention, mimes eating)
Me: (nods, collects self, sits up straighter, calls over shoulder) Beta? Do you want to go put cheese on our feelings?
Beta: That’d be great.
Me: (waves to husband to work the car machine)
Gamma: Why are we putting cheese on our feelings?
Husband: I think we’re getting something to eat.