Min-Maxing

(scene opens in foyar, back pack up-ended)

Delta: MOM! MOM! Today is the last day! (waves brochure)
Me: (unfazed) Last day for what?
Delta: (incredulous) Duh! The last day to sign me up!
Me: (absently) Don’t “duh” me. Sign you up for what? (takes brochure) This is for the Boy Scouts. You’re already a Girl Scout. Did you want to be both?
Delta: (glows like a thousand suns) I could do both! I could go on twice as many adventures! I could be a sister to every scout!
Me: That’d be one way to level up faster than your brothers.

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To Try Men’s Souls

(scene opens in tossed dining room)

Me: So how was school? Any homework? (sips coffee)
Beta: Yeah, English. I have to find a word that describes me that rhymes with the sound of my name.
Me: (pause, confused) You have to find a descriptive word that rhymes with your name? Or one that starts with the same letter?
Beta: (instantly exasperated) Rhymes with my name!
Me: (pretty sure he’s wrong) There aren’t going to be any descriptive words that sound like your name, honey.
Beta: (falls apart, verge of tears) It has to rhyme with the “L” sound.
Me: (staying calm, grits out) Rhyme is the wrong word. Rhyme is “bat, cat, rat, prat”. Starting with the same letter is completely different. (Points to computer) Get on Thesaurus.com and look up a word.
Beta: (hysterical) But I don’t even know what word I’m looking for yet.
Me: (slams hands on table) Would you just trust my judgement for once and get on the computer!
Beta: (does so, stares at blanks screen for five minutes, quivering with tears)
Me: (sighs deeply, leans over to type)

(close up on screen shows word “argumentative”)

Me: There. (conversationally reads) Belligerent. Combative. Contrary. Litigious. Litigious is a good word. That starts with the letter “L”.
Beta: (bright and cheery) Yeah! It is a good word.
Me: (stares into the blackness that is her coffee)

Sing it loud

(scene opens in mini van)

Me: Is it just me, or is every station commercials?
Beta: (pressing radio buttons) Seems like it.
Me: (hears music) Stop. (turns up “Raspberry Beret”) This is a good song.
Beta: (skeptical look)
Me: Yeah, sorry, today you get to listen to oldies with your mom.
Beta: (skepticism intensifies)
Me: Yes, I did just die a little on the inside just saying that.

In Preparation

(Scene opens in dinning room, ridiculous piles of school supplies everywhere, fast sort begins)

Grade School Pile: ALL THE THINGS! YOU MUST STOCK UP FOR THE APOCALYPSE! THERE IS NO HOPE OF EVER FINDING ANOTHER PENCIL PAST THE START OF SCHOOL! IF YOU ARE NOT TRIPLE STOCKED NOW YOU WILL NEVER GRADUATE AND IT WILL GO ON YOUR PERMANENT RECORD! YOU WILL BE JUDGED ON THE TYPE OF CRAYONS YOU GET AND YOUR FOLDERS NEED TO BE SPECIFIC COLORS THAT NO ONE CARRIES! ALSO ANTI-BIOTIC EVERYTHING BECAUSE OF REASONS!

Middle School Pile: Overly organized and oversized binders that you will never use. Start to flirt with college ruled. Adult calculator but your scissors are still safety. More pencils than grade school, half the markers. Do kids not use pens any more?

High School Pile: Got a folder? A pencil? Cool. Here’s your locker combo. Good luck.

So it begins

(scene opens in tossed parlor)

Gamma: Mom! I want to go play with Christopher! Or Malia!
Me: (exhausted) Okay. Be home by 3 and if no one is home, come back right away.
Gamma: (rockets out the door)
Delta: Metoometoometoometoo! (runs over with shoes)
Me: (sadly) No, honey. Gamma is going to play with her friends. You’re too young.
Delta: (infinite sadness) Too young?
Me: Yes, too young. You can’t go.
Delta: (infinite sadness + tears) Want Gamma! WANT GAMMA! WANT GAMMA! (runs to screen door and pounds on frame) NEED GAMMA! I NEED GAMMA!
Me: (hides face) How comes kids only love the siblings that won’t play with them?

For the love…

(scene opens in dim kitchen)

Husband: (whispering) Good morning.
Me: (whispering) Good morning. Off to work?
Husband: (nods, leans in for kiss)
Me: (kisses back, goes in for hug)
Husband: Side hug for Jesus. (drapes arm around wife)
Me: Seriously?
Husband: Because Jesus was a butt-man. (reaches down for a squeeze)
Me: (looses it completely, laughter wakes up children)

Begin the beginning

(scene opens in mostly clean dinning room)

Me: (sets up laptops) Duolingo for everyone!
Kids: (groan)
Me: Come on, you can do this.

(ten minutes of failure noises from the computers)

Gamma: I don’t know anything!
Beta: This program is stupid, it doesn’t know anything.
Alpha: Why can’t I figure this out?
Me: (goes to check each computer screen, obviously struggling with calm) Okay. Somehow I failed to give you the explicit instruction to start on “Basic”. You realize you’re trying to do the levels that already assume a level of fluency?
Alpha: (defensively) There were less lessons at that level!
Me: But you don’t speak German!
Beta: But if there were only three exercises, how hard could it be? There are fourteen on the first level! That’s a lot harder!
Me: (facepalms) You need to learn how to say hello before you can recite poetry, guys.
Gamma: Hola, mama!
Beta: (snarls) That’s not German!
Me: (Throws up hands) SHE’S LEARNING SPANISH!

Dex Check

(scene opens in tossed parlor, woman on settee needlepointing)

Beta: (bleary, wanders in) Morning.
Me: (looks out window) Noon. What happened to your lip? Is that a cold sore?
Beta: (delicately run fingers over bruised, fat, slightly bloody lower lip) No. Uh, you know where the corner is on the bottom of our stairs? How its the same color as the other door next to it? And how it angles? Well, I thought that it was part of the door and when I tried to open the door, I walked into it.
Me: (silence)
Beta: What?
Me: You walked into your door.
Beta: Yes.
Me: (sigh) Well, this is the point where I would give you Obligatory Mock, because you are deserving of Obligatory Mock. However, I feel that – given the circumstances – just notifying you of your deserving Obligatory Mock covers it and we’ll let it go. No promises on the rest of your siblings.
Beta: (resignedly nods) Acceptable.

All the colors

(scene opens in gloomy tossed dinning room)

Delta: Batman, mommy! Batman!
Me: What? (sees Delta with hair clip and pink baby blanket) Oh! Okay!
Gamma: (from under the table) What does he want?
Me: (putting blanket around Delta’s shoulders) He wants to be Batman, so I’m putting a cape on him.
Gamma: Batman doesn’t wear pink.
Me: It’s Pride. He’s Pride Batman. Pride Batman can wear pink.
Gamma: That’s not a thing.
Me: You wanna bet?

(scene ends with Delta zooming around the room in naught but diaper and pink cape)

Do you even music?

(scene opens in the dining room)

Me: Okay, Beta, welcome to Tiger Mom Summer school. Time to practice scales! Remember, when you see these two signatures these two notes (points them out, clearly marked as #) are always sharp.
Beta: (slumped in chair, cradling baritone horn) How do you play a sharp?
Me: (looking scale sheet) It has the fingerings right there.
Beta: I don’t think I’ve ever played a sharp.
Me: (deep breathing) You’ve been in band two years. How have you not played a sharp?
Beta: (turning red, tears starting) I don’t know!
Me: Clearly your band teacher has not been putting you through your paces and I have failed you as Nightmare Tiger Mom. We’ll begin with your first scale and it looks like I’m learning Bass Clef with you.
Beta: (begins to weep, plays soggy scale, waits for death)
Me: (finds center, remains calm) It might be an embouchure problem. You’ll have to do lip-ups. Every day you’ll need to lay face down and pick yourself up with only your lips.
Beta: (laughs through his tears)
Me: Okay. Good. Now, again.

Learn you good

(scene opens in cluttered parlor)

Me: (enters, sees Gamma on the computer) Gamma? What are you doing?
Gamma: Watching videos of games! (Pouty lipped cartoon character on the screen, with lipstick choices)
Me: (flinches inwardly) How about you watch something a little more intellectually stimulating than putting fake make up on a fake person?

(mother leaves, back momentarily, sees Gamma typing)

Me: Now what are you watching?
Gamma: I’m trying to find Kurzgesagt. Is that okay?
Me: (pauses, impressed) That’s fine.

Power of Fashion

(scene opens in mini-van)

Me: Thank you for coming with me to pick out a graduation outfit.
Alpha: (simmering) Why can’t I just wear a nice shirt and my black pants?
Me: (tiredly) Because this is a graduation. It is a formal event. You need something better than the black polo grandma got you for the party.
Alpha: But no one ever wears a suit!
Me: (hotly) They do! You just ignore them in favor of pointing out all the kids who are going to show up in their jeans and Jordans. Tell you what – if you want to wear a black suit and a black tie, you can do that. It doesn’t have to be goofy colors.
Alpha: (softens) Like John Wick?
Me: (hopeful) Exactly like John Wick.
Alpha: (mulling) That sounds good.
Me: (performs mental Victorious Picard)