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.

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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)

Too Much Creativity

(scene opens in tossed parlor)

Gamma: (fresh from school) Mom! I have to make a machine for school tomorrow!
Me: Wha..? Why?
Gamma: I…(self aware pause) I didn’t finish it in class. Maybe draw it?
Me: Do you have to make or draw?
Gamma: (mental processing) …both? I need a machine that makes my life easier with snacks.
Me: (can’t even) With what? Snacks?
Gamma: Whatever we have in the house. Its a machine about snacks.

(scene cuts to cluttered dinning room)

Me: There. You have styrofoam cups, bendy straws, tape, scissors, and this aluminum tray you brought home from school. Have at.
Gamma: Whee!(proceeds to cut everything into confetti)
Me: Uh, what are you making?
Gamma: I’m just cutting.
Me: What about your snack machine?!?
Gamma: (surveys carnage) Oh. I forgot.

I am altering the deal

(scene opens in tossed parlor)

Me: Gamma, Delta’s therapist is coming in a few minutes, I want you to go downstairs until she leaves.
Gamma: But there’s nothing to do! Alpha’s playing Halo!
Me: (inaudible swearing, pounds on floor, older boys summoned)
Beta: What?
Me: Turn off Halo. Turn on Star Wars.
Alpha: What? Why?
Me: Today is May the fourth. Today is Star Wars day. You have to sit in the basement and watch Star Wars all day.
Beta: (suspicious) Seriously?
Me: Seriously. It’s May the fourth. And really, what else are you doing to do on a day off from school when its raining?

(Alpha and Beta share incredulous looks, run off to do mother’s bidding)

Me: (mutters) And how else am I going to keep from learning a force choke?

This again?

(scene opens in cluttered parlor)

Alpha: (sawing his way through Dona Nobis Pacem)
Me: No, you need to hold that note longer.
Alpha: (scowls, saws through it again)
Me: What’s the key signature?
Alpha: One sharp. That’s F#?
Me: Yes. Sounds like you’re playing all of them sharp.
Alpha: No I’m not! You don’t know how this song goes!
Me: Seriously. (Sings Dona Nobis Pacem perfect Catholic School acapella) Why do you think you’re ever going to win a music fight with me? I’m not even anywhere near the moderately competent musician my school ever released into the wild.
Alpha: (says nothing, goes back to sawing, only half the notes sharp)