He’s getting better.

(scene opens in dining room not Carrot’s. Family party in progress, mostly adults around the table)

Beta: (takes empty chair, downs the last of a bottle of root beer)

Cousin K: You drank it all?

Beta: Yeah.

Carrot: I thought you liked root beer.

Beta: I do. Just that it was super flat. I went to take off the cap and it just fell off like someone had opened it.

(silence falls)

Aunt T: It’s a good idea not to drink bottles that have already been opened.

Husband: That’s someone cracking it open at the store, taking a drink and putting it back.

Me: Or putting something inside of it.

Beta: (shrugs)

(scene ends)

(new scene in grocery store refrigerated aisle)

Me: (looking at prices of small juice bottles) It says three for five – did you want to try the cranberry flavor? Get an OJ, apple, and then cranberry?

Beta: Sure.

(Carrot reaches up to get the cranberry juice)

Beta: Wait! Look at the lid.

(camera close up on broken seal)

Beta: We probably shouldn’t drink that. See? I can learn! (laughs stupidly)

Me: Your father would be so proud of you. You just might live to see adulthood.

It’s an adventure!

(scene opens in dinning room, Beta shuffles in)

Me: (looks up from laptop) Good morning! Glad to be back home?

Beta: (groggy) Yes.

Me: Tell me what else you did at Sea Base? I want all the stories.

Beta: Well, we were on that primitive island and you get a chuck box. There’s the ‘Chuck Box Challenge’.

Me: Oh dear. I know where this is going.

Beta: (warming to tale) So, the challenge is that you have to eat everything you packed in. We didn’t have much time left so I look in the box and pull out the maple syrup and chug it.

Me: (starts laughing) Ohmigod. Go tell your father.

Beta: Why?

Me: I think he might be proud of you.

(time passes, cut scene to later, Husband walks into dinning room)

Me: Did Beta tell you about the food challenge?

Husband: Yes. I told him he should have put the maple syrup on something. Like an apple.

Me: Oh yeah? What’d he say?

Husband: Said that’s what Alpha did.

Me: (proud) I love our knuckleheads.

Can’t argue with that.

(scene opens in cluttered kitchen)

Alpha: (hunting breakfast) Ha-HA! (pulls bag of leftover pizza from ‘fridge)

Me: (pointing) HA! Ha-HA!

Alpha: Ha-ha-ha-HA!

Me: HA! Hu-ha-ha-ha. HA!

Husband: You guys are dorks.

Alpha: (draws himself up) You married her. You made me.

Me: He does have a point.

Husband: I was cool once.

You Had Options

(scene opens in deconstructed kid’s room)

Me: (tucking an exhausted, overwhelmed, weeping Delta into bed) Okay, sweetie. Get some sleep I’ll see you in the morning.

Delta: (pauses, explodes into fresh wailing)

Me: What’s wrong?

Delta: (sobbing) I didn’t eat anything tonight!

Me: (patiently done) Honey, there was food everywhere and you didn’t want anything.

Delta: (moar sobbing) I didn’t eat anything tonight!

Me: That’s not true. You had two deviled eggs and a huge bowl of banana pudding.

Delta: (pauses, remembers, less sobbing) I didn’t eat anything tonight.

Me: (pulls up blanket, kisses forehead): I got a chocolate mousse pie in tribute tonight. Get some sleep and you can have some for breakfast.

Delta: (gulps, sniffles) Okay.

(Carrot leaves room, turns off light)

Wild Frontier

(scene opens in dinning room, half recovered from Thanksgiving, Carrot at table still in bathrobe)

Gamma: Can I have bread?

Delta: Can I have cookies?

Beta: I’m just going to have another one of these sugared cranberries. Is that okay?

Alpha: Why is Gamma having bread? Did you say that was okay?

Me: (suffering, trying to write, hands over headphones that are clearly not loud enough) Oh. My. God. Please. Go. Eat. There is food everywhere. None of you are young enough that I have to be involved in the feeding of you. Scavenge. Forage. Whatever. I don’t care. There are no rules any more. It is a lawless time –

Alpha: (alarmed) No! Please! There have to be rules! Please make some rules!

Me: (stares, starts to laugh)

Alpha: (defensively) If you don’t make rules there will be chaos.

Carrot’s Inner Voice: I’m sorry, do I know you?

Me: (moar laughter, some tears)

That’s Nutrition!

(scene opens in partially clean kitchen, Carrot standing in front of open refrigerator)

Me: (talking to herself) Sugared cranberries done. Cran-applesauce done. Pumpkin pie in oven. Need more apples for apple pie. Need oranges for turkey brine. Prosecco for….

Delta: Mommy? What’s in that box?

Me: (absently) The rest of Gamma’s birthday cake.

Delta: Can I have cake for lunch?

Me: That’s not a healthy lunch.

Carrot’s Inner Voice: It would make more room in the ‘fridge for the deviled eggs.

Delta: Please? I can show you my cutest face ever? (fists under cheeks, eyes very wide, lips pulled into hopeful pout.

Me: Fine. There’s no such thing for responsible eating for the next month anyway.

A Day of Service

(scene opens in mini van drive through)

Me: (hands over McDonald’s reward) Here you go. And thank you again for helping out and mowing lawns.

Beta: No problem. Nuggies! (stuffs one in his mouth)

Me: (starts to drive) I’m serious. If more people were willing to be that helpful and generous to the people around them, the world would be a better place. At the very least they’d all be wearing their goddam masks.

Beta: (slurps frozen Coke) Y’know — if everyone in the world was that helpful and generous, there’d be no objective way to determine who was a good person.

Me: (extreme close up, over dramatic side eye, long pause)

Beta: (mouth full of food) I mean right? It’d just be normal.

Me: What website did you get that off of?

Beta: Just though it now.

Me: (falls silent, continues to drive)

Regrets? I’ve had a few…

(scene opens in morning parlor)

Me: (comes downstairs to collective cheers of MOM!) Hey guys. Beta, come here.

(scene changes to kitchen)

Me: (opens fridge, hands Beta large styrofoam cup) I thought it was going to be a can or 1-liter, but it’s a root beer. I ordered cheese fries last night and got you a rootbeer ’cause the pizza places never have them. It might be flat. Sorry about that.

Beta: That’s okay, mom. I’ll –

Alpha: (suddenly appears) Did I hear someone say cheese fries?

Me: (hands Alpha a styrofoam box) Here’s the last of them. I couldn’t finish them all.

(Gamma and Delta run in, chanting “Cheese Fries!”)

Me: Christ! I’m not awake yet! (rubs face) Alpha, could you share a little of your fries? Like I’m sharing with you?

Alpha: (resigned) Sure.

(twenty minute montage of arguing over cheese fries and lamenting not enough cheese fries and wanting moar cheese fries)

Me: (head in hands over cooling coffee) For the love of… I should have thrown them out. Why do you make me regret the things I do for you guys?

Gamma: Because we like food.

Delta: Because I’m five.

Beta: (smugly slurping root beer) Wow, when did he get self-aware?

Me: He’s always been more self-aware than the rest of you. Maybe you guys could go somewhere and let me have my coffee in peace?

Though she be but little…

(scene opens in post holiday dining room)

(Husband and Carrot existing)

Gamma: (hotly) You know what mom? I want cranberry sauce. And I want it now!

Me: (sigh) Sure. Go ahead. Why are you so angry?

Gamma: (savagely) Because I like it!

Husband: (faint laughter) God help her first boyfriend.

Me: (resigned) It’ll probably be for the best.

Drinking Our Feelings

(scene opens in cold rainy kitchen, kids stagger in)

Me: (ladling out into mugs) Here, the heavy cream was about to go bad, so I made homemade hot chocolate.

Gamma: (sips) Yeah….no. There’s too much chocolate.

Beta: (sips) Meh. Too much cinnamon.

Me: There is literally a dusting in there. Barely enough to scent it. You’re nuts.

Beta: (shrugs, places it on the counter, leaves)

Me: (hands Alpha a mug)

Alpha: (sullen) No. (leaves)

(scene fades to black with Carrot holding three mugs of heavy cream hot chocolate)

How to talk to them

(scene opens in early cluttered dining room)

Delta: (suddenly alarmed) Where’s Narbles?!

Gamma: (in kitchen) Over here! (camera cuts to squishmallow purple narwhal on the counter)

Me: Thank you, for finding her…. Hey, is Narbles a boy or a girl?

Delta: Um…Narbles is from the sea and a sea creature, so both.

Me: Oh. What do you call someone who’s both?

Gamma: (comes out of kitchen) A helicopter.

Me: You don’t call them a helicopter! That’s silly.

Gamma: (seriously) No, they’re helicopters. (holds up hands at 90 degrees) Helicopters have the blades on top and blades on the back. See? Both!

Me: That’s pretty good logic, but you can just say “they” if you don’t know or they say they’re non-binary.

Gamma: What’s binary?

Me: Binary is when you only have two choices. Non-binary would be a third option.

Gamma: Cool. Can I have Nutella for breakfast?

Me: (sigh) And that concludes the lesson. Sure, share with Delta.

(two kids throw up their hands cheering and run off screen)

Bad Business

(scene opens in cluttered dining room)

Me: (sorting Girl Scout cookies into piles)

Husband: (enters) I hear we have cookies to sell?

Me: Yes. These are what we have left. (camera cuts to mostly empty box)

Husband: Beta said we had Thin Mints.

Me: I just sold them to your brother.

Husband: My brother?! How could you? I was downstairs!

Me: I could hear you on a conference call.

Husband: I was downstairs!

Me: This has more to do with me selling them to your brother and not that I sold them before you could get off the call.

Husband: (outraged) Well obviously!