Friday, May 31, 2013

Birds, Bees, and Target Practice

A few months ago, Secondo and Terzo developed the awful habit of using the phrase "making out."  They found these words hilarious and could not understand why they got into trouble when we overheard them speaking to each other about making out with hot babes.

One day, Mr. Psycho heard Terzo accuse Secondo of wanting to make out with me.  His mother.  Mr. Psycho sat both boys down and said to them, "Do you know what making out means?"  The boys sheepishly admitted they weren't sure what was involved in making out but that it seemed to involve kissing.  Mr. Psycho put it very bluntly.  "Making out is when you stick your tongue in someone's mouth."

Secondo and Terzo haven't mentioned making out since.

Unfortunately, not long after this they picked up the term "having sex."  This is why I am starting to suspect it doesn't matter how careful we are about what they watch on TV; they hear so much worse at school and on the bus.  We might as well let them watch Cinemax in the middle of the night.

We responded to the boys' references to sex with requests to stop being inappropriate, taking away access to electronic entertainment, grounding, yelling, and abject begging.  When little boys find something uproariously funny, however, I am convinced no amount of torture can squash the giggles out of them.

Then, I had an epiphany.  If they found the idea of sticking a tongue in someone's mouth so horrifying that they stopped using the term making out, learning what sex is would totally cure them of ever talking about it again!  At least until puberty.

Because they all share the same equipment, it became Mr. Psycho's job to sit the boys down and explain to them exactly what sex is and why it's inappropriate for them to laugh about it constantly.  Because, you know, mature adults certainly aren't preoccupied by the subject of sex.  Right? 

So Mr. Psycho sat down with Secondo and Terzo and briefly outlined the mechanics of sex between man and woman.  I wisely kept myself out of the room for this so as to avoid confusing the issue with too much giggling but at one point had to walk through the living room on my way to the laundry room.  I heard Mr. Psycho explain the following to the boys:

"You know those symbols for male and female?  They represent the difference between boys and girls.  The symbol for male is like an arrow and it represents the penis.  The female symbol represents the vagina."

This made me pause.  How is the scientific symbol for the female sex like a vagina?  Without even thinking, I asked Mr. Psycho, "How is that symbol like a vagina?"  He answered, "You know, because it looks like a target."

Unfortunately, I then set a horrible example by dissolving into a fit of uncontrollable laughing.  So much for showing Secondo and Terzo that sex is a serious subject requiring respect and maturity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Visit From St. Valentine

Back when I was in college, I took some writing classes.  A lot of writing classes, actually, but I'm sure that's pretty obvious to anyone who reads this blog.  Right?  Right?!

And no, I didn't take any drawing classes.  My artistic abilities are 100% natural and unimpeded by higher education.

Anyway, my first ever writing class was Writing 105.  No one in the class wanted to be a writer; it was an elective and most of us planned to suffer through it while on our way to various science-related degrees.  Not even the professor took the class seriously, which is how I came to write the greatest Valentine's Day poem EVER.

Dr. Writing Professor decided to have a poetry contest for Valentine's Day.  At first I was all like, "OK, whatever, just give us all A's and let us go dissect something in one of our more fascinating classes," but then he said the magic words:  "Whoever writes the best poem wins a...CANDY BAR."  Woot!  As soon as the said "Candy Bar" this lightning bolt of inspiration totally struck my brain and I knew I had the most awesomest poem idea. Walt Whitman's got nothin' on me.

I ran back to my dorm and feverishly wrote for at least 40 to 45 minutes.  The inspiration just flowed right out of me and I knew I was on to something when I was in tears over my own poem.  Now, fifteen(ish) years later, I present to you the most epic piece of poetry you will ever read.

I'm pretty confident about that claim because who actually reads poetry anymore?

A Visit From St. Valentine
by Alli Maidenname (I wasn't Psycho yet, duh)

'Twas the fourteenth of February and all through the world,
Not a female was happy, not one single girl.
The vases were set on the table with care;
In vain hopes that some flowers soon would be there.
The women were dreaming of men who were foxes,
And visions of chocolate in heart-shaped boxes.

And my roommate on the beanbag and I in the chair,
Had just settled down to fix up our hair;
When out in the hall there arose such a clatter,
We sprang from our seats to see what was the matter.
To the window a girl flew like a flash,
She tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
Her tears fell three stories to the new fallen snow,
Then she hurled herself down to the ground below.

When what to my wondering eyes should fly in,
But a big red cloud and eight tiny cupid men
With a smelly old driver, like turpentine,
And I knew it a moment it must be St. Valentine.
More rapid than eagles his cupids they came,
And he laughed, and he jeered, and he called them by name;
"Now Crusher! now Butthead! now Dorkfish and Cheater!
On Liar! on Scumbag, on Cheeseball and Wife Beater!
To the top of the dorm!" yelled the scraggly old fart,
We'll find every woman and tear out her heart!"
All through the air the ugly cupids did fly --
They seemed to represent every earthly guy.

So up to the dorm roof the cupids they flew,
With a cloud full of doom and St. Valentine too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard with my ears,
St. Valentine laughing at lonely womens' tears.
As I drew from my closet a sound baseball bat,
He leaped into my room like a fat, lazy cat.
He was dressed all in black, from his head to his toes,
Attempting to spread his Valentine woes.
A bundle of arrows he had slung over his shoulder.
My roommate fainted and fell like a boulder.
His eyes, how they burned!  His rear end, how hairy!
His cheeks were all hollow, his nose red from sherry.
His tight little mouth was drawn up in a sneer,
And the hair on his chin was like that of a steer.
A rotten cigar he held clamped in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled him just like a sheath.
He had a fat face and a big old beer gut
That shook when he laughed like a prostitute's butt.
He was slimy and crude, a right nasty old elf,
And I felt sick when I saw him in spite of myself.

A wink of his eye and a twitch of his head
Soon caused me to be all filled with dread.
He spoke not a word but went straight for my heart
And soon got a shock that gave him a start.
I laid my 'ball bat upside of his nose
And, pausing for breath, I then smashed his toes.
He sprang to his cloud, to his cupids did cry,
And away they flew, away through the sky.
But I heard him exclaim as he dove out of view,
"Go to hell!"
                    I replied, "St. Val, screw you!"
 So OBVIOUSLY I won that candy bar and OBVIOUSLY I changed my major from Biology to Creative Writing!  I will never forget the look on Doctor Writing Professor's face when I told him I wanted to change my major but I know he was thinking of my award-winning poem and lamenting the fact that I'd wasted an entire year and a half of my college education on the useless world of biology.

I mean, who ever wins a candy bar for dissecting a sheep's eye or extracting DNA from ground beef?  

Have a Happy and Psycho Valentine's Day!!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Flossing Those Hard to Reach Places

I'm going to let you in on a little parenting secret.  If you already have children past the baby stage, you've probably experienced this.  If not, well, consider yourself warned.

OK.  Imagine your future child at any point in childhood.  Toddler, grade school, high school, whatever.  Now, think of a few stupid things that kid might do.  Imagine the ways you will prevent those stupid things from happening and how your child will be raised properly in order to avoid such silly catastrophes.

Are you ready for this?  Whatever you just imagined will never happen.  So go ahead and think of some more really dumb things your future kid might do.  

Yeah, those things will never happen either.  The parenting secret you never hear about is this:  Your children will come up with bizarre antics you cannot possibly predict or prepare for.  All of the things you worry about will never happen.  Instead, completely different things you  never even dreamed of worrying about will sneak up on you and force you to question the sanity and intelligence of your offspring.   

Case in point:  One afternoon a few weeks ago as I enjoyed a quiet afternoon at home, the telephone rang.  Thanks to Caller ID, I knew it was our family dentist.  I also knew my mother-in-law, whom we call Nonni, had some dental work scheduled for that day and, perhaps, was too drugged to drive herself home.  As always, I was completely unprepared for the true nature of the phone call.  A transcript of our conversation follows:

Dr. Dentist:  Mrs. Psycho?  It's Dr. Dentist.  How are you?

Me:  I'm good, how are you?

Dr. Dentist:  Fine, fine!  You know, your mother-in-law was here today and said some things about Secondo that I want to talk to you about.

Me:  (caught off guard) Um...Secondo?  

Dr. Dentist:  Uh, yeah, Secondo.  It's probably fine, but Nonni said he told her he ate some dental floss.

Me:  (there's no way I actually heard what I thought I heard)  What?

Dr. Dentist:  Yeah, I guess Secondo had a full container of floss that he found on the counter and, well, decided to chew on it because it was minty and then he, um, ate it.

Me:  He ate it?  Actually swallowed it?  (My kid ate dental floss and I had no idea.  Parent of the Year?)

Dr. Dentist:  I don't know what it will do to him.  If he swallowed it all in one big blob, it might stay that way and just, you know, pass.

Me:  Ooookaaaayyyy...  

Dr. Dentist:  But if it came unraveled in his stomach or, you know, on the way down, it might not come out all at once.

Me:  (unpleasant mental image)
Dr. Dentist:  You might want to talk to Secondo to make sure if, you know, some of the floss comes out he doesn't, um, pull on it.

Me: (flashback of what once happened when our very grumpy, tailless calico cat ate a bunch of yarn)
Dr. Dentist:  (clearly extremely embarrassed now)  Yeah, so, I guess if that happens and only, um, part of the floss comes out, you should call the doctor and see, um, if there's something they can do.  But you know, I just want to make sure Secondo doesn't tug on the floss because that might, um, damage something.

Me:  Yeah, that might be pretty bad.  (gagging)

Dr. Dentist:  (nervous laugh)  I never thought I'd have to make a phone call like this.

Me:  I never thought I'd get a phone call like this!  

After a few more awkward laughs (there really is no smooth way to end a phone call about dental floss emerging from your child's butt), we both hung up.  I was home alone and actually blushing from that ridiculous conversation.  Then, the Mom Mind kicked into overdrive.

See, when you become a Mom a part of your brain becomes irrational, paranoid, and extremely loud.  It doesn't matter how rational, smart, and calm you are before you have kids.  There's no escaping the Mom Mind, which insists a child not immediately within your line of vision is being kidnapped.  The Mom Mind thinks a skinned knee could be fatal, a fever is spinal meningitis, a rash is an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, and a school bus more than five minutes late has crashed and killed everyone on board.

I usually attempt to ignore the Mom Mind and only listen to the rational part of my brain that quietly reminds me I'm not living in an episode of ER or Law and Order SVU.  I told myself to wait until Secondo came home from school so I could ask him about the dental floss before calling the pediatrician.

But wait.  What if, right at that very moment, Secondo happened to be using the bathroom at school and happened to notice something odd?  What if he had dental floss hanging out of his rear end and tugged on it a bit too hard?  
Shut up Mom Mind!  That's totally not even possible!

When Secondo got home from school, I asked him about the dental floss.  I said, "Dr. Dentist called because he was worried when Nonni told him you ate an entire roll of dental floss."  

Secondo looked at me like I was out of my mind.  He said, "I didn't EAT the dental floss!  I just sucked all the minty flavor off and then spit it in the garbage.  Who would eat dental floss?!  That's crazy."  

I am so glad I didn't call the pediatrician or the school nurse.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Son, the Art Prodigy

First of all, I thought about apologizing for neglecting this blog for so very long, but whatever.  I think we can all accept the fact that I'm a lazy slacking procrastinator so let's move on and get to this latest installment of the psycho.

My baby, my Terzo, my adorable little boy with the long, curly, surfer dude hair and drama queen tendencies has turned out to be an art prodigy.  Given his father's artistic talents, this is hardly surprising.  And like all true artists, Terzo pushes boundaries with his work, defying conventions and shattering all preconceived notions about the subject matter of childhood art.  Terzo's astounding gift first appeared when, at the tender age of four, he proudly handed me this drawing:
Clearly, this is the work of an astounding mind.  Let's dissect the symbolism here, shall we?  The two headed dragon (obviously a dragon and not a dinosaur, because the tail has a point at the end) represents Life.  Life is big and vomiting hot lava on the tiny, agonized people below. You could also interpret this as Life greedily sucking the blood, or will to continue living, from the tiny sad people with wings on their heads.  Or pigtails.  Whatever.  The point is, during the period of his life when Terzo created this piece, he had a lot of turbulence.  The stress of attending preschool, not always getting chocolate chip waffles for breakfast, and finally being forced to dress himself clearly made Terzo think about the human condition.

A year or so later, Terzo produced another work in honor of Mother's Day.  Traditionally, children choose subjects such as hearts, smiley faces, or flowers for Mother's Day art.  Not content to confine himself to such stereotypes, Terzo instead chose to take his love for me in another direction entirely.
Yes, his name is hidden for his own protection.  The last thing I need is some crazed art fan kidnapping my prodigy before I get him on the Today Show.  Anyway, this piece is titled Mother's Day Vampire with Unibrow.  Obviously, a nod to Frida Kahlo.  Being five years old is difficult.  Making the transition to kindergarten where the crowds of adoring little girls only got bigger (not to mention the pressure of having the teacher wrapped firmly around his little finger) caused a level of stress that Terzo could only express through his art.  Mother's Day Vampire with Unibrow, like the earlier dragon work, speaks to us about the draining drudgery of day to day life.  Or maybe it means, "Mom, when you forget to buy chocolate chip waffles you are draining me of the will to live." 

Terzo turned six this past year and, as his recent art demonstrates, has clearly matured.  His work explores new themes and invokes visceral reactions from his audience (i.e. his siblings and parents).  The sensitive nature of his latest pieces turned him inward with reflection.  His new-found maturity is shy, causing him to hide his work until he feels his audience is emotionally ready to absorb his latest message.  In other words, he folds his drawings up really, really small and tapes them into little envelopes and hides them from his mother.  Because true art must be revealed to the world, it is my sacred duty to wait until he's asleep, sneak into his room, scan his drawings into the computer, and share them with all of you.  Be warned, this type of high art is only for the truly cultured to appreciate.
This nearly monochromatic human study is titled Hermaphrodite with Weapons.  Or maybe it's a portrait of Ke$ha, I'm not really sure.  Doesn't she call herself "hot and dangerous" in one of her songs?  Um, not that I listen to Ke$ha...  Anyway.  Hermaphrodite with Weapons addresses issues of body image.  This person is portrayed as being very happy to be naked, armed with a gun and a big sword, perky boobs, and testicles sticking out of his/her hips.  He/She isn't only happy, but proclaims to the world, "I'm hot!"  Terzo's work tells us to love ourselves no matter how oddly proportioned our privates may be.  So what if your arms look like flippers and one of your eyes is half the size of the other?  Put a smile on your face and brandish your guns proudly!

Finally, I submit this last work for your artistic consideration, simply titled Nude Kid.   Although Terzo also hid this work in a tiny, homemade envelope, I feel it is important for the world to be exposed to this kind of raw genius.
Now, there appears to be several things happening.  At first glance, it looks like a naked kid with an albino penis is peeing on the floor.  His neck might be growing out of his torso, but his nipples are giving off rays like the sun so he's very happy.  The splash of color here really draws the eye, although the small evil face under the bed (birthday cake?  sink?  what the heck is that?) to the left is rather unsettling.  This work clearly means something unpleasant is always lurking nearby, ready to squash our joyful outpourings. 

I am taking offers from serious collectors wanting to purchase an original Terzo.  His best work must remain with us as part of his portfolio for applying to art school, but because it's only a matter of time before the school psychologist misunderstands my precious prodigy, any future sales of his artwork will be placed into a therapy fund. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Laxative Incident

During Terzo's late infant/early toddler months, he suffered from severe constipation.  He was still breastfed, but his diet seriously lacked variety.  He ate bread, cheese, and those dried apple snacks from the baby food aisle.  That's it.  No real fruit, no meat, no vegetables, not even a sip of juice here and there.  It's no wonder the kid could only move his bowels once a week and those events were marked by crying, vomiting, and wonderment.  Wonderment, because the resulting diaper changes had my husband and me standing around questioning the laws of physics.  Seriously, I'd add a drawing here just to illustrate how unbelievably brick-like Terzo's poops were but no one would believe it.

At Terzo's one year checkup, his pediatrician prescribed a laxative powder that I'd mix into water (or juice, if I could get him to drink that) and would help him move his bowels like a normal human being.  She cautioned me that the dosage may need adjusting once the laxative started to take full effect.  When we got home, I dutifully followed the doctor's instructions and started giving Terzo the laxative once a day.

Two days later, my husband took off for a business trip.  Dinner time rolled around, and I had so little desire to cook that I did the unthinkable.  I took three children out to dinner alone.  Prima had just turned seven, Secondo was two and a half, and, like I said, Terzo was one.  I chose a restaurant close to home, someplace with decent food and a kid-friendly attitude disguised by grown-up decor.  The few other weeknight diners were spread throughout the dining room.  We ate a quiet meal and, as the waitress took our dessert order I began to smugly congratulate myself on my outstanding parenting skills.  My mind wandered into a favorite fantasy, where other diners approached our table and complemented me on the fine manners and exceptional beauty of my children.  "Why dear, we didn't even realize there were children in the restaurant!" they'd gush.

Then, I looked and Terzo and my heart sank.

Red face.  Eyes squeezed shut.  Tense little body.  Grunting.  Oh, the dreaded poop face!  It was too late to do anything other than wait for him to finish and hope he didn't throw up.  Then, I remembered the laxatives.  Would they be working already?  I scooted over to take a quick peek down the back of Terzo's little jeans as he sat in the restaurant's high chair, and the sight which assaulted my eyes is something I will never forget as long as I live.

A stain, spreading nearly all the way up the back of his shirt.  As if that wasn't bad enough, poo began to ooze over the top of his diaper, right into his pants.  Horrified, I decided my only option was to throw the kids into the minivan, race home, and hose Terzo down in the yard. was winter.  Never mind.

I'd have to use the restaurant bathroom.  I grabbed the diaper bag and did a quick inventory.

Not good.  One pink sock, one diaper, three ancient Cheerios, two baby wipes, a tongue depressor, and Terzo's Yankees jacket.  The curse of the third child strikes again.  Who really bothers to leave the house prepared after that third baby comes along?

As I sat trying to figure out what to do with Prima and Secondo while I attempted to clean Terzo up, the waitress returned with dessert.  I had no choice but to rely on the ice cream to keep the two older kids at the table while I was in the bathroom, which (luckily) was very close to our seats.  I gingerly picked Terzo up, holding him at arms' length, and carried him into the bathroom.

That's when the real fun began.  Keeping my ears peeled for unusual noises from the dining room, I stripped Terzo to his birthday suit and attempted to clean him up with only two baby wipes.  Not happening.  I grabbed fistfuls of coarse paper towels from the bathroom's dispenser, wet them in the sink, and tried to clean Terzo as he checked out the exciting world of Restaurant Bathroom.  Because, no way was I going to make that kid lay down on a public restroom floor.  If you've never had to clean liquid feces off an extremely mobile toddler while preventing him from playing in a public toilet, you haven't truly lived.

Listening hard for sounds from the dining room,  I anxiously waited to hear an outraged voice exclaim, "Why are these poor young children here alone?!?!  Call the police and DCF immediately!!"  Or, the sounds of little feet running around the restaurant, shattering china, thrown cutlery, and the insane giggles of children on a destructive rampage.

But all was quiet.  Too quiet.  What if my kids weren't even in the restaurant any more?  What if they were, at that very moment, being lured into a shabby van filled with shadowy, creepy people?

Working frantically now, I wiped as much poo out of Terzo's pants as I could and put them back on his little body.  His shirt was beyond help, so I tossed it into the garbage with a huge pile of soiled paper towels and a diaper that was, quite possibly, the smelliest diaper in human history.  I zipped Terzo into his jacket and hoped it wasn't obvious he had no shirt on underneath it.  I sat back, surveyed my apparently clean child, and then thought, "Oh, crap."  Literally.

In my desperation to change Terzo while psychically monitoring my other children, I hadn't even noticed how unclean the bathroom had become.  We'd managed to smear poo on the floor, on the potty, and on the wall.  Oh, and on my jeans.  Thank goodness for well-stocked paper towel dispensers.  A few quick wipes, and the evidence of our diaper disaster had disappeared.  Well, other than the horrifying odor.

After thoroughly scrubbing both our hands, I held my breath and carried Terzo out of the restroom.  I didn't even want to know what Prima and Secondo had done to entertain themselves during that little poop party.  When I saw them still sitting quietly, eating ice cream and not surrounded by cops, social workers, reporters, and outraged restaurant patrons (not to mention creepy van owners), I felt indescribable relief.

The bill paid, I quietly informed the waitress that someone should change the garbage in the bathroom.  I really hope they also doused the entire room in undiluted bleach.  I took everyone home, gave Terzo a bath, took a shower, and washed our clothes twelve times in hot water.  I vowed never to leave the house without a well-stocked diaper bag again, never to take three children out to eat alone again (and yeah, those vows were broken pretty quickly), and to immediately cut back on that laxative dosage.

Five years later, I'm happy to report that Terzo's diet has somewhat improved.  He'll eat a few kinds of fruit, anyway, and hasn't had a need for laxatives for years.  His bowels are quite regular in that he moves them almost daily.  He also manages to clog the toilet almost daily.  Yes, he still defies the laws of physics.  How is it that the smallest person in our family, the person who ingests the least amount of food, produces unflushable poo?  Sometimes, my husband and I just stand and stare at the toilet in wonderment.  Should we call the Guinness World Record people?  A doctor?  An exorcist?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Magic Trick

During her toddler and preschool years, Prima attended a wonderful daycare center.  She loved her friends, she loved her teachers, and she loved the special activities the center had to offer.

One special event in particular earned Prima's adoration above anything else.  Once a year, the daycare arranged a special magic show put on by a performer called The Amazing Andy.

The Amazing Andy stood before his pint-sized audience dressed in snazzy stripes and suspenders with a top hat over his long hair.  He conducted his magic show in a high, squeaky voice and didn't get discouraged when his tricks went terribly wrong.  The children howled when his magic wands fell apart or his magic rings refused to come unstuck.  They gleefully shouted his special magic words along with him:  "Pink Panther Pickles With Ketchup On Top!!"  

By the way, I spent a good part of the day today trying to remember The Amazing Andy's exact magic words.  I made the mistake of asking my husband if he could remember them and he said, "Yeah, it's 'Abracadabra I'm a Pedophile."  So you see, my husband is clearly to blame for all of the insanity in our family.

Being chosen as The Amazing Andy's assistant was the highlight of many a child's daycare experience, and Prima was no different.  When The Amazing Andy chose her out of a crowd of eager preschoolers to assist with a magic trick, her face glowed with something akin to religious fervor.  Her eyes sparkled and her little body trembled with such joy I honestly thought she might collapse in some kind of fit.  

I think it was the best moment of her life.

That night, Prima emerged from the playroom and announced to my husband and me, "I am going to do a magic trick just like The Amazing Andy.  I memorized his magic words."  

She brandished a magic wand and a rubber ducky with such confidence.  How could her trick fail?  Prima carefully hid the duck under a plastic bin.  "I'm going to make this rubber duckie...DISAPPEAR!"  She took a deep breath, waved her wand in dramatic circles over the bin, and spoke the magic words.  "Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top!"

Without hesitation, Prima lifted the bin to revel in the success of her magical abilities.  Incomprehensibly, the duckie still sat there.  Mocking her with its cheerful grin.

Never one to immediately accept defeat, Prima tried again.  And again.  The duckie refused to disappear, and Prima's faith in The Amazing Andy's magic words began to falter.

So, we did what any decent parents would do.  We helped our poor, sad, nonmagical child achieve her goal.  My husband said, "Maybe it would work better if you closed your eyes while you said the magic words."

"Yes," I added, "and say the words really slowly.  Three times."

Because she trusted her parents without question, Prima immediately put our advice to the test.  Once again, she hid the duckie.  Once again, she took a deep breath and began to wave her magic wand.  She spoke the magic words slowly and clearly, "Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top.  Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top.  Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top."  

Slowly, hopefully, she reached down to look under the bin.


Oh, the joy and rapture!!  The thrill, the elation the exultation!  Prima did real, actual magic!

Who knows where that rubber duckie ended up.  An alternate universe?  A strange bathtub on the other side of the world?  Mars?  Or, maybe someplace a bit closer to home.

Prima tried many times to recreate her one magical moment, but it seemed her supply of magic had run out.  For years, she honestly believed she'd made that rubber ducky disappear and we didn't have the heart to tell her otherwise.  Sometimes what's funny when you have a preschooler isn't so funny when you have an older child who still tells people about the time she accomplished real magic while you stand awkwardly by, smiling, and knowing someday that poor kid is going to be seriously pissed off at you.

Yes, we eventually told her the truth.  She yelled at us.  She might still be a little bitter.  OK,  a lot bitter.  But she also spent a few years thinking she'd done the impossible.  She believed she could make magic.

And you know what?  I believe she still can make magic.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How My Dad Tried to Kill Me. Repeatedly.

You are cordially invited to join me on a trip down memory lane.  Yes, we're visiting the days of my childhood, when a Happy Meal on a TV tray in front of a new episode of The A Team represented the pinnacle of bliss.  When a trip to the drugstore for candy cigarettes and a Phil Collins record, followed by a stop at the bookstore for the latest Sweet Valley High book, imparted each day with the kind of silver lining that we spend our entire adulthood trying to recapture.  That's where we're headed today, only we aren't going to explore those bright moments of childish pleasure.  We're visiting the darker side of childhood.  This is the stuff Stephen King novels are made of, so be warned.

I didn't immediately realize my dad was trying to kill me.  As an adult looking back, however, it's clear he was trying to get rid of me in some way that would make him look totally innocent.  As the years progressed, his methods became more reckless, more open, and it's a true miracle that I am still around to tell you about it.

The first attempt on my life came when I was 12.  We'd moved to a rural area and my dad purchased his first tools of murder:  a rope, a sled, and an ATV.

Looks like fun, right?  What could be better than sitting on a flimsy piece of plastic, being pulled at high speed across a snowy field littered with rocks, no helmet on your fragile head, until a sharp turn sends you flying off across the snow, tumbling helplessly across the hard ground over and over until you finally come to a rest and lie staring up at the sky and gingerly testing your limbs to see if any are broken?  Amazingly, I suffered not a single concussion, contusion, or fracture.  Opinions vary on the issue of brain damage.

When death by extreme sledding failed to end my life, my dad upped his game.  He bought a boat.  He docked the boat on Lake Michigan, probably because a huge lake would be a good place to make a body disappear.  His murder plot this time took on a subtle twist, requiring an iron will and large amounts of patience.  Oh, and a bucket.
That's right, death by seasickness.  You have to admire the beauty of this plan.  If I hacked up a vital organ and puked myself to death, that certainly wouldn't be his fault!  No one could claim he had control over my defective inner ears.  My extreme sea sickness as we trolled along all day, fishing incessantly, must have given him hope that he'd finally do me in.  His gleeful jokes about chum gave him away every time!  I should have known a more sinister purpose lie behind those fishing trips.  Why would anyone buy a large boat, dock it two hours from home, invest in high-tech fishing gear, and then spend weekend after weekend fishing when he didn't even eat the damn fish!   Highly suspicious.

 Not one to give up easily, my dad devised another method to put an end to my existence.  He didn't give up on the boat right away, and can you blame him?  That's quite an investment as a murder weapon.  Even though it failed him in the past, my dad turned to a variation of original murder plot.  He sure had a fascination with using large vehicles to drag me around.

Let me tell you, if someone offers to tie an inner tube to their 28 foot boat and pull you across a gigantic lake, be prepared for how extremely fast that boat can go.  It was the sled and the ATV all over again, except with insanely deep water.  When you are flying along at that kind of speed, like at a lot of knots or whatever, and the maniac driving the boat takes a sudden turn, you don't just fall off.  You hit the water, tumble around for a while, and suddenly realize you don't know which way is up.  There are no clues to show you which way to swim in order to reach life-giving oxygen, which is an indescribably horrible sensation.

Luckily, my dad overlooked the life jacket I strapped on before jumping into the inner tube.  All that overzealous blood lust probably distracted him.  Just as I thought I was about to drown, I popped back up to the surface like a cute redheaded cork, gasping and spluttering and waving my little arms around.

All that failure must have had a demoralizing effect on my dad because he gave up on trying to kill me for a while.  Maybe he thought I was growing suspicious and wanted to lull me into letting my guard down.  I shudder to think what would have happened if he'd known I still had no idea my life was in danger.

I was in high school before he acted on a sudden opportunity.  My dad collected guns.  He kept them in a cabinet in his bedroom.  Now that I think about it, the cabinet was probably unlocked.  Just sitting there, full of loaded guns in case someone (me) decided to try to play with them.  My dad said he only used the guns for target practice and for attempting to rid our pond of muskrats.

One hot summer night, my friend Angel and I returned from a movie and decided (with a lot of giggling) to go skinny dipping in the pond.  The rest of the house was asleep, so we ran and giggled down the hill to the water, stripped, and jumped in and giggled some more.  We swam and splashed and giggled and talked about boys until suddenly a voice floated out of the darkness and put an end to the giggles.  We froze.

There on the bank, just visible in the moonlight, stood my dad.

Armed.  With a really big gun.  A fast thinker, he tried to play it off.  "What in the hell are you doing?"  Like I was going to tell my dad I was skinny dipping.  After I replied that Angel and I went swimming in the mucky pond to cool off, like all normal people do in the middle of the night, my dad had to come up with a reason to have been stalking me with a gun.  "Oh, I saw something in the water and thought it was muskrats.  Good thing I came down here to check it out and didn't just shoot from the deck."

Yeah, good thing Dad or there would have been a witness!

Another failed (and awkward) murder attempt.  The idea of using a gun stuck, however, but my dad had to be patient.  A few more years passed before he struck again.  I was in college, and I can only assume the high tuition bills and my desire to be a useless, unemployable writing major pushed him over the edge.  He threw caution to the wind in one final, desperate attempt on my life.

The date, July 4th.  The time, too late to have much fun thanks to my stupid job at the stupid grocery store deli.  By the time I got home from work, the house was dark and silent.  I changed out of my completely stupid deli uniform just in time to run back outside and jump into my boyfriend Joe's car.  Joe's friend Kyle was with him, and the two of them had some seriously wicked M-80 firecrackers.  Up to that point, I'd never actually seen an M-80.  Joe and Kyle were eager to show me what the firecracker could do, so I directed them toward our neighbor's mailbox.  This particular neighbor was a real jerk, so it was OK.  We drove over to the neighbor's place where one of the boys lit an M-80 and tossed it into the mailbox.  As we drove off, we heard a loud boom and laughed our delinquent heads off.  

Because we lived on a cul-de-sac, we had to turn around.  Joe pulled back into my driveway, put his car in reverse, and then paused.

"Did you hear that?" he said.
"Yeah, Kyle did you light another firecracker?" I asked.
"No, that was a GUN!"  Kyle yelled.

Joe and I scoffed at that until we saw the horrifying sight illuminated by Joe's headlights.

My dad, overcome by murderous rage, rushed out into the front yard, clad only in his whitey tighties, was shooting at me!  In front of witnesses!  Joe flew out of the driveway and back up the street and I suddenly realized what had been going on all those years.  My own dad, while pretending to do cool stuff like sledding and fishing and ridding the world of large rodents, had been trying to kill me!

He did a decent job of covering it up the next day.  He claimed not to recognize my boyfriend's car.  He claimed to think we were common hooligans on a mailbox destroying rampage.

Oh, but I know the truth Dad.  I know.  And guess what pal?  You failed!  All those attempts to end my life, and all you accomplished was giving me a fun childhood!  So ha!  Jokes on you!

*I don't know what the statute of limitations is in Indiana for attempted murder, so in the interests of honesty I'm forced to admit that my dad didn't actually fire the gun AT the car.
**Names have been changed to protect the innocent, and also so that no one will ask Angel if my dad saw her nekkid.  Because that would probably be more awkward than him mistaking us for rodents and almost shooting us.