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Another Evening In Paradise

Holy Shrek Macaroni and Cheese. You should have seen the carnage tonight. It was bad, people. BAD.

John got home from the gym with the kids at the same time I got home from work. He was at the mail box as I stumbled out of the car in exhaustion and walked around to get the piles of crap out of the passenger side to carry in with me. He gave a halfhearted "hey" and I responded with an even MORE halfhearted, "mmph" and reached up to rub my stupid left eye where my stupid left contact had been causing major pain and discomfort and distraction all day long. I shut the passenger door of my car and hit the lock button on the remote. Bryce was still in John's car, shoving the flash cards du jour between the window and the black foamy insulation. He wasn't looking at me, just at the cards. I stood there for a second, then gave up and walked inside. I heard Quinn's moaning whine from the other side of John's car, quickly giving way to legitimate screams. Great, I thought. THIS is starting off well. Just as I stopped to turn around, John joined me from the mailbox, rolled his eyes, sighed, and muttered, "he peed in his pants at the kids' area in the gym." Quinn really piped up now, "I CAN'T DO IT! I NEED MY BOOTS... ON!" In the voice that suggested he'd already HAD this conversation, John said, "your socks are all wet, and that's why your boots won't go on. I told you that earlier - that's why you weren't WEARING your boots." Quinn adamantly limped up to us, boots shoved over his urine-soaked athletic socks, his toes only reaching the mid-way point of the shoe, leaving his ankles and heels half way up the legs of the boots. Bryce started chanting about Quinn peeing in his pants. I told him to stop and walked inside.

I started changing clothes and heard John tell Quinn he needed to go upstairs and remove his wet clothes and get dressed for dinner. But I'm HUNGRY! - Well then go change. - And then I can eat!? - Sigh. Yes. - But I'm hungry RIGHT NOW! Finally I heard three-year-old pouty muffled steps on the carpeted stairs. I thought it was time for everything to turn around. John had dinner ready in the crock pot, after all. Quinn's monitor violently shook with his next sounds: screaming mixed with whining mixed with growling, "I CAN'T DO IT!" He dresses himself every day. I know he's capable. This was a power play, he wanted to draw us in. I went to the bottom of the stairs and calmly looked up at him, writhing and slapping his stomach for emphasis about how very impossible it was to put on his own clothes. Without raising my voice, I said, "when you're ready to eat dinner, you can get your clothes on and come down." I walked away. He protested violently, but stayed in one spot so as not to make any of us think he was going to go anywhere he didn't want to. He had nothing to stomp or hit but himself, and so he did. He slapped his stomach and jumped with all of his (quite noteworthy) force, and he screamed until his face was literally magenta. He "needed help," he "couldn't do it," it "was too hard." His face and vocal chords were raw from tears and unabashed roaring.

I removed him from the top of the stairs and took him to his room for time out, told him it was unacceptable to scream at us. If he wanted to ask for help, he could use a normal tone of voice, but until then, he needed to sit in his room. When I turned to leave, he chased me and grabbed my thigh and begged me to stay, sobbing. Thinking about it now, I feel like a schizophrenic, because that's how I felt when it was happening. 1.) He is manipulating me. 2.) He misses me, I don't get much time with him. 3.) He's extremely tired and doesn't even know what he wants right now. 4.) End this. Help him get his stupid shirt on. Give in already. 5.) Giving in will make this situation unfold into further and more horrifying depths of hell for the next two weeks. Pry his hands from your thigh and walk away. 6.) He sees your hesitation, slowpoke. Make a decision. 7.) Too late. He's already won. 8.) There are no winners here. He's sobbing and you feel like pure evil. 9.) He's really cute. 10.) He didn't try to hit me, that seems like a step in the right direction. 11.) Okay, now you're really reaching. The kid has been reeling you in from the second you pulled into the driveway. 12.) Of course he has. He's three. That's what he does.

Somehow through all of that frustration / heartbreak / hilarity / anger, Quinn and I worked out a compromise resulting in his being dressed and walking, sniffling, downstairs with me for dinner. My blood pressure had just returned to normal when he spotted his plate of food and the hysterics started up again. Why did you make SHREK Lak-a-loni Cheese? I wanted SPIDERMAN WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! While pretending to ignore this, I dumped half the container of pepper onto my salad (lovingly chopped by John, the patient spouse who accepts my nit-picky quirks as if they're completely normal, like when I answer the question, "do you want tomato slices or wedges?" with "what?! SIGH. I want the tomatoes chopped, if I'M choosing; the smaller the better when it comes to raw vegetables...so wedges and slices are all the same to me." and I subsequently come to the table with a plate full of finely chopped tomatoes instead of what I really deserve, a whole, unwashed tomato with a knife stabbed to a cutting board with a note saying, "so, slices or wedges, then?" Note to John: Thanks. (But don't get any ideas about notes and cutting boards.)). Something about the pepper shaker or the salt being almost empty caught Quinn's attention and he stopped screaming about the injustice of ill-conceived macaroni.

The table was peaceful for five minutes. Then Bryce started spitting out his food as if it were poison. "Bryce, stop it!" I scolded him. He broke down and started defending himself with screams of justification about how he'd encountered a BIG BITE, and we all know he doesn't LIKE big bites, and because we all know this, it is perfectly acceptable, even commendable, for him to spit out said BIG BITES, because unless BIG BITES are BIG BITES of pizza or donuts, they are like poisonous bites, bites that will no doubt block all air to his brain and KILL HIM, HELLO!

We got past the big bite fiasco and he asked for a banana after dinner. John offered him the half that he'd already cut up for the wrap Bryce chose not to eat, but THAT WOULD NOT DO. Bryce wanted a "banana with a top, a middle, and a bottom" FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. When I told him to go upstairs until he was ready to stop screaming about it, he jumped, laughed maniacally, and ran away from us to begin his admirable attempt at drawing us into his psychosis. In between the trips where we were literally chasing him down (during one of which trips John ended up locked in Bryce's room - and you thought I was exaggerating!) we noted that the kids seem to have this brilliant knack for noticing when things are approaching normalcy: when one of them needs a break from the crazy-making, the other one steps up. (They're a great team, uh-huh.)

After that, it's kind of a blur. I know there were baths administered and the kids ended up in bed after dozens of trips to the door to demand water or a different parent or ransom money or daylight, but right now all I'm thinking is we only have 24 hours to prepare for the next round.

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