Sunday, June 24, 2012

What Isaac and Uncle David have in common

Rachel already wrote about taking Corinna to Washington by herself.  Brian and Kirsti were having their reception on the Sinden side, but the tickets to get there in time were substantially more expensive than to fly out on Sunday.  So we sent Rachel on ahead, and the kids and I followed.

The day before Rachel left, she went shopping for snacks for the trip.  I made each of the three older kids a Snack Pack in a gallon ziplock bag: two kinds of crackers, two granola bars, a box of Barnum animal crackers--the good kind--and a pack of gum.  Isaac ate his gum first thing, swallowing each piece after he'd chewed out the flavor.
Rachel also got snacks for Bubbles.  One of these was a plastic jar of puffed rice.  Isaac liberated its contents all over the minivan on the way back from the store.  Rachel told him that he'd have to clean it up, but it fell to me to enforce this.

After much swearing because the power outlets on the outside of the garage don't work, I daisy chained three extension cords to get the vacuum to reach.  (In retrospect, I should have found one of those quarter-powered car wash vacuums.)  I set Isaac to work vacuuming.  I also gave Matthew and Melissa each a bag and had them put trash in one and non-trash in the other.

Then I went back inside to clean the kitchen.

I checked on them twice.  Matthew and Melissa were making glacially slow progress, which was normal for them.  Isaac was actually taking his job surprisingly seriously, making rapid progress with credible results.

Before I checked a third time, Matthew appeared.  I was cleaning off the table with a rag.  "Isaac got into this," he said, and handed the envelope I had left in the car containing my reply to this year's CP2000 letter.  Now it was empty except for 3/4 of a check made out to the US Treasury.

I freaked out.  I did not want to have to redo that.

I ran out to the car.  I showed Isaac the envelope and chewed him out.  ("You do not open mail unasked!")  Then I set about looking for the three pages of my reply.

I looked in the front seat.  In the back seat.  Under all the seats.  In the trunk.  In the bags Matthew and Melissa had (of course they weren't done yet).  I couldn't find it.  I looked in the neighbor's yard and down the street.  It hadn't been blown there either.

Finally I resigned myself to finding online copies of the forms that I'd gathered and printing out duplicates.  I walked into the house through the garage, cursing under my breath...  and there were the pages, crumpled, in the garage. Blown there after Isaac threw them out as uninteresting, I suppose.

That's life with Isaac.  Casual destruction and a willful disregard for instructions that don't happen to align with his own priorities.

One more example.  Tonight we're in a two-room suite in Bellvue, near my sister Telitha--who, I should add, would find a way to fit us in her house if we asked, but with three kids of her own and under 900 sq ft, it would be more than a tight fit.

So we put the three older kids to bed in one room, and Corinna down in the other.  Matthew, Melissa, and Isaac were not quiet, but they stayed in their room and that was good enough to start.

Then there was a clunk, and Matthew came out.  Sometimes I think he enjoys being the bearer of ill tidings. Or maybe he just likes seeing Isaac get in trouble.  "Mom," he announced, "Isaac broke something."

"Fine. Go back to bed; we'll have a look in the morning," was my reaction.  But Rachel went to see what it was.

"Damn it, Isaac!" I heard her say.  That got my attention.  Rachel never says anything stronger than "darn."  I went to see, too: Isaac had climbed on the heating vent, vigorously enough to tear it from the wall.  Not a welcome sight at all, when you just want to get the kids the hell to bed so you can have some peace before turning in yourself.

This reminded me of my dad.  Not the damage, but the frustration.  Like Rachel, my father is a man with a very civil tongue.  In all my years growing up, I heard him say "damn" exactly twice: once when he slipped while hammering a nail and struck his thumb full force, and once when my brother David pushed his patience past the breaking point.

Sorry, Dad.  Ellis kids are tough customers.

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