I love my nephews K & D. I really do. This is a mantra I say to myself sometimes when I’m standing in the middle of my sister’s kitchen, seemingly surrounded by four times as many kids as are actually there, and wondering…What did I get myself into?
K & D are growing boys. Meaning, they’re getting older – not the Teflon-coated cute of baby/toddlers anymore – and they are boys. Two of them. Tag-teaming me.
Or at least that’s what it feels like when I arrive at my sister’s house bright and early one recent Monday they had off from school. Both boys are out of bed and gathering up their accoutrements of little boy-dom barely before I have my coat off. Coco the Chocolate Lab retreats from trying to climb all over me and meekly wags her tail on the far side of the kitchen.
Yes, we’re in this together.
D. is not yet interested in breakfast. He shows me a wad of cash that he keeps binder-clipped in the living room (so he can fan out all those singles to impress me, obviously), and a mysterious case. It is full of approximately 4 million teeny tiny colored rubber bands, which, on sight, recall unpleasant memories of my years in braces. D. asks to see my wrist as he is going to make a bracelet for me out of these rubber bands.
I get to pick the colors. These ones are scented. Do I want a bracelet that smells like watermelon, berries, or an approximation of those fragrances as rendered in a far east factory? I comment that it is amazing how they smell, and opt for non-scented.
Soon I have a black and purple twisty rubber bracelet on my wrist. Why do I feel like I’ve just been tagged by the proprietor of Thunderdome?
No sooner am I tagged than D. drags out a contraption that requires the breaking of perfectly good crayons to be melted down into odd color combos. He sets the box on the white living room carpet and begins unpacking it. My bracelet is not too tight for me to assert my role as the local adult and I relocate the contraption to the kitchen counter.
While I prepare breakfast to order, the smell of burning fills the kitchen. The franken-crayon smelter is ready, and I admit that it is kind of fun to turn the lever that pours hot wax into new-crayon molds.
~Intermission. They eat, I read the newspaper. D. asks me if I’d like to listen to soft music that he will cue up on his Ipad mini.~
The big activity for today is planning, shopping for, then cooking dinner. We begin to brainstorm meal ideas, which I am obliged to take down in franken-crayon. K. wants to Google “food” and D. wants to ask Siri what we should have for dinner.
In the end, it’s a brief, kid-inspired list: Tacos or Sloppy Joes. I prefer the former, but am out-voted. We will make Sloppy Joes. (Though a dedicated and fearless foodie, there is a very short list of foods I won’t eat: Lima beans, Spam, and loose meat in any kind of sauce. Sigh.)
While Nickelodeon casts its spell, I check the kitchen pantry and make the grocery list for making Sloppy Joes from scratch (or, at least not from a can).
We go through the grocery store in record time. I get my foot run over by the cart only once, and am pleased that they opt to donate our leftover budget to the foodbank instead of buying candy and gum in the checkout lane.
Tom Brady then ruins any prospect of having a civil lunch. While I’m in the kitchen putting away groceries and preparing our midday meal, a melee erupts in the living room. K & D are at odds over a ‘traded’ football card. As in, one that D. did trade to K., without fully understanding what that meant.
Take-back negotiations are not going well. My disinterest in Tom Brady is turning into active distaste. There is now much strife and disaster in the house, thanks to The Tom Brady Gold Card. My solution? I demand to be given every Tom Brady football card, and place the cards on a high shelf. Yes, I am passing the buck to my sister and her husband.
Both boys end up in their rooms for a short spell. One by choice, one by adult command. Lunch is eventually eaten.
A post lunch game of Bananagrams (rules loosely-followed) keeps the boys occupied while I catch up on some writing work. I am periodically called upon to check spellings. I am impressed that both boys’ vocabularies are growing, and that D. is able to sound out so many new words. He asks me to proof read what he says is ‘Horse.”
Hose (spelled out in tiles.)
I don’t want to fix it for him, but say, “That is a word, but it’s not ‘Horse.’ You need to work on the part after the ‘o.’” He shuffles tiles and asks me to look again.
Hoes. Hmmm. That is a word, too, but still not ‘Horse.’
After the obligatory Wii session, I beg off (flee) to start dinner. I am going to make Sloppy Joes, and I am going to eat it because that’s what the boys want. D. dumps the ingredients into the pan with the ground meat, and everything simmers. (Just like the name “Tom Brady” during the entire afternoon.)
My brother-in-law arrives home and resolves the football card issue by telling D. that the Tom Brady card in question isn’t worth anything. D. agrees to stand by the trade and K. keeps the card. I wonder what Tom Brady would think of that?
I am pleasantly surprised that I like these Sloppy Joes. Everyone does – the boys eat up, and my sister asks for the recipe. Yes, I will eat it again. But don’t ask me to do it while watching the New England Patriots.