Hello my peeps and happy November.
It has been a very long day and as far as clever openings go for this one…
But I can guarantee some happiness in this chapter so that’s good.
The aftermath of the PTA meeting, let’s go.
To catch up…
I reached a new all-time low of deciding to make tea for dinner before going back to sleep.
So the kids came home after school to find a pot of tea on the counter with a sticky note that said “dinner” on it, and me on the couch, dead to the world.
I obviously couldn’t tell their exact reactions to that display. But I woke up against my will not too long afterwards to the sound of someone picking out a repetitive tune on the piano in the other room. The smell of burnt seed-toast filled the air and a slight haze of smoke drifted across the ceiling.
I had only a couple seconds to lie there and hate my life before a scream shrilled from the kitchen. Two more screams added in and the piano playing stopped suddenly.
I need therapy after this. I sighed and pushed myself up off the couch. The smoke smell only got stronger as I stood and I wrinkled my nose. Even as stupid of a problem as this probably was . . . smoke was involved. I sped up my pace towards the kitchen, clearing my throat.
“Guys, what’s going on?” my voice sounded rusty and cracked. Charley, coming away from the piano in the other room, walked up alongside me, keeping pace with my uneven steps. I ignored her, calling again to the other kids. “What are you . . .?” The rest of the sentence trailed off as I stepped around the corner.
I blinked a couple of times, clearing away the bleariness from my eyes and making sure I was seeing right.
There were . . . flames shooting up out of the toaster.
Tiny was sobbing and hopping up and down in the middle of the floor, her horrible hairdo flopping against her back as she bounced. She flapped her hands around helplessly. Penrod was covering his head and closing his eyes tight like he expected it to explode. And Rudy stood on his tiptoes by the counter. Alternating between blowing at the flames and rambling something about combustibility to his siblings.
Then the smoke alarm started shrieking.
I didn’t know what time it was, but it was way too early for this. If it were eleven o’clock at night, it would still be too early for this junk.
I couldn’t get myself to move for a few seconds, just staring at the toaster.
Charley didn’t bat an eyelash, just edging past me and going over to quiet Tiny down.
Penrod opened his eyes long enough to see that I was in the room. “Uncle Micah, the toaster’s on fire again!”
I could clearly see every part of that in front of me, except for the “again”. That worried me. Did my brother own a possessed toaster?
I looked between Penrod and Rudy and the toaster. “Ah okay. We . . . should . . .” I put up a hand and just held it there, waiting for the solution to come to me as I watched the little orange flames flickering out of the toaster slots.
Shoot. What was I supposed to do with that? I didn’t even know where the fire extinguisher was. You’d think if this was a regular thing, Henry would have told me . . .
Charley looked up from comforting her little sister and gave me an exasperated look. She reached over, opening a drawer full of kitchen rags.
I nodded, striding forward. “Yeah, that. We . . . put the rags . . . there.” I fumbled a few rags out of the drawer and went over to the toaster.
Charley sighed and grabbed my arm before I could put them over the flames. She steered me over towards the sink and smacked the faucet on to cold.
I felt like kicking myself. “Right. Wet first.”
After getting the rags wet, I slapped them down on top of the fire. They sizzled and steamed while I unplugged the toaster . . . which I probably should have done first. And there we all stood in the kitchen, watching our smoking appliance. Everything was deadly silent except for the smoke alarm and the wet sizzle of the rags.
“We were making dinner,” Clementine supplied in a small voice I could barely hear over the smoke alarm blaring.
I rubbed my hands over my face. “I did make you guys . . .”
“Tea?” Rudy snickered.
I shot him a look.
“I’m gonna go turn off the smoke alarm.” He scampered away.
After a few seconds, the house was quiet again.
Penrod cleared his throat, “So, did the PTA meeting go okay?”
I sighed and just shook my head tiredly, pushing my hair back out of my eyes and resting my hand on my forehead. “It probably went just fine by your mom’s definition. I am just . . .” I closed my eyes for a second. “Okay guys, what does your mom usually make? What’s your favorite dinner? I’m . . . clearly brain dead right now.”
All the kids exchanged looks in a silent conference of sorts. Rudy shrugged. Penrod looked up at me. “Stir fry is good. We can put it on top of rice for dinner. Do you want me to get out the ingredients? Charley knows how to make rice.”
I was hit by a mixture of relief and feeling like a moron for not asking this before. I just nodded. “That would be awesome, yeah.”
And that night, for the first time, we actually managed to make a pretty decent dinner.
That night, I actually planned on going to sleep at eight along with the kids. The first time I could remember since . . . I dunno, since I was three or something. I’d never actually wanted to go to bed at eight before today. I didn’t even feel like going out and drumming. And I almost always felt like going out and drumming.
I went around from room to room, checking on each of the kids. Charley was already in bed and I just had to turn out the lights. And while I was in there, I got the stupid baby gate put over the window again. If that was supposed to keep her in, I wasn’t gonna mess with what worked again.
Tiny was tucked in and I badly sang a couple lines of “Carry On Wayward Son” by way of a lullaby.
Rudy needed to be shoved into bed as usual. I was too whooped to even take time to bother about the snake while I was in there.
But then moving on to Penrod’s room was a bit of a surprise.
He was usually the one that was all set and ready for bed before I even came in. And he was sitting there on the floor in his pajamas and consulting with Tiny over a piece of construction paper on the floor.
They both popped up and looked at me as I stepped in.
I frowned. “Hey, you two are supposed to be in bed. Tiny, I already . . .”
Oh great, was I gonna have to redo all that lullaby junk now?
“Okay, I know,” Penrod shuffled his papers around and sat up straighter, looking convicted. “We were just making a list for you.”
“A . . . list?”
“A list for you. Of good food Mom makes.” Tiny piped up, scooting over by Penrod and tucking her hair behind her ears. “Our favorite ones.”
“Because I forgot about the notebook,” Penrod added. “Momma said she put all the foods in the notebook and Rudy squirted it. So that’s why you’re so tired and don’t know the food to make.” He listed this off like he was a doctor giving a diagnosis. “So this will help!”
They both proudly held up the multicolored construction paper sheets to show me. Penrod reached over to hand them to me. Recipe names and cookbook names and saying which meal they were usually used for.
I just stared.
Wow. I . . . really should have asked the kids about their favorite foods sooner than this.
I stammered for a few seconds. “Th-thank you guys, that’s . . . really helpful.” I flipped through the papers more, reading the large letters sprawled across the page. As big and scribbly as they were . . . the words were surprisingly readable. “Reallyhelpful,” I echoed again quietly.
Tiny gave a happy squeak and hugged her knees to her chest, looking over at Penrod. Penrod didn’t look fully satisfied yet. He scooted a little closer to me.
“What did they say in the PTA meeting? Is anybody in trouble?”
I snorted and shook my head. “Just me, buddy. Apparently your mom signed up to decorate stuff and I just . . .” I spread my hands. “I can’t do decorating.”
Clementine put a hand over her mouth, staring at me. “You can’t? Ever?”
“Well I can’t do it wellever. I’m horrible at decorating.”
My niece looked like I’d just told her I was secretly a Nazi.
Penrod just looked thoughtful. “Mom always decorates for the school picnic. I kinda know the stuff she does . . .” he poked his sister. “And Tiny loves decorating and doing crafty stuff . . .”
That cued Tiny’s sudden look of revelation. She clasped her hands together. “How soon do we need the decorate stuff?”
I shrugged, “The . . . picnic I guess . . .? Sooner the better, honestly.”
“I can help. Definitely I can help.” She had that blurted out before I’d even finished getting my last word out of my mouth. She nodded a few times, looking over to Penrod. “And you can help too, right?”
“Mmhmm.” Penrod nodded with her. They both looked up at me expectantly.
More help? With the decorating end of things too?
Losing that much sleep had slowed my reaction time and I just stared for another couple seconds.
“If you . . . want us to . . .” Penrod tacked on hesitantly, rubbing one hand over his short, black hair and stretching out his t-shirt with the other hand.
I snapped out of my silent shock. “I . . . yeah. Yeah, definitely! Of course I want you to. That would be . . . awesome.”
Both of them lit up like twin Christmas trees.
“So we can put stuff together after school tomorrow, right?” Penrod asked, shuffling his crayons and paper back into an organized pile.
I nodded. “Sure thing. I’ll . . . be ready for that.” I blew out my breath and gestured between the two of them. “Now you guys need to get in bed.”
“Yep!” Tiny popped up and scampered off to her room.
Penrod got into bed and pulled the blankets up, peeking out at me with his dark eyes. “Get good sleep, okay Uncle Micah?”
I flicked out the lamp. “I will. Thanks.” I closed the door behind me and just stood there in the hall for a second, rubbing at the back of my neck. I looked down at my handful of helpful construction paper again.
Wow. This whole thing really didn’t have to be as hard as I was making it. To more of a level than I already knew.
Maybe working withthe kids would be better than working onthe kids here.
Huh. Who knew?
I shook my head and went to poke in on Tiny before heading downstairs.
I definitely followed Penrod’s orders. That was probably the best night of sleep I’d gotten since I’d been there.
I got up with my alarm, even if it took half an energy drink before I was really awake. I found Cecily’s secret recipe book stash and used one of the recipes that Penrod and Tiny had listed, since it double-dutied as part of lunch and breakfast. Date bars. Something that . . . sounded gross but ended up surprisingly good.
There were lettuce wraps for lunch, along with an extra date bar.
I took some pride in the looks of confusion on Charley’s and Rudy’s faces when they saw how organized this morning’s breakfast was. They were used to me putting on a total circus for them by now.
Well who knew, their uncle could actually be competent at meals for once.
I didn’t explain the change to them.
And in the spirit of keeping things easy and successful, I just gave Tiny pigtails instead of attempting to braid it.
She spun around and bounced on her toes before heading out the door. “See you later to make decorations!”
“Yep,” I waved. “See ya later, squirt.”
The door slammed behind them and I went to the window to keep nursing my energy drink while I watched them head to the corner of the street.
Lunchboxes full of stuff they could all eat. All of them well rested and getting to school on time.
Looked like I’d done my part completely for once.
But after having so many false smug moments, I stayed on my toes for the rest of the day. I checked the baby gate positionings. I pre-made dinner. I tidied the kitchen.
And . . . okay so maybe I didn’t stay on my toes for the whole day because I went down and got a few more levels beaten on Donkey Kong, then drummed in the garage for a while.
I lost track of time little bit because I only realized the kids were home when Charley came and poked her head into the garage to watch me drum.
“Oh jeez.” I popped out my earbuds. “You guys all home already?”
I put the sticks away and shoved up from the stool. “Great. Okay well I got dinner ready at least and . . .”
Charley waved a hand like she was trying to get my attention and I stopped at the door.
She shrugged and pointed to the drums, then gave me a thumbs-up and a nod.
I looked back at the drums, then back at her. “You like my drumming?”
Charlotte nodded again.
“Well . . . thanks. Didn’t know you liked drum stuff.” I edged past her back into the house.
In the kitchen, Rudy stood staring in surprise at my assembled casserole on the counter. Penrod was busy doing something in one of the cupboards and Tiny was nowhere in sight.
Rudy looked up at me. “You made dinner?”
“Again? Yeah, I did. Glad you noticed.” I hit a few buttons on the oven and shoved the pan in. “That’ll be ready in an hour. You guys like that whole . . . quinoa thing, right?”
Rudy pulled his mouth to one side and wrinkled his nose, shrugging slowly.
“Yep,” Penrod confirmed from his cupboard. “It’s very healthy.”
And what more could anyone want from food?
Just then, Tiny came scampering in, glitter nearly coating one pigtail and raining down on the floor as she ran. She sped up and grabbed my hand. “Come up to my room and we can make banners okay? The ones with the little triangle flags. Mom says those are the best for picnics.”
Well that was a quick shift from school mode to decorating mode.
But if she wanted to do it and had an idea what she was doing . . .?
I shrugged. “Sure, we’ve got a spare hour anyway. Let’s do it.” Even a decorating moron like me could cut paper flags.
Clementine beamed and tugged on my hand, leading me up to her room. Which already looked like it had been attacked by a craft bomb. Glitter glue, construction paper, ribbons and squiggle-cut scissors sat in the middle of everything and Tiny plopped down, patting the spot next to her.
“Okay, so we just cut out triangles. Like this.” She held up a colorful triangle with squiggled edges. “And then we can put holes in them to get them on the ribbon for a banner.”
I nodded slowly and picked up scissors and paper. “Gotcha.” I started snipping away, and had almost finished my triangle before I realized Tiny was still looking at me.
Slowly lifting my head, I looked back at her. “What?”
She just grinned. Then hugged my arm, making my last cut on the triangle go sideways.
“You’re a fun uncle.”
D’awww a good stopping spot for once!
Hope you all enjoyed, have a good rest of your week. ❤