Time Keeps On Slippin’

The seasons are changing. The trees surrounding the house are shabby and awkward looking as they lose their leaves in patches, like molting birds. The temperature has dropped, meaning the struggle to appropriately dress the oldest boy has begun. (“I can’t wear gloves! If I wear gloves I’ll look like the dumbest kid in the school!” “How smart can the rest of them really be if their hands are freezing off?”)

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I guess this is a good time to take down my Halloween decorations. I mean, it’s not that late.

I’m not too fond of the east coast in the late fall. The trees that are so charmingly green all the rest of the year lose their jungle-like quality, and everything becomes rather bleak. Not even snow can make their skeletal frames look charming; I maintain that the evergreen- the state tree, animal, gem, and governor of Idaho- is really the only tree that can wear winter well.

But a few days ago, I woke to the sounds of three to six boys careening through the house, and when I looked outside, there was snow.

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Three whole teaspoons of it!

This, combined with the anticipation of returning to Idaho for Christmas and the fact that nearby stores have been selling Christmas decorations since Easter, was the push I needed to do a little premature decorating of my own.

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In the form of one two foot artificial tree and two dollar store decorations.

I don’t really like artificial trees. There’s just something so artificial about them, let me tell you. But I grant that it’s better than just chopping down a living tree every year, and at any rate the middle-south east coast needs all the pines it can get, so a fake tree it is.

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Like a large Christmas pinecone.

Mercifully, artificial trees come with their own built-in stands that require no face-fulls of needles and direction from two other people to adjust, and it even came with lights already on it, which is good because all I had handy were purple Halloween lights.

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I set it up in the corner of my tea shrine, because it was the only free area within two feet of an extension cord. I’ll bet the Feng Shui in my room is really off.

Next came the dollar store baubles.

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Oh. Oh, I have to individually thread all of these? Let me put on the Grinch music real quick.

Besides a few assorted golden orbs I had no tree topper and nothing else of interest, save the lone unique ornament I purchased from the Disney World trip: Mary Poppins. She seemed a little fitting to have near the top of my tree, at least.

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Ah, the symbol of nannydom.

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All the charm of a department store Christmas tree.

The result, while bland, was not completely hideous, and I’m sure it will get better as more ornaments are acquired. It’s comforting to know that I’ll be 2,600 miles away from here on Christmas so I won’t have to stare at it.

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But, uh, I guess I’ll leave these gourds up until after Thanksgiving, at least.

How to Halloween with a Large Number of Boys

It was exactly one year ago that I flew over to interview for this family, and then, as now, I had the opportunity to accompany Mrs. Parent and her three to six boys on their trick-or-treating rounds.

I cannot recall much of it, other than that the eldest boy was thoroughly, completely convinced it was not Halloween, that it was a day early or a day late, and that if we walked outside in our costumes we would be the most embarrassing family to ever embarrass a boy ever.

Pointing out the days on the calendar didn’t help, nor did showing him the date on a phone, because this was all an elaborate trick to parade him uselessly in front of the neighbors(?). It wasn’t until we had bodily dragged him out of the house and passed another set of trick-or-treaters that he accepted to truth, though it didn’t make him any less prone to distrust.

This year, things were different, but much the same.

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A slightly blurred-out picture of my employers’ children in their Halloween costumes.

For a start, we were joined this year by a neighbor boy who is typically very mild and well-mannered, until he is released to our boys, whereupon he is absorbed into the collective and they are all equally wild and unlikely to listen to you, each other, or themselves. The result is the loudest group of four to seven boys you will ever have the misfortune to hear from up to a half mile away.

We quickly fell into an inefficient trick-or-treating routine. Once we were within, say, 900 feet of a house, the oldest and fastest boys would break from the group and sprint up to the doorstep to fight over who got to ring the doorbell. This was usually the oldest, who would get there first. Meanwhile, back with myself and Mrs. Parent, the youngest children would immediately throw themselves on the ground and sob that they never got to ring the doorbell.

While one of us dealt with this problem, the other would hustle to catch up with the children on the doorstep, just in time for the owner to open the door and be greeted with absolute dead silence. No “Trick-or-treat!”, no “Happy Halloween!” regardless of how many times you prompted them to say something.

The words would come out after the nice elderly person on the doorstep (because it was invariably a nice elderly person unused to the disrespect of the modern youth) brought forth the candy bowl, upon which point there would be a chorus of “How much?”, as in “How many pieces of candy are we allowed to take, because one isn’t enough and we won’t be satisfied with anything we get until we dig to the bottom of the bowl to take the only remaining KitKat and leave our brothers unhappy with their equally good but still inadequate candy piece.”

By the time the youngest have caught up the oldest boys are already cutting across the nicely manicured lawns to the next house, despite our prompts to say “thank you.”

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This sure is a nice display. It’s a pity I have only .5 seconds to enjoy it before I must break up a doorbell fight.

This happened for about six houses before I put my foot down.

“Oldest children, if you run too far ahead I will carry you like a princess from house to house!” I announced, because there’s nothing more shameful for a boy than to be carried like a princess in front of his cool friend.

And then I brought out an app called Chwazi, which is the most useful app I have on my phone. Used both for deciding who goes first on a board game and which child goes first at any given moment, each participant places a finger on the phone and the app selects just one winner, like flipping a coin only for as many people as can place a finger on a phone surface.

Chwazi is law in a household with three to six boys. It is Law. I don’t care how many times it selects one boy in a row, Chwazi will be obeyed. Chwazi may one day turn me into its own personal thrall and I won’t even mind because it will have thwarted so many potential arguments between boys before then.

Now every time we approached a house, the boys were forced to congregate their driveway instead of tromping across the grass. The boy who won Chwazi got to go first, and any boy who disrespected Chwazi was forced to sit out of the next Chwazi, a punishment rival to an hour in the stocks.

At one point, midway through the neighborhood, Mrs. Parent remarked how much slower this was, as though dealing with a meltdown before each and every house wasn’t a problem. I’m not bitter.

Underneath the stress of being damage control, however, there was something nice about being out on the streets on Halloween evening again. The kids wore out fast as night approached, and I ended up carrying several children on rotation on the way back. It was peaceful when everyone was too tired to run anymore, and too tired to yell, and all there was was the pleasant hum of candy-fueled excitement.

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Another picture of the children. I think that’s a UFO in the background.