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we have a new ritual in our home, although we pass it off as more of a game really. it's called 'everything has a home'. we play 'everything has a home' after dinner. how it works is everyone walks through the house and anything that is out of place gets put where it is meant to go. we start in the dining room and move all the dinner stuff into the kitchen. then we set a timer for fifteen minutes and one parent does dishes while the other moves through the rooms of the house with the children returning wayward stuff to its proper shelf, drawer or closet.

alex loves the game. oddly though, when we're done and doing something else he will come to me and with sad eyes say he wants to play that game where we find things. i tell him we just finished playing and are now doing other stuff. he expresses dismay that he missed it, or forgot it at least, and asks when we'll play again. tomorrow night i tell him to which he says "ahhh. that be too long."

bella hates the game. on the second night of playing it she immediately pushed her chair back from the table and announced:

BELLA
i have to go poop.

TROY
no you don't.

BELLA
yes i do.

TROY
you can go after everything has a home.

BELLA
but i really have to go.

TROY
then i imagine you'll really, really have to go in fifteen minutes.

if bella moved her bowels like a typical six-year old, i'd let her go. but she more resembles a sixty year old man slowly meandering to the toilet with a thick tome tucked under an armpit. she actually takes a small stack of books with her and has been known to be in there more than twenty minutes. after getting wiped and bouncily exiting the bathroom, there's a bright red, toilet-seat sized impression circling her bottom. this red and round circle is why i squashed the maneuver. were i to let this precedent begin, the girl would defecate her way through every chore ever assigned to her. though getting her to participate so far has only been half a boon in that she wages a constant, verbal protest. hoping it would subside with time i let her vent through the first several nights. when it didn't let up i called her to the side:

TROY
bella.

BELLA
what?!?

TROY
bella, we all live in this house and we all contribute to the mess that gets made. this is why we will all ...

BELLA (here bella interrupted my lecture, rolled her eyes upward and bounced her head on her shoulders saying)
blah, blah, blah

TROY
BELLA! you will not speak to me or anyone so disrespectfully! ever!

BELLA
whatever.

i paused. i lowered my eyes to the floor. i lowered them for what had to be a full two minutes. i found myself doing the very deliberate breathing i often see marty doing while walking through the house talking to herself. i asked bella to go to her room. she quietly, almost to herself, said 'yipee!' as she slid off the couch and spiritedly walked away. this was her victory. she knew it. i knew it. but i was celebrating my own, albeit less glamorous, victory of not reducing our family count by one. for those who have either met bella or feel you've got a pulse on bella through reading my accounts, don't think i'm living in a fog. i knew this was coming, i just thought bella would be more like sixteen years old before dropping the blah-bomb on me. so give me a little slack given this is coming ten years early and on the tail-end of a nine-hour workday. yes, the kick to the groin certainly took me to one knee, but the breathing helped, as it always seems to, and my parental arsenal is now one trick smarter. because when four days later bella tried her blah-gimmick again i was ready for it, handling and defending it swiftly and admirably. i just hope i can respond with equal poise when she starts insulting my mother.

JUL2007

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