In general, the moments between 4:00 and 6:00 pm are the most volatile with these two, when they're tired and hungry and seeking attention. Ironically, this is the brief window of time that I get to spend with my children during weekdays. And it's also the brief window of time in which homework has to be completed, piano needs to be practiced, snacks need to be doled out and eaten, and clothes have to be changed for whatever activity inevitably comes next. Of course this is also the time during which I scramble around the kitchen attempting to create some sort of meal-like substance to fill their bellies.
Inevitably there is a meltdown of one, two, or three people in this household every day between 4:00 and 6:00 pm. Worse, Honey often comes home right around the time that I have completely lost control, when my patience has officially run out, usually when the children are covered in snot or blood or cat poo or who-knows-what, and I am screaming in the middle of the house with red eyes and a hoarse throat, threatening to sell them on EBay or make them sleep in the shed. (These sound like silly threats, but really, in the midst of child jackassery, I'm dead serious.)
I sometimes dread this time period every day, which of course saddens me and guiltifies me and makes me feel like a horrible failure of a wife and mother, but we can talk about all that another time. Mostly it's right around this time of day that stuff like this happens:
On this particular evening, things started out relatively calmly. I was feeling all Supermom, perhaps a little cocky as I oversaw homework etc. and tried to prepare a quick meal before our neighbor came over to babysit so I could go to back-to-school night. I needed 5 minutes to get the almost-burnt fish sticks out of the oven and nuke a plant food that they'd both eat, and I instructed the boys to play hide-and-seek upstairs in one of their bedrooms. Supermom that I am, I thought this was a brilliant plan -- after all, if one boy is hiding, the other boy cannot be pounding on him, and the seeking will surely eat up at least 3 minutes, right?
What I didn't count on was that the Happy, who is 2 feet and 50 pounds bigger than his brother, would hide under a blanket on the living room sofa, nor did I realize that when Zippy jumped on his hiding brother's back he would be vaulted across the room onto his head. Of course I didn't see exactly what happened because I was tending to the smoldering fish sticks, but I could tell by the thump-thump-thud and the resulting screeching and wailing that it was at least a Level 8 emergency.
I arrived on the scene to find Happy standing over Zippy, who was lying flat on his back. They were both screaming, but I couldn't determine what was actually going on, or who was actually hurt. I scooped up Zippy and tried to assess the damage while calming him, which is about the time Happy completely lost his schmidt. I don't know if he was more worried that his brother was seriously hurt or that I would be really angry, but he went totally berserk, screaming and punching his fists into his legs and yelling about what a horrible brother he is. I took my eyes off Zippy for a minute to try to calm Happy down because this reaction was so totally out there -- but when I looked back to Zippy I discovered blood gushing from his mouth; evidently when he landed on his head, he bit clean through his lip. Awesome. I really love mouth bleeding! This of course made Happy go even more hysterical, and before I knew it, blood was gushing from his nose, too. A nosebleed! I love nosebleeds even more than mouth bleeds! ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! I thought, I ONLY HAVE TWO HANDS! (I think, in fact, I yelled "Oh, Christ!" -- which is an absolute no-no in our house, but as I explained to Happy later, sometimes Mommy prays in odd ways.)
I hustled everyone into the kitchen -- because, of course, practical mommy that I am, I know it's easier to clean blood off tile flooring than leather sofas -- and we plonked down on the floor. I held a dish towel against each face, with Zippy cradled in my lap. For five minutes that seemed like five hours, I sat there speaking calm, soothing words to my children, when inside my brain there was only frenzy: What exactly happened out there? How could hide-and-seek turn into this bloodbath? How long do I let this mouth bleed before we go to the ER? And how do I get us to the ER if they're both bleeding from their faces? What are the symptoms of concussion? How the hell does a kid's nose just start bleeding from sheer emotion? I felt nauseous and shaky, but I managed to be brave and cool for the two little face-bleeders. (Meanwhile, the fish sticks burned black in the oven, which triggered the smoke detector, which triggered a second round of hysterical crying. I think even the cats were wailing at the back door, afraid for their furry little hides.)
Zippy stopped crying before Happy did, possibly because he's made of nails, possibly because he was thinking "WTF, bro, I'm the one who smacked my head off the hardwood and nearly bit my lip off! Get a grip!" I managed to get two Ziploc baggies of ice out of the freezer, and held one on the lip and one on the nose. I called Honey at work. I put the phone on the floor on speaker and calmly stated, "It seems both our children are bleeding from their faces, Zippy may have a concussion, and I need you to just stay on the line until I figure out if we're going to the ER or not." I know that wasn't a nice phone call to make -- I can only imagine how Honey's stomach dropped when he heard this chaos -- but I truly didn't know what to do next, and I needed his calming presence in the room. (And in hindsight, I think I needed him to know exactly what kind of crazy frigging nonsense I go through here sometimes.)
In the end, we did not have to call 911, we did not need to go to the emergency room, Zippy did not have a concussion, and within minutes his lip was numbed by the ice enough that he was clamoring for his beloved binky. (Thank you, God!) But I was so frazzled by the whole experience that my hands shook for a good half-hour. And I felt sick to my stomach, which may have been caused by nerves, but may have been caused by the burned-fish smell permeating our home; the boys ate peanut butter sandwiches for dinner.
When I opened the cabinet to put the peanut butter away, I noticed a small, old bottle of cherry vodka in the back. You see where this is going, don't you? Yes, I did it: I grabbed that pretty little bottle and tipped it back, took a sweet, burny belt right from the bottle. Then a few minutes later, after handing the maniacs off to my neighbor, I calmly left for back-to-school night, where a friend noticed the blood on my top, and I laughed. A teeny bit maniacally.