1. Lobsters. We tried playing Just Dance and building tents and jumping rope and all kinds of active stuff, but my kids were still throwing shit at us and punching us and grabbing at us with every limb. It was like being trapped in a cage with a thousand live lobsters.
2. A barbed-wire fence. Small children do not understand right of way. If I try to walk down our narrow hallway, they form a writhing, clawing barrier that pulls at my clothes and snags my hair and yanks off my left shoe. Every time I want to pee I’m like Tim Robbins crawling out of a sewer in The Shawshank Redemption.
3. The 1983 Pine Tar Incident. If you’re a baseball buff, you may be familiar with this infamous game between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals. If not: The “Pine Tar Incident” is shorthand for a nitpicky, quarrelsome, self-serving squabble. Two kids. Nitpicky, quarrelsome, self-serving squabble. Over the rightful owner of a Post-It note.
4. Bats. No natural light and exercise means the kids’ sleep cycles are messed up—they wander the house in the wee hours, flicking on all the lights. I stumbled into the living room at 2 a.m. last night to find all the lamps blazing, my 4-year-old hanging upside down off the sofa, sleeping with his eyes open. He’s too heavy to lift, so I dragged him back to bed by his ankles.
5. The Blair Witch Project. This week has ramped up all the weird little installations that come with small children: A hundred earplugs stuffed into my shoe. Five hundred Band-Aids drooping off the fridge handle. A whisk and a rolled-up immunization record poked through the safety latch on the toilet. They resemble tiny religious shrines from Native American tribes, an offering made of a stick, a pile of stones, infant socks, 14 quarters, and a few crumpled receipts. It’s like living with a tiny, erratic Christo, except that you are never permitted to clean up.
6. Four hundred and seventy three Harley Davidsons on a New Jersey ferry. There’s a deafening amount of noise in a small, enclosed space, a constant threat of violence, and a few chokingly bad odors. Someone is drinking too early in the day. There will be vomit.
7. A loose fan belt. Have you ever been drifting off to sleep when a poorly maintained pickup truck with a three-legged dog in the back stops right outside your window, waits for an unreasonably long time, and then accelerates? That’s what a toddler cooped up for five days sounds like when you’re trying to make dinner.
8. Remembrance of Things Past, read aloud in five minutes. By 9 a.m. we’ve read eight books, built three forts, cooked two batches of brownies, colored three books, and watched four hours of TV. There is no time to enjoy anything. Even the brief period of peace purchased with Sesame Street is marred by the knowledge that they may be quiet for 30 minutes or one minute. Everything is triage. When I get in the shower I prioritize body parts in order of dirtiness.
9. A psych experiment. In which one group are the prisoners and one group are the guards, which is sort of arbitrary. By the end of a week we have somehow switched places: The boys are rampaging around the house, smeared in lipstick, and I’m tied to the toilet with a whisk and a rolled-up immunization record.
10. Excuses for wine. Okay, fine, they were always excuses for wine.