Monday, January 16, 2012

Stuck in translation

I teetered down the stairs, my sleep-deprived brain unable to process the commotion.

“Froot Loops need to be careful something something,” my wife Kara said, meeting me at the last step.

Behind her, our son Evan smacked his cereal bowl with a spoon, spraying milk like he was a drummer in a Blue Man Group rehearsal.  The suction cup on the bottom of the bowl prevented it from launching across the room.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“We really need to be more careful,” she repeated.  “I gave him Kix instead of Froot Loops today.  He looked at the bowl and said that it ‘sucks.’  It really sounds bad when a two-year-old says it.”

Apparently, our self-censoring had failed to bleep at least one of our more colorful word choices.  We’ve been so careful to clean up our language since Evan was born, but we’d neglected to stop using a certain word that is just so useful in describing some things, like the Eagles’ 2011 season, Cablevision, the electoral college, the driving skills of everyone but me and you, January 3-31, and what our vacuum cleaner both does and no longer does, because it’s broken.

I couldn’t picture Evan using that word, but my brain wasn’t firing fully anyway, due to the previous night’s adventures.

Just as I’d been drifting off to sleep, anxious to fend off a cold that had been tickling around my sinuses, trying to find a good place to land, Kara tapped my arm and asked the worst question anyone has ever asked another human.

“Did you move your laundry over to the dryer?” she asked.

I grumbled downstairs to the laundry room, my desire to sleep outweighed by my desire not to have my entire wardrobe smelling like Swamp Thing’s dirty hamper in the morning.

Back in bed, forty minutes passed before Evan started screaming from his toddler bed.  Ahhh, Kara’s turn.  Then, thirty minutes later, mine.

“Lamby fell down,” he reported when I stumbled into his room.  Evan pointed to the lamb doll that had fallen six inches to the floor.  I fixed the Worst Problem in the Universe and went back to bed.

“Finally, some sleep,” I said, pulling the covers back up.

“Why’s the fire alarm blinking like that?” Kara replied.

“It looks normal to me,” I said.

“No, it’s blinking all weird,” she said.

Sure enough, the little green light was blinking in an odd pattern.  Still, I couldn’t imagine the user’s manual would say: “In the event something terrible is happening, your First Alert™ Smoke Detector will blink the Morse Code for ‘GET OUT OF THE HOUSE RIGHT NOW!’ with a tiny green LED bulb that will be invisible unless all the room lights are turned out.”

But Kara was convinced the alarm would sound at any moment unless we took action, so I crawled out of bed again to look up the user’s manual online.  But our Internet was down, which is why Cablevision is on the list of things that su – excuse me, things that aren’t that great.  

In the end, the main thing I learned is that whispering expletives into a phone will impede your ability to navigate your cable company’s automated voice prompts.  And also, that the fire alarm needed to be reset in the morning, when high-pitched shrills were part of the daily routine anyway.

With Kara in her third trimester, I’m worried about how tired I felt the next morning.  It’s like getting winded after a mile when you know you have to run a marathon in three months.

I walked over to check on Evan’s breakfast and his budding potty mouth.

He reached out and shoved his bowl, but because of the suction cup, it didn’t move.

“It’s stuck,” he said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s stuck,” he repeated.  Which is what he’d been saying to Kara.  Turns out, we almost accused him of doing something he didn’t do, which would have really su – been bad.

You can blink “GET OUT!” to Mike Todd at

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