Become a Fan
Fearlessness, and Dollar Store Treasure Troves
By Timothy Michael Flaherty
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Rated "G" by the Author.
A visit with my family
I have to look at my world as I see it day to day and have come to live my life one step at a time. I was injured at work over a year ago and the outcome left me disabled. This is not the forum I will use to go on and on about my disability. I will add the disability has left me at home with limited mobility. So in retrospect my world has gotten much smaller, for the most part as small as my home. I use to travel over 500 miles on some days, the landscapes and the surroundings I have witnessed at times were breath taking. I am grateful for what I have seen and by God’s good grace I will see much more before the end of my days.
Focus, I have focused on my home and the day to day events that occur. Me and my lovely wife have nine children. All but 4 are grown up and moved out of the house. Our home is a home to a blended family so there never is a dull moment. In my home there can be no blood lines except by the blood of Jesus Christ. That is the only blood line allowed to resinate in my home. So me and my wife are raising 4 kids that still live at home. Our oldest Bethany is 13 years old, then there is 6 year old Rian, and 4 year old Shannon and last but not least William, who in a couple of weeks will turn 2 years old. I have become entertainer, house husband extra-ordinaire to my wife and kids.
My approach to my dilemma in the beginning was at the very least heavy handed. We were forced to live on a limited income which added stress. So I am home with limited fiscal units. How is a man to afford an entertainment budget and still keep burgers on the grill? Answer. Dollar store baby! Straight up you cant go wrong for a buck. You can reach the utter limitations of the imagination with one simple dollar store treasure trove.
It was just a normal boring shopping trip to the grocery store, I really didn’t like to go, you got to battle with the kids because no matter how many times they go to the grocery store with mom and dad it becomes impervious that they act up. All the things I don’t want them to do, the grocery store has become the testing ground. We were on our way, I looked in the back seat to find my 4 year old daughter going over her grocery store checklist. Let’s see there is running about uncontrollably, shouting at the top of her lungs for all to hear, and God forbid the cereal aisle curse of “I don’t like that kind I want that onnnnnnne!” I am the mad man that chases them down while my wife with her white knuckle grip on the shopping cart growls loud under her breath at me, “You need to get them under control now!” “They never do this when it is just me!” Excuse me but I hate the grocery store. It’s my catch 22.
If I try to go alone I will be stopped at the door by my wife. “Are you forgetting something?” “No, I got the list right here.” “ Not that something.” “How many are you going to take, they all want to go”? I look around to see nothing but eyes glaring up at me in anticipation. Like rats on a shipping dock salivating over a morsel of bread that has yet to be dropped. So I have come accustomed to grocery shopping with my wife. We went to the store and suffered through the normal antics, by the time we cleared the check out I felt severely stressed. On our way home my wife told me to pull into a little strip mall. As I parked our mini van I sat in front of the dollar store. My wife said, “Stay here with the kids, I will be right back I only have to get one thing.” “When I get back you can go in and look around if you want.” “O.K.” I responded.
What could this place have that would possibly interest me? After all everything in the place is a buck and everyone knows you cant get diddly for a buck these days. After breaking up a couple of fights in the back seat my wife opened the passenger door and climbed in. As she started rustling through her bags of stuff I decided to go check the place out. Not even looking at me she stammered, “Hurry up it’s lunch time and they will get rowdy.” “Yeah, yeah, I responded.
I opened the door and looked around. First there was the housewares aisles that seemed to never end. And then there was the food aisles, soda pop, popcorn, potato chips, olive oil etc... finally what I have been looking for, the toy aisles. This is where I could exercise the use of my entertainment budget. They had it all! Paddle balls, cars, trucks, wands for a princess, little plastic soldiers, tanks, planes, This place is the bomb!
In front of me was a little guy maybe 3 or 4 years old and he was staring into a large bin of squirt guns. The little guy had on these huge oversized sunglasses and I was sure he probably didn’t know what he was looking at. I looked down into the bin and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. This is it! I quickly pulled one of the peacemakers out of the bin to inspect it. Let’s see, it has an above adequate fill tank , a large air chamber , a slide pump on the bottom of the weapon and last but not least a water cap with a rubber seal. There was blue ones, neon orange, green, yellow and purple. All this for just a buck! I loaded the shopping cart. I got some for my kids and my grandson of course, nieces, nephews, and our friends kids Madison and Grace.
I looked up to find my 6 year old son Rian staring at me. His mouth was wide open and he turned and ran in the direction of the checkout. I turned out of the aisle and found myself shopping cart to shopping cart with my wife and kids. Just then I heard Rian finishing his statement to his mother, “And he has a whole cart full of squirt guns!” My wife just glared at me, I smiled back, “Is this what you really want to get.”? “Well it’s for the kids and it’s summertime and real hot, this will keep them busy”. I felt like a door to door salesman going for the closing line.
Hey wait a minute. I am a man that controls his destiny. I can choose whatever I want with no rebuttal. Am I not the keeper to my own castle? I do wear the pants in my family. Sometimes, I guess. My wife turned up a different aisle without a word. The kids at this time were hanging on to my shopping cart glaring inward, mesmerized by all that bright neon. Dad had defeated the evil fire breathing dragon and the village was jumping with joy all the way to the mini van.
My hero status had quickly vanished by the time we got home. I let William pick out the first squirt gun, and told the other kids “I don’t care how you choose just make it a different color.” After the kids had chosen their peacemaker I took the rest of the squirt guns and deposited them on the table on my back porch. It was a hot day and the kids spent the rest of the day running in and out of the house filling their weapons of glory with water.
Kids were soaked, the neighbors dogs were soaked anything with in there shooting range was due for a saturation. The guns had a pump that allowed you to store air in a chamber which gave the gun a shot that could go out about 20 feet or so. I spent the afternoon pumping William’s peacemaker for him. He barely had the arm strength to hold the gun up aim and shoot. But he could not and would not miss out on the chance to soak his sisters and brother. The battles raged all day until finally I confiscated the squirt guns when William came crying into the house soak and wet all the way through his diaper. My wife stripped William’s wet clothes off , towel dried him and put a dry diaper on. Then lay him on the couch with a blanket. William quickly passed out from the fatigue of having to defend himself while clutching his big blue squirt gun.
After the kids had gone to bed there was my wife Vickie mopping the kitchen floor. She sternly approached me, “You better find a better way to refill those squirt guns because the kids are tracking mud all on my kitchen floor and soon you will be mopping the floor.” Blaspheme! Me mop the floor? Na, got to think of a better mouse trap. I decided that leaving the hose on for the kids would run my water bill through the roof so I closed the gaps a little more and came up with the perfect plan. I would fill a bucket of water and use an old measuring cup that my wife had purchased from, you got it, the dollar store. The measuring cup had all the numbers cleaned off by the dishwasher so my wife really had no use for it.
Backyard battles raged on throughout the days with bucket and plastic measuring cup. The kids learned to refill their peacemakers with timing and precision using the mark-less measuring cup. It was like watching Civil War soldiers with musket and powder reload. It’s all in the timing, the trick was to avoid the line of fire while reloading at the bucket. Some were good at it some were like sheep going to the slaughter they got more soaked at the refill than in battle. William was off limits.
If you want to keep a 2 year olds interest get him or her a water gun. It works longer than Blues Clues or anything the Cartoon Network has to offer So often I am baffled on what activity I can incorporate my son William in that will keep his interest, while at the same time involving his brother and two sisters. I would suggest that you keep the water gun for summer time use only. In the winter you can switch to a potato gun or jelly gun,or even a peanut butter gun.(Just kidding).
August, we have entered into the dog days of summer and lately the heat wave has been unbearable. Close to a 100 degrees everyday with the heat index steadily climbing. It was morning the coolest part of the day. I went out to the back porch and sat at the table with slippers and shorts and no shirt, my cup of coffee in hand, a daily ritual of mine. This is where I look for clarity and fight off the just got out of bed grogginess. I can actually find some moments of solitude providing I have beat the kids out of bed and I am very quiet. Too much noise and you will be discovered, and maybe become the victim of an early morning stampede. Ahhh! The cool of the morning.
YAK! What kind of nonsense is this it must be 85 degree’s already with the heat index in the upper ninety’s. A good day to hibernate in the air conditioning. I went back into the house and was fumbling around with the key holder next to the wall phone in the kitchen to grab my sunglasses. I found my sunglasses and returned to the back porch and that big beautiful CUP OF COFFEE. Yes I do like my cup of Joe, especially in the morning. I was always strictly, a domestic drinker. Always strictly, I don’t think I can do that and be grammatically correct. Anyway we will.
I use to drink Folgers, Maxwell House even Eight O’Clock. Then one day my daughter that lives in South Carolina got a job working at Starbucks. This is the hallowed ground of coffee. I could never afford to budget it because it is so expensive. But it is soooo good.My daughter Dana, you know the one that lives in South Carolina, started mailing Starbucks coffee to me every week. I quickly became addicted after trying many different variety’s. Why not, I is gettin it fer free! My favorite is an extra bold coffee called Gold Coast. Then one day the mail person stopped bringing that nice little box of heavenly elixir.
After much pleading and crying and complaining I finally had become resided in the fact that there was no more Starbucks coming in the mail. Blaspheme! This means I have to buy this stuff. It was so pricy that my twenty year old son referred to it as fivebucks coffee instead of Starbucks coffee. This is what I now buy but have learned if I buy a lot of it on line it is cheaper. And if you buy enough Starbucks will pay for the postage. I am too cheap not to take advantage of this benefit.
Where were we, yes, the back porch,the heat and a cup of coffee and now a pair of sunglasses to help see through the humidity. My 4 year old daughter Shannon stepped outside to join me in the heat. Shannon is always the first one out of bed. When I came downstairs into the kitchen to get my coffee Shannon was already in the family room watching Dora The Explorer. Shannon pushed herself against me and climbed on my lap. “Daddy can you get me a drink”? Without a word I stood up holding Shannon and gently put her down and went back into the house to fetch her a cup of juice.
When I returned with the juice Shannon was now standing on the porch with a stick in her hand that no doubt she got out of the yard. Shannon pointed at the thin stick about two feet in length, “Daddy my stick has feathers on it”? I looked carefully at the stick and yes it had some feathers on it. Shannon watch me examine the stick and said, “Daddy, why does my stick have feathers on it”? I explained, “Shannon don’t you know what this is, why this is a stick bird.” “If you take care of this stick soon a set of feet will pop out then a head and finally some wings.” Shannon was not the least bit surprised, without missing a beat she responded, “Well daddy, what do I feed my stick bird”? “Stick birds eat only leaves and grass.” “Did you find your stick bird in the grass.”? “Yep thats where he was.” “See he was probably eating when you found him.”
Shannon then laid the stick bird on the table I was sitting at. The table was piled high with squirt guns, bicycle parts, pieces of wood from one of Bethany’s wood projects and my big steaming cup of Joe. I returned to my coffee and Shannon started poking through everything on the back porch. I took a deep breath and sighed. Shannon is my little angel but her curiosity always gets the best of her. She is like a mouse spinning on a wheel constantly.
Shannon was standing over the cup measure that was used to fill the water guns. Shannon had a Dora The Explorer doll clutched in one arm with her other arm firmly on her hip. She was wearing a blue denim Jean skirt with a blue and white shirt that had the logo “Daddy’s Girl” posted across the front of it. I thought to myself how true this is. To Shannon I am everything. I save her hide from her siblings and sometimes her mother. Especially when she is poking around in things she knows she is not suppose to go near. On top of it Shannon is the spitting image of her aunt Carolyn, my only sister that I have always been close with. Truly Daddy’s girl. Green eyes, brown hair, barely three and a half feet tall. Don’t let all that cuteness fool you her mind is always moving and unfortunately, so are her hands and feet.
I watched Shannon as she reached a state of puzzlement and crinkled her nose. “Daddy there is a bug in the squirt gun cup.” “Well Shannon get him out.” “No daddy this is a big bug and he might bite.” I did not want to move just then, “Just let him alone he will find his way out in a little bit sweetie.” “I don’t think so he keeps walking in circles.” “All right sweetie just leave him alone for now.” Shannon shrugged her shoulders and went bounding out into the yard with Dora.
My six year old son Rian then stepped outside in front of me. Rian was still wearing his camouflage pajama shorts with no shirt. His face had a big red mark on one cheek that appeared to resemble the pattern on his mattress. Rian was straight up about four feet tall and in good physical shape. This boy like the rest of my kids is very active with dark brown eyes and sandy blonde hair. Well Rian does not have a lot of hair right now, he is growing out a buzz cut we gave him because of the impending heat outside. Outside is where Rian spends most of his time.
Imagine a gladiator if you will, humor me if you can. This gladiator has no horse and runs whenever in the field of battle, or the field of play as it is. This gladiator is very, very loud and vocal, with growling noises to intimidate the enemy which may be the neighbors dogs, a stray cat or squirrel and especially his sisters the evil and undefeated Bethany and Shannon. A stick sword is all one needs to defend the kingdom of Rome. “Hail Caesar” sayeth the Rian.
My wife and I constantly have to remind Rian to quell his yelling and screaming so the rest of the neighborhood can also enjoy their backyard.“Can you get me a drink”? Back inside the house I went to fetch some more juice. My kids had become accustomed to having juice as soon as their eyes opened in the morning.
I don’t know what it is, it’s like they become camels as soon as they go to sleep and they spend the whole night crossing the Sahara desert, come first sign of daylight, time for a refill. I went in to get Rian juice and was met by William in the kitchen who grabbed a hold of my leg and gave it a big hug. Then he stretched his little hand skyward clutching a sippie cup, and said “DAA”! I took his cup and deposited it in the sink. The cup is the one he went to bed with and now it was time for a clean one. I retrieved a clean sippie cup for William and filled his as well as Rian’s cup with juice on the kitchen counter. William stood in my shadow methodically watching me fill both cups with juice. William was wearing his blue shark pajamas and still had his slippers on. William was two inches short of being three feet tall with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes.
My wife entered the kitchen and said, “Watch him I have to go downstairs for a few minutes.” She caught my attention as my eyes went from her feet to her eyes looking over all that she is. My wife Vickie was wearing a pair of hip hugger white shorts and a lime green top. This beautiful woman is five two with dark brown hair, almost black and hazel eyes. Her complection is darker than mine with some American Indian in her blood line. Her friends use to call her “Squaw” or “Pocohontis” which I do as well from time to time. This woman has an awesome figure that she simply and constantly denies to my face. I have heard one of our friends tell Vickie “If I looked like you I would rule the world.” I have also heard my mother say “I remember when I had a figure like that.”
Let me explain something I am a sucker for this woman. She has times where that Indian temper gets the best of her and I just growl and back off. It’s not that I know my place or anything like that. I have come to recognize that in my house I am not the only one that can have a bad day.
My lady may only be five foot two but whoever said things in small packages can make a large impact was right on the money. This woman still utterly astounds me. She is very loving to our children and with each of them held steadfast to the child in all ways until that child could walk. She exhibits much more patience than myself and loves to take in her surroundings like sipping a fine wine.
I remember a vacation trip we once took to Busch Gardens amusement park. My wife Vickie loved it. She slowly took in the whole place and was upset that we did not have enough time to see everything they had to offer. All this without going on a single ride. Sites, sounds, smells that what my lady loves. Each time my wife was pregnant she made the process easy for me to get through as well. I don’t know why but I don’t think I have ever loved my wife as much as I have loved her each time she was pregnant.
Don’t get me wrong I love my wife very much and try to insure she knows that every day of her life. I know that she trusts me. Sometimes I am shocked by the fact that out of all the people she could have chosen to spend her life with she chose me. Other times I find myself in prayer telling God “Lord why does the woman I have come to adore so much know how to drive me to anger so quickly.” I just know God is smiling down on me at that point.
This woman is very forgiving in spite of myself and demands any unresolved issue should be taken care of before we go to bed at night. My wife demands that we have no television in our bedroom. She tells me the bedroom is for other issues. This would explain why we have nine children. What kind of fool would argue that point with a beautiful woman? Yeah, that fool would be me from time to time.
She will be upstairs waiting for me and I will be downstairs sitting on the couch growling lowly in a pool of my foolish pride and self pity until finally I come to my senses and go slinking up the stairs to the woman I love more than anything this world has to offer. Sorry dude. She simply captivates me in every way, and uses it to her every advantage. “I just changed his diaper.” I nodded in agreement.
Bethany came into the kitchen wearing a long flowing robe. The robe had a floral pattern on it which she probably got from my mother or sister. Bethany was tall for her age, five nine or five ten and stunning to boot. She had blonde hair and blue eyes and kept her thirteen year old frame in shape.
She is nothing less than captain “Tomboy”. Don’t get me wrong she likes computer games , contemporary rock and roll, loves to express herself in many forms of art, and reads a lot of books. But this girl can climb trees with the best of them. She is very fast on foot and at times can be agile and quick as a Gazelle. I see her prancing around the yard and hopping fences and wonder if she even knows the boundaries of her physical limitations. With no doubt in my mind I believe Bethany would do well in track or some sort of decathlon sport because of her speed and agility.
Much to my chagrin, at this time my thirteen year old sweetie is not interested in the challenge of athletics. Bethany has honed her skills learning to play the Clarinet, and is in the school marching band.
Because of her stunning beauty the boys in the neighborhood come to call from time to time only to be met by me. I quickly send them packing and make it very clear to them that Bethany is off limits. I know what there rude little intentions are, and I wont be having it in this house so back off you toad of a teenager with your over bearing hormone issues.
The amazing thing about “Laney” as I call her because her middle name is Lane, is this would be the awkward stage of her life where she is growing into her body, not a little girl anymore, but not a grown lady. She is a beautiful young lady. As the local boys have come to discover there is nothing awkward in the way Bethany looks. Bethany didn’t even look up at me she went straight to the frige and pulled out a mixed berry yogurt and made her way downstairs to the family room.
I could hear the sounds of cartoons coming from the television set that Shannon left on to serve her Dora The Explorer needs. I smiled at the thought of Bethany being all she is and without a doubt the ringleader in much of the mayhem that our children cause collectively. She leads they follow. Monkey see, monkey do.
If Bethany is being reprimanded for crimes “against the king” sometimes it boils down to guilt by association, or she did it they watched then repeated that action. Example: “No Rian I don’t care how many times you have seen Bethany fill the sink with shaving cream, you cannot do that!”
Back to the porch we went, everyone had their morning grog and three out of four of my children were now on the back porch with me and a timid little stick bird with a bewildering large black bug in an unmarked measuring cup. Now to the average man you have what appears to be a harmless environment chaperoned by dear old dad in the early morning heat. I returned to my chair and coffee and William climbed into my lap holding steadfast to his sippie cup full of juice just guzzling away, stopping every minute or so for air.
William pointed at the big pile of squirt guns and said “Daa.” I nodded to him and noticed Rian and Shannon standing over the measuring cup looking down at the bug. Shannon had a new stick in her hand. Shannon said to Rian, “If you touch that bug he will bite you and your finger will fall off.” Rian replied in defense, “It will not Shannon that bug probably doesn’t even bite.” Actually this was quite witty of Shannon a little bit of reverse psychology on her brother Rian and her dilemma will be solved. Fearless Rian quickly responded, “I don’t need to know Shannon, that bug has got wings and can fly out any time it wants.”
Shannon bounced back, “Nah ah, Rian he don’t have wings and he will bite, your just chicken.” Rian responded by pushing Shannon, I then interrupted, “ No pushing or hitting!” Shannon looked at me and stated, “I am going to poke that bug with this stick and watch his eyes pop out.” I looked at her with surprise, “No your not little miss, now you just put that stick back into the yard where you found it, now!” At this point Rian tried to grab the stick out of Shannon’s hand and he blurted out “Let go!”
But my little girl was gonna make a lesson out of this whole stick affair with Rian and I have no doubt that as soon as Rian released his grip from the stick Shannon was going to send that stick across many of Rian’s body parts until her loving brother felt the pain and anguish of his very stupid decision, to cross her.
I quickly put William on the porch and stood up. Rian, Shannon and stick stepped off the porch and into the yard four hands holding tightly to the waning piece of maple wood. Hmmmmm. Let us ponder the perplexity’s of this situation a little deeper. I have learned that a child with all their innocense’s in tact strives to find a cause. If they believe in that cause they will defend it to the very end or until some form of corporal punishment or time out has been firmly administered. The process of creating their own identity instinctively never stops. Rian believes he is defending my order, while Shannon believes she is defending her rights from a bullying brother.
William scurried to the other side of the porch and snatched an abandoned Dora doll that had one shoe missing, I believe Dora was wearing her beach outfit. William put Dora on the table and pulled off her other shoe. This must have struck him as odd, everyone knows you got to have two shoes on or no shoes at all. Not to burden the fact that Dora had her beach outfit on with one black dress shoe. Even William understood the importance of less being more in any fashion statement.
Finally William hit the stride where words don’t matter. He was now examining the bug walking around in circles in the measuring cup. Rian and Shannon were still playing tug of war with the stick wrestling back and forth in the yard. I took a step towards Rian and Shannon and noticed William reach in the measuring cup and come up with one hand holding the wiggling black bug, which he quickly flung out into the open yard.
Shannon and Rian stopped in amazement as they both realized what their two year old brother had done. William then reached down and picked up the measuring cup and walked to the table and retrieved a squirt gun as well. The pitter patter of his slippers made their way towards me until he was standing right in front of me holding out the squirt gun in one hand and the measuring cup in the other. He simply explained, “Daa!” I stooped down until I was eye level with my little man and smiled right into him as I wrapped my arms around him for a huge hug, I responded. “Your so right William, sometimes a man has to see through his fears to reach his objective.” “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Later that night I found myself standing over William’s crib watching him sleep. I gently pried the squirt gun from his little hands and quietly pulled off his slippers and covered him up with a blanket and the biggest smile a proud dad could possibly have only to be interrupted by the passing shadow of my wife who was heading down the hall towards our bedroom.
When I came out of Williams bedroom I found my wife standing in the hallway with her arms crossed in Shannon’s doorway with a profound look of bewilderment on her face. As I came up behind her My wife pointed at a whicker basket that was resting a top Shannon’s book shelf. Inside the basket was a stick standing straight up with feathers on it, surrounded by grass and leaves. She asked, “What is that?” I smiled and said “It’s a stickbird, everyone knows what that is.”
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|Reviewed by Tinka Boukes
|Another most outstanding piece!!