Where there’s smoke…

May 29 2012

“What are you DOING?” I screeched at her. “Do you not see the SMOKE?”

My first clue that I’d lost control of the situation was my teenager sitting on the couch, blithely chatting on Facebook while the room filled with billowing smoke.

“Well, yeah,” she replied. “I see it. But you’re fixing it, right? I mean, I can’t fix it.”

“OH MY GOSH,” I said calmly, my eyes not bulging out even a little. “I’m not asking you to help fix it. I’m trying to save your life. The house is full of smoke! Get. Out. GET OUT! GETOUTgetoutGETOUT!”

I chased her from the house, flapping my hen-like wings and clucking all the way to the front door. Zen and the Art of Child Maintenance; I am a master.

My second clue that I’d lost control of the situation was my five-year-old army crawling all over the kitchen.

“Check this out, Mom,” Cael said, wonder and awe in his voice. “It’s just like they taught us at school in fire safety class! You really can crawl under the smoke and still breathe.” He inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly to demonstrate. “Ah! Fresh air down here!”

“Cael! There is SMOKE IN OUR HOUSE. Get. OUT!”

He got out, but only out of the kitchen. He crawled into the hallway where he dallied under the smoke canopy, too enamored with his breathing experiment to be in any real rush.


On this week’s conversational agenda for my family? This topic: WHEN YOU SEE SMOKE, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. You needn’t wait to see the white of the fire’s eyes to MOVE, KIDS.

Five minutes before battling kitchen smoke and my children in equal measure, I was sitting on my front steps watching my little kids paint our house, our tree trunks, our sidewalks and each other with watercolor paints. You know all those leftover boxes of Prang and Crayola watercolors that come home from school all mixed together so that every color resembles a mud river? Except you’re sure that there’s usable paint under the jumbled mess of colors and so you can’t toss those messy trays because that’s like saying that you don’t even care that your great-grandchildren have to clean up your environmental mess someday? Yeah. Me, too. Well, here’s the solution: send all of the paint trays, some jumbo-sized wall painting brushes, and a bucket of water outside with two or more children, and those cupboard-cluttering paints will be gone in no time. It’s the best use-the-paint tip ever if, like me, you’ve totally given up on curb appeal and your neighbors already know you’re a disaster. (My neighbor hands me red wine over the fence whenever she thinks I look overwhelmed, which really only reinforces my negative behavior, so my kids are pretty much allowed to paint whatever they want.)


I was in the midst of negotiating with the kids on the use of our dog as a painting canvas – “OK, you can paint the fur on his back if you promise not to paint his eyeballs or his butthole because a) I don’t have money to pay the vet for bionic dog eyes and b) there are enough things in our house that smell like dog butt without adding paint brushes to the list…” – when my ten-year-old Aden-girl rushed from the house, shoved her face within centimeters of mine, and yelled, “CAI SHOULD NOT HAVE TOLD ME TO MICROWAVE PIZZA ROLLS FOR 25 MINUTES!” And then she turned, pointed furiously at 5-year-old Cai and yelled for emphasis, “YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TOLD ME THAT, CAI!”

Cai was too busy painting his naked belly and, on alternate strokes, the inside of his nose to pay a bit of attention to his irrational sister.

I found her harder to ignore, though, so, with admonishments to my children to stay on the sidewalk (“We know, Mom. You say that all the time.“), I put away the Kindle book I wasn’t reading, and I went inside to check the damage.

I found smoke.

Miles and thousands of miles of smoke and the accompanying smell of an electrical fire.

And a teenager sitting on the couch. And a preschooler practicing his belly crawl.

FYI, Ikea plastic plates that are fried in pizza roll grease on high in the microwave produce carcinogenic (I imagine) clouds of smoke but no actual fire.

Also FYI, telling children to “RUN AWAY FROM THE CANCER SMOKE” isn’t as effective a motivator as real, honest-to-God flames. Apparently, I need to work on my delivery. Or buy a torch to light in case of emergencies.

Also also FYI, this is why a) we don’t take cooking tips from 5-year-olds, and b) we always ASK MOM BEFORE we cook anything. RIGHT, KIDS?

And finally, thank you for your Facebook tips for getting this noxious smell out of my house. I plan to try your suggestions soon since my vanilla candle and cider spice sacrifice was a pathetic failure.


The End.



Greg used to work with a guy who’s the father of four, um, creative boys.

Sometimes, the guy’s wife would call him at work with updates, like the time she found their 7-year-old twins using bungee cords to climb on and off the roof. Or the time she forgot to put the house into full lockdown at naptime so their toddler, the social butterfly, snuck out to visit the neighbors.

Every story was a combination of the horrific and hilarious. Horrorious! And we who had fewer than four children giggled into our napkins and tried not to smirk when the guy walked by.

I’m just saying I can see you laughing behind your napkin.

I can see you.