Here’s a transcript of a typical dinner at our house. Read it as you would read a script. Or a Shakespearean play. If you’d really like to feel like you’re actually here with us, spill a glass of milk and smear some ketchup on your sleeves. Maybe chuck a crouton at someone sitting nearby.
Sam [single, emphatic hand clap]: AMEN!
Tighe: Nate, where are your clothes?
Nate: Um, on the floor.
Erin: He took them off so he could put his turtle shell on.
Tighe: Why is your underwear on backwards?
Erin: He wanted the Ninja Turtles [pictured on underwear] to touch his penis.
Nate: Mom! Why is that on my plate?
Erin: It’s asparagus. Try it.
Nate [gentle sobbing]: But it’s touching my cheese cubes!
Erin: So, move it.
Nate [more violent sobbing]: Get it away, Mom! Get it away!
Erin: Just eat your dinner.
Tighe: Where’d Sam get that bruise on his face?
Me: Uh…which one?
Tighe: The one by his eye.
Me: Yeah, I’m not sure. It was sometime after lunch. I was trying to be productive in the kitchen and he was in the bathroom watching Nate poop. And according to Nate, he “fell out of the dryer.”
Nate: More ketchup, please!
Sam: Hi Dad.
Tighe: Hi Sam.
Sam: Hi Dad.
Tighe: Hi Sam.
Sam: Hi Dad. Hi Dad. Hi Dad. Hi Daaaaaad! [Goes in for a hug]
Tighe: Ew! Get your ketchup-y hands off my shirt! Gross, Sam!
[Tighe mops ketchup off of shirt]
Tighe: What’d you guys do today?
Me: Story time and the grocery store.
Tighe: How’d that go?
Me: Well, we finally got kicked out of the library and —
Tighe: Wait, really?
Me: Kind of…we were asked not to come more than one hour per week. I think the librarian was mostly kidding, but he was definitely getting annoyed at Nate and Sam’s wrestling match during one of the books.
Nate: Uh, uh, uh…excuse me, Dad! Excuse me, Dad! Excuse me, Dad! Excuse me, Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad!
Tighe: What, Nate?
Nate: Uh, yesterday, when I was two, me and Sam…[trails off into long tangent about some kid that he met on the playground months ago]
Erin: I have to interject. First, you were not two “yesterday.” You’ve been three for more than six months now. Second, we didn’t go to the playground yesterday. You had camp yesterday. I’m sorry, just needed to get the facts straight. Carry on.
Sam [arms reaching into the air as he prepares to fall into Tighe’s arms]: Catch!
Tighe: Not now, man! I’m eat – ok! [catches Sam with one hand to prevent him from face-planting onto the floor]
Nate: More ketchup please!
After about 7 or 8 minutes of eating and not eating and moving food around on their respective plates, Nate and Sam climb down from their chairs and plant themselves at the small “art” table several feet away while Tighe and I try to have boring grown-up talk. From there, they crush crayons, beat the crap out of each other, and race – on foot and on their Little Tikes cars – around and around and around. And Nate eavesdrops. We have to whisper. And spell things. It results in many misunderstandings because it’s hard to hear whispers over the screeching, and apparently neither of us is a good speller. “Wait, slow down. Spell it again.” “…N…I…N…J…A…” “What? I don’t think you’re allowed to use that word.”
Soon, we’ve lost our appetites and our patience and Tighe declares it to be bath time.
Tighe: Ok, who’s ready for baths? Let’s go upstairs. Nate! Go upstairs and poop first.
Nate: Uh. Mom said I already pooped today.
Tighe: Did he poop today?
Nate [dragging himself up the steps, followed closely by Tighe]: Fine.
Sam usually hangs back for a few minutes and eats anything left on Nate’s plate and drinks the rest of Nate’s milk while I begin the clean up process, which mostly involves power washing the ketchup off the ceiling and trying to figure what to do with the leftovers. If they didn’t touch the carrot sticks or the green beans, can I toss them in the fridge and serve them again, probably for the seventh time this week?
So, while Tighe scrubs them into a fresh and clean state – in other words, he prevents a drowning and might manage to squirt some No More Tears shampoo onto their upper bodies – I have some recovery time in the kitchen. I have a few minutes to myself, some mental quiet, while I gear myself up for the most treacherous and final round of the day: B…E...D…T…I…M…E.
 We don’t know where Sam picked up this word, but he uses it a lot. Sometimes he chants it like a mantra, readying himself for the day. Or shouts it out just before he takes a swing at Nate, jumps off something high at the playground, or otherwise endangers his life. And still other times, he mutters it with pride or astonishment – like whatever he’s witnessing is the Catalina Wine Mixer.