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my favorite family-mannerisms at the minute:

when anthony gets mad he flexes his entire body. he makes it so taught it arches in the middle as if her were a bow and the string was tied to his heels and the top of his head. his hands travel up his jutting stomach and search the clothing on his chest. he's looking for snaps or a zipper or buttons. if he finds the divide of the shirt, his small fist grab either side and start pulling, slowly, methodically, almost like he were performing a tantric pilates move. his shirt starts separating and as it does you partly expect to see a large letter S on his chest at which point any onlookers would be deep in the stew given his mood. but there is no big S. just a stained onesie. and once you see that and he sees that, and all see that there will be no toddler-revenge on this morning his body sags and he runs from the room only to re-emerge some five to seven minutes later perfectly fit and happy to be back in the mix.

these days if you pass alex as he's coming out of the restroom, there's a good chance you'll see him pause in the doorway, look down at his pants and mutter, "oh brothers, i got pee in my underwear again." without hesitation, he resumes his stride and marches into his bedroom, goes directly to his dresser, pushes his pants to the floor, pushes his underwear to the floor, steps out of both, plucks a new pair of underwear from his drawer, puts them on, separates the pants from the soiled underwear, puts the pants back on, picks up the soiled underwear, walks them to laundry chute, drops them down, closes the small door in the wall and then bounces down the stairs like he had just rounded the corner from the bathroom, interruption free.

if you were to pit bella against a long-haul trucker in a longest average bowel movement contest my nutritiously fed seven year old would mop the stained floor with the truck-stop-diet driver. it's just no contest. this is in part because much of bella's time spent on the toilet is not spent evacuating her bowels but instead reading. as for her choice of location, i think it's simply the quietest cranny of our well-occupied home. most work mornings while i'm in the shower i'll hear her come in. i stick my head around the corner to see her sitting comfortably with a book on her lap and twirling a lock of hair with her pointer finger. 'good morning bay'. 'morning dad'. i return to my shower leaving her to her early quiet time before the tumult of the day. when i finish my shower and pull the curtain back, the pajama'd girl is gone but in the steam of the mirror is often drawn two portaits. above the smaller one it says 'bella, me' and over the larger it says 'dad, troy.'

when marty's last nerve is rung she breaks out in song, of the operatic variety. she belts out in a booming-symphony-loud voice lyrics like "THE NEXT CHILD WHO SPILLS YOGURT ON MY CLEAN FLOOR IS GOING TO GET THEIR BISCUITS SAWED OFF" or "IF YOU DON'T STOP TOUCHING YOUR BROTHER I'M GOING TO MAKE STEW OUT OF YOUR ARM AND SERVE IT TO THE NEIGHBORS FOR DINNER. such performances are rare but when they do occur my ears perk up to catch each and every lyric because of their colorful descriptiveness. the children titter at these outburst but they do so quietly and secretly because they know the singing portends a long day for their mother and if they don't play their cards right, an even longer day for them.

i can't really name my favorite mannerism. it seems wrong to name something i do as my favorite, even for me. so instead i'll name the house antic i do that i'd most like my children to remember from this last year. after removing and bundling an especially large diaper from anthony, if the other children are around, i raise the hefty wad into the air and announce i have a fresh pillow for someone. they can use it tonight. and it's still warm. and it goes to the child who gets here first. i've only got one. and did i mention it's still warm. and i wont' have any fighting. anthony will make more. and if you don't need a pillow it would also make a nice doll's head. i can help you draw the eyes on it.

this ritual is especially good when neighbor kids are over. their contorted and twisted faces just couldn't be more spectacular.




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