Quick Takes: Fights, Flies, and the Sleep of all Sleeps


My daughter is sitting on the couch eating a popsicle. She has bed head and her glasses on the end of her nose while she reads a book. She looks just a tiny bit like an old woman in her loud floral printed culottes (where did those come from?) and a shadow of dirt on the soles of her feet.

She has cultivated a severely eclectic summer style of dressing, like the royal blue Justice shirt with an attached sequined vest that she bought with her own money at Goodwill. Her brothers have been calling her “The Living Disco.”


There have been times when I’ve thought rearing boys is easier than girls, but for their part in the past week, the boys have striven to keep everyone at the highest level of agitation possible–fighting from sun-up to sun-down. I don’t know how they do it, how there is always an antagonist and a victim, and with four of them, it seems they’ve worked out infinite varieties of the antagonist/victim dichotomy.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of staying out of it. I forbade them from yelling “MOM!” because if I allow it, they abuse it. Instead they scream, “OOOOOUUUUUCCCCHHH!” which is almost always a substitute for “MOM!”  And if I don’t respond immediately they just scream louder.  They so adamantly want me to be their referee. But I’m tired of that game, and I don’t get paid for it, so…

I kept sending them out the back door, and in the very short interim before the combatants ran around and reentered the house through the front, they managed to shoot every one of my ripe tomatoes with an air-soft gun. I’m not happy about it.



There have been a couple of respites. For a short time, I was burning the internet at both ends looking for a swimsuit to buy, because it seemed like good medicine for ignoring skirmishes.

My cousin was wearing a suit sort of like this one from Jcrew the other day:


It was so cute on her, and there were a couple new ones on ebay for half the price–but–and this is fortunate–I’m a tightwad–so I could never get to the “Pay now” stage.



Instead, I put on the swimsuit I already own that I have donned only once so far this summer and took the kids out to my parents’ house where there is a nearby swimming hole. It sounds quaint–swimming hole–especially when you picture driving out on twisty country roads to get there, through cornfields and soybeans–and you wonder at the creative efforts of farmers to find every plat of tillable soil, carved out of a river bank, or on the sides of a hill. There really is no stone unturned. And in certain parts of southern Indiana, the fields come in paisley shapes to fit the curvature of the land.

This particular swimming hole is on the former property of a prosperous local business owner, who purchased it in 1999 in anticipation of a Y2K catastrophe. The property was furnished with outdoor showers, a fully stocked pond, and a barn full of canned goods. People spend a lot of money on their fears.

But Y2K didn’t happen, and the business owner sold his bunker, and went on living in the world like everyone else did. Now it’s owned by some friends of my parents, and they let us swim there. I have to admit that I’m not usually a fan of muddy warm ponds for swimming, but after about two seconds of sitting on the dock with the baby, sweating like a pig because she was hogging all the shade, I had no choice but to get in.

It was one or two degrees cooler than the air, but it made a huge difference, and the kids were peaceful. I don’t know how that works–wars that seemed so worthy of fighting on land dissipate in the water. And I was glad to be wearing an older swimsuit, since later there was seaweed to remove from the lining. Ew.


The other respite was when  the Darwins visited over last weekend. It’s true what Darwin says about “the more the merrier.” Somehow having nearly twelve kids in our three bedroom house was more peaceful than when it’s just me and warriors home during the day.

The girly girls gave each other make-overs, rolled each other’s hair, and even, at one point, put lipstick on the baby (which looked very scary, and was immediately removed). The boys and tomboys spent almost the entire forty-eight hours in a little huddle on the floor surrounding the box of legos.

And the grown-ups stayed up very, very late–not even solving all the problems of the world, though I believe we named them all. And fortunately, the extreme heat waited until after the party.



We finally turned the air-conditioner on last night, which facilitated  a lovely and long-lasting night of sleep. It had been too long since I’d gone to bed at a reasonable hour.

I’m finding that I don’t make good use of the time past 10 o’clock. The later it gets, the more likely I am to squander the hours doing something stupid, like going through a drawer, or deciding once and for all that I’m going to kill every fly in the house.

Every night, it seems like a fly swoops in just as I’m brushing my teeth before bed. And I can’t bear the thought of going to bed with a fly on the loose, threatening to leave the bathroom as soon as I turn off the light, so it can come into my bedroom and buzz around my ear and keep me awake.

If there weren’t still a few remains of last night’s fly on the lid of the Listerine, I’d swear it were the same black fly, night after night, hovering over my toothbrush just to drive me Edgar-Allan-Crazy. “Nevermore! —will you put this toothbrush into your mouth after I land on it with my poop-legs.”


But another perk of air conditioning is fewer flies on the loose. And that means less sleep procrastination.

I woke up at ten this morning and found my kids all hovering about two feet away from the TV with the volume turned down way low so as not to disturb me. We were all getting away with something.

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About Elizabeth Duffy