Minecraft, Soap Opera Mod.

“You know, I bet you and the kids would really love Minecraft, as much as y’all are into Lego.”

This sentence, spoken by a very naïve version of myself sometime last year, solely goes to prove that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a LIE.

Since that day, my children have been continuously and absolutely obsessed with Minecraft. I put it on their iPads, and they were infinitely sucked into the vortex of Creepers and Item Frames and spawning Sheep. Noah wakes up asking to play Minecraft. He goes to bed telling me about the over-underworld (whatever that is.) They check out Minecraft library books to hone their skills. And all this is despite the fact that they only get an hour of screen time a day.

(On most days. Unless I need them to have more.)

I wanted to understand – I really did – so I put it on my iPhone as well and attempted to learn. But it was just mindless building for me, as is Lego.

(Apparently all of the structural genes are passed down through their structural engineer father.)

I watched them play, I watched them build, I watched them explore their worlds. I knew there was a way for them to interact with others through the game, but I made sure that option was turned off. To them, it was simply a free-play building game. And a game that you could hit a sheep a few times and watch him die. And burn villages down. And put villagers in a box in a hole. Their deviant side definitely showed through in their Minecrafting.

“Look Mom! I just burned an entire village up with lava!”

If a child’s inherent goodness can be determined by how they treat their Minecraft Villagers, it might be safe to go ahead and lock my kids up for life.

Every night at bedtime, they wanted a few minutes of quality snuggling time – with us and Minecraft. I typically cuddle with Noah, and Chris with Ali. Sometimes we even watch Minecraft YouTube videos – because there’s nothing more exciting than watching videos of other people playing a game I don’t get.

But I love my children. So whatever.

One night last week, Noah, Chris and I were laying in bed doing the Minecraft-before-bed routine. Chris was about to get up and go in Ali’s room when some words popped up on Noah’s screen that we had never seen before.

“Stella has entered the game.”

“Whoa whoa whoa! Who’s Stella??”

Noah said, “I don’t know. Oh look! There’s Stella!!”

A Minecraft girl walked up and got right in his face, with the name “Stella” floating above her head. This was no ordinary villager.

Chris and I looked at each other, wide-eyed.

“I thought you said they couldn’t interact with other people!”

“I didn’t think they could! I have all that disabled!”

“Oh look! Stella built me that item frame! Isn’t that nice??”

Okay who is this creepy girl named Stella and how did she get in my son’s iPad.

“Have you ever seen Stella before?”

“I don’t think so…”

“Lemme see your settings.”

Multiplayer was off…LAN was off…WHO. WAS. STELLA.

“Baby I know you love Minecraft but until we can figure out how Stella is getting into your game, we need to quit playing.”

I closed him out of Minecraft and Chris and I sat there, confused.

At that moment, Ali walked into the bedroom, her iPad in hand, looking confused herself.

“Hey Mommy I was just playing Minecraft and I got this weird world option that said ‘Steve’ and then I got kicked out.”

“Wait a minute.”

“Do you have a different Minecraft name?”

“Yeah…it’s Stella…”

Stella was not some extremely creepy old lady hacking into our son’s iPad. Stella was our daughter.

Chris and I breathed again, and I remembered reading something about sharing worlds if you’re on the same wi-fi. I was surprised that it had taken this long for this happy accident to occur, but the children, as it dawned on them what had happened, were elated.

Ali jumped in bed with us and went back to Steve’s world and they began giggling like Junior High girls at 2am at a sleepover.

They hit each other on the head.

They went into each other’s heads.

They built things.

They killed things.

They screamed with glee.

Noah, in a high-pitched loving voice, began referring to Ali as “Miss Stella.”

“Where’d you go, Miss Stella? What are you doing, Miss Stella? You look so silly with a Creeper Head on, Miss Stella!!”

And Ali referred to Noah as Steve.

Chris and I listened to their adorable bonding and jubilance at their game gaining a whole new dimension. It was one of those moments as parents – the kind that you truly, actually savor and treasure.

(Not just the ones that the little old ladies at the mall tell you to treasure when your toddler is pitching a fit and your kid is asking twenty questions a minute. That kind is not treasured at all. You’d just like to treasure the moment of hitting the little old lady over the head with your fifty pound diaper bag.)

The next day was a rain-all-day kind of day, and it was Spring Break, so I decided to forego the hour-of-iPad a day rule and allow my children to fully enjoy their new bonding experience. It was just as adorable as I’d imagined – more “Miss Stella”s and “Steve why are you wearing a pumpkin??”s and them sitting squeezed up against each other on the couch giggling at their hilarious game.

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Of course, this only added to their addiction issues and the beggings for extra iPad time intensified.

And, by the fourth day, I walked into the room to Noah saying,

“Stella’s burning my house down!!”

“Well Steve killed my Ocelot kittens!!!”

And I knew we were back to normal sibling behavior.

But the budding friendship of Stella and Steve is a memory I’ll treasure forever – because they grow up way too fast, you know.

On Oldies and Parenthood.

As a kid, I remember my parents singing us the oldies.

My mother had goofy taste – her favorite lullabies included She wore an itsy bitsy teeny tiny yellow polka dot bikini and Yellow Submarine and Puff the Magic Dragon.

(Not sure what my Mom was doing during the sixties and seventies but really it’s best not to ask.)

My Dad liked the sappy sentimental singers – Cat Stevens and James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel. Cat’s in the Cradle was my dad’s jam. Still is.

(Although when he found out I could play anything on Spotify, he did ask me to find In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. So I’m not too sure about his adolescence, either.)

As my parents before me, I find myself often singing the songs of my youth to my children. SURELY they’re not oldies. I mean it was just a couple of years ago when Radiohead released Creep, right? Not that I’d ever sing Creep and in reference to one of my children.

Ever.

Maybe.

But on an unrelated note it’s really easy to change out the lyrics from I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo to you’re a creep, you’re a weirdo.

But at least I’m not singing Beck’s Loser to them. Right?

Anyway.

I often find that the Oldies of my generation, whether or not I actually listened to those particular songs at the time, apply greatly to my life now.

…When one of my children passes gas, I can’t help but sing The Cranberries Linger.

Do you have to, do you have to let it linger…

…Avril Lavigne’s Complicated comes up a lot, too. Because kids always gotta go and make things so complicated.

Noah can sing Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get what you Want because I’ve sung it to him so many times.

…Oops! I Did it Again is my excuse line when I take too much Mommy Tax and they express outrage at the over-taxation.

The list is endless, really.

But I’ve found that with many of Noah’s endeavors, Jump Around by House of Pain usually applies.

Such as the other day, when he was using his cape to go flying…

(I did a bit of photo magic from this video for him afterward. He’s kind of in love with himself in this picture.)

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And last summer, when he was jumping over his Uncle Leo, the same song applied…

But the most applicable song to parenthood, SO MUCH of parenthood, is this clip from the really awful song Up in Here by DMX really. It describes the act of raising little humans better than anyone ever has before.

Every parent needs that song clip cued up for daily play.

What songs are the soundtrack to your parenthood?

The Perils of Standing Up.

It took weeks of parental foot-putting-down for us to convince Noah to stand up to pee.

He liked sitting down just fine and saw no reason to stand, thank you very much. Lazy peeing is good peeing.

And finally, when out of sheer obedience he would stand, he would inch closer and closer to the toilet until his thighs were front-hugging the toilet in a most uncomfortable-to-watch level of familiarity.

I prayed against so many toilet façade germs during those weeks of bowl-sidling, but was, I suppose, somewhat grateful that there was NO WAY the kid could possibly miss the toilet. Because when giving a thigh massage to a toilet, one cannot have bad aim.

So there’s that.

But eventually he moved on from his intimate relationship with toilet bowls and seemed to have a decent relationship with the the act of urination – there was no toilet contact, and his aim was 99% accurate. I felt like I had succeeded in training him up in the way that he should go.

Until last Thursday night.

Noah and I had just arrived at small group at a friend’s house – Chris and Ali were coming separately after stopping by the store. Things didn’t start out well for Noah. We walked in the door, and his very-excited three-year-old friend Abigail ran around the corner, screaming Noah’s name.

Ever the dainty little lady, she tackled him with the power of an Alabama National Championship Linebacker in the hug of the century. He immediately fell backward onto the floor, at which point the gigantic dog, a creature that Noah carefully crafts his life around avoiding, jumped on top of the poor child and began licking his face.

I sifted through the dogpile of dog and Abigail to rescue my flattened son, then safely delivered him to a chair.

Where Abigail followed.

“I’m going to color you a picture, Noah! Look! Coloring!”

…At which point Abigail’s older sister, Caroline, came in and abruptly pointed out that the picture in question was her picture and it was not to be colored on by smaller hands nor given to houseguests.

This was an altogether devastating turn of events for Abigail, and in the same passion with which she had she greeted Noah, she wailed her sorrow into our ears over her lack of coloring muse.

Noah and I quickly exited the room to give her some space.

I found a quiet spot in the living room, and Noah headed to the bathroom.

A few minutes later, more friends arrived for small group. Passing by the bathroom on their way to the living room, they were able to detect faint calls that sounded like my son.

“Noah’s calling for you.”

I got up and walked toward the door skeptically.

“No, he’s calling for Daddy. Which means he doesn’t really need me – he just wants Chris to wipe his butt because Chris will and Noah knows I’m retired from the butt-wiping business.”

But, to end the nonstop yells for Daddy, who was not even there, I opened the bathroom door.

And I stared.

Words formed, but they couldn’t leave my lips.

Then they did.

“HOLY CRAP okay he does need me.”

Noah turned his head toward me from where he was standing in front of the toilet, and offered explanation.

“I had to tee-tee and I had to poop too and I tried to keep my bottom closed while I tee-teed….but it all just came out.”

And out indeed had it come. He was on his last of ten days of antibiotics, which always gives him a healthy dose of what he refers to as “water poops.”

Except in the case of what was in front of me at that moment, it was more like Fifteen Cans of Hormel Chili Poops.

It was like a blender set on liquify and left on all day. With the lid off.

It was like a Hershey’s Factory caught in a heat wave.

It was a Venti Mocha Crappuccino with an extra shot.

It was on his legs. On his pants. On his feet. There were three separate piles on my friend’s bathroom floor. And there appeared to be a freshly formed river flowing through all of the crevices of his underwear.

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It’s definitely one of those moments in life where you don’t know exactly where to start. But you know that the only way you’re going to accomplish the task at hand is to just pick an area and start rowing.

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I chose the floor, since it was the one thing affected that did not belong to me.

But first, I needed proof of what I was about to do on behalf of Chris, the parent that had actually been summoned to the scene. So I took a picture. A picture that I will not show you. Because it is an image that I will see every time I walk into my friend’s bathroom for the rest of my life and you do not need to carry that burden.

But it was roughly like…

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I grabbed some toilet paper and began trying to sop up the piles of butt pudding coating the floor.

Noah took exception to my strategies. “Mom!! It’s on my feet!!’

“It’s on EVERYTHING, son. I’m getting to it.”

Then he became paranoid about the situation becoming more complicated. “Mom!! Don’t put so much toilet paper in the toilet! It’s going to STOP UP!”

“Well can you reach it to flush?”

He carefully leaned forward and began flushing the toilet after every other wipe-and-dump.

(Sorry, dear homeowners, if your water bill is high this month. And also I owe you a roll and a half of toilet paper. And a new house.)

I removed defecation from the floor and pertinent parts of Noah, then carefully had him swivel and get up on the toilet so that I could get to the fronts of his legs and his pants.

And I was traumatized all over again.

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When I got the full picture of that Hungarian Goulash dripping from every inch his garments, I nearly lost my ability to parent. Ever. Again.

Then I took another picture.

My next order of business was containing his underwear river before it got turned sideways and became a waterfall.

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I took the trash bag out of the trash can and carefully shimmied it up and over Noah’s pants, praying to God for protection of my hands. Then I removed the tragedy and tied up the trash bag.

Only later, after Noah was happily asleep, did I wonder what pants I had thrown away. Were they new? Old? Did they fit? Were they too small?

But it didn’t matter in the moment. They could have been Gold-Encrusted hand-me-downs from Prince George himself and I would have tossed them without a thought. The only thing that mattered in that moment is that the wasteland formerly known as clothes be contained in airtight plastic.

As I was performing this delicate operation, Noah said, “I’m so sad. I want to be playing right now.”

I looked up from squeegying poo off of his legs and felt sorrow for him.

For just a second.

But then I remembered that I was in the process of squeegying poo that did not belong to me.

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Meanwhile, Chris and Ali showed up. Since we put our kids to bed at small group, this meant that I now had someone to yell for to get Noah’s pajamas and fresh underwear out of his bag. And also find some cleaning supplies.

Chris came with clothing and Clorox wipes. I yelled for him to leave them outside the door. The scene was so bad that I simultaneously didn’t want to have to subject him to it (except via picture, later) and I felt the need to yell for him to hear me through the lava filling the bathroom due to the erupted anus volcano.

I Cloroxed the floor. Then Cloroxed it again. Then looked at the giant brown stains on Noah’s legs – brown stains I’d been furiously rubbing with toilet paper. And I Cloroxed my son’s legs.

I immediately felt guilty about putting the world’s harshest chemical (in wipe form, but still) directly on my child’s skin, so I yelled for Chris to bring me paper towels. I moistened them and scrubbed the chemicals from his tender little legs.

I still felt guilty (and despite the Clorox I also felt that my son was infinitely unclean), so I shoved him in his pajamas and sent him to find his father to find a bathtub and re-clean everything below the child’s waist.

But right before Noah left the bathroom, one of the countless children yelled “I think he’s with the dog!!”

Noah, naturally thinking they were missing and trying to locate him, yelled back, “I’m not with the dog -I’m in the bathroom! I just….pooped a little.”