Back when I had two puppies, I used to lament that every piece of furniture or accoutrement was marked by them in some way or the other. Little did I know that these two darling pups were nothing compared to a small regiment of loosely trained and highly motivated mini-proteges in a winter pandemic stuck inside by bitter wind.

Our van probably got it the worst when my eight year-old daughter carved our name, “Merrill” onto its side along with a stenciled heart for good measure. Fortunately it’s leased… The other, newer Honda would look shabby in a bumper cars format having been dented, nicked and scratched by bikes, scooters, friendship rocks, and other random bits of nature brought into the garage for no good reason. Luckily that’s leased, as well.

But those incidents occurred in the fall, when at least the path of destruction did not run through the indoor “arena” that our house has become to what could best be referred to as a pack of ‘feral cats.’ Life’s movement is more like a roller derby in the circular floor plan of the bottom floor. My daughter took a toilet paper holder and punched several holes in the bathroom screen, cryptically carving the word “time” on the windowsill. Presumably a reference to the riddle from The Hobbit we had been reading, but I think she was thinking of it more as a threat to her father (ie, it’s just a matter of time for you, Dad…haha… it is, Emerson, it is.). This was before she ripped the towel rack out of the wall using it as a plie bar for rowdy ballet moves interspersed with Karate kicks, so there’s a hole in that wall (he said, laughing maniacally and sadly at the same time)!

My one year-old has discovered how to use chairs to climb onto surfaces he just has no business occupying. Lately, it’s become a battle for appropriation of this contraband. He’ll snatch a mini chair from up on a table in a place he can reach, and I’ll run over and save him from impaling himself with a pair of scissors, then in shuttling the chair to a presumed ‘safe place'(hahaha) he’s grabbed a bin from our homeschool room, spitefully throwing all the cotton balls out of it and flipping it over to convert it to a stool. So I grab him and tickle him lovingly to make him laugh as a form of olive branch. He’s laughing but he’s not buying it. The second I turn my back, mini-Hercules has pushed a desk over to the gate at the bottom of the stairs and has landed on his head attempting to launch himself over it. Now I’ll be in trouble with his mother. No time to worry about that though, as the quesadillas have just set off the fire alarm. As I rush the pan to the sink and open the windows trying not to stroke out, I hear the roaring sound of toddler silence. I find Pax on the stairs eating a bottle of Tea Tree Oil.

I’m losing this war…