Who out there in Blogland has kids?? Yes? High five me, fellow sufferers, I feel your pain. And your unmitigated joy and love as well, but mostly your pain. Can I get an Amen??
I don’t put much information about my family in my blog. I’ve bared every ugly little secret about myself to you upon request. but my personal opinion is that my family is just that little bit more sacrosanct, and so I refer to them but don’t go into details because I like to preserve their right to privacy. Some of you in the ‘inner circle’ of long-time commenters and online friends will have added the ‘real’ me and my wife on Facebook, but that’s it. Today, I’m going to break that rule, after discussion on the boundaries with my wife. I’m doing this because I want the mind-boggling evil genius of the two kids who inspired today’s blog to stand up and be counted as I salute their Machiavellian cunning. Step forward my mad scientists in waiting, Lauren and Joshua.
This all started one afternoon when we were watching kid’s TV together while Emily was cooking dinner. In one cartoon or another, there was one of those machines that enables a student to copy out lines for detention using ten pens at once, and the kids thought this was hilarious. Always one to attempt to turn something the kids like into a learning game, I asked them if they could think of any other labour-saving devices we could invent for around the house that would save us time and effort. Talk about opening a floodgate!! I could barely write them down fast enough, so I probably missed several, but here are some of the ideas my kids came up with:-
1. VACUUM BISCUIT TUBE. – We’d watched a documentary shortly before this conversation took place, which showed one of those old tube systems that used air pressure to ‘fire’ messages in cylinders around large offices and department stores. The very first idea the kids had was that we should adapt one of these systems so we could hook it up to a huge storage bin in the kitchen which would then dispense biscuits directly to me in my writing chair. (NB American readers, I’m referring to sweet crackers, called biscuits here in the UK, not the type you would associate with gravy!!). The kids also felt this should be complimented by a pipe delivering hot filter coffee direct to my side, thus allowing me to consume coffee (with biscuits for dunking) without having to get up and boil a kettle, or even leave my seat. Character assassinated by ten-year-olds. Awesome.
2. THE HOMEWORK MACHINE. – Well, they are ten-year-olds. So no surprise that they wanted a homework machine – not just any old line-writer though,but a machine that could do your homework regardless of what it was. Need samples of nature for a science project?? The machine will go collect them. Need to interview someone about WW2 for an essay source?? The machine will sit through hours of war stories, and present you with a summary of major facts and figures. Need to build a model volcano?? The machine would do the whole thing for you, leaving you to claim the glory. So naturally, I suggest to the kids that maybe we could extend that idea, and make a machine that went to school for them, did their homework and even sat their exams??! Apparently not. As Lauren informs me, “We don’t want the machine to do all our learning, otherwise we wouldn’t actually know anything ourselves – that’s just stupid. We want to learn stuff, we just don’t want to put any effort into it”. [(sings)… ‘I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the waaay…..]
3. THE MILLIONAIRE MINCER. – Not a particularly effeminate Hugh Heffner, but actually a fiendishly clever contraption. Josh came up with the idea (after learning about recycling) that instead of bagging up all our paper rubbish to be made into fuel bricks, we should create a machine that would shred all our paper much like a larger version of an office document shredder. But here’s the clever twist – once the machine shreds the paper, it breaks it down, re-pulps it into new paper ….. and prints money on it. So the more you recycle, the more you earn!! This boy is going to go far – possibly all the way to a ten-stretch as a counterfeiter. But considering at ten years old he’s already appreciating that recycling is something to be rewarded, I’ll let that slide. Especially since he pointed out that we could ‘borrow’ all the old newspapers from our local shop saying they were for a school project, then turn them into cash!! Attaboy!
4. COLLAPSIBLE SWIMMING POOL. – Not that enterprising, you may think, since such things already exist, whether they be the pop-up or inflatable versions. Until the kids tell me that they can’t be bothered with actually having to fill the thing – they want this stow-away pool to pop out already filled and ready to swim in!! Seeing (foolishly) a perfect opportunity for a science lesson, I explain that since water cannot be compressed, this would be impossible. Asked to explain compression, I tell them it is how much something can be squashed down smaller, but water cannot be squashed at all. Josh claims this is because ‘they’ are not squashing it hard enough. I ask him how much he thinks it would take to squash down a swimming pool of water to pocket-size?? About the same weight as one million fat people sitting on it, is the considered response. And where, pray tell me kids, are we supposed to get one million fat people from?? Lauren looks me in the eye and says, completely dead-pan, “America”. Out of the mouths of babes….. 😉
5. SNAKES AND LADDERS HOUSE. – From this day hence, the kids have decided that any buildings they use regularly (here, their dad’s house, school and so on) should be fitted with reversible stairs, that feature an escalator on one side and a fun slide on the other. These could be switched via buttons at the top and bottom of each flight, so they could be ferried to the top and then slide back down again. This would mean less exercise, I argue, since the escalators make them lazy. “Yes”, points out Lauren, “but we only go up and down about five times a day. With this, we’d be back and forth all the time!!” Child Logic 101, right there.
6. THE SNAKE PIT. – Once more, my kids scare me with brutal but perfect logic. We should, apparently, install a trap-door outside our porch so we can see who is calling on us, and if necessary drop them into a pit filled with some kind of evil – snakes, crocodiles, lava and tarantulas were all mentioned – to avoid having to deal with them. I point out that these would probably all be fatal, and not only is killing someone very bad, but a bit harsh for just ringing our doorbell. Josh considers this for some moments, then tells me “Well, yes, that is a bit harsh. So we shouldn’t kill them. But if they lose a leg or an arm, an ambulance could probably save them but they’d never ring again”. Homicide 0, Brutal and disfiguring maiming 1.
7. THE MAGICAL SHOE WARDROBE. – While Josh continues on his career path towards becoming Ben 10’s replacement as defender of the planet, Lauren will undoubtedly end up as CEO of Jimmy Choo. Already sharing her mother’s carnivorous appetite for shoes, Lauren invented the magic shoe wardrobe. The concept is a storage cupboard that houses your shoe collection on a series of rotating racks. On the cupboard door is a series of buttons which enable the shoe wearer to input a variety of factors, such as choice of outfit, weather, season, style and even the user’s mood. The machine then takes these factors into consideration, and makes a selection of the perfect pair of shoes for any situation. This not only means that Lauren will be a rich genius by the age of twenty, it also means that her future husband will save roughly 3.2 years of his life NOT waiting for her to decide that 38th pair of shoes wasn’t quite right, and she’ll just be another 5 minutes darling.
8. THE LIZARD-WARREN HOUSE CONVERSION. – I’ve had pet lizards at one point or another for years now, and Lauren and Joshua both love our current tenants, a pair of adult Bearded Dragons called Johnny and June (after Johnny and June Carter-Cash). When the kids are with us, we often let the lizards out to play and they will happily sit on the kids laps watching TV, or chase each other around the carpet while the kids watch laughing. However, due to the presence of our cat, Freddy Kreuger, we have to confine the lizards to the lounge with the door tightly closed (although whether for the safety of the lizards or the cat, we are undecided!). The kid’s solution to this is to install a massive network of pipes and basking spots inside a system of tubes all over the house, much like a giant version of a hamster run. They point out that not only would they then have the run of the house whilst remaining safe from the cat, but they could then taunt the cat mercilessly without fear of reprisals. It’s wonderful that our kids want to see all our animals getting along together, although I suspect that secretly they have already opened the book on some kind of lizard/feline Celebrity Deathmatch. I’m not sure how it will mess with their plans when they find out our next planned acquisition is a Ball Python.
Incidentally, for newer readers, you can meet Johnny, June and Freddy in a previous blog I wrote called Where The Wild Things Are.
9. ELECTRIFIED CAT-FOOD BOWL. Calm down. The kids are not suggesting we electrocute our cat. That would be cruel. Instead, they suggest we electrocute our neighbour’s cat. Next door own a fat cat that consumes food the way most animals consume oxygen. This ginger monstrosity prowls our street eating anything not nailed down – it eats its way into rubbish sacks, digs up gardens, and is generally regarded locally as the first feline inductee into Al Qaeda. Normally this would not bother our children one jot, until they caught the beast sneaking in through our cat flap and eating Fred’s lunch. I asked if there was a way we could use an invention to keep Fred’s food safe, thinking innocently of an automated cat-flap, or maybe some kind of food dispenser we could train Fred to use. Josh came up with a far simpler solution. “Just put the cat food in a metal bowl, and then electrocute it. Fred can wear a collar with a chip in it that recognises him and turns off the electric before he gets close. Then any other cat that tries to eat his food gets toasted”. For the record, I love these kids without reservations, but body armour looks more and more like a prudent investment.
I’ll stop there, because this list could run and run. I’m a big fan of using games and theoretical problems with the children as a way of teaching them without seeming to, but I’m beginning to think that I should have just stuck to Meccano and the Tellytubbies. They might have turned out to be the standard un-educated yob we see more and more of these days, but at least I could leave them to play without checking their room for particle phase generators and C4.
I know many of you have children, or are forced to interact with them on occasion – do you have any mad schemes or fiendish devices you’d like to share with me?? Or perhaps you, too, live in fear of your own children and want to share your pain with others?? In either case, that little speech bubble at the top leads you to the comments section – if we share stories and tactics now, we might just be able to organise a defence before they get old enough to shop for bomb-making equipment online. My kids may well grow up to be bloodthirsty Assassins in their own right, but by God, I’ll make sure they’re educated enough to know how to shape a charge and correct for wind velocity with a sniper rifle.
Stay Safe, The Assassin.