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COLUMN: Child-proofing the house for summer

I'm starting to feel a connection to squirrels.

No, not as in "squirrely" or "nutty" or anything like that, but for their ability to hide things away for use in the future. I imagine that those are the moms hiding away the food from her four children who are in the house on summer vacation.

I bet when she is out gathering more nuts to store away for winter, she gets calls on her cell phone from her little ones whining that they are hungry and are fighting over the last nut available.

Does she ever come home to her tree house to find shell remnants all over the place and children spread over the furniture like little throw rugs staring glassy-eyed at the TV?

Yep, I'm starting to feel an affinity with her.

With the summer vacation starting, I'm still trying to child-proof my house. Not baby-proof, child-proof.

My kids are old enough to be left alone for a while as I run errands that would be just quicker (pleasant-er) if I didn't haul the whole bunch with me. So when I tried it the other day, I left a list of what they were to do (eat breakfast, get dressed, fold a load of laundry, play nice with their brother, etc.) and my cell phone number if they needed me.

I barely got six blocks before the phone rang.

"Mom! She's not doing her chore like you said."

"Am too! You said I was supposed to play with John."

"Are we supposed to do this list in order?"

"When can we have snack?"

"She's being mean to me!"

"Can we go to the park when you get home?"

After the fifth call, I dreaded seeing my home phone number in the caller ID window.

In addition to that, I notice that since they are home more often, some things are starting to disappear. After they emptied the dishwasher, it took me almost an hour to figure out where they put things in the cabinets. I think they just shoved stuff wherever it would fit (and in some spaces where it wouldn't unless you slammed the door quickly).

After they "folded and put away" a load of laundry, I saw one of my shirts halfway sticking out under one of their dressers and I had a size 4T pair of shorts lying on my bed.

Also, pens, batteries, tape and scissors are at a premium. I had kept a stash in my secret drawer which apparently now isn't so secret. Even extra toilet paper and toothpaste are being funneled out from our bathroom.

It has gotten to the point that I'm making a meal plan for the week (which I usually just kept in my head) to post on the kitchen wall, along with what they are allowed for snacks. Hopefully when they will see how all the food that we just bought will play into their lives over the next week or so, they won't be so tempted to down it all in one day.

Plus, I'm going to move an old cabinet that currently stands useless into the house so I can put all my craft/office supplies in there. Unfortunately, the kids lost the key that came with it (I know, I had to put on my shocked face too), but I think a new bike lock wrapped around the handles will secure it nicely.

And if all this doesn't work, I will start to feel a connection not to the squirrel, but to her food.