January 21, 2000





Bedtime here in the Atkins household is never a traditional affair. We're more like an automobile factory, or maybe New York, the city that never sleeps, than we are a family. We practically sleep in shifts, so someone is almost always up. Usually me. Usually.

Zoe goes down first, but not by choice. Oh no no no. Her "bedtime" is 8:00, so we try to time it so that dinner and baths and evening performances with the Groovy Tunes Electronic Sing-A-Long Keyboard are wrapped up by that time. Then it's off to her room to don the jammers and read the stories and start the extended negotiations that -- hopefully -- lead to sleep.

Beth drops out next. She's the nocturnal lightweight of the household. She starts rubbing her eyes around 7:30, yawning by 9:00, and tucks herself into bed at about 11:00 to drift off to slumber while horrendously bad Nick At Nite reruns play on the TV.

And then there's me. The Night Owl. Come 11:00, when Beth is going down for the count, I'm just getting started. I've got TV to watch and Internet to surf and books to read and stories to write and... Well, let's just say I've much better things to do than just sleep the night away. How gauche. I'm good 'til 3:00, 4:00 in the morning. Beth says I'm like a little kid when it comes to going to bed -- I fight it tooth and nail, even if I'm tired. I like to paraphrase the L.A. Fitness ad: You can sleep when you're dead.

So it's late, everyone's gone to bed, now it's just me and the dogs and the cats, right? Wrong. There's a little someone who went to bed hours ago who inherited more than a few traits o' mine. There's the scowl, the weird sense of humor and, yes, the insomnia. Hello, Zoe.

Zoe is our resident Jack-in-the-box. Put her in bed, she pops back out. She's like a certain adult who's like a little kid me that way -- she can be dog tired, falling-asleep-on-her-feet tired, but she'll fight to stay awake and swear up and down she's not sleepy. And if you're a toddler who's been put to bed but you aren't at all interested in going to sleep yet, what do you do? Play. Sing. Empty out your dresser drawers. Jump on the bed. Ask for water a dozen times. And then, when all that gets old, go on a walkabout.

Zoe and her walkabouts... They're a part of life around here now. Put Zoe to bed and walk away, and almost before you've entered the next room you can hear her little footsteps sprinting down the hall. We catch her, of course, and make her get back in bed, but then she's on the lam again as soon as we turn around.

Getting caught and being put back in bed is old hat for her now. Just last night I came across her in the living room, skipping -- yes, skipping -- back to her room, completely unfazed at getting caught. "I was just petting Suki, Daddy," she giggled as she floated on by, hair swirling behind her. "I'm getting back in bed now." It was unbelievably cute. And unbelievably old.

When Zoe first started these little walkabouts, Beth and I resolved to stop them. How? Blockade. We put up a gate.

Worked like a charm. Zoes check in but they don't check out. We'd look in on her after she'd really gone to sleep and find little piles of toys that had gone "over the wall," but Zoe herself was trapped. For awhile. Then it wasn't just the toys going over the wall. Miss Thing herself began escaping.

These escapes are a pretty recent development and she's pleased as punch with herself about it. Just tonight, as I was taking a break from writing this, she made a bold escape right in front of me. I was walking by her room when she called out to me, "Daddy, want to see how I get out?" "Sure," I said. "Show me." And so she did. It took her all of about two seconds.

Well, let me tell you, the inmates do not run this asylum. Changes have been made. Security has been beefed up. We don't tolerate escapes around these here parts, so now we put the facility on lock-down at night: we put up two gates.

So far this has kept her in her room. So far... The inmate isn't too happy about it, but we ain't runnin' a hotel here.


But as bad as things might seem to her when she's locked in her room, and as cruel as these pictures might make us look, nothing can begin to compare to the water torture. Especially when we make her wear goofy goggles.

Or...maybe this whole entry has just been an excuse to run cute pictures. I couldn't say; you'd have to ask the warden about that.