Barbie with a buzz cut


"Ever wonder what it'd be like to have kids?

"What, you mean, besides the five we have?" asked Kowalski.

"No, I mean kids, human children. You're talking about demon spawn from hell."

"Ray," said Fraser sternly, from the doorway of the boys' room. "That's unwarranted, don't you think?" Or at least, that's what Ray thought he said. Since Charlie was howling behind Fraser, it was difficult to make out the words.

"She punched her brother in the nose, Benny."

A muffled voice shouted from behind the closed door of the girls' room. "He stole Tanya's Barbie."

Kowalski opened the door and poked his head inside. "You know, Ben and Ray and I meet thieves every day. Do we punch them all in the nose? No, we do not."

"You do threaten to kick them in the head," Ray murmured, but "Ray!" admonished Fraser in a sharp whisper, and Ray hushed.

"But he made Tanya cry," wailed Maria.

"He did," said Tanya, helpfully.

"Tanya," said Kowalski. "Will Maria always be with you to protect you from boys who steal your Barbies?"

"Yes," said Maria.

"Yes," said Tanya.

"Shut it, Maria. Tanya, the answer is 'no'. One day Maria will be visiting a friend, or on a date, or off competing in a ChickFight tournament or something, and Charlie will steal your Barbie, and you will need to defend yourself. Capische?"

Tanya looked confused. "I don't understand, Daddy."

Ray looked over at Fraser, who was now kneeling on the floor, wiping Charlie's face with a damp Totoro washcloth. "Is Kowalski telling Tanya she should get nose-punching lessons from her sister?" he whispered.

Kowalski shot a dirty look over his shoulder, then turned his attention back to the girls. "You can't let Mare fight all your battles, hon. And you, young lady," he continued to Maria. "No more punching your brothers. No matter what they do to Tanya."

"Daddy," called Robbie from the bedroom. Ray looked around. Kowalski was still trying to Father-Knows-Best the girls, and Fraser was entangled in Charlie, who was climbing up his back. Even Dief was hiding under the coffee table, and he gave Ray a wry look.

"Fraser, what's wrong with me that I think your wolf is giving me wry looks?" he asked. Dief woofed softly, and Fraser just raised an eyebrow at Ray.

"Daddy," called Robbie again, and Ray sighed and pushed himself to his feet. Robbie was sitting up in his toddler bed wearing footie pajamas covered in little Mounties. "If Charlie's done with it, can I play with the Barbie, too?"

"You know, Ray," said Fraser, from the doorway. "Our lives will be much quieter if we just buy Barbies for the boys, too. You did let Maria get Tonka trucks, after all."

"Can I have Batgirl Barbie?" asked Charlie.

"If Charlie gets Batgirl, I want Incan Princess Barbie!" yelled Tanya from her room.

Mark, who could sleep through almost anything, rolled over in the bed next to Robbie's and blinked his eyes sleepily. "I want Barbie Fairytopia Mermaidia Nori, Dad." Then he closed his eyes and, to all appearances, fell back to sleep.

"Can I get the Mountie Barbie?" Kowalski said, walking into the boys' room and grinning.

Fraser's eyes widened. "There's a Mountie Barbie? Is there a Chicago Police Officer Barbie?"

Ray closed his eyes. "Would you settle for a Ken doll?" he asked Robbie, picking him up and snuggling him.

"How about Yasmin Bratz?" asked Robbie.