Nothing more obvious


“There would seem to be nothing

more obvious, more tangible and palpable than the present moment. 

And yet, it eludes us completely. 

All of the sadness of life lies in that fact.”  

~Milan Kundera  



Muffin Meltdown

The muffin was in a vulnerable position, in a crumbly mess on the edge of the counter.

Little Legs had just reduced the tasty baked good to bits and pieces and pushed it aside to try and access the Cheerio’s in my bowl. To be more specific, it was Honey-Nut Cheerio’s: a cereal of delicious compromise between the normal Cheerio flavor of cardboard and a straight spoonful of refined sugar.  

“No, Little Legs,” I said firmly.

“Yes, Mama,” he replied his sticky hand extended towards me.

His confident tone indicated that it was only a matter of time before my cereal became his cereal and I was left with nothing. I suppose there was the muffin crumb pile that I could eat for nourishment.

Obviously, this was the time to strike for any mangy mutt that happened to be passing through Crumb Ally. Coco, our insatiable puppy-dog, took to her hindlegs to briefly rest against the counter with her front paws long enough to take the entire muffin heap into her mouth and gulp it down into her bottomless pit.

Little Legs turned back as a black flash retreated to the ground and into the next room, happily licking her lips. He screwed his face up in disbelief as tears welled in his eyes.

“My muffin,” he wailed.

It was suddenly the only thing he wanted in the entire world, and it was impossibly gone.

“Get new one, get new one,” he chanted.

This was also what he said when our fish died.  

“Sometimes, we can’t replace things that are gone,” I gently explained.

“Get new one, get new one,” he continued.

Of course, this teachable moment would have been more impactful if there were not another three muffins across the counter, ready and waiting for consumption. Still, I held the line and refused with a NO in all caps which led to another meltdown.

And I wondered if I should just give the mouse his muffin.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.: Teaching Cause and Effect | Scholastic | Parents

Mom Guilt

Thursday morning, Little Legs was up all night, tossing and turning. He has already cried eight times, hit the dog and declared that he hates daycare, his brother and drinking milk. However, he is willing to eat a popsicle and drink juice for “eat-time.”

God help you if you make the mistake of referring to this early morning meal as breakfast. He hates breakfast. Add all the possible emphasis on the word hate.  

“It’s going to be a long day, good luck,” Daddy Longlegs whispers to me and slips away to his little office nook.

I need more than luck. We still need to track down pants that Little Legs won’t throw across the room, brush everyone’s teeth, including Baby Brother’s pearly set of four, and get out the door in the next fifteen minutes.

Luckily, I have a job where I can flex my start and end time. Otherwise, the next thirty minutes would be stressful. Very stressful.

Somehow, we make it to The Zone, which Little Legs hates, clearly.

I get both boys unloaded and shuffled into the building. Baby Brother screams and reaches for me as I hand him off to the worker of Toddler Room 1. Big, fat tears roll down his cheeks.

He cries, “Mama, Mama, Mama,” effectively breaking my heart into two, bloody raw pieces, right then and there.

Little Legs also screams and tries to escape down the hallway when I try to hand him off to Toddler Room 4. I grab him in a ninja-fast maneuver and redirect him into the room with a squeeze and a hug. The worker pulls him in and I slink out, only to peek into the window to see him sobbing on the shoulder of a strange woman.  

Finally, I leave, stricken with a crippling sense of shame and guilt at leaving my boys in the hands of strangers to go to a job where I am late and distracted and wondering if the struggle is worth it. Do the ends justify the means?

I remind myself of the boost in Little Legs’ vocabulary since being around other kids and how Baby Brother can self-play or cozy up for a game of roll-ball without missing a beat. They both have a new confidence in social settings and after experiencing every early childhood illness, I assume their immune systems are close to iron-clad by now.

Surely, the benefits are there. There is a silver lining. And I’m not a terrible mother.

I just need a little reminding to remember.

Sticks and Stones

Jagged, ragged sobs come from the next room.

Little Legs is on the floor, sleep-crying, after the last thirty minutes of yelling, screaming, begging and pleading for release from naptime.

“You don’t have to sleep, but you have to rest in your room,” Daddy Longlegs explained minutes earlier, gently leading him back to his room for the fourth time.

“Hate naps. Hate sleep. Hate Dada,” Little Legs said.

Daddy Longlegs said, “You don’t have to like it, but you have to have quiet time.”

He let the stinging blow of his son’s words glance off his cheek.

If only Little Legs understood the power of words, he would know the pain and joy they can give.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never (not) hurt me.

I hear a rustling from his room, a moan and another cry. The moan is from me, there will be no napping today, for anyone except Baby Brother. Little Legs is back up and well-rested enough to change tactics.

“Need Mama,” he says.

I jump up and my heart swells, ready to rescue him from his room, until it hits me.

Not only does he understand the power of words, he is using it to crush his parents, each one in a unique and specially tailored way.

Toddler 1: Parents 0

Tub Club

“First rule of tub club, don’t…”  

Daddy Longlegs did not get to explain the importance of sitting, not standing in the tub.

The great splashy thud informed me that words were not needed.  

Rule one of tub club made itself quite clear, with the imprint of a matchbox car on the backside of Little Legs as proof.

Intel on the Enemy

I have been studying up on the destroyers of all things green, deer.

They are hoofed pests capable of upsetting the balance of an environment by drastically depleting the diversity of the area. They are also able to upset and offset the balance of any amateur farmer, one day so proud of their baby greens and the next day, in mourning over their loss.

Baby greens that are gone today, but with hopes for new growth tomorrow.

Deer have a high nutritional requirement that grass is unable to satisfy, like with cows or sheep, so they munch on easily digestible shoots and young leaves, or everything in one’s tiny, raised garden.

They are described as neophobic or holding an extreme and irrational fear of the unknown. At the slightest noise, they spook; freezing or running and leaping into the tall weeds. Apparently, they know me well enough to lack any fear associated with devouring my garden.  

They rummage and munch and paw the ground before running away at an impossibly fast speed into forest that is shrinking at what seems to be an even more impossible speed because of the growth of new housing developments and stores and a hospital.

I suppose my small, raised garden is like a soup kitchen for these majestic animals who have been displaced and herded into a new territory without the resources to support so many creatures at once. I know I should have more compassion for these animals that live to eat and eat to live, but I am an animal, too.

And lately, it feels like a savage world.

Gardening: love and war

After the boys go to sleep, I slip out the back door, grab my watering can and head for my garden. There is still plenty of light to visit my green world and oversee its green inhabitants. My green place is just a few feet wide by about six feet long, held together by boards and nails, and filled with bags of rich earth from Lowes.

I do not think I spend much time out there, but it is hard to keep track of the minutes with the bees buzzing in and out of their hive and the birds calling overhead.

When I come in at night, Daddy Longlegs asks, “Are you done, yet?”

I explain that this patch of ground is surprisingly needy, always wanting more water.

Water, water, water.

Every day, I water the broad leaves and stalks of corn, the leafy tendrils of peas and the newly sprouted squash leaves. I squat down to inspect for ants and worms. I lift the protective net to pluck the intruders off by hand and spray a non-toxic chemical to discourage their return. Weed sprouts are pinched and pulled from the earth, I shake off the clinging dirt back into the box.

I feel proud when I look at my crop of vegetable plants, so strong and healthy, patiently waiting for the long, cool drink that sustains them through the day.

Last year, cutworms felled my tomatoes and bell pepper plants like trees, snipped at the base and left them behind to rot in a wasteful display of their power. This year, I know to look for the creeping and crawling of my tiny enemy. I spray after rains and dust with another kind of chemical in between treatments. I have learned from my past mistakes and remain extra vigilant in protecting what is mine.

One day last week, I followed the usual routine.

I slipped out the back door, grabbed the watering can and visited my green place.

On this day, things are different. I arrive to find devastation.

Only the stems and baby squash leaves remain. The tender leaves of the corn are gone. The delicate tendrils and leaves of the pea plants are gone. The net is left mashed in and torn open, inviting any other predator to come and dig up the remaining fruit of my labor.

I was so focused on defeating the cutters that I missed the bigger threat, the herd of deer that live in the woods on the edge of our property.

The hungry, hungry deer.    

I want to scream and cry and kick the ground that gives and takes. Instead of throwing a full-on adult tantrum, I take a deep breath and re-evaluate the situation.

I will replant. I will not be defeated by things that crawl or walk on hooved feet. I will put up a fence and sprinkle cayenne and coffee grounds and anything else that might deter the predators of my leafy greens.

I will not let them win. I declare a war of the vegetables.

Services of the Indispensable

The trashcan remains dangerously full, at the end of the driveway, with the lid propped up on a cardboard box full of smaller bags of dirty diapers. It has been two days and still no word from the trash removal provider. The air is hot and smells like sour milk, old food, and the contents of the dirty diapers mixed into a very, aromatic shit casserole. Flies find their way to the precarious tower of refuse and hover around, as tiny, well-fed vultures.

Every time I call the trash company, a robotic female voice explains that their agents are busy and invites me to leave a message, which I have done, without a response.  

I call back and listen to my options, again, I want to speak to a person. Their robot-workers do not seem to get the problem. While waiting for an elusive-never-come-to-the-phone agent, I hum along with the tune that keeps me company and lets me know I have not been forsaken by the Waste gods. There is something familiar about it, more than just because I have spent so much time on hold. Then it strikes me like a bolt of lightning and I feel very alone.

“You’ve got to be cruel to be kind…” are the missing words to the looping song.

The robot-workers do understand. They, in fact, have a sense of humor about the whole thing. I would love to join in and share a good laugh, but I am too busy wondering how we are going to dispose of a trashcan full of disgusting, smelly, slimy things if we are suddenly without the services of the indispensable.

Kingdom of Boys

He wants up, he wants down. He wants in, he wants out.

And as his personal slave, I am all too happy to meet his demands and indulge in his whims.

“Yes, my tiny prince, I will do all these things over and over again. Should I toss you up in the air periodically and tickle your tummy, too?”

His dimpled smile melts my heart and ignites a white-hot flame of jealousy in his older brother.

When Baby Brother knocks the glasses from my face, I wag my finger and say, “Now I can’t see my naughty baby.”

Little Legs watches from a few feet away with a furrowed brow. He wants equal treatment for the same crime that recently landed him in a time out.

“Time out, Baby,” he declares, already a fighter of injustices everywhere, starting in his own living room.

He looks to me for action and seeing only a love-sick fool cooing at his brother, he takes matters into his own hands, quite literally.

Grabbing his brother under the arms, “Time out, Baby,” he explains as he attempts to drag him away to The Blue Chair.

“Release your brother!” I command and channel my inner Moses for this pharaoh-like face off.  

He drops him with a thud that makes his brother cry and stares at me in disbelief.

“Sorry, Mama.”

Order is restored, however temporarily, yet again.

I remain the Leader of my small People.

Hand, Foot and Mouth

Two days ago, Baby Brother woke up with a speckling of red dots on his legs.  

“They’re probably nothing,” we agreed, conveniently minimizing his symptoms.  

Then it was suddenly like an underwater seascape of rough, red coral bloomed on his arms, legs, face and ears. The dots came alive, multiplied and merged together creating unique formations that were conspicuously absent from his hands and feet.

I wondered if it was indeed the Hand, Foot and Mouth warned about from daycare and called the doctor, as I did on a weekly basis to inquire about whatever new virus or disease was ravaging the bodies of my boys.

“He’s miserable. There is a red rash covering his arms and legs but not on his hands or feet. We received a notice from daycare that there is an ongoing outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth, but none of those areas seem to be affected.”

The nurse did not laugh, I could almost see the straight line of her mouth as she prepared to give the same line to me as she must have given to the last dozen callers.

“It’s a virus, likely the same one that is in all of the other daycares. There is nothing you can do about it but try to keep your son comfortable. Call us if he has a high fever that Motrin can’t bring down or if the blisters around his mouth get too bad for him to eat.”

“Oh, and don’t worry about his hands and feet, it will spread there, too. Its just a matter of time.”

 And indeed, it was just a matter of time.

The sea of red spread to the tops of his hands and feet, with an outgoing tide of scattered blisters lining the edges of his fingers and toes.

Today, he is less miserable and smiling through the spots.

Somehow, he remains a ray of sunshine, a drop of golden sun.

Our sweet baby, Spots.   

Day of Reckoning

Sunday afternoon, we settled into the playroom for a bit of pushing trucks, rolling balls and learning to share between brothers. There remains a steep learning curve for the two of them, even after almost a year of co-existing.

The usual squabbling died down as they focused on their own playthings; Little Legs loaded up random toys into the back of a dump truck that was really too big to be inside and Baby Brother wrestled with a squishy Dalmatian dog doll.

A sense of peace replaced my usual anxiety. I leaned back in my chair and flipped through the National Geographic that had been on the counter for two weeks, patiently waiting to be read.

There are some moments in life when time does funny things, sometimes it slows down just enough so that a careful observer may become temporarily clairvoyant and able to divine events in the immediate future. Not to intervene or change the outcome, just to know what is about to happen.

This was one such moment.

I looked up over a page about glass sea sculptures as Little Legs stood behind the fully loaded dump truck and directed it at his unassuming brother. He pulled it back and pushed it forward with an assertive vroom…vroom… that indicated only one thing. The vehicle was about to roll, monster truck style, over the only possible pedestrian in its path.

“Little Legs,” I growled. “Do not run over your brother!”

He was already racing forward, pulled by an imaginary force. He tried to stop at my request, digging his heels in as he shouted, “Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit!” and swerved to the side of his brother at the last possible instant.

“What did Little Legs just say?” Daddy Longlegs called from the next room.

This was my day of reckoning, I reckoned it was time to clean up my language because there was a pair of ears that let nothing pass, except requests to eat vegetables.

Definition of day of reckoning

a time when the consequences of a course of mistakes or misdeeds are felt