The Grudgemaster

storkWhen I found out we were pregnant, I read as much as I could find about bringing home a second baby. I talked to all my mom friends for insider information. I questioned my own parents for their thirty-plus year recollections of having a baby and a toddler at the same time, which was hazy, at best.

Based on my research, I formed a plan for everything, starting with our return home from the hospital. His changing area had diapers and wipes set out with a stack of clean onsies. There was a bottle cleaning station by the sink and his bassinet was next to the bed. I thought we were totally ready. Yet, I was totally unprepared for the hardest part of the transition going from a family of three to four. The Grudge.

Thankfully, it wasn’t against the baby.

It was against me. By my beloved first son. The Grudgemaster.

Everyone said, “Make sure your arms are open for your toddler when he first meets the new baby. He needs to see that you still have room for him.”

So when we returned home from the hospital, my husband held onto the baby’s carrier and I walked in behind him, slightly hunched over from the lingering c-section pain, but nonetheless with open arms.

I held them out to my sweet boy and announced, “We’re home and we missed you so much.”

The three days and two nights at the hospital was the longest amount of time that we had ever been apart since Little Legs was born. I wasn’t sure if he would run away or run towards me for a hug. Quite naturally, he did neither.

First, he crept over to my husband to investigate what strange mewling creature we brought home. He peered into the carrier and reached in with his index finger to poke the poor, wrinkled little thing that we explained was his brother.

He stared up into our faces with a questioning look, unsure why we would bring home something so noisy into our otherwise peaceful existence. Then, he ran off to play with his grandma, who stood nearby secretly (not-so-secretly) hopeful that he would emancipate himself from us so that he could live with her forever.

From that point, Little Legs commenced to ignore me. He refused to sit in my lap or give me hugs, he didn’t want to tell me in his jibber-jabber language about his day or lean against me for story-time. He went to Daddy Longlegs when he needed help or to his G-ma, her cool self-appointed grandma name, when he wanted a snack.

As for me, I stopped existing for him. I was a sad ghost floating through the house, anchored by a crying baby, suddenly without the center of my world.

It was a more emotionally painful experience than anything I’d experienced, perhaps made worse by the post-partum hormones and sleep deprivation. I feared that I had forsaken the love of my first-born son in a sacrifice for the safe passage of his little brother. Apparently, this was the terrible price I had to pay and my train of irrational thinking as I tried to rationalize the situation.

I thought the grudge would never lift, until recently, he sat next to me with a book in his hands. Not too close, but close enough that I could see all was not lost. It felt like the dark sky parted and finally allowed the sun’s rays to break through, warming my heart and soul.

Things were going to be ok; they would get to a new normal.

As for the Grudgemaster, he would sit in my lap again.


Bird for a Day


“Buh…buh…buh…” Little Legs announced and pointed out the window.

Lately, this could have meant anything from a banana to a bug. His grubby hands insistently slapped the glass and left a collage of fingerprints, demanding a parental peek out the window. Happy to comply with the tiny boss, I looked out onto the back porch where a small, brown bird lay, as the countless ones before, motionless.

“Another one?” I asked with disgust and disbelief.

My heart was hardened towards these feathered dunces after the same kind of bird cracked the window a few weeks earlier and had to be replaced. We lowered the shades and added butterfly stickers to detour these crash landings, assuming the birds didn’t see the glass when they made their kamikaze descents. Obviously, our efforts were not working as intended.

Daddy Long Legs, with his more forgiving nature, slipped through the door with a pair of heavy-duty leather gloves and picked up the bird. He held it up to the window for Little Legs to see. The bird moved its tailfeathers from left to right and peered at its captor through a squinted black eye.

It was still stunned and unable to fly, but it was alive, unlike its predecessors.

And about to be our new pet, I quickly decided with a change of heart.

“We need a box,” I declared and led Little Legs on a hunt for the latest empty Amazon box.

His feet padded after mine as we recovered what was to be the patient’s temporary home and hospital from the trash.

“Perfect,” I declared.

“Puh…” Little Legs confirmed with a nod.

The box really was perfect; the flaps provided shade and room enough for the bird to hop around as it regained strength. We added a handful of bird seed and a lid with water from an egg-drop soup take-out container.

Throughout the afternoon, Little Legs checked the box and lovingly tried to feed seeds to the shy beak, dropping them on its head when it refused. And then, while he was pushing his cement mixer truck around the yard, the bird hopped onto the edge of the box and took flight just as Little Legs looked up.

“Buh…buh…buh…” Little Legs waved.

Nothing lasts forever or more than a day, its all the same to a toddler.

Two Ships

shipsThe couple stood in the kitchen, meeting for the first moment of synchronized quiet since they rolled out of bed. For the past few weeks, they had been like two ships passing in the night as they tag-teamed the needs of their newborn and toddler. The time they spent together was by default, in trips to the store or on the couch at night.

How was it possible to be in the same house and not manage to bump into one another until mid-afternoon? They were too tired to think too much on it and leaned against one another for literal support. They were both so tired from the night-long activities of their newborn son that if one moved too quickly, the other was sure to collapse. It was a very precarious situation.

Baby seats and wipes and swaddles were scattered through the house, along with all of the toys and other random things that were pulled out from closets and cupboards, carried around and then abandoned in the middle of the floor by the toddler. The toddler’s latest acquisition was a bottle of red finger paint that he had been struggling to open for most of the morning. Thankfully, he lacked the grip strength, for now, but it was only a dreaded matter of time before he was finger painting the house.

The couple was resigned to the chaos, too tired to fight back the wave of trains, books, pacifiers and matchbox cars that crept into every room and hallway, while he worked a full-time job and she tried to keep the boys happy and healthy, alive was more like it, most of the time.

Somehow, through the haze of their exhaustion, they managed to find each other.

They looked at one another and laughed. Delirious? Maybe, but words were not needed in that moment. They leaned forward to kiss, when suddenly, a Tonka trunk was launched into the air and landed squarely on the woman’s bare foot. It hit with a crash of metal and plastic connecting with skin and bone and tile, courtesy of the toddler who trailed after his mother into the kitchen, hopeful for a snack.

And the two ships separated, blown apart by a fuzz-headed whirlwind.

The baby started to cry, as if on cue, and the fuzz-headed whirlwind demanded to be picked up. The ships continued on their way and sailed off in opposite directions until their next chance meeting on a clear day of perfect circumstances.


It had been a very, long morning.

Little Legs woke up earlier than usual, likely because of his fresh resolution to give up toddlerhood in order to return to life as a baby. He refused to use his legs and demanded to be carried. Big, wet tears streamed down his face when his exhausted mother refused to accept his new identity and naturally, he crumpled into a wailing heap on the kitchen floor.

Once he overcame his temporary insanity, he quickly changed plans for the day and tried to hijack the pack-n-play. He pushed his pint-sized rocking chair next to it and climbed it like a stool. Unfortunately, Baby Brother was already in the pack-n-play as he had decided that, unlike his brother, he no longer wanted to be a baby. Rather, he preferred to be a creature of the night and had been up and back down by the time Mister Sleeping Beauty was up for the day.

Now, he was up, too. Crying. Again.

Apparently, Baby Brother did not appreciate Little Legs throwing his cat-doll, Max, on top of him, and cried louder, while Little Legs continued to scale the side of the pack-n-play from the makeshift stool with a clear plan to join Max and his brother at the top.

Spotting Little Legs in the midst of his free climb, his mother sighed. She was absolutely, totally and positively spent. There was nothing left after being up every hour with the creature of the night and then wresting the Pseudo-baby out of his crib and into clothes. Her cup of coffee was cold and her hair was a mess. She smelled like old milk and noticed a yellow smear on her shirt, a remnant from the creature of the night’s activities.

“No, no, Little Legs. Don’t climb on the baby,” she said as her older son prepared to pull himself over the edge and onto his aware but helpless sibling.

There were so many things she had to tell Little Legs not to do to the baby, including: jump, shake, scare, roll, sit, stomp, yell, pull, and yank. The list seemed endless, but fortunately, there was eventually some level of compliance and this morning was no exception.

Little Legs gave a surprised look at being caught, mid-crime, and retreated without so much as a squeak.

And suddenly there was a sweet silence.

No baby crying, or cabinets banging or tooting from Thomas the Train. Little Legs played with trains on the floor and Baby Brother closed his eyes and settled back down for a nap. Their mother sipped on cold coffee, and finally she let herself breathe. All was well.

For one blissful minute.

Caterpillar Baby

I can feel eyes on me in the dark, watching and waiting.

It is my baby, swaddled, from his bedside bassinet with bright eyes that reflect the glow of the nightlight, like two oil slicks on the pavement.

He is a caterpillar, tightly bundled, with his arms to his sides, wiggling and inching his way closer to me.

I watch the little bug with the face of a human, the sprout of a person, move and struggle against the confines of his swaddle, ready to break free and to unfurl his undeveloped wings.

Not yet, my little caterpillar.

His brother is made of stardust and this boy is of the earth.

Together, they are my universe.

Four Frogs

They sat mostly side by side on the couch, four exhausted frogs on a log, in front of a glowing tv screen.

Thomas, the Train was beginning to feel like part of the family as he puffed out story after story, 11 minutes at a time, occupying the toddler and giving his parents a break from chasing him through the house. Their count had just gone up by one and the change was being felt by all, with the baby having the easiest time of it.

“Eat, sleep, poop,” the pediatrician prescribed earlier in the week while wearing a mask, tennis shoes and jeans; apparently, it was a Casual Covid-19 Tuesday.

“That’s all he needs to be doing,” he addressed the couple from a short stool and then spun to face the woman, “and you just need to feed him.”

Easy as that.

At that point, it was not something that the mother needed to be told. The baby was already very clear about his agenda. He was born with a powerful set of lungs that he had, thus far, used exclusively to request more milk. His mother assumed the sweet coos and giggles would come later, but first, they had to put in the hard work and long hours.

It was a job that the scrunch-faced-baby’s mother took seriously and consumed most of her time, energy and calories. Of course, keeping up with the needs of the scrunch-faced-baby was not without its cost to the rest of the household. There was a scattering of crumbs throughout the house that read like a brail sidewalk, leading the resident toddler over his path from the kitchen to the living room to his play area. Dishes lounged in grey water in the sink and the laundry had already accumulated into a small mountain that if not secured in the laundry room would have been scaled by the quickly becoming feral toddler.

Fortunately, the toddler was not altogether neglected as he made sure to always remain underfoot and nearby, tugging at his daddy’s shirt or poking at the baby’s belly. Presently, he had a glob of jelly on his face and a matching smear on his shirt which was not unusual, aside from the fact that he had cereal for breakfast and a turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch.

He clearly had strong survival skills.

From the couch, the woman, wife and mother let her heavy eyelids drop down and felt herself slip into a blissful rest that lasted all of a minute before the baby simultaneously released a juicy gust of wind and a wail of hunger. As she wondered how one extra small person could create so much extra everything, the toddler suddenly popped up and ran to the kitchen for a snack while her husband’s head dropped back and a mighty snore escaped from his opened mouth.

This was her crazy life and her heart was full.

four frogs