Time to eat crow

It was the day after I overheard my mother explain to my sister-in-law that roaches seek out human saliva that my mother’s credibility level was at an all-time low.

She said it in such a matter of fact type of way that my sister-in-law refused to return home until an exterminator treated their condo and spent the rest of the afternoon searching online for more information.  

I pulled the spreader of misinformation off to the side.

“Mom, why would you scare her like that?”

“What?” my mother asked with feigned innocence.  

 “You can’t go around saying things like that,” I explained. “People believe what you say.”

She shrugged, “It’s true.”

“No, it’s not. You just made it up.”

“Puney, we will just have to agree to disagree on this one.”

The disagreement was as resolved as it would ever be until the next day when a praying mantis landed on the red hummingbird feeder that was held up by a suction cup on the window.  

The praying mantis aggressively postured itself on the outer edge of the feeder with its creepy arms up, ready for a fight or a prayer, making it impossible for a hummingbird to sip from the sweet nectar without the chance of the praying mantis making contact.

“You better get rid of that praying mantis, if you care about your hummingbirds,” my mom cautioned. “They can bite the heads off of hummingbirds.”

“Stop it. There is no way that is true.”

I couldn’t deal with this new fact which I assumed came from the same well of knowledge as the roach tidbit. I felt confident in calling her out on this. There was no way there could even be a fair fight between the two creatures.    

We watched through the window with Little Legs begging to be picked up for a better view, studying the insect as it held perfectly still, waiting for what, I was unsure. Obviously, my mother already voiced her opinion in this regard.

A hummingbird buzzed past the feeder followed by another like two tiny fighter jets, surveying the area and potential enemy. The first hummer returned and landed next to the praying mantis for the briefest second, flew off and returned a minute later. Reassured by its uneventful encounter, the hummer landed for a cautious drink.

And the mantis struck out, punching the bird in a shock and awe performance.

I thought it was a fluke but when it happened again and again, I knew I was wrong.

It was possible for a praying mantis to hurt a hummingbird, at the least. Don’t look it up online, the images confirming the same are horrifying.  And I had to eat crow.

A big mouthful of it.

https://www.almanac.com/praying-mantis-predator-garden

Priorities

She watched her son push a monster truck from one side of the porch to the other and flipped through the pages of the magazine without reading any of the words. There were pictures of pumpkin muffins and kids with safety scissors doing rainy day crafts, impossible recipes and ads for ferns that were guaranteed to be delivered fresh. It was mental junk food that felt only a little better than binge watching, Glow Up, her latest interest.

She delighted in the crinkling sound of the pages turning as they slid from one side to the other by her wetted index finger. She licked her finger to prepare for another page turn when her restless eyes stopped at a section with the keys to smooth skin. Smooth skin equals younger looking skin, which was never something that mattered until her face started to tell on her age.

An obsession had recently taken root in her mind about her skin, fine lines were forming and would soon be wrinkles. Freckles, once a cute accessory from being outside were now the tell-tale signs of sun damage and future cancer. She noticed for the first time the commercials on tv for anti-aging products and started to watch for sales at the drug store on serums and creams that promised to tighten and smooth and basically turn back the hands of time.

The products were expensive and filled with complex and exotic ingredients. She knew entertaining this fad was not sustainable, especially as a stay-at-home mom/unemployed person, but it didn’t stop her from ripping out the section from the magazine. She studied the must-haves and used her phone to price them out online.

Younger skin must wait, she tried to calm the anxious consumer inside of her brain that demanded attention and looked back up at her son who had stopped pushing his truck and was hanging on her knees ready for a new activity.

He wore a black Mickey Mouse sweat-shirt like a crop top, showing his tummy and good three inches of his forearms with a pair of above the knee shorts.   

Priorities, Puney. Priorities, she reasoned and tucked the page into her pocket for later.   

The sacrifices a mother makes are endless and unnoticed, unless they result in tighter, smoother skin.

Fall with Two

Fall is here with cooler temps, grey skies and orange and brown leaves for Little Legs to crunch. It is a welcome break from the intense heat of summer that kept us inside for most of the day. Time to pull out the fuzzy socks, sweaters and jeans and put away the shorts and tank tops.

Unfortunately, in starting this clothing transition, I realized that Little Legs outgrew all his warm clothes and needs a new winter wardrobe as a Mister 2T. Thanks to on-line shopping, we can have pants and sweaters within a few days and never have to set foot in a store. Baby Brother will inherit anything that doesn’t get too stretched or stained, but at this rate, it won’t be much.

Earlier today, we were undeterred by the chillier weather and went out for our walk. We were on the return leg with Baby strapped to my chest, and Little Legs strapped into a pair of sandals with socks, like a 20-month-old hippie, and a too-small sweater that left his wrists exposed.

We looked like a gang of vagabonds traveling through the hills of Tennessee.

I tried not to think about the incline at the last part of the journey. However, it was hard to ignore as the baby seemed to grow heavier with each step, the straps of his carrier a constant reminder on my shoulders and back.

“Car!” Little Legs shouted and grabbed my free hand in serious excitement at being my safety spotter.

We walked past the car, unmoving and parked in a driveway.

“Up!” Little Legs demanded as a reward.

“Come on, buddy. Can you walk a little more?” I asked.

“Please?” I begged.

He shook his head, stood in front of me and grabbed my legs, refusing to let us pass like a tiny road troll.

This was going to be a very long final march up the hill, I thought.

I bent down and Little Legs climbed onto my back and wrapped his arms around my neck.

With one on back and one in front, I stood back up summoning my Amazon *strong woman, not mega online shopping beast* energy. We powered up the hill with Little Legs bouncing up and down on my back, obviously envisioning himself as a jockey on a very slow horse.

A heavy-set man in a baggy t-shirt turned off the main road and started to speed walk towards us, pumping his arms back and forth.

As he passed us, he exclaimed without slowing, “Oooh hooo! You got a full load on you.”

I thought, how lucky am I to have such a beautiful and exhausting load.

With one on front and one on back, they are my life, my everything.

My boys.  

Den of Snakes

“There’s another rattlesnake down here,” Daddy Longlegs yelled.

I was on the porch, swinging with Baby and mindlessly watching the clouds move and change in the sky, when Little Legs was suddenly hoisted up the porch steps and dropped off.

He ran over to me, whimpering, with a furrowed brow.

“Sssss…” he said and pointed in the direction of his retreating father.

“What happened?” I asked.

He held his arms up, insistent on taking his place next to me on the swing. He gave a mean look to his brother in my lap, which was his preferred seat, and tried to make both of us move with a push.  

“Sssss…” he explained and pointed again.

If he had a better grasp of language, he might have said, “Daddy and I found a den of rattlesnakes.”  

In this moment, I felt better knowing less.

“Are you trying to say Snack?”

He gave me a mean look this time. He obviously wasn’t trying to say anything other than snake.

There are so many dangers in our immediate environment, not to mention the world at large. Its hard not to hyperventilate just thinking about keeping my boys safe when they are surrounded by so many dangerous biting and blood sucking creatures, and that is just in politics.   

Missing Cat

The sign simply said, Missing Cat. Reward. With a number to call.

Underneath, there was a picture of a cat so black it blended in with the dark background, and only a pair of yellow eyes looked out from the poster.  

Someone anxiously edited the sign with a green marker and added the word, Still.

Trash People

They missed us again. For the second week in a row, the big blue trash truck sped past our awaiting trashcan filled with dirty diapers, banana peels, stale crackers, kitty litter, empty milk jugs, deconstructed Amazon boxes and so much more.

I called the number on our last bill for customer service and was greeted by a male with a deep voice.

“Is this Ms. Puney?” he asked.

He recognized me from the past week of calls inquiring about the status of our trash pick-up. We were on the verge of friendship; we spoke so frequently. Although, our friendship had a serious problem with honesty. He reassured me at each call that we were indeed on the missed trash pick-up route.

And the trash kept piling up.

“Just be patient with us, we’ll make sure you’re taken care of.”

“Well, you said that yesterday and they missed us again.” I explained struggling to keep the irritation out of my voice.

I could see the trash through the window, overflowing with white plastic bags. There were black flies buzzing around and in the bags. It was only a matter of time before a buzzard swooped down and broke into one of the top bags, scattering debris all over the road and yard. From there it would be a wild animal free-for-all, knocking over the bin and tearing into the remaining bags.

I shuddered in disgust.  

“Ma’am, I am so sorry they missed you again,” he apologized.

“Do you know what happened?” I pried, trying to gain some insider intel.

“They don’t give us that kind of information,” he explained with another apology.

Apparently, the activity of the trash people was privileged information, given only to a select few. I wondered if anyone actually had this information and assumed the drivers had gone rogue, picking up trash where they pleased.

“You aren’t driving the truck, so you have nothing to apologize for. I just want our trash picked up.”

“Amen, I hear that.”

My friend, the customer service trash man, made me laugh. He gave no new information aside from another empty promise of pick-up. I hung up *almost* forgetting my hard feelings until I looked out the window and saw the trash exactly where we left it, in an ever-growing collection.

Waiting on an unanswered prayer.    

Peas, please.

“Did you just ask for peas?”

I was in disbelief. Ever since Little Legs started solids, he refused to eat vegetables. Anything that was green was instantly rejected without even trying it. He turned his head in the opposite direction of whatever tasty healthy morsel was being offered, his mouth clamped shut and his lips sealed shut like the tomb of an Egyptian king, only to be reopened with the magic word, “Cookie.”

Our pediatrician laughed when I explained my concerns that Little Legs was surely missing out on some key nutrients and may be headed for a nasty case of scurvy.

“You need to starve him, a little. Hold back on the fun snacks, like Goldfish and muffins, and give him carrots or peas for a snack.”

This cruel approach only resulted in Little Legs not eating a snack and with a mini-salad on the floor, thrown there in disgust. I would have more luck force feeding a turtle than getting this child to eat vegetables.

Or so I thought.

Today, I opened a bag of sweet sugar snap peas that had been shoved in the back of the fridge and crunched on a whole pea snap.

“Mmm…mmm… these are delicious.”

I split one open with my thumb like I was opening an envelope to reveal the cutest little sweet peas attached inside of the seam. I popped one after the other into my mouth while watching Little Legs out of the side of my eye.

He dropped his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and clapped his hands to get my attention. He held his hands out, wriggling his fingers in a sudden need to try the green treat.

I held out a little longer, letting the excitement build before splitting open another snap pea and showing him the tiny peas inside.

“Peeez…” he asked with his hands outstretched.

How could I refuse?

I turned over the pea and a subsequent handful, all of which he greedily gobbled up, and held his hands out for more in a very Green Eggs and Ham transition. At last, I think it’s safe to say that he does so like them, Sam-I-Am.  

Toddler in Timeout

Little Legs throws more than tantrums now.

In fact, he throws anything he can pick up and heave into the air. With a surprising amount of strength for someone so small, that list has recently included a bag of blocks, his dinner plate, a chair and a few balls. Naturally, when he is outside and allowed throw balls, he feigns disinterest, preferring to throw handfuls of mulch and pick dandelions.  

Yesterday, a puzzle piece with the face of cheetah took flight and hit my face which was hard to justify as unintentional.

He pointed at me and then at the puzzle while holding the cheetah face piece.

“Turn it the other way,” I encouraged.

“No!” he screamed sensing the impossibility of the suggestion and launched it.

Right. At. My. Face.

We scream and yell lot more frequently now that Little Legs is a toddler, usually things like, “Put that knife down.” And “Let go of the cat’s tail!” And “Don’t touch that electrical socket.”  

This situation was no exception.

I screamed, “Ouch!” which brought Daddy Longlegs popping out of his office like a jack-in-the-box.

“What’s going on out here?”

“Oh, Little Legs just hit me with a puzzle piece,” I said, still holding my cheek.

It stung, but also it was startling to get hit in the face, especially by a pint-sized person who looks like your husband and to whom you gave birth. I was stunned and also grateful that Baby was sleeping because Little Legs had moved from the puzzle to driving his Tonka truck. I had a feeling that the truck was next in line to earn a set of wings and his brother may have been his target.

“Little Legs, that was not nice. You need to spend a minute in the time out chair,” Daddy Longlegs explained.

With that, Little Legs was scooped up and carried away, kicking and screaming. Tears gushed down both cheeks as he protested his fate. I was left behind in their dust.

I peeked around the corner to see him in a blue chair in the front room, squirming left and right, hopping up and down trying to escape while Daddy Longlegs held him in place and watched the clock for sixty seconds of eternity to pass.

“Are you sorry for hitting Mommy?” Daddy Longlegs asked.

Little Legs nodded in faux remorse and scampered off down the hallway in search of heavier things to throw the next time the door to Daddy Longlegs’ office closes.

As it turns out in yet another surprise of parenthood, we must teach our children right from wrong and it is clearly not going to be an easy job.

**Adding this to the list of important things that should have been mentioned at the hospital when we took Little Legs home for the first time nearly two years ago.

Out of the Woods

Something happened to Little Legs.  

Seemingly overnight, he morphed from an angelic little boy toddling about and blowing sticky-fingered kisses to a child who looks the exact same but is possibly possessed by a devil who is also mostly sweet but can also act so bad.

I double checked the changeling to confirm that he was my son. Scraped knees, fuzzy brown hair, scar on his shin, aversion to vegetables. Yes, it was definitely him, but different and detectable only by the few who see him every day, Daddy Longlegs and me.  

This boy was edgier, more mature, wilder and suddenly aware of emotions that he does not yet have the words to express but that he must release or risk an explosion, like a two-foot tall pressure cooker. He was struggling to deal with life as a big brother as much as his parents were struggling to adjust to life as a family of four.  

The quickly evolving situation became clear when I sat on the floor next to Little Legs while he pushed Matchbox cars around the rug. With Baby Brother nursing, my hands were full, leaving both of us vulnerable to the whims of the underaged racecar driver.

I gazed down at the baby in my arms, his shiny eyes stared back up at me in a shared moment of connection. The world went hazy around us and nature sounds filled the background of the living room, just like the movies.  

Meanwhile, Little Legs, bored with his imaginary racetrack and irritated with the attention directed towards his brother that was previously dedicated only to him decided it was time to retake his mommy-prize.

He dropped his cars mid-zoom and ran behind me and jumped on my back. Suddenly, he was a cowboy bareback on a horse. He squeezed my sides with his legs and dug in his heels with his arms wrapped tightly around my neck.

He shouted, “Go, go, go!” with each kick.

“What is happening, buddy?” I asked and shook my darling cowboy-flea from my back.

The baby did not appreciate being jostled in the rodeo. His face went red and he started to cry and scream.

Little Legs, with his big emotions, was unable to understand being shaken off, felt mad at having to share everything with a roly-poly creature who just wouldn’t leave, and was tired of hearing the baby’s noises, understandably, he lost it.

He couldn’t say, “Mommy, I sure could use some alone time with you.”

Or, “I feel frustrated when you hold the baby instead of play with me.”  

So instead, he pulled my hair and knocked my glasses from my face.

I gasped in horror and shouted, “Stop it!”

The baby screamed louder as I jostled him to the other side and felt around for my glasses.

That’s when Little Legs slapped his brother right across the face.

It was all in a terrible slow-motion; the slap, the vibration of Baby Brother’s cheek jiggling from the impact and of course the scream of all screams.

Instinctively, I scrambled with the baby to a higher location, away from the toddler tsunami that threatened to overtake us.

I rocked the screaming baby and looked around with blurry vision, momentarily unwilling to risk going back to the ground for my glasses, I wondered where I went wrong and how it happened so quickly.

Then I realized, it wasn’t just Little Legs who changed and was still changing, it was all of us.

We were all different people and we needed to give ourselves the grace and understanding that we would to any set of Wild Things freshly out of the woods.

And a minute in the timeout chair.

Baby’s Trip to the Doc

While driving home from the pediatrician’s office, I glanced in the rearview mirror. Baby Boy was already fast asleep, his face still red and splotchy from crying. Screaming and sobbing, to be more accurate.

It was the first time in a week that I had on makeup, a shirt with sleeves and pants without an elastic waistband. It felt good to see the outside of our house and spend time beyond our yard. I even dressed Baby Boy up in a brand-new outfit and brushed the few hairs on his head over to the side.

He looked handsome and well-groomed, for about thirty minutes.

It started with a total blow out, somewhere between the car and the exam table, which went all the way up his back. As I peeled off his onesie, once so cute, now smeared with a mustard yellow that would certainly stain, I sighed. It had somehow reached his shoulder which was impressive, but also disgusting.

We rushed to clean up the mess, which is a word that is far too simple to describe what happened in that exam room. Fortunately, we worked fast in our clean up efforts and were ready in a fresh diaper by the time the nurse arrived.

“Oh, I see he’s already stripped down,” the nurse said in surprise.

She expected to wait while I undressed Baby Boy and had to leave her usual barely disguised look of annoyance for the next patient.

After the nurse weighed and measured my sweet little homebody, the doctor breezed into the room wearing safety glasses and a face mask. Interestingly, it is far easier to show annoyance and irritation through a mask, than a sense of warmth and generosity. However, it’s not impossible and the doctor gave it his best effort, smiling with his whole face and crinkling the sun-browned skin next to his eyes.

Baby Boy was born into this strange world of only seeing the eyes of strangers and faces of family. I wondered how this would impact his development. Would the kids of 2020 be known as the Maskies who are only comfortable at home, using Zoom and Facetime to connect with real people?

I couldn’t spend too much time dwelling on the future because we only had a few minutes in the present with the doctor to ask all the questions about sleep, poop, play and development that kept me up at night, even with Baby Boy as a second child.

Doc looked down his nose at the report of Baby Boy’s growth over the past month and gave a whistle.

“Let’s get a look at Fat Baby.”

It was like that was his name. Obviously, the doctor was unaware of his position of thin privilege or that Fat Baby’s mother was feeling over the top sensitive about weight and fat rolls and labels.

At about that point, I started to fall apart, as though held together by a thread that started disintegrating the moment we left the house. Perhaps all the time away from the public had made me too sensitive or out of touch? Maybe it was the effects of the post-partum hormones? Maybe it was too close to lunch time and my blood sugar was dropping.

Whatever the cause, I shut down and focused on Baby Boy, aka Fat Baby, forgetting to ask my important questions and plans for sleep training. The doctor obviously did not mean offense and it was more of a compliment to FB’s primary source of nutrition, me, than anything.

Still, I wondered when the pandemic ends, and it will eventually, how any of us could possibly reintegrate into a world that doesn’t appreciate fat rolls?