What You Need

The toddler was on the ground, crying, “I need a nap.”

He situated himself outside of his daddy’s office door in a crying, sobbing 32-pound heap of boy. He knew what he wanted and yet when I scooped him up for quick transport to his crib, he shrieked. His screams became sobs in a sudden change-of-mind.

“Daddy is on the phone,” I whispered into his soft ear while holding him tightly against me. He wrapped his arms around my neck and squeezed my waist with his legs. It was the only type of snuggle he allowed these days.  

“No, not that, not that,” he pleaded with his arms still wrapped around my neck.

I shook him off like a flea as I dropped him into his bed and wiped the tears from his cheeks.

“Sweet dreams,” I said and pulled the door to his room shut with the pitiful sound of crying behind me.

I wanted to say, Little Boy, you are so lucky to get to lay down in the middle of the day for an hour. Don’t fight it.

As for me, I wanted to nap with every cell in my body. I longed for peace. I needed to be left alone.

However, now that both boys are sleeping and it is quiet, I miss their noise, their neediness, and the special kind of chaos that they create every single day.

Thanks to the Stones, there is a song that plays in my head, explaining this phenomenon.

You can’t always get what you want, but when you try sometime you find, you get what you need.  

Take a break, take a breath and take back your day.

Screen Time Woes

“Oh no, Baby. Oh no.”

Little Legs stared intently at the small screen in his hands; he hit all the buttons and shook the monitor with one hand and then with both hands. It was like watching a monkey trying to shake coins from a piggy bank. With each unsuccessful attempt, he grew more frustrated.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Baby gone.”

He handed the monitor off to me in tag-team style, his duty done, and returned to Daniel Tiger, his occasional babysitter/constant friend.

“He’s gone!” I said with a gasp, trying to get a rise from my fellow couch-potato.

Staring straight ahead, Little Legs said in agreement, “Baby all gone.”

Apparently, learning about Snow-Flake day was more interesting than the sudden disappearance of his only sibling.

There is a terrible transformation that takes place in Little Legs every time the tv is on; his eyes turn gooey, his jaw drops open and his brain melts into mush. A silvery trail of drool escapes from the corner of his mouth every so often, an indication that he all but forgets to breath when in the presence of a glowing television.

It is no wonder that the AACAP recommends only one hour of non-educational programming per weekday for this age group, here I will paraphrase, to prevent/reduce toddler brain rot.

I readjusted the camera from the floor to the crib.

“He’s not gone, the camera was just out of focus, silly.”

Still, no sign of concern or active life, just a little drool and the wave of his hand.

The Brother Project has a very, very long way to go and in the meantime, I have to figure out what to do about the zombification of screen time.

New Ball, Same Problem

“Soccer balls are meant to be played with outside,” I explained.

Little Legs cried harder; big, fat tears left snail trails down both cheeks.

“Inside, inside, inside,” he said.

He scooped up the still-shiny-brand-new ball with both hands and gingerly carried it to the back door.

I intercepted, again, and kicked it back to the yard.

“Let’s pass it back and forth to each other.”

His face turned red as a murder-scream escaped from his tiny body. He was furious, his ball was out of his possession and his mommy was not listening, double grounds for the big emotions.   

He raced after the ball, grabbed it and ran back to the door. He started pounding the door with an angry fist, hopeful for someone to let him, and his ball, into the safety of the house.  

“Alright,” I relented. “We can put the ball back inside.”   

I opened the door and he carefully rolled the ball inside, watching its path through the living room and into the kitchen. Satisfied with its resting place, he turned around, ready to continue playing.

“Coons,” he said, reminding me of what happened to the last soccer ball.

“I know, the racoons got your ball and shredded it up last time. You were really upset when we found it, weren’t you?”

He nodded and pointed to the woods.

“Coons. Ball, coons.”  

“We will be more careful this time and bring it in at night. The racoons can’t get to it that way.”

He shook his head in a flat rejection.

He was not taking any chances, and I was not about to change his mind.   

Goals

We snuggled on the couch, exhausted from another week with two naughty little boys who delight in taking each other’s toys, bopping one another on the head, making messes, and jointly terrorizing the cat.

While the boys are awake, we must remain on high alert to intervene in dangerous situations like the toddler base jumping from the back of the couch or the baby latching onto an electrical cord and pulling it from the wall.

When both bedroom doors are closed and silence falls over the house, it is only then that we can take a deep breath, relax and sink into the couch. Two bags of rocks would not fall to the bottom of a lake faster than we ease into our weekend at that point.

“It’s time,” I said.

“Time for what?” Daddy Longlegs said, the whites of his blue eyes wide and alarmed, not expecting anything other than Netflix and a bottle of wine.  

“To set our New Year’s resolutions, silly.”

He let out a visible sigh of relief and settled deeper into the comfort of the evening.

“Ok, I want to start jogging,” he declared.

“And for us to take a vacation, a real vacation with the boys. And to start eating better. And…” he trailed off.

“What about you?” he asked.

I drew an absolute blank. My mind was free and clear of any meaningful thought.  

“I guess, I guess I want to…clean all the blinds and windows.”

“No,” he said. “Something for you, not us.”

And still, there was nothing, which gave me plenty to consider for a week.

I thought about my lack of goals with a fresh awareness that I need to be a person, outside of being a mom and a wife. I am starting with a few easy ones like learn chess and make more friends, more goals will follow once I build up steam with these.

So it is for me, myself and I that I have to do at least one more thing in the next days, weeks and months.

The Mother

I am reading The Mother by Pearl S. Buck, who is also the author of The Good Earth. I picked it up from the discount shelf at a bookstore back when I still left the house on a regular basis and had the time to read back covers without a sticky little hand tugging on my pants for a snack. The book has been in a pile with other leftover books from a more prosperous era of book buying, patiently waiting its turn in queue.    

The pages are yellow and brittle and the front cover has a neon green $1 sticker on it, although I think I only paid a quarter for it. Imagine if the author knew how her time spent away from family and friends, writing and rewriting the book was reduced to a mere, measly 25 cents. I wonder if she still would have written it or said, “the hell with it” and thrown the manuscript into a musty chest never to see the light of day, again.

When I turn down the corner of a page to mark it, it breaks off in my hand. A crunchy little triangle that will never be returned to the book of its origin and proof of my sin against books. Review any of the books on my bookshelves for more proof of this bad habit, with an exception given to none.

There is a line that repeats itself in my head from the book; it is striking not only as a mother, but especially as a mother in the middle of a pandemic with two little boys.

“Is there one day different from another under Heaven for a mother?”    

For me, the answer is no. Each morning, it is a routine of wake, feed, play, repeat. Of course, the routine is tailored to the various needs of my offspring, but the repetition is there with the unfortunate addition of cleaning and cooking. And I find myself content in it, mostly. I am happy to have the opportunity to raise my boys how I want and grateful for our time together because I know it won’t be like this for long, cue Darius Rucker’s singing and tears.

The Prisoners Have Taken Over

We were supposed to be making a mobile of hands cut from colored paper to show kindness and connectivity. The craft was easy and the plan was simple: trace, color, and cut.

It was all too easy.

I started by tracing everyone’s hand, carefully following the curve of each sticky finger with a pen.

“Ok, let’s color and decorate the hands.”

Baby Brother captured the box of crayons while I traced Little Legs’ hand and held it to his chest with a Popeye-like iron grasp. I suspect he eats spinach in secret. How else would a milk-baby have so much strength?   

Little Legs intervened and tried to peel his brother’s digits from the box, not so much so that he could color but to have a justified reason to push his brother’s fingers in the wrong direction.

“Little Legs,” I growled a warning.

As my vocabulary dwindles from mostly communicating with a two-year-old and his speechless brother, the number of things that can be said with a ‘tut’ or a growl or an ‘ahem’ have grown tremendously. In this case, it meant, unhand your brother or face the consequence in time out.

At the same time, Baby Brother did not care for the rough handling and started to scream, releasing the crayons as a fortunate by-product of the situation.

Once the hands were scribbled on, it was time to free them from their paper home.  

Snip, snip. I made a test cut in the air to Little Legs’ delight.  

He grinned and tried to hijack the scissors for his own purposes. After a brief struggle, he relented and moved back to crumple the remaining uncut paper hands.

Baby Brother scooted to get in on the crumbling action and Little Legs found a permanent marker.

He ran off, shouting, “Dadda, dadda.”

Meanwhile, Baby Brother made a grab for the scissors.

The prisoners have taken control, I wearily thought about the chaotic morning, but not for long. I scooped up the baby and separated him from his weapon. With baby on my hip, I tracked down his brother, waving the black marker in the air in the hallway. He, too, was scooped up and carried back to the living room.

We are going to finish this connectivity craft, if it is the last thing we do, I solemnly promised.

And it was.

Thank God for naptime.

Sharing is not caring

Sharing is not caring in our household, its grounds for war.

Little Legs and Baby Brother are still adjusting to one another, six months after BB’s introduction as a pink and wrinkled bundle of boy. The adjustment is more painful now than before as BB has entered the world of mobility. He does an army-crawl/scoot combination to get across the room with astonishing speed. Like watching a rock sprout legs, I remain in disbelief at the transformation.

There are no toys that are safe from BB’s sticky clutches or endless stream of drool. Some toys beg to be grabbed over others, usually they are the most well-loved ones that will cause the greatest amount of distress for Little Legs.  

For example, Little Legs noticed Dog-Bear, the dingy white polar bear with whom he sleeps every night, was not at his feet where he dropped him to play with trains.

“Dog-Bear gone?” he asked.

I didn’t want to be the bearer of bad tidings, but Dog-Bear was nearby and in the arms of another.  

Little Legs looked to his left and to his right before he discovered his crib-mate wrestling and rolling on the ground with Baby Brother; like a cat and a large rat, they were a well-matched pair. Little Legs screamed in horror and ripped Dog-Bear away from his brother.

“Hug, Dog-Bear,” he rubbed his nose in the nubby fur of the coveted stuffed animal with a sigh of relief at his safe return.  

He wrapped his arms it and then suddenly stopped and held it out for my inspection with a lip curled in disgust.

“Wet,” he proclaimed.  

Perhaps, I mused, the future threat of drool on his best friend would be enough to encourage more cleaning and less mess making.

“Sorry buddy, it looks like your brother got ahold of Dog-Bear.”

At this astute observation, Little Legs began to cry.

“You have to pick up the toys that you don’t want to share.”

He registered this information with a sniff and a nod, grabbed a block and made his way back toward his brother. I assumed it was to replace Dog-Bear. How thoughtful this first-born son was becoming. I watched with pride as he brought the new toy to his brother.  

Instead of delivering the block, Little Legs raised the block with both hands up over his head and brought them down towards his brother’s still-soft cranium.

I intervened at the last second, shielding Baby Brother from the strike of a tiny tyrant, the self-imposed punisher, with my hands. I grabbed Baby Brother and held him close, safe from the immediate threat of his sibling.  

Clearly, the path of their friendship is long and winding, but I know (fervently hope) that eventually they will find each other as not just brothers, but as best friends and a shelter from any storm. Until then, we just have to protect the baby from the current typhoon that is his toddler brother.

Easier said than done.

Coronavirus Confessional

I did a bad thing. Or I almost did.

I would have gone through with it, too, if it hadn’t been for some jerk doing their job in a complete and efficient manner.  

One way or another, I ended up on a list that indicated I should get the Covid-19 vaccine. I received an email inviting me to make an appointment for the first of two shots. The potential side effects were included with the number to call in the event of a severe allergic reaction and a warning of people who should not get vaccinated.   

While the possibilities of swelling at the injection site, fatigue, body aches and a low grade fever were not something to anticipate with pleasure, it all seemed better than contracting the actual virus or worse yet, spreading it unbeknownst to me, to someone without the ability to fight it, like my baby or sweet Granny.

At first, I was concerned that I didn’t meet the requirements. Then the thought took over that I could return to public without the constant fear of getting and spreading the virus and felt my anxiety drastically decrease. It was like someone just sliced open a big emotional lipoma. I felt the anxiety drain out, thick and clumpy, and was surprised at the emptiness left behind as I had held it in for so long, nearly a year of worry and uncertainty.

Now, I could take back my life. I wanted to be a linejumper. I was going to face my fear that the vaccine had been rushed through the trials and offered to the public prematurely, I was willing to deal with the side effects, and least of all was concerned that I didn’t exactly check all of the boxes for this early vax phase.

It was selfish, I know.

Still, I told my family and friends about my opportunity and encouraged them to sign up as soon as possible, as well. It became my duty to spread the word and get others on board, to sway those who were undecided as a means to end the madness of 2020 instead of letting it, quite literally, infect 2021. I was an unofficial vaccination soldier.

Until I wasn’t.

Apparently, someone was actually reviewing the sign-up forms which required information like name, address and employer. And apparently being self-employed was not an acceptable answer to move forward to the big poke. 

My anxiety wasn’t worse or bigger than anyone else’s monsters, it just seemed like the vaccine would offer a bit of breathing room in this world that is otherwise suffocating with massive problems like global warming, political discord and the unchecked pandemic. I saw my chance for a little peace, and I took it.  

Needless to say, my appointment was cancelled and here I am, a penitent linejumper to-be, still unvaccinated, and back in queue, just after prisoners and homeless people.