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

Daycare Cruddies

Finally, we beat the brain-rattling cough from daycare only to be informed of a potential (definite) exposure to RSV, Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, and all the possible flus. It is almost laughable at the number of different germs fighting to infect Little Legs and Baby Brother. Almost, but not quite funny, especially considering the toll that each sickness takes on their bodies.

They lose weight, hours of sleep and their general sense of well-being. They bite and push one another, like little savages outside of their cave. At least the older one can grunt, “Me no feel good.” While his wordless brother is left with shrieks, squawks and other animal noises to express the same sentiment.

We understand, all the same. The thermometer helps to confirm what the back of my hand already tells me. A fever feels so much hotter on either one of their foreheads than mine has ever felt. Tylenol and Motrin are in regular rotation as we fight the fires burning within them.

Firefighting is exhausting work, but we must persevere.

This ongoing daycare nightmare started in the middle of March and it is now June. I question whether working is worth the constant stream of snot or the sudden vomiting or the development of a strange skin rash. I am not even including the shocking new words and phrases, such as shut up, that have tagged along to home with the toddler in my list of pros versus cons of daycare and working. Thankfully, the baby is too young to pick up anything, aside from every passing germ and most recently, picking his nose, which does not improve our chances for a healthy summer.

My brother said to expect six months of this and then it should be easy. Ha, I laugh, as easy as living with a tribe of tiny, irrational Neanderthals might be expected.

Yet, to quit now would be to throw all that time building up their immune systems away, only to restart in a few years with pre-k and kindergarten. In spite of our “progress” if it can be called that, I struggle with if it continues to make sense to expose them to other people, adults and children alike, in a quest to generate income, stay current with employment and to socialize them more than I could ever do at home?

I try not to dwell too long on these thoughts, but the questions repeat, the guilt weighs on me, and the sicknesses remind me of the physical cost to the time we spend apart. Germs and jobs make life hard and they don’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

Little Peskies

I stepped out of the shower, prepared for anything.

Little Legs had been there for five minutes, which was enough time for so much toddlerfied, crazy-world activity. I tried to minimize the potential trouble by turning on a video about dump trucks and setting him up in a pint-sized rocking chair. What could go wrong, I thought.  

As I stepped into the steaming hot water, I said over my shoulder, “Be good.”

He did not respond. His attention was completely focused on the loading of a dump truck at a construction site. I assumed that meant he was agreeable to the terms of our shower arrangement. He would sit in his rocker like a baby zombie, glued to the screen, while I rinsed off and tried to wake up for the day. It was win/win.

Water streamed down my face and over my shoulders, it was refreshing after another night of broken sleep. I decided on another cup of coffee afterwards and peered out the shower door on a whim. I wiped the water from my eyes and squinted at the space where I had just left my son.

It was empty. The baby zombie was gone, zombified no longer. The sing-song voice of a narrator still explained the way that rocks were broken down into smaller bits that got smaller and smaller in a gravel pit and a screen still glowed with what I assume were rocks getting smashed, but no Little Legs.

“Buddy,” I yelled out, rinsing the last of the conditioner from my hair.

I turned off the water and turned up my sixth sense, the mama sense, keenly aware that he was up to something.

“What are you doing?”

I thought the sound of my voice might be enough to guide him to better decision making. I grabbed my towel from the wall and gingerly stepped out onto the rug.

“Ow, ow, ow.”

Little Legs had indeed abandoned his post on the chair. He was standing on a stool in front of the lighted mirror, wearing my watch on his wrist and my glasses on his face, while holding a pair of tweezers.

“What were you doing, guy?”

 He stabbed his cheek with the tweezer and let out another cry of pain.

 Monkey see, monkey do.   

He was going after the little peskies, yet to sprout.

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.

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.   

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.

Lymph Nodes

“Babe, don’t freak out.”

This was not a good way to start a conversation with an anxious person.

“Seriously, just listen.”

My husband tried to reassure me ahead of time, as though his words could act as a soothing balm to whatever painful or irritating information he was about to impart.

“Did you notice the lumps on the back of Little Legs’ head?”

“What are you talking about?”

I stood at the sink without turning and scrubbed harder at the burned macaroni and cheese.

“The mosquito bites?” I asked over my shoulder.

“No, they are on the back of his head, on his occipital lobe.”

Occipital lobe? Who talks like that, I thought.

He had Little Legs in tow and led him over to me.

“Show Mommy your truck,” he nudged the boy in my direction and whispered, “Go ahead, feel the back of his head.”

Turning off the water, I sighed in acceptance of the interruption and dried my hands on a damp dishtowel. I had one more pan to wash and I would be done with the kitchen for the night.

“Come here, buster.”  

He shuffled over to me in his one-piece footy pajamas holding a monster truck out for my inspection.

I knelt down and ran my hands over his fuzzy hair, still wet and smelling of Johnson’s and Johnson’s baby shampoo. I let my fingers explore his scalp, skeptical that anything missed my watchful eye. Then I found what my husband already discovered, two symmetrically placed lumps on either side of the back of my son’s head.

Little Legs jerked away from my loving hands as I pushed in on the aberrations on his perfect head.  

“Does it hurt when I push there?”

“Hurt,” he mimicked.

I asked again and received the same answer, surprising no one.  


“We have to call the doctor.”

We both looked at the clock on the wall, the office was obviously closed.

“I told you not to freak out.”


“Little Legs?” she called.

The baby was in her arms, freshly diapered and tickled under the neck. Her older son was right behind her pushing a truck back and forth across the rug, until suddenly, he wasn’t there.  

The room was conspicuously absent of vrooming.  

She stepped out of the nursery, pushing the door completely open.

The baby cooed and laughed with his pink tongue hanging out of his mouth, oblivious to his mother’s worry.

“Little Legs?” she called again, louder this time.

 She peered into the kitchen and down the hallway.

The door squeaked as it swung towards her and a tiny figure jumped out at her from the dark shadow.

 “Hide!” Little Legs shouted gleefully with his hands over his eyes.

“Oh God,” his mother jumped back and the baby lurched forward, his wobbly head guiding the way.

“Little Legs, you can’t jump out at me like that.”

His mother’s heart pounded in her chest and she felt sick thinking about the momentary lightness in her arms.

A wail rose from the baby in protest of the bumpy ride and his brother skittered off like a water bug shooting across a pond.

He was ready for the next game.

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.