Sleep Fight

“Do you want me to sing you a song?”

I laughed softly at Daddy Longlegs’ tenderness in the ongoing struggle to get Little Legs to sleep.

Every night, the boy tries new tricks to stay up.

“Two more stories?” he requests after the 17th book lands on a pile next to him.

“Wa-wa?” he smacks his lips with thirst while holding a cup of water.

“Poo-poo diap-ee,” he announces, certain that someone will assist, with a suspicious glee.

We should feel flattered our company is so desirable that this young person wants to spend even five more minutes together. Instead, we are exhausted, exasperated and did I mention, tired?  

I remind myself that this is yet another phase, one that we will look back on with an aching sense of loss. Someday in the future, he will be knobbly-kneed boy, and then a teenager who has no time and no interest in snuggling up next to us.

So tonight when he fakes a cough and yells out, “Cough med-cine” or “Need Mama”, I will breathe in energy and breathe out grace and compassion for the toddler down the hall who keeps us in a constant state of motion.

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.

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.    

A Simple Gift

bunnyThe trio left through the backdoor. The woman wore the infant strapped to her chest while the toddler had decided to live his life as a bunny and hopped along behind her.

“Hop, hop, hop,” he narrated.

They made it around the side of the house when the boy-rabbit stopped completely, and as though frozen, he stared at the sky.

“Come on, bunny. Hop this way,” his mother encouraged.

The sun was hot on her face and arms. She pulled the brim of the baby’s hat back, his chubby face was peacefully resting between her breasts. The heat only lulled him further into a deeper sleep.

“Its hot out here, let’s get to the shade.”

“Nah, nah, nah. Clough!”

Instead of following his mother where she stood under the protection of a grizzled old tree with pale, green lichens growing on the bark and long overhanging branches, he continued to stare up at the sky.

“Clough!” he exclaimed again and pointed.

Sensing that the boy would be rooted to the spot until she did what he wanted, she returned to his side and looked up, finally.

Clouds unrolled across the sky like waves of wind-blown sand on the beach, stretching as far as the eye could see, against a breathtakingly blue sky.

“Clouds in the sky,” she affirmed.

“Beautiful, thank you for showing me.”

Satisfied at last with his mother, the boy-bunny continued hopping through the yard.

His mother was left behind, humbled at the beauty of the day and that it took the fresh eyes of her son to appreciate it.

All it took was to simply look up.

Cannibals

The meeting started promptly at 1:00, right in the middle of a perfectly good Sunday afternoon. I wondered why I was participating with the bigger question of why I volunteered for anything else when my life was already bursting at the figurative seams with undone things, starting with a mound of laundry.

Yet, there I was, calling in to be counted for the rollcall and reviewing the agenda with my boys in the next room in the care of Daddy Longlegs and G-ma.

We were all accounted for except for one person who, unbeknownst to her, would be eaten later.

Shortly after the meeting was called to order, the leader brought up what she called, “the elephant in the room.”

She forgot we were only faces suspended in virtual reality, there was no room and there was no elephant.

“We have to address the recent chain of text messages. I think we all know what I am talking about.”

There was a quiet murmur of acknowledgement from the floating heads.

“Therefore, I am submitting a motion for the Texter to be removed from The Board.”

I gasped in silent horror, thankful for the mute option.

It seemed an extreme punishment for the offense. However, I was the newest person to join and unfamiliar with the group dynamics, processes, and procedures.

“I want to hear from everyone on this,” the leader requested.

One by one, all members present voiced their opinions with a unanimous agreement with the leader.

“She’s got to go and here’s why,” one member explained.

“I’ve been noticing her lack of enthusiasm for a while,” another shared.

“She’s always first to leave and last to arrive,” a third stated.

The elephant in the room was slowly torn apart, limb by limb, and picked clean until only the bones were left to dry. The decision was to be delivered via email with the offer of a phone call to work out any remaining details which the leader didn’t think would be necessary.

“Its what she wanted,” she reassured the cannibals who were still licking their lips.

They were temporarily satiated from their meal.

I wondered how long it would be before they felt the hunger pangs and turned their hungry mouths towards me. Somehow, I knew it would be a matter of time, especially now they had the taste of blood.

bones

When the Cookie Monster visits

cookie monsterOver the past few weeks while remaining safer at home, we have all been brought quite literally closer with Daddy Longlegs working from home.  However, this temporary/ongoing arrangement has also meant that our places of work and play are currently one-in-the-same and naturally there is bound to be some conflict. 

Who knew it would come to a head over a peanut butter cookie?

Last week, Daddy Longlegs decided to make lunch for Little Legs and me.  He thoughtfully made each of our sandwiches according to our preferences, ham and cheese for me, peanut butter and jelly for Little Legs, with a handful of chips and strawberries to share between us.  I brought cookies and milk for dessert and boosted Little Legs into his special seat.  His seat clamps to the table where he likes to play with his food, swing his legs back and forth, and drop things for the cat to scarf down; sometimes he manages to eat, too.  

On this fateful day, I made the mistake of handing a cookie to Daddy Longlegs over Little Legs’ head and saying, “We can all have cookies after you finish your sandwich.”  

Little Legs watched the hand-off with a pair of eagle eyes that miss nothing and decided there would be no sandwich eating.  Only cookie eating.  Also, he wanted all of the cookies.  Now.

It started with a quiet whining and pointing at the distributed cookies with a grubby finger, first at his daddy’s and then at mine.  He turned his head away from his sandwich and knocked Daddy Longlegs’ hand away as he offered him a chip.  Then he threw a strawberry to the ground in anger, barely missing the cat that sat waiting and hoping for a meatier offering.

I moved to break off a cookie bit as a compromise when Daddy Longlegs’ intervened with a raised hand like a crossing guard to stop.  He was about to do some emotional mealtime redirecting.

“You can’t negotiate with a terrorist.” 

He turned to the boy who was red in the face and on the verge of screaming. 

He explained, “You have to eat your sandwich before you get a cookie.”   

And then back to me while still talking to the boy, “And mommy isn’t going to give in.  Right, Mommy?”

“He needs to eat something,” I said, driven by an irrational fear that he would starve starting at that instant unless he got a cookie.  Mother knows best, I thought, and assumed that he would naturally agree to eat his sandwich if he got a little bite of early dessert.  In short, I assumed we were dealing with a rational person instead of a toddler.

“You can’t just feed him cookies.  If you give in now, what’s going to happen tomorrow and the day after that?” Daddy Longlegs asked.

I took a minute to think, to allay my fear and push my maternal arrogance aside, and to consider things as an unbiased and rational adult.  Of course, I can’t just feed the boy cookies, he’s not going to starve, and I can’t give him everything he wants.  

He needs boundaries and vegetables. 

After all, we all know what happens if you give a cat a cupcake, he’s going to want some sprinkles.     

Ice Cream Tripping

icecreamTime is running out for our merry gang as soon we go from the Three Amigos to the Three Amigos plus one. We want to do some special things with the youngest of the Amigos before his world is turned upside down when a smaller, even needier version of himself moves into the house. However, with the corona virus, murder hornets, and another wicked round of bad weather on the way, it is impossibly hard to know where and what is safe.   

After settling on small, close-to-home trips and experiences to limit the danger from apparently everything, we decided to risk our lives with a quick trip for ice cream from a fast food restaurant. We ordered at the faceless speaker sign and pulled forward to meet a bouncy young cashier wearing a mask around her neck where it did her little good as a scarf. I prayed she wasn’t sick because she was definitely going to breathe on the goods.

“Hey y’all, lemme grab those cones for you. Be right back,” she drawled.

Weighing the risks with the benefits of this trip while we waited for the young woman/super-germ-spreader to return to the window did not offer reassurance that the sweet treats would be worth the cost of our lives. Fortunately, not one murder hornet was spotted and once that cold vanilla ice cream hit my lips and tongue, my reservations melted. Guiltily, I knew we would be back. I justified the risk that it was all for Little Legs, but truth-be-told, (lean in close to hear my whispered confession) the ice cream was for me.

We made the seven-minute-trip back home, carefully keeping the melting ice cream to cone ratio in check to prevent a sticky mess and gave Little Legs the rest of my cone when we unloaded from the car.

He happily slurped the ice cream and bit into the side of the cone with a confidence that came as naturally as breathing. He was meant to eat ice cream cones or perhaps this was part of an inborn survival wisdom like how ducks know how to swim as soon as they hit water. This was the sign of an all-American boy.

With a full, dripping ice cream mustache and beard combo that would make any parent proud, he smiled as he continued to slurp away at the cone.

“Is that good?” I leaned dangerously close to ask a question to which the answer was clear.

In response, he nodded and reached out to touch my face, leaving a delicious, vanilla flavored smudge on my glasses. For once, I didn’t care about his sticky prints or the growing mess around his feet. In that moment, the Three Amigos were together, happy and healthy; and in spite of everything, all was right in the world.

Yards of Yellow

dandysWe left the safety of the house for our morning exploration of the yard which usually involves tromping through the grass to check in on the garden, the status of a bird nest above Little Leg’s window and to blow on white haired dandelions to release their fluff in the breeze.  I assume our neighbors will thank us for their yards of yellow later this summer.  Of course, I didn’t expect to end the expedition with plans for a funeral, but that’s life.  And death.

Little Legs led me by the hand to inspect his stack of bricks and found the pile to be as he left it, precariously leaning to one side.  I pointed out a black dragonfly with square wings like the sails of a pirate ship that landed on a flat rock.  There were no disturbances in the garden, thanks to a regular dusting of diatomaceous earth, and the three fuzzy heads of the baby birds were all accounted for in the nest.  It was a morning in which all was remarkably well, begging for a small disaster to balance out our tiny universe in which the sun, moon and stars was contained in a pint-sized boy.

As we turned the corner and headed back towards the porch, I spotted something on the concrete pad next to an abandoned Mr. Potato Head and underneath of the window.  It was a palm-sized bird laying motionless on its side with its eyes cracked open in a sign of potential life.

Little Legs shouted, “Bur…” in delight and ran to scoop it up.

“No, baby! Something is wrong with that bird.  Let mama check it out.” 

I stepped in front of Little Legs to stop his obvious course of action and knelt down for a better look at the pile of soft brown feathers.  Ignoring the threat of bird-carrying diseases and parasites, I gently picked the bird up and its head rolled to the side without resistance; although its chest was still warm, the life was gone from its shiny, black eyes.  There was no fluttering heartbeat, quivering wings or chirping, just two tiny feathers stuck to the window where it must have made impact while we were sending dandelions seeds to destinations unknown.

Do I explain death, here and now, to Little Legs?  I promised myself before he was born that I would always try to be an honest parent and tell the truth, whatever version might be most age appropriate. 

“The bird died, buddy.  I think its neck is broken,” I explained to a face that did not comprehend. 

Little Legs threw his hands up in question and I instantly altered the narrative to one more comfortable and understandable, one that I assume my parents gave to me until I could grasp the concept of death.

“The bird is sleeping and its not going to wake up.”

Little Legs nodded his head, sleep was something he was very familiar with as he fought it every day and night.  He went to a box of gardening tools near the door and came back with a trowel.

“Chop, chop?” he asked.

“That’s good, we’ll dig a hole and bury the bird.”

He drove the shiny metal down onto the cement with a clashing sound to further explain his plan.  I hoped that he meant to dig into the soil.  I hoped for another opportunity as seemingly benign as this one to explain life and death.  Mostly, I hoped I wasn’t screwing up as a parent and that he would forgive me, if I was, someday.

From Coyote to Corona

coyoteThere is a coyote stalking small prey in the backyard.  The animal’s fur is a combination of grey, white, brown and black, perfect camouflage to blend into the shadows.  Except it isn’t trying very hard to remain undetected, perhaps from hunger or disease, it lets us see him watch us through the window. 

Little Legs thinks it’s a dog and barks at it and bangs on the glass with a toy car.

“Daw… daw…daw…” he chants.

He would like to have a pet, but this is not the right one, with its possible case of rabies, baby-biting tendencies, and definite infestation of fleas.  By the looks of the mangy mutt, the coyote wouldn’t mind carrying off my sweet boy to snack on like a meaty Now and Later.  Something about the way that it stares at us is off with the same level of derangement as an escaped convict, and then I see it lick its lips, or at least I think that I do.  Staying home day after day may be impacting my cognition, or plain and simple, the coyote wants to eat us. 

“Well, we aren’t going out there today,” I declare knowing that we will still go outside after lunch.  

Mentally, I go through several scenarios of Little Legs luring the coyote close enough to touch when my back is turned and me chasing it off with a stick or going into hand-to-paw combat with it or running after it with Little Legs on its back like a circus performer riding a lion.  I set my resolve to get a weapon to protect us during the day, wanting a bb gun for the first time in my life.

“A bb gun?”

My husband is incredulous when I tell him what is needed on his next trip to town and the reason why.  I show him the picture that I took as proof of the problem and to support my request.  A part of me expects him to ask me to fill out a requisition form and send it to the finance department for processing…so Amazon, it is.    

“You don’t need a bb gun, you need a shot gun and we can load it with buck shot; you don’t have to be accurate that way.”

I don’t take offense at this because he is obviously unaware of my sharp shooting days from a past life and that this is not something that I just want.  It is something that I need at a time when it feels like we are under attack from all angles with the corona virus wreaking havoc on multiple fronts of our world, living under quarantine and now a coyote in our backyard.

What I want and need is a sense of safety for my little boy and the one on the way.  I need to feel secure taking them out to swing or to play in the dirt or to gather dandelions and not worry that a coyote is watching us and waiting for his dinner opportunity.  With wild things all around us that threaten harm, I want to feel some control in protecting the ones I love, but it doesn’t seem like any amount of waiting, money or weaponry can provide the kind of security that I need.  

Aside from hand sanitizer.  And a bb gun.

The Search for Sugar

It’s been about a week since Sugar’s visit.  We remain under a shelter-in-place order which gives us ample time to observe the comings and goings of the neighbors.  Sadly, our favorite neighbor has yet to return to her rightful place in the backyard across the street barking at birds and digging in the mud.

When Sugar came to visit, we thought it was a part of a short-lived tour de freedom instead of what now appears to have been the kick off to a much longer and possibly permanent trip away from the backyard.   

We still take walks through the neighborhood, while cautiously respecting the social distancing imperative, and peek into her fenced area.  I am hopeful that we somehow missed her homecoming and will find her there one day, smiling and barking and as dirty, as ever.  

Little Legs also looks for her.  He strains his neck trying to see her through the fence and raises his hands in question when only untrampled grass meets his gaze. 

This is the only loss that he has felt during quarantine.  He doesn’t miss playdates or enriching field trips to museums or hands-on discovery centers, he doesn’t care that all of our meals are eaten at home or that he hasn’t seen his grandparents this Spring.  He just knows that his friend, Sugar, is missing.

As a new parent, I didn’t anticipate the need to deal with issues of loss or grief this early on in our journey. However, we take the challenges as they come, fast and unexpected.  It’s a lot of improvising and fly-by-the-seat of one’s pants work to meet the needs of our curious and sweet little boy.

So, the last time he threw his hands up in question about Sugar, I gave the best explanation I could.

“Sugar is on vacation for a while, probably at the beach, and we don’t know when she’ll be back.”

He accepted this without question and toddled down the road, picking up rocks and worms, happy to know the truth, at last.