Jumping to conclusions

Lunch was almost over.

I tore the last bit of Baby Brother’s sandwich into two smaller pieces while finishing my own sticky mess of a peanut butter and honey sandwich when I noticed Little Legs slipping from the table.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“Down here,” a puny voice said.

I stood up to peek around Baby Brother, happily sucking the honey and peanut butter from the bread, to see Little Legs resting his head on the seat of his chair. He pulled a red wax cheese wrapper from one side of the chair to the other, like a lethargic cat toying with a dead mouse.

“Just playing,” he explained with his cheek squished out under the weight of his head, as a most convenient pillow.

“Are you tired?”

“No,” he replied without looking up.

“Are you sick?”

“No,” he repeated as he dragged the wrapper in a zig-zag across the seat of the chair.

He clearly was both, sick and tired, which was confirmed when he drove his dump truck to bed, climbed up over the edge and went to sleep without a single request for nap-time water, a trip to the potty, or more cars to keep him company.

I couldn’t think beyond the next two hours and wondered if Covid had finally come calling.


Kingdom of Boys

He wants up, he wants down. He wants in, he wants out.

And as his personal slave, I am all too happy to meet his demands and indulge in his whims.

“Yes, my tiny prince, I will do all these things over and over again. Should I toss you up in the air periodically and tickle your tummy, too?”

His dimpled smile melts my heart and ignites a white-hot flame of jealousy in his older brother.

When Baby Brother knocks the glasses from my face, I wag my finger and say, “Now I can’t see my naughty baby.”

Little Legs watches from a few feet away with a furrowed brow. He wants equal treatment for the same crime that recently landed him in a time out.

“Time out, Baby,” he declares, already a fighter of injustices everywhere, starting in his own living room.

He looks to me for action and seeing only a love-sick fool cooing at his brother, he takes matters into his own hands, quite literally.

Grabbing his brother under the arms, “Time out, Baby,” he explains as he attempts to drag him away to The Blue Chair.

“Release your brother!” I command and channel my inner Moses for this pharaoh-like face off.  

He drops him with a thud that makes his brother cry and stares at me in disbelief.

“Sorry, Mama.”

Order is restored, however temporarily, yet again.

I remain the Leader of my small People.

Hand, Foot and Mouth

Two days ago, Baby Brother woke up with a speckling of red dots on his legs.  

“They’re probably nothing,” we agreed, conveniently minimizing his symptoms.  

Then it was suddenly like an underwater seascape of rough, red coral bloomed on his arms, legs, face and ears. The dots came alive, multiplied and merged together creating unique formations that were conspicuously absent from his hands and feet.

I wondered if it was indeed the Hand, Foot and Mouth warned about from daycare and called the doctor, as I did on a weekly basis to inquire about whatever new virus or disease was ravaging the bodies of my boys.

“He’s miserable. There is a red rash covering his arms and legs but not on his hands or feet. We received a notice from daycare that there is an ongoing outbreak of Hand, Foot and Mouth, but none of those areas seem to be affected.”

The nurse did not laugh, I could almost see the straight line of her mouth as she prepared to give the same line to me as she must have given to the last dozen callers.

“It’s a virus, likely the same one that is in all of the other daycares. There is nothing you can do about it but try to keep your son comfortable. Call us if he has a high fever that Motrin can’t bring down or if the blisters around his mouth get too bad for him to eat.”

“Oh, and don’t worry about his hands and feet, it will spread there, too. Its just a matter of time.”

 And indeed, it was just a matter of time.

The sea of red spread to the tops of his hands and feet, with an outgoing tide of scattered blisters lining the edges of his fingers and toes.

Today, he is less miserable and smiling through the spots.

Somehow, he remains a ray of sunshine, a drop of golden sun.

Our sweet baby, Spots.   

The Right Price

Minutes after the neighbor’s white SUV pulled out of the driveway, a grey truck pulled into its place.

It was almost as if the driver had been waiting for her to leave. I shook my head; no that couldn’t be, not in this friendly, little town where they foolishly brag about leaving their doors unlocked.

The truck door swung open and a petite man with a baseball cap hopped out. I ventured that the truck was a mite too big for the man but assumed the distance between us distorted my perception.

He was snooping around the bright, red car parked under a tree. An old Mustang that drew in strange men from the road like moths to a light only to be zapped by the information that the car was not for sale.

Not now, not ever. Or at least until her son decides its too much work to restore which I can only assume will be in the new few years after he goes away to school and gets a job and comes back for Christmas and remembers the car, waiting and rotting down into the ground.

“You sure this ain’t for sale?” the man asked.

Daddy Longlegs shook his head, “Nope, it’s not for sale. They get a lot of folks stopping along this road to ask and its always the same answer.”

The man shielded his eyes from the sun with one hand, “Not even for the right price?”

What an impossible question to answer.

Everyone has a price.   

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.

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.

A House of No Secrets

Little Legs and I were in the laundry room, working side by side.

I carelessly tossed dirty clothes into the washing machine, while Little Legs pulled clothes from the basket and made his own pile on the floor. I was about to throw in the last pair of jeans when I discovered something hard in one of the pockets. After a few seconds of feeling around, I found the source, a flat carpenter pencil.

I extracted the mostly useless writing utensil and placed it on the counter where it was received by a small hand.

“Grabby,” he said.

He didn’t examine the pencil to notice that it wasn’t round, or to see the peeling blue paint or the crudely sharpened end, shaved to a passable point by a knife instead of a pencil sharpener.

He just stuck it right into his ear and said, “Ow,” with surprise in his voice.

“No,” I shouted and confiscated the pencil.

“Why would you put that into your ear?” I asked.

“Dada,” he replied.

I shook my head, obviously, he didn’t understand the question.

Later that day, Daddy Longlegs called to check-in on the inmates of the madhouse.

I explained, “Everything is fine except that Little Legs stuck a pencil in his ear.”

He replied without surprise, “I guess I taught him that. I tried to teach him how to put it behind his ear, but he kept putting it into his ear.”

“Well, I guess you did,” I said with a tone that indicated that there were better things to teach the tiny monkey.     

The little boy was always watching and waiting for his opportunity to test out new skills. To that end, he might not be able to get the pencil to do exactly what he planned, but he sure could tell on the person who tried to teach him to do it.

We were now living in a house of no secrets.

Creature of the Crib

Perhaps the monitor is picking up the sound from another dimension?

Surely, a pterodactyl is not shrieking in the baby’s room. However, if my ears are to be believed, an otherworldly demon-creature has taken over, and I can only assume it is sitting on the changing table, lovingly gazing down at the baby, squalling and shrieking with delight.

What else could be making such a high-pitched, unhuman like noise?

A quick check of the screen reveals an angry baby, rocking back and forth. He, indeed, is the tiny the creature of the crib.

This comes as quite the surprise as I hoped that he would stay as a baby a bit longer before becoming this being with a voice of his own who wants to crawl and walk and run and play.

Of course, what is not shocking is that it happened in 2020: the year of the pandemic, the election, and now the creature of the crib.  

What comes next in this time that feels like a science fiction novel?

Flying pigs, self-driving cars, healthcare for all?

In a few more weeks, this will be a year to remember and tuck away into history. Gone for good, thankfully. A year we never have to relive unless we still can’t get the virus under control. And in that case, I wouldn’t put the hand sanitizer away, not quite yet.

Sleepy Rattlesnakes

“Ooh yes, there are some mean snakes out in those woods behind your house. The DNR won’t even go back there, on account of the rattlesnakes being so nasty. The snakes go underground to hibernate, but the quarry blasts every day and they never get to sleep because the vibrations wake them up. Makes them nasty.”

Jerry, the neighbor, stopped by on his way to the dump to enlighten us about our property. It was not an entirely altruistic visit. He was mostly interested in hunting the deer that frequent the area.

“Sure would like to get back there and have a look around for the big one.”

“Well, we have bees and I would hate for you to get stung,” Daddy Longlegs explained.

Daddy Longlegs happened to be holding a machete from skinning a cedar tree that he had big plans for, once he figured out what to do about the termites that lived under the bark. The machete was not a deterrent to Jerry, the neighbor. Afterall, one doesn’t bring a machete to a gunfight and I assume Jerry has lots of guns because every time we see him, he talks about shooting things.

“You would only see me if I had to pull one (assuming this is a deer) out that I shot over here.”

Jerry, the neighbor, was not taking an indirect, super polite, Midwestern style of no for an answer. I’m not exactly sure how things were left but I won’t be surprised to see a big, maroon truck parked at the edge of the trees and even more disturbing, as I write, I can hear a shotgun in the distance.

This conversation was all recounted to me as I was inside sorting clothes while the baby napped. It makes me angry to envision, Jerry, the neighbor, shooting the deer that we have come to see as friends and then dragging their bodies through the woods, over our yard and into his waiting truck.

All in all, I do not like the arrangement. Not for the snakes, the deer, or us.

A man must eat, certainly, but I would prefer that he found the means to do so elsewhere.

And maybe consider a vegetarian lifestyle.

Cobbled Together

Sweat dripped from the tip of my nose. Although I was hot all over, even in shorts and a tank top, my nose was the only place the sweat managed to bead up and escape. Where most people have an HVAC system, I have a window A/C unit, and a small one, at that.

I rode my bike with an empty, plastic bucket balanced on one handle down the gravel road.

The road would later be paved, but that wouldn’t happen for years, after our old farm house burned down, after the ash trees that lined the drive-way were eaten from the inside out by beetles, and long after our nucleus of four exploded into four very different directions.

With just a little farther to go, I dropped my eyes to a mosquito that landed on my arm. I swatted at it with one hand as the lace in my shoe worked its way out of a loose knot and around the chain of the bike, completely preventing it from any additional movement.  

The bike stopped and bucket pulled the handlebars in one direction as my body tried to fly the opposite way, held back by the shoelace, firmly wrapped around the chain. I toppled like a tree in a windstorm, skidding head-first along the road, dragging my legs and the still-connected-by-a-shoe bike behind me.

As I lay on the road, with my foot hopelessly twisted and blood trickling from my knees and elbows, I only thought of the empty bucket. Remaining empty.  

There would be no cherry cobbler that night.

Just like this Thanksgiving. There will be no cobbler. No family around the table or extra shoes lined up by the door. As painful as it may be, we will make do without seeing each other in person, but because we must do our part to stop the spread of Covid-19 until a safe vaccine is available, until the hospitals clear out and until we settle into a new normal. 

For now, at least we have Zoom.

And like swapping a Pop-tart for a homemade cobbler, it is a pretty disappointing substitute.