All I Need Now Is a Three-Year-Old

As I sat nursing Joshua I started to laugh, and he giggled along with me as if he knew. I was taking inventory of what was on my plate, marveling at the ridiculous scenarios served up by our current life with a 5yo, 4yo, 2yo, and 1yo. For two weeks we are including an extra little boy in our family as part of the Safe Families for Children movement of Christian compassion and hospitality.

I’d just been discussing with my girlfriend why three years old is our least favorite age of all, so as I rocked Joshua I saw the humor in the irony: At least I don’t have a 3yo.

We celebrated our last day of Indian Summer by packing a picnic for the park. At 10:30 we set out with the two boys in the double jogger and the big kids on their bikes. A good time was had by all.

We got home sometime between 1:15 and 1:30. I don’t really have time to look at clocks at these sort of moments. Lucas had been near falling asleep in the stroller so I knew it was important to get him into bed ASAP. Also on my agenda were Joshua’s nap, a bath for Meredith, a piano lesson for Jacob, and a bowl of leftover curry. And leaving for my haircut at 2:00. Yeah, that was obviously an ambitious list.

I didn’t so much think in terms of what I could get done, just what needed to get done. It’s how I roll. It’s how I have to roll. I do my best and at the end of the day what’s left is left. I was in beast mode.

I started with a diaper change for Lucas where I discovered that what I thought from his whines was a rash turned out to be a diaper FULL of sand. So I carried his naked butt upstair to the tub and got it running. During this moment I learned that Meredith had had a poop accident on our way home and I vaguely noticed Joshua escape out the basement door, followed by Joshua. I left a naked Lucas in the tub and a naked Meredith on the potty and stuck my head out the kitchen door to see the boys playing together. I gravely charged Jacob with the job of staying right beside Joshua every second, and/or carrying him back inside, and then I raced to deal with the sand. I swapped out the bathwater and exchanged the clean boy for the grimy girl and took Lucas to his nap.

While we snuggled with a book Jacob and Joshua appeared at the door of the bedroom and I did my best to shoo them away, but Jacob had his own ideas and Joshua got to me before I could get a closed door between us. So now Joshua, dragged out by Jacob at my instruction, was standing on the other side of the door wailing, and Jacob came in (not at my instruction) to fetch his precious legos before the room was sealed with a napper. Joshua followed, and I did my best to snuggle a standing, weeping 1yo while rocking a drowsy, calming 2yo.

Merry’s unremitting hollers were my cue to tuck Lucas into his crib and I went up to hear her yelling “MOM! I DID A POOP!” with all the fury of a cold, wet 4yo sitting on a toilet feeling ignored. With her back in the tub I finally sat to nurse Joshua to sleep, after arguing with the 5yo once again when his reaction to my instruction to leave the room was to first hoard up all the toys he was playing with in his spilling arms, ignoring my commands to leave them – they were Joshua’s blocks anyway. He finally did my bidding and I went to find Joshua. I found him with his blankie dragging along the wet bathroom floor, watching Merry in the tub, where she was playing with a long section of French drain pipe he’d brought her from where it’d been under his crib. Because obviously. As I tok his hand to lead him to nap he tossed a bath toy into the potty, and I left it there.

There was a moment of peace before Jacob came back with a grin. “Mom, Lucas can open the door now.” We’d known his crib-climbing skills and accounted for them, but I figured if he got out of bed to cry at the door I could leave him five minutes while I put Joshua down. When Jacob explained he’d opened the door, peeked out, and closed it again, I decided to leave things as they stood. I heard no noise of crying or stair-climbing, so Lucas was not the most pressing need.

While I rocked Joshua I had to compete with Jacob’s amused panic and horror upon discovering the bath toy in the potty when I’d told him to go pee and get ready for his piano lesson. I hissed at him to go use the downstairs potty and wondered why a 5yo didn’t feel as calm about toys in the potty as I did.

So that’s when I started to laugh. When Joshua was in bed, I washed the Potty Toy and threw it back in the tub, and then went down to investigate. There was Lucas, disassembling Jacob’s legos, which he’d found on the floor right outside his room. He looked at me with guilty embarrassment and I hoisted him back into bed, where I stood with my hand on his back, “shhh”ing him to sleep. Meanwhile Mike arrived home and came in search of the van keys and we lip-read a conversation about their whereabouts. Lucas asleep, I went to execute the rest of the plan, with delusions about sitting down to write this story, too.

Curry, piano lesson, shampoo, and a minute to write my ridiculous tale. I sent Jacob to his piano lesson (he gets his books, kisses his mom, and walks out the door to his teacher’s house, while I set up the piano and prepare to answer the doorbell; it’s our ritual and I’d swear by it) and glanced at the clock. 1:55. I did the math. I ran out onto the back deck overlooking Mike and Tyler, who were unloading a truck-full of gravel, backfilling the new retaining wall. (Recall the section of French drain pipe.) “Babe, I just realized the time and need to be leaving in five minutes for my hair appointment, and still need to wash Merry’s hair and give Jacob a piano lesson.” He laughed at me and agreed to wash Merry’s hair, saying he’d rather do that than teach a piano lesson.

Not wanting to short-change Jacob, sending the message (AGAIN) that these scholar-pursuits can wait for our convenience, I proceeded to answer the doorbell like everything was fine and explained to my pupil that I was sorry he had to have a short lesson, whereupon I condensed our lesson plan into about 8 minutes, kissed him goodbye, grabbed the keys, and ran out the door, composing this little tale in my head as I drove downtown and reflecting with satisfaction on the wonderful husband I have who includes the hair dryer in the job of washing his daughter’s hair.

When I walked into the salon at precisely 2:16 (less than an hour after arriving home from the park) I saw my stylist in the thick of another haircut, and as I sat and waited for fifteen long, quiet, relaxing minutes I noticed that I hadn’t eaten the curry.

So it was a regular Friday afternoon in Spotsylvania, as the story book says.

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Today We Danced

When I was a junior in college I took Modern Dance 1. I was beyond terrible. I have this brain thing where everything gets turned around and I can’t mimic something I see, only something I feel. Even in conducting I’d need my teacher to move my arm for me to learn the patterns, I couldn’t just do what he modeled. To this day I can’t keep a 4-pattern going straight without extreme focus. In dance class I was always going the wrong direction and knocking into people or worse. But the one thing I learned in Modern Dance 1 was flow. For some this came easily, for me, well let’s just say it was a heightened sense of gratification when I finally, only once, got the 4-minute dance sequence we’d been building to move fluidly ON THE LAST DAY before we switched to a new one. But no matter how hard it is to design and internalize the sequence, that physical sensation of momentum – the exit of one motion being the jump into the next – is one of the most beautiful, human, alive things I’ve known.

And some days, it’s the only thing that gets us through. Today was one of those days and “flow” got dialed up to the level of an extreme sport. I’ll spare you all the details but that it involved the watching of two different families of children not my own, the running of three different errands, feeding Meredith in the front seat of the car at one point and fresh out of the tub while Jacob finished bathing at another. Also she got only one short nap today, I got no lunch, and my couch is a mountain of groceries at the moment. BUT my kids are in bed and I am settling in for a comfy alone night, which feels like really amazing dessert. When I noticed how it’d felt like a dance was as I walked down the top stairs with the freshly-jammied babies and noticed this morning’s jammies in a heap at the top of the bottom stairs. At 8:00 this morning Mike & I dressed them on the living room floor and I ran out the door with them. We swung in for quick dinner at 5:30 and then back out to two more errands, and when we got home marched straight to the tub and then to bed. Those poor little people didn’t even see their house today. But they did good, and we danced it.

Reflection #1: Good thing these days don’t happen often. Reflection #2: Dancers gotta be strong.

Oh, and how could I forget the best story of the day? I was checking out with a cart full of heavy groceries at Sam’s. Jacob and his 3yo buddy were in the front seats of the cart and Meredith was in the Slingling. I was arranging with the cashier to have an assistant grab me a bag of potting mix and take it to my car since my cart and my hands were full when I looked down to retrieve a credit card and saw that my blouse was unbuttoned halfway to my belly. Kept my poker face, shifted Meredith’s sling front and center, and told myself it’d been hiding the gape all along anyway. Though maybe that is why everyone in the store was so helpful: My “no big deal” face was lying and my shirt was telling the real story.

We Have Achieved Bedtime

6:20 p.m. We arrive home from a trip to the park. Meredith is crying. Jacob is fussing. I walk into the door ahead of Jacob to remove the vacuum cleaner monster from his view and hopefully avoid a night of meltdowns. Now, what is the correct answer: A) Nurse Meredith. B) Fix Jacob dinner. Answer: They’re both wrong. C) Mommy has to go potty, y’all are just gonna hafta deal.

That attended to, Meredith is now crying harder and Jacob is sitting patiently bewildered and melancholy in his highchair. I stir Greek yogurt into his oatmeal+pureed pears and test to make sure it’s not too hot. Yum. I could use a bowl of that myself. I give Jacob his oatmeal and now comes the second question: What is the best place to feed Meredith? A) The rocker expressly designed for the purpose. B) The comfy sofa. Answer: They’re both wrong. C) Tonight I’m feeding her on the kitchen floor in case Jacob needs help with the oatmeal. It’s a step up from yesterday afternoon when I brushed my teeth and helped Jacob build his train while she nursed, so I’m not complaining. (Actually, Jacob didn’t need help. Hands work great for eating oatmeal. But the big dilemma was how to put Meredith down in her chair after getting oatmeal all over MY hand when I helped him scoop up the last bites and he thoughtfully guided my hand through the process.)

Apparently Meredith’s tears were not of the hunger variety because she opted for yelling instead until I gave up trying to feed her, changed her diaper, popped in a pacifier, and took her to be swaddled for bedtime. Also, I’m going on record with her official first word here, unfortunately. In all of her distress and tears she definitely swore at me, as distinct as could be.

Meredith now calming down, I dash back downstairs to make sure Jacob’s silence is of the still-healthy-and-breathing variety. It is, so I turn around to re-insert the pacifier. After Jacob is wiped up from dinner I had to decide whether to take him past the vacuum cleaner monster to help me calm Meredith or leave him behind hoping he wouldn’t do the obvious thing and follow me, discovering it himself. Correct answer: Let him carry the tummy medicine so he doesn’t even notice as you climb the stairs right past it.

The medicine is working its magic and Jacob is deposited in his bed, too, and my trips for paci re-insertion are becoming farther and farther apart. Piano students arrive in 40 minutes. Question #4: Is it now time to A) blog or B) eat some dinner. Answer: C) It’s time to put my shirt back on!

Now I think I’ll go eat dinner and make a couple grown-up phone calls I’ve been putting off to spare my unsuspecting friends the baby chaos. But first one more anecdote. Jacob and I made a home-made two-piece puzzle with two magnets, a tractor picture from the internet, crayons, cardboard, and tape. I told him to take it to the kitchen, intending to show him how it worked on the fridge. That was my mistake, because when Jacob hears “take it to the kitchen” he cheerfully runs off to put the object in question in what’s known to the rest of us as “the kitchen sink.” But a little water never hurt a cardboard puzzle.

File this under Keepin’ It Real, too. Hope you didn’t come here looking for tasteful, my Gentle Reader.

Hanger Bangles

The Baby is on your hip. A large slice of apple leftover from his lunch is held between your teeth smeared with peanut butter – the second half of your lunch. Your phone is gingerly wedged into the waistband of your pocketless pants and you’ve just finished stringing 20 empty hangers onto your right arm like so many giant plastic bangles, so you can have your hand free to carry a few more things down the stairs. You turn to see that look in The Two Year Old’s eyes. The silent, desperate one that says “Pee is going to happen within 3.5 seconds.” With the apple between your teeth you begin wildly shaking free of the monstrous bangles, while you try to express the urgency of the situation… “Go go go go go! Run to the bathroom!” Only you’ve made a mistake by raising your voice in the presence of The Baby, especially with a foreign object protruding from your mouth. That is entirely too scary, and before you have even finished your “Don’t pee on the floor!” cheer, he is screaming in abject terror. Kids and Timing, I tell ya.

PS: We made it to the bathroom successfully…

Mom Snapshot #1

Trying to figure out the best, easy place to record the “Mom” moments that make life hilarious and ridiculous, but that are too frequent and narcissistic and, frankly, too precious and worth remembering, to post on an impermanent place like Facebook. I have lost so many of them to the abyss of my own forgetfulness, rather than posting the snarky one-liners in my head on Facebook six times a day. It’s a shame, because I’d like to be going back to laugh at them later on. I may come up with something better than flooding this blog with one-line posts, but this’ll do for now, because I don’t have time to mastermind something creative, and this one is just too good to wait for time like that:

Why yes, those are traces of baby puke you see on the floor and the chin and the picnic blanket. And oh yes, the source is the inside of your dress shoe. No big deal.

Meanwhile I find he has found the 2yo’s play dough box and discovered how to open it and is sitting at my feet peacefully discovering a whole bin of new plastic toys. Good thing he can’t open the actual play dough cans. Yet.

And what do you do when the kid puzzles are due at the library in two days and there are two pieces in some undisclosed location?

Just a few of the things I am pondering on this new Monday morning.