(Not pictured: a bonfire at our good friends' farmhouse, with our toddler and theirs warring over a kiddie motorcycle. He pushed her off; she kicked the back of the motorbike, on and on. Sharing, it seems, is not an innate talent.)
K's off tomorrow, and then real life begins once again... sigh. It's nice to all be at home together.
Last night, while K read Larry Niven frantically across the room (poor man doesn't get enough downtime), Annaliese and I opened her baby book. It's not really a baby book. It's a big gorgeous and YES, turquoise blue album with orange and butterflies and big creamy pages that I bought before she was born. And so every four months or so, I order pictures off Shutterfly, fiddle with those little photo corner things, and once a year I go back and write in it. The quarterly ritual happened recently, so we're all the way up to Halloween.
We opened it, and she snuggled into my side, and I pointed to pictures of myself less than two years ago, standing in our old house with long hair and a big ole belly, and then there was ten-day old Annaliese, eyes open and already afire with attitude. "Baby!" she would say as we moved through the pictures, looking at her with her godparents and grandparents and aunties. "Baby Annaliese," I said back, trying to show her that that was indeed her.
I don't think she got it. And I don't blame her. Because I can't even understand it-- in the photos, she is most emphatically a BABY in February, in the picture where we're sitting on the porch of the unpainted house, and then in April, sitting on her Papa's lap on Easter morning, she's a little girl.
I hesitated on whether to start a separate book for Caspian, and I decided against it-- so many of our pictures now are the two of them. And so there's a shot of me with another big ole belly, this time in spring, and then there's a picture of K holding a very small and red Caspian against his chest. And from then on it's a mixture of them both.
It was very sweet, looking through photos with my little girl while her brother slept peacefully in the nursery.
Even though the album made me realize I was back in a bikini six months after Annaliese's birth, and Caspian's six-month birthday is in about 2 weeks, and that wasn't so fun.
So, I was going to be all slick and have a link for y'all to a PARENTING site that was going to PAY ME for an essay about traveling with the kids. LIKE A LOT OF MONEY YO.
On Monday it was accepted. On Tuesday they wanted an author bio and a photo. And on Thursday I got a note saying a whole bunches of accepted pieces had been cut because the new editor started this week and wants to "go in a new direction."
Which I have to say REALLY IRRITATES ME. As does the whole lack-of-making money thing. I want to know I could live on more than pocket lint if I had to support myself and PARENTAL INTERVENTIONS do NOT COUNT (not that I am complaining, mind you.)
Here it is. The odds of me finding another outlet for this piece are slim, and anyhow, only like eight people read this blog anyhow (Hi, Mom!) so screw 'em.
Pay me in comments.
I Am That Woman by APvB
Once upon a time, my husband of one day and I got on a plane, giddy with our new marriage, and toasted each other with champagne on our way to Capri. Giggles and bubbles--at least until the nightmare of every traveler materialized in the seat next to me: a sticky, screaming toddler began tugging at my arm, climbing up and jumping down, over and over and over again.
His mother was pregnant-- very pregnant. I did my best to ignore her and her child (at the time, it seemed like the polite thing to do). At some point over the Atlantic, she crouched on the floor, rocking back and forth, trying to coax her son to sleep, saying "Mommy needs to sleep too, Mommy needs to sleep too," over and over again. She sounded near tears.
Despite my giddiness, I saw. And I swore to myself that that would never be me.
Four years later, my husband works a corporate job where he gets ten days of vacation a year. We live a thousand miles from my family. We have two children under two: Annaliese, twenty-one months, and Caspian, four months. And my grandfather is ninety-two and anxious to meet his great-grandson, the first male of the family since 1919.
"I can't go," my husband says.
"No problem," I say. "I'll take them."
So the plans are made: two non-stop flights (with lengthy car trips on either side, since no one actually lives near a major airport.) A week at the house of my childhood, where my daughter will feed sheep with my mother and Caspian will bob along in the Bjorn as relative upon relative descends to see the children, the first children of the new generation.
And it goes well.
Sure, I'm the only one to wake up with children for a week, so I'm more tired than usual. And Annaliese clogs my mother's toilet by flushing mounds of toilet paper, and I forget the all-essential Bjorn at my father's house, and Annaliese falls and scrapes her chin open-- but it goes well. Annaliese pulls on her new boots and goes out with her grandmother every day to feed the sheep and pet the donkeys. Caspian manages to go to sleep without his missing pacifier. And we spend a precious half-hour with my grandfather in a hospital, where he dandles his new great-grandson on his knee.
The week has passed, and all I have to do is get me and my brood home.
I prepare like a general. The car is packed the night before. The diaper bag contains a new coloring book, diapers, wipes, a bottle since Caspian refuses to nurse on plane rides, three new pacifiers, snacks, and clean outfits for both the children. I stick my cell phone and my wallet in the outside pocket, since I'll be holding Annaliese's hand and carrying Caspian in the airport, which means I have the mobility of an overburdened mule.
"All I have to do is get home," I tell myself.
We rise early. I don my new Anthropologie boatneck shirt and the dark jeans that make me look skinny. I strap the children in their carseats, convince my mother to drive, and then we brave the nation's traffic; it takes us over two hours to arrive at the airport, but arrive we do, in plenty of time, with no one crying.
A good start.
My mother hands a porter some bills and he helps us load a cart with the mountains of luggage and the two carseats. I strap Caspian into the Bjorn that my father had driven fifty miles to return and ask my mother to hand me the diaper bag.
"I love you," she says, and kisses my cheek. "You have your cellphone?"
It's in the outside pocket of the bag, which I am wearing. "Yes," I say in a of-course kind of voice. And then I am grabbing Annaliese's hand and walking in front of traffic after the porter. I am sweating. I am nervous. All I have to do is get on the plane. I don't see my wallet sticking out of the diaper bag's pocket, but I hardly have a complete view, laden like a packhorse with a baby blanket draped over the diaper bag, and so I tell myself not to panic.
But then I can't stand it anymore.
"Sir!" I call to the porter, and he stops. I kneel, Caspian's head bobbing in front of me, and remove the blanket. To see my wallet is not in any of the pockets. And neither is my cell phone.
"No, no, no," I say under my breath, and the sweating picks up. Caspian doesn't like being suspended upside down, so he begins to wail. Annaliese wants to go see the baggage claim. "Just wait!" I tell my children, and I check all the pockets once, two, three more times.
Pacifier, granola bar, crayons; check. Wallet, cell phone, all forms of identification... no.
It's then that I panic.
It turns out that, if you happen to have a few twenties tucked away to pay the checking fees, you can actually board a flight without any forms of identification. You have to go through increased security, of course, answering questions about in which county your car is registered while holding a squirming toddler on one hip and the baby hanging from your front. No one will offer to hold your child while you fill out a form with one hand, but the official does say he'll excuse your chicken-scratch handwriting.
We get on the plane. It is eleven o'clock in the morning and I feel as if I have been run-over. We sit in the back, where we always sit now that we have children, as if the smell of the toilets is all we deserve. We sit on the entirely full flight, Annaliese in the middle, Caspian and I on the aisle, and an elderly man in the window seat. There are three teenage boys behind me, and I hope, I hope, I hope that I don't have to nurse Caspian on the flight.
Raisins and Cheerios are dispensed. Annaliese gets busy sticking her new stickers on every available surface, most enjoyably on the headrest of her seat (she's standing, of course) and flirting with the teenage boys behind us. Caspian sits peaceably enough on my lap.
I think, just for a moment-- "this is the children's nap time. Wonder if they'll fall asleep."
And then I am getting Annaliese strapped in for the ascent. It's not easy-- she cries, writhes in protest, but I say things like "You listen to me, Missy," and then I give her new stickers. She sits. The plane takes off.
It doesn't take long to go entirely to hell.
Caspian screams. He refuses the bottle. I offer him breast, his feet hanging into Annaliese's lap; he accepts, but she can't stand to have her brother's feet touching her, and so she squeals in protest. Then she spills her Cheerios. I switch sides; she smacks his head. The drinks cart comes wheeling up the aisle, I move Caspian, his head slips, and the retiree sees my nipple. A smell arises; Annaliese has pooped. There is no room to change her diaper. I look around for someone to hold the baby-- maybe we could do it somehow in the bathroom-- but no one will meet my eyes. Caspian has fallen asleep; Annaliese wants to read her A-B-C book. I read with her for awhile but then the baby wakes up and I am rocking him, patting him, dropping the pacifier which the teenage boys retrieve for me. I wipe it on my Anthropologie shirt and see Annaliese has left boogers on my shoulder. She asks the retiree to read, saying "read pease?" but he tells her he doesn't have his glasses. It really smells. I am letting my daughter sit in her own waste. I am a bad mother. In penance, I let Annaliese put stickers on my face, anointed by the touch of her small fingers placing a calculator on my cheek, does anyone see how patient and kind I am being? The baby is crying again. He too has pooped. It has spread against all the laws of gravity up his back and through his outfit: onto the right hip of my booger-shouldered Anthropologie shirt.
It doesn't get better from there. More crying, one then the other, then both at the same time. A downright temper tantrum when I try to get Annaliese to sit down and strapped in for the descent; the stewardess yells at me; the retiree pretends to fall asleep. No one tells me how precious my children are. Caspian's Born-Free bottle rolls somewhere and the teenage boys behind me can't find it.
This is how my husband finds me at the baggage claim: I am the one with boogers and poop on my shirt, with a wailing child on my hip and a baby hanging from my front, with a heap of luggage next to me because he was late and I had to take it off the carousel myself. The children smell. Annaliese's boot has fallen off.
The moment he appears, I burst into tears.
Much, much later, the children are changed and fed and loaded in their installed car seats and we are heading south on the interstate. "I was that woman," I tell my husband as we speed south in the sound of blessed silence, for my children, my precious children, have fallen asleep. "I AM that woman," I say.
Nearly two years into motherhood, I still find it hard to believe.
So, K is at the building, and the kids are asleep, and I took a bath last night. So I'm watching the Office on Hulu and chillin' out. Verra nice indeed.
More chicken notes: the wee one is back with the others! Yay! Somehow survived two nights out and after much ado, I caught it this morning and dropped it back in the fold.
Yah, didn't go with this group. But they were sitting in the remains of the herb bed in the courtyard and I took a picture.
This one, however...
LAID AN EGG! She is a big bossy Barred Rock who laid as a great big brown egg on Sunday and we hope she'll do it again soon and her three peers will follow. Farmers tell me that young laying hens take awhile to start up-- especially in winter-- and it'll probably be spring before she's regular.
Still very exciting though.
We've been having some nice family times lately. K got our woodstove in, which means there's been a few evenings of crackling fires... not at all cost effective, considering it's an outside chimney and the bedrooms are on the other side of the house, but SO worth it. A fire just makes a house feel like a home.
And we were supposed to go to the rodeo last Saturday, but our sitter came down sick and our other one was out of town. So we're going out this Saturday instead, though alas... the rodeo has left town. I'm sure we'll find something fun to do anyhow.
In gardening news... the digging continues (I'm putting in a very long flower bed very slowly). I also planted some rose bushes, some more hydrangeas, and two dogwood trees. About twenty trees to go before I can rest easy, knowing everything I want to have growing is going.
And I'm freelancing quite a bit, which is nice as well. Tricky to fit in around everything, especially since I'm back at work on the novel, but... nice.
AND-- BIG NEWS HERE-- a mattress, fire-retardant-free, 6'' longer than a regular queen but the same width, and reversible, is being handmade by a family company in Texas and soon the air mattress will be thrown in the trash! (Since it really doesn't work anymore. We have to pump it up about every other hour or we wake up on wood.) YAY! Three weeks away and counting.
Between the time change and the refusing to take an afternoon namp, Caspian has gone to bed at 5 and 5:30 respectively for the last two days.
1. He really smelled bad until this morning, when I made K give him a bath before breakfast, because he was asleep for bathtime.
2. He wakes up at the crack-- and I mean crack-- of dawn. And gurgles and chortles until Annaliese wakes up. Which means AFTER the dogs have been let out and we've played 14 games of Fort and read 3 books and sung 8 songs and given the baby a bath and finally filed into the kitchen for breakfast, it's.... 6:56.
I was a 1950s socialite in heels and pearls with my wee little poodle. K. was my fedora-and-suspender-wearing photographer.
Unfortunately, the one picture we got the babysitter to take of the two of us shows neither the fedora nor the suspenders, and his eyes are shut. Trust me that he looked awesome.
Several drinks and hours later, after hanging out with a robot and a zombie and a Catholic priest and a Black Forest hag, among others, we came home to find a wee little baseball player hungry for a feed. So still in costume, but feeling entirely like us... we fed him.
I have to say that leaving two kids (neither of whom were asleep when we left the house) and walking out the door holding hands is pretty much one of the best feelings ever. The hours away make coming home very sweet indeed.
(And I have to say... Annaliese, at nearly 2 years in, is awesome with sitters. She loves Miss Margaret and Miss Grace. This morning over breakfast, I asked her if she had a good time with Miss M. last night, and she nodded and said "yeah." Big blessing, this.)
The Fam... Annaliese was a googly green monster, eyes not visible on top of her head. And she was indeed quite solemn until she had the march-to-the-door, say-trick-or-treat, place-cady-in-pumpkin ritual down. It took about three houses.
And a lollipop or two.
When we got home and I was trying to force some rice and broccoli into her before the babysitter came and K and I got dolled up for OUR Halloween, I asked her if she had a good time.
She looked up and said, "Yeah."
We all did. Went around the two blocks with friends ( not pictured because it seems impolite to post a pic without permission), Caspian bobbing along in the Bjorn as a baseball player, Annaliese as a wee monster, and it was cool and crisp and entirely lovely.