Barnacle

Hey guys, remember when I said people who bed-share with their kids are crazy? Remember that? Remember how we laughed?

Ha.

“Judge not, lest ye be judged” is only half-right. “Judge not, lest the great boomerang of karma swirl back on you and lodge in your bum” is probably more accurate. Moira, it seems, is a snuggler. And not your garden-variety hug-and-kiss enjoyer, either. Oh no. Moira puts the “attached” in “attachment parenting.”

Oh, sure, she’s already cut two teeth and tries desperately to get up on all fours to crawl and by all accounts seems desperate to just flee already, and that is just crazy to me. Maggie was over six months old before she even thought about turning over and it was another ten months after that before she deigned to walk. She just didn’t care, and why should she? There was at least one tall slave around to carry her from Point A to Point B at any time. Moira wants movement and forward momentum, and she wanted it yesterday. The idea that my youngest may achieve mobility before the summer solstice has become quite chillingly real. She’s into everything and into everyone’s business, grabbing and groping, and I fear that her constant daytime motion is going to get the best of Maggie’s patience.

"YOU'RE TOUCHING MY BLANKIE WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING IT STOP IIIIIIIIIIIT!"

In addition to her physical maturity, Moira is just freakin’ huge. She wears 12m shirts, 9m onesies, and 6m pants. (She’s built sort of like an inverted triangle.) She’s so strong, and hungry! Always hungry, that one, with her happy nursing and double helpings of applesauce and can you maybe mush a banana for me, Mama? These chins aren’t going to grow themselves. (No sweet potatoes, though. Those were rejected with an audible “Ptooey!”)

But back to the bed-sharing. All this activity makes for a tired, tired baby, but her brain is still trying to crawl and go! Dammit, go! so her sleep is thrashy and restless. During the day she conks out easily in my baby wrap or while we’re in the car, but nighttime is problematic for her. She flips herself onto her stomach and then flips herself back and fusses because she didn’t really want to be on her back, and won’t stay swaddled. Somehow that on top of the teeth-cutting and agitation and I don’t KNOW, OKAY, I’m TIRED–coupled with the path of least resistance resulted in her landing in her favorite, favorite spot: directly mashed into my side.

I resisted. Oh, how I love to sleep on my stomach, legs and arms akimbo, on top of a feather bed and under a heavy down comforter. None of that is safe if you’re sharing a bed with your baby. The feather bed went. The down comforter is pushed down to my knees. I cling to the edge of the bed, and my little barnacle sleeps like a stone while my arms and legs atrophy from lack of movement.

And can it be that I enjoy this? I do. Nothing in life is permanent, and few things are less permanent than babyhood. It’s not a habit I want to continue into toddlerhood but for now, while she needs it, it’s fine. Watching my last baby sleep (as I am even as I type now) safe in my bed, perfectly comforted, totally and absolutely assured of her mommy with her hand pressed against my chest and her toasty legs against my stomach is, despite my various discomforts, such a peaceful experience. Tom and I will have the whole rest of our lives to annoy each other with our cover-stealing habits after we’re done banding together to get the little interloper some decent rest.

Babies. They sure know about Stockholm Syndrome, eh?

Moira’s peace and reassurance is so total that she can let her brain turn off and get some real sleep, and I think I finally get the paradox of why bed-sharing and such is said to actually build confidence. She has all the love and cuddles a growing baby could want, and by God, that child is thriving. So we’ll keep on. “Sleep on your own!” is not a parenting hill upon which I am prepared to die–whatever gets all of us the most sleep is what we’ll do.

But I still think that sharing a bed with multiple kids is bonkers and please, feel free to join me in preemptive laughter because now that I’ve committed that to text, I suspect Maggie’s going to jump back in the mix at any moment. At least Maggie can be trusted not to pee on my favorite sheets.

The Unpredictable Cusser’s Guide To Family Art

Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve been bitten hard by the crafting bug. I’m a visual person so all those ideas and tidy pinboards are like virtual catnip to me. A few weeks ago there was a pin on creating flower stamps with the bottom of a soda bottle–dip the bottle, press on to paper, voila! A pretty, five-petal design. We did a few and created a cherry blossom branch for my grandparents, with Moira’s footprints climbing the branch. And then, the madness overtook me. I decided I wanted to make a Large Piece Of Family Art, suitable for framing, with input from all four of us, and I wanted it to be a lush, full tree. Leafy! Full! Lotta sap! What better way to celebrate the springtime–literally and figuratively–of our blossoming young family than with a collaborative design of nature in the birth stages of its cycle?

Clearly, I had gone ’round. Fortunately, I took a few photos along the way. Naughty, naughty language and occasional blasphemy ahead.

Step 1: The roots

Select a piece of foam core from the art store. Make sure to go two or three down the stack so you don’t select one that’s been subjected to the abuses of other customers. Get home. Notice scuff marks. Yell “Fucking hell,” because that piece of beaten-up foam core cost 5GBP, which is, like, $1000 USD after the exchange rate. (Not really.) Pencil out your tree.

Do you need a stencil? No. Just make some damn branches. Even I can do this and I once got a D on a drawing in junior high because I made “disproportionate hands,” like, MAYBE SHE JUST ATE A LOT OF SALT THAT DAY, who gives a 12-year-old a D IN ART? I digress. Make some branches. Paint over your pencil marks with watercolor. I used the a $2 Crayola watercolor palette and a Melissa and Doug toddler-grip brush (this is not the Corcoran School, y’all) and layered brown, yellow, and orange. For, y’know, depth. Or something.

Take a moment to refill your coffee mug and join toddler in mourning the loss of Ms. Ladder Truck, whom you purchased along with the foam core as a treat for your toddler two days ago and those darling wooden toys from the craft store don’t stand up to jack shit, do they?

Should have gone with plastic.

Step 2: The leaves

Bust out your yellow and green Crayola poster paints. Swirl them a bit for interesting color application. Don’t go too crazy, now. Stop and note toddler’s outfit.

Strip off Nana-made mariachi-on-acid Koosh-ball sweater, because you haven’t the first damn clue how to stain-treat it.

Place paint in front of her. Wait. Remember that this is the same child you had evaluated for sensory issues and who hates slimy textures (but who joyously eats dry rice from her sensory table, and remind yourself to go buy some inedible sand for that damn thing). Do an example handprint for her. Wait again. Dip her hands for her and stamp on paper and be impressed with her cooperation. Be extra impressed when she does it again herself. Have wet towel ready for when she asks “Please to Mommy to wipe hands now?”

Fill in remaining white space with own handprints.

Step 3: The trunk

Get youngest out of bed.

Youngest is cranky because new teeth are assholes and her mouth hurts like someone’s hot-pokered her gums. Dress her like a rainbow elf to cheer you both up and be sure to select baby pants without feet. Mix up brown paint with hints of orange and yellow. For, y’know, depth.

Subdue baby with pacifier laden with homemade teething paste that smells like Christmas but looks like boogers.

Employ youngest’s feet as a human stamp up the trunk.

Question wisdom of wrangling 16lb-five-month-old covered in paint while wearing favorite sweater. No matter; you’ve come too fucking far. Let dry. Marvel at your little one’s rainbow elf outfit.

Step 4: Involving Daddy

You may have noticed that my husband has been absent thus far. This is because I am a control freak and on the advice of my inner lawyer/therapist, our marriage is better off if projects of this sort are left without cooperation until the last minute. Have Daddy repeat step 2 to make grass at the bottom of the trunk while you end to the Sadface Elf and her Teeth of Doom.

Step 5: The accents

Add a few smaller branches to keep your tree from looking like an octopus. And now: this is SPRING, BIATCHES! LET’S GET OUR BLOOM ON! Decide your tree will be a mountain laurel, kind of, if you squint. Husband informs you that a mountain laurel is a shrub and further, a blossoming flower tree wouldn’t also have lush green leaves–those come after the blossoms in summer time.

Hide his body. Nay-saying twit.

Reconsider adult life spent in condos.

Mix up purple and pink paint for further toddler handprinting flowers throughout the leaves. Yes! LOOK AT THOSE FRESH AND BLOSSOMY BASTARDS.

And then…oh, then… You’re going to make footprint butterflies.

This requires both adults and four small feet. If you were smart you’d have done Moira’s earlier but if you were smart, you would have just had made macaroni necklaces and had done with this nonsense.

[Real-time commentary redacted for inappropriate content.]

We got one footprint butterfly from the child who’s too young to struggle.

Maggie has opted for a bluebird handprint instead of adorable toddler feet like you wanted but IT’S NOT UP TO YOU. You have merely the illusion that you have any control over her, this process, or child-rearing in general. Enjoy it. Let it happen. Refill your coffee mug with Bailey’s. It’s gonna be okay. It only looks a little like the bird was raised near a nuclear reactor.

BAWK!

See?

Step 6: The aftermath

“It is finished.” – Jesus

Date and sign the tree. Make any necessary apologies. Next week you will deliver it to the framer, who will cock his head and pretend that it looks very nice and not at all like some pile of poorly-applied paint from the commissary. Prepare to pay an exorbitant amount after arguing over the color of the mat. Decide in the end…it really was worth it.

Fin.

Three

Dear Maggie,

Three years and only three visits to the emergency room–and one was just croup! Friend, we are doing all right.

Was two terrible? I don’t have anything to which I can compare it; you’re my first, after all. Aside from worrying that you had a developmental disorder (you don’t) and wondering if you would EVER POTTY TRAIN, MY GOD (you did, in the course of about a month) we had a good ride. Except for the first month after Moira was born and you decided that because we had usurped your role as One And Only, you were not going to eat. We got through it and you had a double-helping of pasta with cream carbonara sauce tonight. Go figure.

And you are a phenomenal big sister–generous with your blankie and your toys to a degree I would not have believed. Moira’s begun snatching at toys in your grasp and I fear a curse of violence is about to rain down on our hapless house, but for the moment you’ve always treated her with your patented mix of wary caution and kindness.

Preschool has been wonderful for you in that regard. You aren’t interested in groups of kids and need a lot of time to warm up. That’s totally fine. We aren’t all extroverts. You have begun to make friends with a select group of kids that you’re used to seeing; this is largely due to your collection of fabulous hats. Thanks to relatives who LOVE seeing your style, I don’t think you wore the same cap to preschool for the first two months of the winter term. This independence and willingness to wear anything that pleases you has gained you something I never expected you would have: you, my love, are POPULAR. Kids love you and your hats. I’m told that your pretty face (and objectively, my dear, you are quite stunning–particularly your gray-brown eyes and ink-black lashes) is probably a big part of it but I like to think your steadfast independence draws people in. You simply do your thing with absolute confidence, and kids are drawn to you. Adults too. Maybe it’s also the tone of your voice. Everything you say is a song; every syllable has a lilt and squeak. You don’t speak so much as you sing and you don’t walk when you can dance. You have movement and liveliness at the cellular level; your joy and rhythm are ever-present. You delight and charm when you want, and you walk away when you want, and sometimes you throw your anger out in huge bursts when you want, but you sing always.

Ah, that independence…thankfully it only goes so far. For a baby who wasn’t much on cuddling, you have turned into one heck of a snugglebunny. Every night we finish the day when you ask “Can you snuggle up to Mommy?” (Your language skills, while quite advanced, haven’t quite mastered all the intricacies of pronouns and it’s too adorable to correct.) You love sitting in my lap for stories–your favorite thing–and you’ll sit under a blanket with me as we pursue whichever book holds your fancy. We started your first chapter book this year: Winnie The Pooh. Now you love to ask me if we’re hunting Woozles while we take our walks. Your imagination is incredible. For my sanity and yours I maintained daily “quiet time” even after it became laughably obvious that you were only going to sleep in the afternoon if you were sick. You’ve never been a great napper and gave the practice up for good shortly after we moved, but you’ve never had a problem filling the hours by yourself. May you always have a woozle in your brain to hunt when you find yourself without anyone around.

It’s been mentioned by a few people who knew me when I was small that your fierce, FIERCE independent streak and need to have something be YOUR idea before you do it is some kind of payback and retribution for my parents. I hate that kind of attitude; it makes it seem as though the storyteller didn’t actually like you much as a kid and that they think you were so rotten as to deserve to have a kid just as rotten, when the truth is that I don’t see these traits as bad at all. You NEED to be independent in this world; you NEED to stick fiercely, FIERCELY, to your values and your ideals in order to thrive. Flexibility will come with maturity and nurturing; teaching it to you is part of my job. As I said when you kicked that doctor and screamed “No! You don’t touch me!” to a strange authority figure, it will be so much easier to teach you context and compromise than it will to teach you spirit.

And baby girl, you do have spirit. Oh yes…yes you do. You sing and prance and you are bright and electric and bold. You are high-definition life in color. When you’re around, the rest of the world is brighter too.

I love you so much, Margaret Kelley. Welcome to three. Happy birthday, my love.

Edinburgh: Then and Now

My first trip out of the country was Aruba in 2001. My, but those were heady days: you could frolic a hop-skip-jump away from South America without a passport in a country that was still only known for being pleasantly warm and not for Dutch trust-fundies murdering blonde students. Our adventures were almost solely confined to the beaches and resorts, however, so my first true experience in culturally-different travel was England and Scotland in 2002 on a high school tour.

In case the girls ever ask me what the most intimidatingly secure facility I’ve ever been in was, I’d have to say Logan Airport about 7 months after 9/11. MassPort was compensating, y’all. Anyway, part of the trip included a brief jaunt to Edinburgh, home of the Fringe Festival, fried Mars bars, and more bars, pubs, and clubs than I was able to process. The drinking age was and is 18, and I was as drunk on the power of the legal purchase as I was on those ill-advised screwdrivers I chugged in the days before I knew that hard ciders were where it was at.

I maintain that it was no accident that our chaperones chose a hotel that trip had both tartan carpeting AND wallpaper. Even at 18, at the peak of my life’s (fool)hardiness and fresh-faced exuberance, I was powerless to handle the effects of melding plaid home fixtures in a full spin and had to be funneled into bed by my then-boyfriend and former English teacher while being fed sips of water by my poor put-upon friend as the plaid openly mocked me.

It is also no accident that Dignity and Deanna both start with D, for I am full of it. Obviously. I have no photos to share because a) all I had was a film camera In Those Days and b) are you kidding me?

Ten years has passed since that April trip. I’m considering which excuse I’ll give to not attend my 10-year reunion, should one be held. (I’ve narrowed it down to “I see all you nutters on Facebook every day” and “I live in Europe now [extend pinky].”) That boyfriend and I have married others; the English teacher has retired. I no longer feel that tartan laughs at me–only with me.

And last weekend, I went back to Edinburgh.

This time, I consumed perhaps one beer incrementally by stealing sips of Tom’s and a Scottish cider (strawberry, very summery!) over four days–breastfeeding, you know, and carbonation of any kind seems to give Moira gas. My parents came to visit; it was their first trip across the Atlantic and we had full itineraries. We complained of minor knee pain and sore feet and did review panels of the revelers walking outside our apartment windows–an apartment suited well to the needs of six people, two of whom were under the age of three. I saw Edinburgh by day, carrying my four-month-old in a carrier or sometimes pushing my almost-three-year-old up hills in her stroller. And on the second night I stayed up with an unsettled, teething baby and was so tired from her that I slept like a stone while others were kept awake by the pulsing bass of Friday’s party beat.

It was wonderful. Both trips were wonderful, and so dramatically different that they might as well have been taken by different people.

Although, I suppose, they were.