In the 38 years of the Cincinnati Zoo’s history, no one had breached the gorilla enclosure until this Saturday when a four-year-old boy figured it out in a few short minutes. I find myself closed-in with two members of the startlingly powerful and ingenious boy species on a daily basis. Our environment, despite my attempts, is not perfectly safe. Many times, we find ourselves enclosed in the same walls as knives, fire, heights, and poison. By the grace of God, we mothers and our young often survive, sometimes not. When someone gets hurt, we blame ourselves as parents. We blame those who made the objects we use. We blame animals. We blame anything or anyone in order not to blame our wildly innovative children.
Today, I document my survival in our two-acre enclosure.
7:00am The boys don’t want to sleep past seven, lately. We bought black-out curtains three weeks ago and have only gotten around to putting one up. We feel pretty good about that one curtain and as soon as we have five more dollars in the bank at the same time as we have five minutes to spare, we’ll buy the hooks to hang the rest. Who knows when they’ll then be up. G. B. got out of bed before me this morning (actually) and went into the boys’ room and handed each of them a toy, and then started making coffee while I washed my face and changed diapers. (I don’t bother to put their pants back on if the house is warm, so they climb into their highchairs in diapers and unsnapped onesies.)
Our cousin gave us these vintage toys. They’re our go-to’s to set in the crib for an extra five minutes to wake up in the morning. I try to put them up on the shelf for the rest of the day so that they stay special.
7:30am Cheerios, bananas, and milk have become a staple breakfast. The boys are hungry again in a couple hours usually, but having a really simple first breakfast and a second breakfast later when everyone is more awake and in a better mood saves us sanity. When the boys are finished with their breakfast, we’ve gotten ours ready, so I put on cartoons while we eat and turn them off after I take my last bite of cereal.
8:00am Both boys are quietly playing in their room with blocks. This means they’ve both taken big poops. I change them. Baby B kicks me in the stomach, gets in trouble for it, and is terribly upset that kicking your own mother in the stomach in unacceptable behavior.
8:30am The boys want to waller (“wallow” for you proper people) on our king-size bed. This is likely the first of many times we’ll do this today.
9:00am Daniel Tiger time. It’s one of the few shows I can tolerate hearing in the background. I’m not condoning TV as a babysitter, but I am saying that I read Jesus Calling, two poems, John 1:17-29, and a page of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn before 9:30am and that my children and I are still alive and happy.
9:45am They’re hungry again, so I take off their shirts (skin makes the best bib) and hand them bowls of vanilla Greek yogurt. I give them spoons, but who needs ’em? I turn off the TV. (One of my pet peeves is hearing a show that no one is watching.) I slice some strawberries Nana gave us (nothing beats free–not even organic). We ignored the recall on booster seats that we found at a thrift store for $5 each, and we use them five times a day. It’s thrilling.
10:00am We dance to Roger Day (quite tolerable toddler music). They’ve been saying “sock” and “shoe” since they were about ten months old, and they still love bringing those to me and saying the words. We get their socks and shoes on and my socks and shoes on while dancing which takes only half an hour. Then we go outside, and they help me wash the car and water the garden. Today, they get totally drenched, so I strip them naked again for lunch.
11:30am Lunch is a couple slices of cheese, crackers with almond butter, applesauce, and white grape juice cut with water. It’s so good that Baby A cries.
12:00pm After diaper changes and throwing one of my t-shirts on each baby (since their soaked clothes are drying on the patio), I put them down for a nap and have the best tuna salad on wheat that I’ve ever made. I take the opportunity to load the dishwasher and clean up the trays from lunch. (You were wondering when I had time to write this blog, weren’t you? Here it is.)
1:30pm My boys have been trying to move to only taking one nap a day. The transition is tough, but the hope is that the one nap will be really long, right? Not so far. When they wake up, they both want to be held and sit in my lap for a few minutes, so I scoop 25 pounds out of one crib onto my left hip and 25 pounds out of the other crib onto my right hip and squeeze three people into a rocker in the living room and turn on Sesame Street. It’s less tolerable, but Netflix is not working today. Baby A makes the sign for “more” and says, “Snack!” I grab some cheese crackers and water. I think about how this should be their last bread and dairy today, and then I eat a few more myself.
2:20pm Naked again. (The boys, not me.) I forgot sunscreen this morning, so I coat each boy down while I change his diaper even though we probably aren’t going out soon and it will rub off before we leave the house. Then Baby A runs around the house beating my furniture with wooden blocks while Baby B chases him with a broom.
2:30pm We begin the shoe-sock dance ritual again, but this time we must also include putting on the clothes that are (mostly) dry on the patio. The boys play outside while I work in the yard. They are what many may consider remote from me, but I love to let them do their own thing, even if that is eating dirt and pulling up flowers I have planted.
4:00pm Afternoon play is kept shorter in the southern summer heat, so we come back inside. All three of us sit in the floor and eat popsicles. Finding pre-made popsicles that do not stain clothes is more difficult than I anticipated. I’ve begun making our own popsicles with apple juice and grape juice, and it’s a wonderfully simple pleasure. I say, “Boys! It’s Ellen time! We almost forgot!” and they jump up and dance through the opening song.
5:30pm Sweet potatoes and black-eyed peas for dinner.
6:00pm Bubble bath time. Now that we’ve started using bubbles, they are less interested in bath toys and more interested in splashing. Good thing I didn’t wear my Sunday best today. I have bath time down to an art. I close the bathroom door so that no one escapes, dry them off and put diapers on while each boy is standing up. They get fussy and cold until I say, “Do you want to brush your teeth?” Then they shout, “Bruh tee! Bruh tee!”As they brush their teeth, I cover them in lotion.They don’t want to give up their cool, electric toothbrushes until I offer their fluoride dose (since we’re on well water) as a trade. They don’t want to leave the bathroom so I have another card up my sleeve–“Are you ready to brush your hair?” Oh yeah, they remember, and run off to find their brushes.
7:00pm G. B. walks through the door and is greeted by our schnauzer and two toddlers. I send him back out the door with a kiss (and a loving push), telling him to play with the boys outside while I make dinner. Alone.
8:00pm I give each of the boys a little bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy. Attempting to eat it with a spoon occupies them so that G. B. and I have a semi-quiet dinner together, which is totally worth the freshly bathed children being covered in food again. We wipe them down, change diapers, and put on their PJs.
8:30pm I ask Baby A to “pick out a goodnight book for Dad to read.” He goes straight for Goodnight Moon, and my working on words is paid off in full. G. B. reads the book as all four of us sit in the floor. Then we close the half-finished black-outs, turn on the white noise machine, and set our little angels in their cages–I mean cribs.
May those who parented perfectly today cast the first stone. The rest of us will fail hopefully and fall gratefully into bed.