The Fourth Child

No, I’m not pregnant. Though the boys are lobbying hard for a fourth child. A girl, please, Mommy. A baby sister, please, Mommy.

Um, it doesn’t work that way.

Take the other night.

Tornado E: When are you going to have another baby?

Maybe, never. You kind of need a willing male partner for that. Or a sperm bank. But that’s a little complicated to go into with a 5yr old, a 8yr old, and a 10yr old.

Tornado E: I would like a baby sister.

Tornado S and Tornado A: Yeah.

Me: You have two little sisters.

One half and one step but sisters nonetheless.

Tornado S: But we want you to have a girl.

He gave me that adorable smile.

Me: Maybe one day. I’m very happy to have my three boys.

Tornado S: Did you know you were going to have three boys?

Me: It doesn’t work like that. But each one of you was wanted and planned.

Tornado S: So did you know you would have three kids?

I rubbed his nearly shaved head.

Me: Not at first. I did want four kids though.

Tornado A: That means a little girl!

Um, not yet. Your grandparents would kill me if I had a baby now, living at their house.

Tornado E: So when will you have another baby?

Me: I don’t know. I always seemed to get pregnant when everything is perfect in my life.

Tornado E: What if I’m 15?

God, I hope it doesn’t take until Tornado E‘s 15 to be settled and married and have a perfect little life to ruin with a baby.

Me: Then I guess you would be babysitting.

I rubbed his nearly shaved head.

Tornado S: I won’t be!

If Tornado E is 15 and two years older, then Tornado S would be 13. Legal babysitting age is 12.

Me: You would be too.

Pause.

Tornado S: Hmmm. I would be good at babysitting. I helped calmed down Tornado A today.

Me: You’re a good big brother.

I kissed his head.

I fear that once they figure out the mechanics of the whole thing, they’ll put me on Match.com or start a GoFundMe page to raise money for sperm. Lord help me.

The Other Foot

Six years ago.

I was invited to be on a panel discussion, talking about religion and marriage.  One main discussion point was if it was ok to marry someone outside your own religion.  I represented the Roman Catholic view point.  Only half the panel was married.  I was the only one, who not only dated men outside my religion but married someone outside my religion.  I shocked most of the panel, and I was shocked by them since I was raised in a two religion household.  Nothing shocking.  Just two different versions of Christianity. 

I felt my best moment was when I kept an interested, unskeptical look on my face when one panelist declared that she didn’t need to date since God has already made her soul mate and He will bring that man into her life when it was time.  I was sure she was confusing the Bible with some fairy tale.  I could see how that would bring confusion.  She, on the other hand, could not wrap around the idea of marrying someone who was not of my faith.  “But how can you grow closer to God without your husband sharing that relationship?”  “How can you grow stronger in your faith if your husband doesn’t help you?”  “But what of the children?  Won’t they be confused?  How will you raise them?”

Good question.  And I answered that one too, pointing to my first-born son in the arms of his father in the back of the room. 

As I listened to another panelist, one that didn’t think I was insane and going to hell, the ex held Evan up a little and pointed to the door.  I nodded.  I understood, even when he tried to text me a moment later.  He was taking Evan home; it was past the poor little guy’s bedtime.  It was really sweet of the ex to come and bring Evan.

I finished up the panel, answered questions from the audience, gave an interview to the university’s newspaper reporter, and caught a ride with a friend home.

When I got home, I listened to the ex’s tale of woe of dealing with a baby, trying to keep him content and quiet, understanding it all since I too had been there.

The ex: So then I realized he had a dirty diaper.  So I took him to the bathroom.  There were no changing tables!  I started looking for a place.  I couldn’t find one anywhere!  I ended up rolling the stroller outside and changing him there.  It was an explosion!  It was a four-wipe mess!  Poop everywhere!  I finally got him cleaned up and decided to put him in his jams.  He moved and struggled and yelled, and finally I was able to get him zipped up.  I picked him up and realized something was wrong.  I held him.  I patted him.  And then it dawned on me, I forgot to put on his diaper!  I then unzipped him, fought with him, and finally got his diaper on and zipped him up.  It was hell!

Me: Wait.  You forgot his diaper?

And then I laughed.  And laughed.  What idiot forgets to put on a diaper on a baby?  And I laughed.  It was a great story to tell to other moms while the men were grilling and drinking beers.  And we laughed.

Until yesterday.

It was the morning crunch time.  I was almost ready for the day.  Evan and Sean were at various stages of ready.  My God, I hated nagging, yelling, stressing.  I grabbed Aidan who was running around and laughing, trying to play “Catch me if you can.”  I tossed him on the changing table and pulled out a few clothes out of the drawer. I took out his feet out of the pajamas and took off the diaper.

Me: Diaper rash.  Hold on, kid.

I ran to grab the Aquaphor out of the boys’ room.  That stuff is great for mouth sores and dry hands as well. 

Me: Sean!  Get. Your. Pants. On.  NOW!  EVAN!  What are you doing?!

I walked back into the nursery.  I pulled Aidan off the light switches, laid him back down, dressed him quickly, and put him on the floor to toddle after his brothers.  I looked at the time.  Actually, not bad.  Considering.

For some reason, they jammed through the last of the routine as Evan realized that if he hurried he could play a video game for a few moments.  Which I shouldn’t allow.  Because when it was time to leave, everyone dragged their feet to get their backpacks, lunches, and shoes.  We were back behind schedule.

I grabbed Aidan. 

Me: You’re wet.  Very wet.

I ran my hands down his very wet pants.  That made no sense.  I patted his butt.  Crap!  Crap, crap, crap!  What idiot forgets to put a diaper on a toddler?

 

Mama fears

My parents were beyond naive when they had me.  I was due in the beginning of August, and my parents made plans, saving money, researching destinations, for a vacation two weeks after my due date.  My mother’s doctor tried to squash the idea.  The only thing that did obliterate the plan was an emergency c-section.

With all that vacation money, my parents decided to go shopping.  They brought home a top of the line microwave.  That thing was so good and perfect, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if you couldn’t cook a small turkey in it.  It was a prize possession.

Not long after they brought it home, maybe that week, maybe that night, my mom started having vicious nightmares.  Some psycho was going to break into the house and put her brand-new baby daughter in the microwave and cook her.  She eyed te device with a suspicious eye.  She checked all the locks of the house when she went to bed, bringing the big German shepherd into the bedroom to protect her and her baby at night.  My dad, unconcerned by my mom’s fear, humored her, locking the doors when he was home taking care of the child, patrolling by on his nights at work.  My mother’s fear was rational.  With every baby, the fear would grip her, until all her babies were too big for the microwave.  Only then did she laugh at such a strange fear.

As the oldest and only girl at my mom’s moms gatherings, I had a choice of playing violent army games that made me the evil queen or listening to the moms talk.  As I listened in on conversations I was no doubt to young to listen to, I learned the mysteries of motherhood.  Every woman had an irrational fear during that first year.  One that was so logical at first but years later was silly.  Strollers collapsing, escaping from cribs, getting into ovens, getting to a loaded gun, climbing out windows.  All irrational fears for mothers of babies.

So I was sure I would have mine.  I knew I had one.  For years I searched for what it was, but my fears seemed so rational.  SIDS.  Not hearing the baby at night.  The baby choking on something.  Someone sneaking in and taking the baby from the pac ‘n’ play downstairs as I did something upstairs.  (Ok, maybe that one wasn’t rational.  That was my mother’s idea.  I did start locking doors then.  And let’s not get started on her fear that someone was going to cut me open because they found my baby registry online {1. Like three women were killed that way months before I had Tornado E and 2. I didn’t have a baby registry online because my stalker had found out about my wedding through my wedding registry year before.  I wasn’t going to tae that chance.})

Then a few months ago, I became rational.  I had two completely-rational-at-the-time-but-really-irrational-fears.*  Boots and nail polish.

Before children, if it was cold enough for jeans, then I was wearing some sort of boot.  Usually my Docs.  If not them, then a pair of hiking boots.  I didn’t own tennis shoes.  I owned boots.  They were comfortable.  They could take wear and tear.  They were heavy, ass-kicking things.  They, along with my big feet and weight, could squash a little baby’s fingers.  I would have images of stepping on delicate fingers and hearing them crunch.  It broke my heart.  I gave up my boots.  I wore socks when it was cold, throwing on light slip-ons to go outside.  My Docs were put safely away for when it rained or to return to my life when little fingers were faster than my feet.

When I discovered blue nail polish in my teenage years, I was in love. I had blues, greens, purples.  Glitter, metallic, color-changing. In college, my nails were the envy of all my friends and my mother (“You can tell you don’t do housework.”  What housework is there to do in a dorm?).  One Halloween, I went as death and I sharpened my nails to points painting them black on top and red underneath.  When I started working, I still took the time to paint my nails.  (Not black though)  Then I had a baby.  I looked down at my chipped finger polish and wondered where it went as it flaked off.  On the floor, between cushions, into the dust, into the food, into my baby’s food, into my baby’s mouth as I dislodged him from my breast, into my baby’s nose when I cleaned it.  Oh my God, I wonder how much nail polish some could digest and DIE.  And he was so little.  So tiny.  All that poison going in to him.  I quit cold turkey.  I took off the polish and avoided the nail polish aisle.  If I walked passed a display, pushing my baby in a shopping cart, I would give a look, a mental “I’m sorry, but I’m a mother now.  I miss you.  Oh, look at that shade of blue.  With glitter!  Must move on.  For him.”  I put the nail polish in a box in a locked bathroom cabinet safe from little hungry mouths.

Early this year, I returned to my boots and my nail polish.  I thought it was a return to before as other things were shifting back to a before time.  I was right.  Partially.  But there was more.  As I pried a shiny bottle of nail polish out of Tornado A’s hand, remembering a time when Tornado E at his age had one in his hand that was not closed all the way, I tried to remember why I gave up my nail polish for so many years.  I had to avoid the cosmetic section not to bring a new one home.  Then I remembered.  And I remembered the boots.  And I smiled, kissing Tornado A on his head just as he threw his temper tantrum over his lost pretty.

*These fears have nothing to do with my crazy fears and thoughts when I was going through postpartum depression.  That is a whole other crazy ball which should not be taken lightly like these fears can.

The Little Cook

With each infant, I watched a different type of TV as I breastfed.  I don’t think breastfeeding needs to be bonding time, every freakin’ time you feed the kid.  For months, those babies eat every two hours.  While I read tons of books, there comes in sleep deprivation when you realize that you just read the same paragraph five times and still can’t make sense of it, and what’s worse is you’ve read the book three times already.  Bring on the TV.  One child, I watched nothing but the Food Network.  Another child it was HGTV.  Aidan was subjected to hours upon hours of police dramas.  (Did you know you can find one on nearly any time of the day?)

I always wondered if all those hours of specific TV would influence my kids.  I have a whole joke that goes along with it.  None of the men in the family appreciate it.  Geeze.

While I thought I set Aidan up to be some sort of investigator, he seems to have gravitated to the Food Network instead.  Starting at 4:30, Aidan latches on to my leg, whining for me to start dinner, to feed him.  My original plan of action consisted on feeding the kid graham crackers with every whine.  It worked, but how many graham crackers can a kid eat?

Then one day at my parents’ house, Aidan whined at my mom’s legs as she tried to cook.  She reached into the cupboard and plopped a pan in front of him.  She handed him a wooden spoon.  Aidan sat down and began stirring the pot.  Not a whine was heard for the rest of the evening.

The next time we were at her house, my mom used the trick again.  It worked but only for a while.  She placed Aidan on the counter next to her, handing him a cracker.  He watched as she cooked.  Between bites, he would point and say, “What’s that?” My mom would answer him and explain the whole cooking process.

It dawned on me later (much, much later) to employ the same techniques on Aidan my mother used.  I handed him pan and spoon.  Soon he toddled to my cupboards and pulled out frying pans and bowls to add to his kitchen.  He had to see each new kitchen tool that I used.

Yesterday, as I left the mixer on to beat cream cheese and butter to submission, I went to on to another chore.  Aidan whined to see the mixer.  His father picked him up to show him.  Aidan pointed to the mixer and then the cooling cupcakes. His father interpreted that to mean Aidan wanted cupcakes and handed him a grape instead.  Aidan was furious and whined, searching for me.  I picked him up and brought him into the kitchen.  He pointed, so I set him down next to the mixer, and he watched as I poured in powder sugar, taking it all in.

Me: And then this morning, he was playing with a spoon and frying pan.  He then handed me one.  I tried to give it back, but he pointed to the stove, so I put it on the stove.  Then he wanted up, so I picked him up.  He then leaned over to stir the frying pan with his spoon!

My mom: Hmmm.  You were a lot like that when you were a kid.

Me: Do you think he’ll be a chef?

The trouble with grandparents or the trouble with *my* parents

As we were leaving my parents’ house the other day, I noticed the storm had blown a huge piece of paper around my tire.  I picked it up and started walking towards the community garbage can, across the street and down the alley, passed two houses.  The boys were playing in the front yard with my parents were keeping an eye on them as well as pulling weeds.  I dumped the trash and started walking back.  I noticed the boys were playing on the corner, on the curb that flowed into the street.  Not a place I wanted my children.

Then I watched as Tornado A saw me and started into the street, only to be sidetracked by the giant puddle in the middle of the street.

“NO!  NO!  THE BABY!  THE BABY!  GET HIM!” I screamed.

I ran.

I ran as fast as I could,  but I was slowed down by my flip-flops and the soft mud.  A cold and sickening thought occurred to me as I ran.  I could see through the chain link fence on my left, through the school yard to the end of the street, but I couldn’t see to my right because of concrete backyard walls to see the other end of the street.  And I knew if a car came from that direction, I would be too late.  I pushed harder.

I watched my father stand up, take in the situation, walk into the street, and pick up Tornado A, carrying him back to safety.  All with a slowness that made me growl.

I ran across the street, glancing to make sure I wasn’t going to be hit by a car.

I opened my mouth as I stormed onto the sidewalk.

My dad (still holding Tornado A): Look at your Mommy!  I bet she hasn’t run like that since high school.  (He chuckled.  He f-ing chuckled.)  She was so worried.  There weren’t any cars coming, Fae.  I had it under control.

Me: YOU had it under control?!!! If YOU had it under control, my child would not have been in the street!!!  (I grabbed Tornado A out of his arms.)  What is wrong with you?! Haven’t you learned anything after three children?!  You are not going to watch my children again!

Do you know how hard it is to yell at someone who is taller, bigger, and more imposing than you?  He might be retired, but my Dad still has the aura of Cop hanging on him. Do you know how hard it is to yell at someone who was the imposing authority in your life for your childhood, one that held the balance of justice and law in the house?

I must have sounded like I was five years old, in pig tails and a pink dress, scolding my daddy for letting my Teddy get wet.

Because my Dad chuckled again.

My Dad: You don’t mean that.

I did what any sane parent would do in this situation.

Me: MOOOOOOOOM!

I called in the higher authority.

My Mom: T, keep a better eye on the boys.  Fae, your father knew what he was doing.

Yeah, knew what he was doing.  Right.  Three kids and he still acts sometimes like the stories of my babyhood.  Come to think of it, sometimes so does she.

My parents acted like they didn’t know a damn thing when it came to raising a baby.  When my Mom was pregnant with me, they went skiing.  The doctor told them no, but since he originally said yes, they went any ways. Thank God, it rained.  She refurnished a dresser for me, using paint stripper and white paint, while she was pregnant.  She used chemical oven cleaner while she was pregnant with me.  My dad insisted on doing my first diaper change and then proceeded to get poop all over every item on the cart, the cart, and me.  My Mom stuck to a strict four-hour feeding cycle, which would have been fine if I didn’t sleep through the night, and she ignored doctor’s orders to wake me up to feed me in the middle of the night.  (Now we all hate to wake sleeping babies, but I was nearly failure to thrive.)  No one will admit who held the door and who held me when a hotel door slammed on my head, causing “the most interesting shades of purple and red,” and then no one took me to the hospital.  My Dad was on watch when I did my first roll . . . off of the couch and into the corner of the coffee table.  Sure, I could swim before I could walk, but I also received my first sun burn before my first birthday.  I swallowed a tack.

Yup, my parents were child-raising geniuses.  I’d forgive them if they were teenagers.  They weren’t.  They got better though.  The only crazy thing my mom did while pregnant with my little brother was lie about her pregnancy to ride the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland.

Maybe I should start looking for another sitter. . . .

A room of his own

“Grandma used to say it will take only three days, Fae,” my Mom said as I tried to hold it together as Evan cried for me from the nursery.  I had just been in to rub his tummy, stick in his pacifier, and hand him his stuffed dinosaur.  The minute I turned my back to walk out the door with phone to my ear, he was crying for me.  He was six months old and in his own crib in his own room for his first night in the nursery, not in the master room in the bassinet.

When my Mom said “Grandma,” she didn’t mean my grandma; she meant hers.  A woman I had never meant but, in the years since becoming a mother, have learned to love her as I hear more and more about the matriarch of the family.  Grandma believed in teaching boys to housekeep, cook, and bake.  Grandma believed girls should be outside rough and tumbling with the boys.  Grandma scoffed at the Catholic church telling her to go forth and multiply.  Grandma believed in spoiling grandchildren with M&M cookies and sending them to hide when it was time for them to go.  And she passed down pearls of child raising wisdom.  Like it only takes three days.

Or three times.  Draw a line in the sand and hold it.  The child will test it three times, and then he/she will accept the new line.  Three times Evan and Sean tested the do-not-go-in-the-street rule.  Three dinners Evan glared at me from his untouched dinner plate refusing to take the just one no-thank-you bite.  Three nights Evan and Sean cried as they got used to the crib in their very own room.

As I prepared for the move, it dawned on me that Aidan had never had a room of his own.  He had always shared a room with me.  The horror struck me fast and hard that in the middle of my thoughts I actually blurted out “Oh, Crap” for no reason any one listening would have guessed.

The first night in the new house, we arrived home late from one last run to move stuff.  Aidan had only an hour or so of a nap all day.  He was cranky, tired, and ready for bed.  But first curtains had to go up to block the early sun rise.  As well as the crib that the movers failed to build.  The house was in chaos.  My mom and I built the crib with Aidan crying at our feet as my dad drilled holes for the curtain rod, cursing at the shabby housing construction.  The boys ran wild as their father tried to calm them down.

Finally I was able to rock Aidan, for the first time since he was an infant.  I read him a story, said the night prayer, and sang him his lullaby.  I placed him in the crib with his pacifier, his mama shirt, and a blanket.  I turned on his music box and the humidifier.  Only someone had moved the humidifier when it had water in it, and the humidifier gurgled and spat out water.  Crap.  I turned on an nightlight and shut the door.  Silence.  I sighed.  Then the crying.  Crap. 

“You’re not leaving, are you?”  I asked my Mom.  She had stayed on the phone with me throughout the crying for the first three nights of both Evan’s and Sean’s move to the nursery. 

“We still need to put the latch on the baby gate at the top of the stairs.  Why don’t you put down the bigger boys?” she answered.

So we did.  Like when we were on the phone, my mom reminded me when fifteen minutes had passed so I could comfort Aidan and place him back down to sleep.  Between placing the boys back to bed and Aidan back down, I had my hands full.  My parents finished putting a latch on the permanent baby gate at the top of the stairs.  We talked, and I suggested we move out of the hall way now that boys were sleeping.

“No, Fae.  Listen.  He’s still awake.  He’s listening to you.  He knows you’re still here.  He needs that,” my Dad said.

So three nights passed.  Each night the crying got shorter and shorter.  Until the fourth night, Aidan laid down and fell right to sleep.

All that’s left to do, now that I changed the curtains to black out curtains, is to finish painting his dresser and hang up some art work, and Aidan will have a proper room of his own.

Brown

I had just set down Adian’s lunch, when I looked around the room for him.  He was tucked in a corner, holding onto the side of the couch, trying to get to whatever Sean was playing with.  I walked over and picked him up.

Me: All right, little man.  Time for lunch.

It was then that I noticed his palms were brown.  All brown.

Oh.  Dear.  God.  No.

I turned him around and checked his diaper.  Nothing.  Thank God.

Then I sniffed his hands.  They smelled of nothing.    I didn’t think there was chocolate he could get to, but with the older two boys, one never knows.

Hmmm.

I looked around.  I wonder where the brown marker is and what else is now brown.

I’ve got to keep a better watch on these kids.