Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Real Talk; Baby Talk

Baby G turned 11 months old this week. This means her first birthday is fast approaching. What a year it has been.

In the past eleven months, I had an emergency induction, a three-day-long labor experience while also barfing non-stop from a nasty stomach bug, had my baby admitted to the NICU for low blood sugar, got home after four long, long days and nights in the NICU to an e-mail notifying me that my college campus was closing and I was losing the first and only real job I'd had since finishing graduate school, took an (unpaid) maternity leave through the fall semester, then after a brief return to my old campus, started a new job at a new university in January, only to work there for two and a half months before shifting to remote work (and full-time parenting) from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It's kind of a lot.

G was a super chill baby but she is full on into toddler mode and I would not describe her as "chill." She is a mover and a shaker and a screamer. Her ear piercing shrieks are truly painful at times. I told David the other night that there are a lot of things I will probably miss about her baby days, but being screamed at incessantly during dinner is not one of them.

She's also started resisting naptime, which is giving me Zuzu-flashbacks of the not so pleasant variety. Particularly the astonishing strength with which she arches her back and then goes totally boneless in an effort to slip out of my grasp and onto the floor, presumably so that she can crawl at an top speed directly toward whatever is most life-threatening or disgusting--the top of the stairs, a tiny toy the approximate size of a baby's windpipe that her sisters left on the floor, a wadded up paper towel in the trashcan, the dog's rawhide bone.

She seems unusually and inexplicably irritated by diaper changes, and either attempts to assist by thrusting her chubby little hands down into her crotch, heedless of whatever diaper mess I haven't yet managed to wipe off of her, or tries to refuse all together by twisting her body around and kicking with the force and speed of a young crocodile.

Genevieve also bites, but only me. She's bitten me while nursing a couple of times (not super recently, thankfully) but she will snuggle her head into my shoulder sweetly and then bite my shoulder, and she'll lean her head up against my leg and smile at me and then sink her teeth into my thigh. I'm taking them for love bites, but they still hurt!

Thankfully, she's also a sweet, smiley, charming baby who is quite delightful when she's not screeching, pulling spices out of the pantry, unpacking every cabinet in the kitchen, eating dirt, eating mulch, eating trash, chewing dog bones, climbing stairs, climbing up on the fireplace hearth, or throwing food down from her high chair to the dog. I especially like when she is strapped into the swing! Quiet, content, out of trouble, and out of harm's way!

I'm thankful the other girls have been really good sports about school work. They have really taken this all in stride in a way that is both surprising and impressive. Coco presented on Rosa Parks to her kindergarten class via Zoom. She spends morning line time singing and sharing into the laptop. Zuzu seems to enjoy working independently and choosing the order in which she accomplishes things.

I'm willing to run a loose ship (willing and also it's absolutely necessary), so my version of structure is a checklist they each are asked to complete by the end of the day. They can do it in any order, take breaks in between, and honestly I don't enforce that everything gets done because Mama don't have time for that. This checklist is everything from "make bed" to "attend morning class meeting" virtually, plus "read to Mom or Dad" and then whatever work Zuzu's teacher has assigned. Coco's teacher gives weekly goals, so we put down a couple of those as well, plus the Montessori math and movable alphabet apps on the iPad. We try to cram in as much as possible before lunch and I find that I am able to get more of my work done in the afternoon, when the baby sleeps a pretty predictable stretch of time and the girls are happy to wrap up schoolwork and go play without close parental supervision.

Coco told me she needs a break (maybe her to-do list was overwhelming her?) so there's nothing on the list besides her Zoom meetings and reading and playing a game.

Zuzu has a much longer list, but seems to enjoy most of it. We've started reading Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief and it's maybe a little intense for her (I didn't expect his mom to die!) but she's fascinated and hasn't asked me to stop reading (yet?). In fact, she pulled out her two books about Greek mythology today and said, "Mom, can you add 'Study Greek mythology' to my list?" and my heart exploded. She then said she'll look for a Greek mythology book in Epic (her online library from school).

It totally makes up for the stomping and door slamming that occurred yesterday when I dared to suggest she practice typing on the home row keys, as her teacher instructed. Typing is the only subject causing tension!

Overall, things are not so bad here, although work is definitely bleeding into home life. I frequently find myself returning e-mail or jotting down conference presentation ideas at 10:00pm, as uninterrupted time during daylight hours is at a minimum. I'm so, so grateful for nice weather and a yard so we can be outside. I know we are more fortunate than many and my head swirls with the huge repercussions this pandemic will have and the way it's already exposing the rifts and fissures in our social fabric.

Even with all the awareness of my good fortune, by late afternoon I'm usually coming unglued a little bit. I like so many things about being home with my kids but I really, really miss the ability to sustain a thought without being interrupted. One bright spot is that I have introduced the girls to vintage Full House on Hulu, which they like although Coco has no patience for all the commercials. We also watched the Pixar film Onward last weekend (along with so many other families in my social media feed!) and I loved it.

We are very motivated with house projects, although those are mostly defining our weekends. I spent all of last Saturday painting with David on kid duty and then we switched on Sunday. At this rate we will have painted all of the downstairs trim and possibly the kitchen cabinets by the end of April. I am thinking about wall-papering the half-bath and then it might be time to figure out how to fully move Coco into Zuzu's room and move Genevieve out of our room and into the little bedroom.

I'm not getting as much reading done as I would like. I think that's also because of the way work is bleeding through regular work hours because life/parenting is part of work hours so I end up checking work e-mail instead of picking up a book. I need to solve this problem. I'm reading Priestdaddy and I'm loving it. My book club was supposed to discuss it this month. I guess we need to decide if we are going to meet via Zoom. I have a love/hate with socializing via Zoom because I DO love seeing my friends' faces and catching up, but oh my gosh I would prefer to do this in person.

And my kids just had this conversation, which started about a mean character in The Happy Hollisters who tries to harm a cat.

Zuzu: If I was Joey Brill's big sister, I'd say, "Bro. If you do that one more time--"
Coco: I'll kill you.
Zuzu: No. Well, that's mean. And I don't know how to kill someone.
Coco: You just find a gun and shoot it in their face.
(pause... I'm in shocked silence, Zuzu seems to be mulling over this option.)
Zuzu: Well, you'd have to do that like ten times to kill them. And I'd probably get caught.
Coco: By the police?
Zuzu: Well, yeah.
Coco: And you'd have to find a gun.

It's a lot to unpack and I haven't even finished my cup of coffee.


  1. Omg that last part, i almost blew coffee out my nose!

  2. Man, I'm exhausted by your day just reading it! And home projects to boot. Glad to hear everyone is well. I worked form home last week and I'm not going to lie, there was a lot of screen time. Take care of yourself & your beautiful family. xo

  3. "It's kind of a lot." Ummm, yes, it is!! But you're doing great! Hang in there! <3