On Sunday we took the plunge and moved Elena into the girls' bedroom that Glory has been sleeping in since December. When we first brought the girls home from the hospital, I had envisioned that we would nestle them in the same crib and that they would hold each other, suck on each other's fingers and bring one another a comfort so deep and so sustaining that they would have no need to wake up and see me every two hours. Didn't happen. I don't really remember that first night at home. All I know is that we tried the crib, it didn't work, and they ended up between us in bed, their spindly limbs travelling in and out of the gigantic holes in their newborn onesies. For the last ten months, it has been a long journey with many steps to get to the point where we are today. Both girls in their own room. Truly, I have treasured every step. I have also agonized over every step and, at times, thought I was going to lose my mind if we didn't make some progress like five minutes ago.
The last two days have been tough. There has been more crying and less sleeping because of the transition and I think I teeter on the edge of competency most of the time. So it doesn't take much to push me into a place where I feel like I can't make this whole thing work to my liking. And "this whole thing" has really changed. Used to be I could just make sure the girls were happy in my arms or a bouncy chair and we were good. Now, with moving and eating and pulling themselves up in their cribs and all the rest, it is a whole different set of challenges.
Yesterday, our morning outing was to go to Trader Joes and then to Caffe Fiore. The outing involved another first. First snack on the go for the girls. I bought a package of crackers and let them all nibble happily. We are turning so many corners that I am dizzy. Manny also picked up a balloon at TJs and was quite delighted with his new orange friend whose lifespan was shorter than a fruit fly. When we got back to the house, iced mocha in hand, we went to the front yard to play in the pea gravel. Manny jumped on his new treasure and the poor balloon exploded with a cry of defeat. Oh wait. That was Manny.
I set the girls in the pea gravel for the first time. Summer is coming and I have to figure out how I am going to keep the kids safe and happy outside. I would welcome any suggestions. Glory and Elena immediately began to shove handfuls of pea gravel in their mouths. I tried to finger swipe them all out, remembering the horror story in Super Baby Food about a mother who killed her child by shoving a piece of food the child was choking on further into her mouth. I swipe Glory. Elena's got one in her mouth. I swipe Elena. Glory's got two in her mouth. I swipe Glory and something out of the corner of my eye catches my attention. It's Manny drinking my iced mocha. So much for naptime. I hop up to grab the mocha and mumble something about Mama's coffee. I have looked away for one second and the girls are in trouble again. I try to set them on the deck and they immediately crawl head first over the step into the gravel pit. Manny is riding his plastic car down the ramp into the fledgling plants. He is ramming his plastic car into the fledgling plants. Ah! I spot a cigarette butt from the iron workers who finished up months ago. Glory is sucking on a piece of the bamboo fence that Aslan chewed up and spit out. Egad. Somehow I got all the children inside and by dinnertime I had a total meltdown, provoked by Aslan. He is usually the straw that breaks the camel's back. He is also the most maligned good dog I have ever known. I curse him daily, poor thing. Thank God Rona had the prescience to bring me an egg carton full of mini-cupcakes. God uses people to answer our prayers. That particular prayer was just a groan. I never even thought the word cupcake. But Rona knew. And cupcakes were just the thing.
The girls were up at 5:30 this morning. The good news was they did better through the night. The bad news was it was 5:30 and though Sam and I made a valiant effort to stay in bed, it was hard to rest with both the babies climbing all over us stretching our lips out like taut rubber bands. Will someone please clip their fingernails? I keep meaning to do it, but I am too busy making unusual vegetable purees (yesterday it was beets) to tame the claws.
After breakfast, I saw Glory pick something small and obscure out of the rug and eat it. While I was vacuuming, my thoughts drifted to how I was voted Princess of Kindness my senior year in high school. (I think the prompt was perhaps all my unkind thoughts toward Manny, who was really testing my limits.) I was told, on the sly, that I also won the Princess of Charm category. I have always wished they gave me this great honor instead. So much sexier to be charming than kind. And isn't charm a fruit of the spirit in some translation of scripture? While I was following this ridiculous line of thinking, I moved my vacuum toward the set of three stairs and saw Elena in the process of falling down them. Her head was stuck on the middle step and I screamed like a banshee, vowing this will never happen again. Not on my watch! Eight hours later, it happened again while I was trying to let Aslan go outside (Aslan! Who said you could have needs?) This time I screamed like someone stabbed me in the leg. And then the other leg. And then both my arms too. It was a long scream. The children all looked at me like I'm crazy. I think they might be right.
I limped to bedtime. I nursed Elena first, but Glory wouldn't stop crying so I moved to the couch so that both girls could nurse at the same time. I still have not gotten over the absurdity and beauty of this scene. One girl in each arm and me doing my best to draw them close so that they stay latched on. They cover my whole lap except for a small space on my stomach which looks like an inflated air mattress and my belly button reminds me of a soggy fruit loop. The girls arm wrestle as they drink their milk. Manny crawls up the side of the couch, straddles the top of my head, and flosses his teeth with my hair. I cannot move. And I am in pain. Manny's precious love can be so painful and it almost always involves my hair. Sam looks on sympathetically and helplessly. All the children have such a profound need for me. And I for them. I'm just the only one in the bunch who can define gentle.
Trying to develop more patience is like trying to make your nose grow bigger. You think it's impossible. It can't be done. It is already as big as it will ever be. It would take a miracle to make it any bigger. And then somehow it grows. (If you're me, literal nose growth is easy. I have examined photos. If this continues, by the time I'm fifty, I will be able to stuff my fist up my nostrils. I guess that could come in handy, as my fists are almost always cold.) Anyway, patience. Somehow it comes. But it sure is painful when you need it and you haven't developed it yet. That breaking point where I'm screaming at the dog because he's licking up the spilled milk- somehow that is evidence that my patience has grown, because a few months ago, I would have shouted at the dog at lunchtime instead of dinnertime. And this is worthy of celebration. I struggle to remember this as my instinct is to feel defeat. But once again, the children are asleep. No one is injured and I'm pretty certain they all drifted off feeling nurtured and loved. And if nothing else, there will be some sleep tonight in some intervals and I live close to some great coffee shops I can visit in the morning. I'm going back to my old motto. Coffee is cheaper than childcare. And therapy, as Sam Vance wisely added.