"This is OUR cake. This is OUR cake."
I wasn't a huge fan of the finished product, although that didn't stop us from frosting it and eating a fourth before Daddy even got home five hours later. Why all the carbs? And why did I fill an hour with discretionary baking when I could've been steaming and pureeing carrots for the girls?
I had just put Carrie and Melina down for their morning nap. Alone with a toddler, I could think of NOTHING TO DO during the day's Devon-and-Mommy time. I started running down the mental checklist of usual suspects (playdoh-crayons-magnadoodle) and didn't get far because Devon picked up the t-ball bat and started beating a tribal rhythm on the window. Needing another moment to think (watercolors-trainset-instruments) I put Devon in the pen. He promptly ran out the unlatched other door and into the spare bedroom, opening the cabinet doors and pulling out plastic containers of CD's. While I thought some more (kangaroo slide-hide Easter eggs-roll balls down the driveway) I chased after him, hearing a plastic-on-plastic noise that didn't sound good.
"Oopsie-doodles!" said Devon. I wish I knew who got him started saying that. Craig and I are far too dignified. I can say sippies for his milk and piffles when he passes gas, but Oopsie-doodles is taking the babytalk thing a little far, don't you think?
"Oh no! It's broken!" Devon said, holding up the handle he had just pulled off one of the cases.
"That's okay, Devon, give it to Mommy."
"Throw it in the GARBAGE!" he crowed, getting up and starting for the kitchen to make good on his threat. I ran after him, fighting a rising panic because too many things (Green Nubbly Ball,-Pepe the Pig-his Mickey Mouse milk sippy) have been rescued from the trash and I'm trying to wean him off his fascination. We were only two minutes into Mommy-and-Devon time and it was clear who was getting the upper hand. I distracted him by opening the fridge, got out the container of strawberries when he expressed interest, and that's how we came to be baking a strawberry cake for no good reason.
Life with a toddler is busy, busy, busy. If it was just me with the girls, we could stay home all day. Since the shut-in lifestyle doesn't suit Devon, we try to plan a few fun outings a week. We've made a few thirty-minute pilgrimages to the Splash Pad in nearby Sebastian, and will surely make many more during this hot summer. All the way there we converse as the girls take their morning naps.
"Raminator is scary!" Devon admonishes me soberly from the car seat. I brace myself for a retelling of the entire saga. A month ago on our trip to the zoo, Devon was playing with a green Hot Wheels truck that he named Green Raminator because it reminded him of the similarly named red truck that we have to keep in the garage because it frightens Devon.
"Raminator dropped in the water!"
Craig and I were waiting for the first interesting animal to distract Devon and give us a moment to nonchalantly slip Green Raminator in the stroller bag so it wouldn't get lost. We paused on the wooden bridge over the alligators and saw that it was too late. As I ran back along the path to look for the dropped toy, Craig was able to wrestle the real story out of Devon: he had offered it to the pond as a permanent keepsake. This unselfish act apparently made a big impression on Devon. Several times a week he reminds me of the whereabouts of Green Raminator, gone but not forgotten.
"Splash Pad not scary. Splash pad lots of fun!" The meanderings of this conversation are apparently all clear in Devon's mind.
At the Splash Pad, Devon takes Turtle Truck in the fountains to cool off.
"Turn it on! Turn it on!" he asks. I remind him that it doesn't turn on.
"Needs batteries!" When Tow Tonka stopped making its lights and sounds and Mommy changed the batteries, Devon got the idea that everything in the world will light up and do interesting things if you just put a few little silver cylinders inside.
I'm a bit afraid that if he ever finds a stray battery, he'll feed it to one of the girls to see what it will make them do. Probably not, though. Devon is ultra-protective of the girls, or maybe of his toys. He keeps busy at home by turning his hawk eyes to whatever the babies are reaching for.
"Not supposed to be chewing on it!" he says, grabbing toy after toy away from them.
"Wait, that's a teether. Devon, they ARE supposed to be chewing on that!"
Here he is building his first Megablock structure. He was so proud, saying over and over: "You did it! All by YORR-SAY-YOWLFF!"
Previous efforts have been more impressive, but have the miracle-of-modern-engineering stamp of Daddy's help.
Here he is giving White Truck a bath. He said that it needed to go to the car wash, and asked me for a washcloth.
Finally! We've reached the point where Devon feeding himself isn't more work to clean up than just sitting there and feeding him. I still have to be close by, admonishing him to "take little bites" instead of lifting a huge scoop of oaties that just splats down the front of his shirt.
I have to admit, I cherish the times of day when he's contained in the Big Boy Booster and I can relax, breathe a bit, and give my voice a rest.
Here is The Pack in the mall play area on last week's shoe shopping expedition. The moment I let them out of the stroller I learned that Carrie and Melina are now able to climb stairs.
I'm thankful that places like these with only one exit keep the kids corralled, but it was still a workout to keep them safe and playing nicely, especially since all three of them wanted to play separately on opposite sides. When I finally put them back in the stroller, I heard a few awed whispers from moms that just realized that the blue jumpered baby that whizzed by them several times was really half a set of twins.
Sometimes it feels like too much too fast. I need about a decade just to appreciate Carrie; to stare into her wide smile, to teach her how to give Eskimo kisses, to ruffle her wispy cornsilk hair.
Then I could use another decade to appreciate Devon's new language phase, and finish up with another ten years of holding Melina so she doesn't fuss and watching her eyes roll back in her head and flutter closed while she's nursing, and then lifting her to her favorite neck nuzzle pose and feeling her pop like a puzzle piece into place.
And yes, in case you are wondering, some days I do feel jealous of other moms who have their babies four or five years apart and can spend more individual attention on them. Once in conversation I started to refer to one of my children as "the baby that gets thrown under the bus" and I couldn't. I realized that violent hyperbole and babies don't really go together, no matter how apt the point I am making.
Here's the sentiment sans disturbing imagery: I occasionally worry that one of them won't grow up with enough love because the other two are more demanding and I settle for giving all my attention to the squeaky wheel because it's just easier.
It's hard to fight those thoughts when I feel overstimulated, but I have to. I don't think any Mommy gets an easier hand than anyone else. Everyone has distractions they have to filter out. Life's little nuisances and big hurts don't just automatically go away during the baby years. Ants in the kitchen, job frustrations, and hours on the phone disputing incorrectly billed medical expenses are still a part of life.
Parenting isn't about me. It's about them.
It's about their development, not my enjoyment.
It's about their energy, not my occasional fatigue.
It's about what I can build into them, not what I can get out of them.
Sometimes when Mommy needs a time out, we do Babies Pen, as Devon calls it. We all go into the Pen together so everybody's close and nobody can take off to climb into the bathtub or sneak around the corner and eat cat food. If it's time for nursies, I sit in the corner on the toddler sofa and hold one or both of the girls. I reach for the hem of a shirt or a dress and curl it around my fingers. It reminds me of a saying that a friend posted on facebook that came up on my news feed this week:
When you reach the end of your rope,
you find the hem of His robe.
I hold my babies and pray and if I'm feeling emotional my eyes leak a little. I thank God for giving me three indescribably perfect miracles, and I think about Matthew 18:20.
two or more... check.
gathered together... check.
in His name... check.
In Daniel 3 there were four men instead of three walking around in the fiery furnace. Thankfully, that fourth guy also handles problems that aren't HVAC related. He even makes house calls. So the five of us cuddle in the Pen having a moment I can only describe as holy.
And I feel better.
Then Craig gets home and we whisk the babies off to what passes for Date Night lately. I've been fearing the day that we approach a restaurant and they offer us free takeout to just go away. Until it comes, we think that if we're reasonably behaved and it's a family-style setting we deserve to be there just as much as everyone else.
Then we walk on the beach with the girls in the Ergos as the sun sets behind us. Devon spies the barrier buoys and he tries to swim straight out to them and rescue them from being towed out to sea. I explain to him that they are not balls.
Not so, Mommy.
They are round and bright and bobbing tantalizingly just out of reach. They are balls.
So we duck-dodge each other as the waves surge around us, geting more wet than we intended. I hope that Mommy's shrill panic yell doesn't disturb the vacationers I see dining on the beachfront condo's balcony just above us: