I am not a squeamish person. I do not go all girly when I see a bug, I do not squeal in dismay at the sight of blood or even mis-matched clothing. Vomit does not call forth vomit. I actively enjoyed having “sex talks” with my kids.
And when it comes to my period? It is what it is, folks. I don’t advertise, but I don’t apologize either. I don’t think it’s a beautiful thing. I’m more of the opinion that it’s a damned nuisance. However, I am female, I menstruate. My daughters and I discuss it when the subject comes up, casually and without prissiness. The menfolk in my world are expected to wrap their heads around the whole idea, too. Just as I have little patience for girly distress over fashion mis-steps/clashing clothes on toddlers, I have next to none for men who dive for cover when the “Feminine Hygiene” commercials come on television. It’s not like they’re waving bloodied tampons about: it’s all pristine and clean, sanitized for the viewing public. (Appropriately so, I hasten to clarify. I am not suggesting they start with the bloodied waving.)
But all this squeamishness about the very mention? It’s just silly.
So, with that all stated up front, I can tell you that last month, when I was having my period, I tucked some necessary supplies into a ziploc bag and slipped them into the diaper bag. What with the toy bag and the diaper bag and the water bottle and snack bags, I don’t often carry a purse when out with the tots. A plastic zip bag in a pouch of the diaper backpack seems a sensible thing to do.
We have our outing (Nissa in the stroller, the others hanging on). We return from our outing, rather later than usual. The walk home has been a bit fraught, with me casting frequent, anxious glances at the glowering clouds above us. Will we make it before the storm breaks?
We do! I carry a near-sleeping Noah up the steps, and direct the others into the house. And, as we’ve had a picnic lunch at the park, straight into beds/cots/playpens.
The afternoon passes as it usually does, with as much housework, food prep, emailing, bill-paying, reading squeezed into those two precious hours as possible. And then the tots wake, and it’s all diapers and snacks and potty and songs and stories and…
then the parents are at the door, and it’s all greetings and info and laughter and reminders and hugs and kisses (the kids, not their parents, even though one of the dads is eminently huggable) and “See you tomorrow!”‘s…
and then I turn putting the final preps on dinner, prior to walking the dog…
when my husband appears in the door, home from work early. With a tampon in his hand.
“I found this on the sidewalk by the stroller.”
Hm. It’s one of mine all right. The right brand, the right size, the right colour wrapping.
And outside? Beside the stroller which I would normally have hauled up onto the porch, but didn’t because I was carrying a child?
Well, that’s good. And in the diaper bag?
Nothing. Nothing, that is, except three diapers and a ziploc bag.
An empty ziploc bag.
Up the street, like Hansel and Gretel’s train of white stones, is a trail of pink-and-white plastic sleeves. Four of them, every couple of houses or so. Interspersed, just for good measure, with a couple of pantyliners.
Nissa. Of course. I suppose, distracted as I was by the incoming thunderheads, the occasional small item tossed over the side of the stroller escaped my notice.
Yes, I picked them up. Yes, in broad daylight.
the teeniest bit
“Nissa! FREEZE! Tyler’s fingers are in that door! Don’t shut it!”
“Spit that out. What is it? Eeew? Where did you FIND this?”
“Out of the doggie’s house, you. You know you’re not to go in there.”
“That’s Tyler/Noah/Emily/Timmy’s book/toy/game/puzzle/article of clothing/body part. Give it back, miss.”
“Indie doesn’t like it when you sit on her head. Off.”
“Noah doesn’t like it when you sit on his head. Off.”
“Tyler doesn’t like it when you — Nissa! Stop sitting on people’s heads!”
“What on earth is Tyler’s boot doing on the dining room table? … What’s that, Emily? Nissa did it? Did you see her? … Well, unless you saw her, we can’t really… oh, never mind. I’m sure you’re right.”
“Did you fall off the bench, sweetie? I will kiss it better — and YOU will stay off the bench, silly girl!”
“Those are not your shoes. Put them back in Emily’s bucket, please.”
“Blocks stay in the kitchen, sweetie. Back you go.”
“Off the stairs, young lady.”
“We sit on the couch, we don’t jump on it.”
“Nissa, if you keep swinging on the sheers, you are going to pull that whole curtain rod down on your head. Let go.”
“I am reading THIS book to everyone. We will read that book later.”
“No, THIS book. I will read that one next.”
“OW! Nissa! That hurt. Books are not for shoving up my nose. I am holding that book now.”
“We are playing Sleeping Bunnies, baby. You can be a bunny, or you can play a different game over there, but you cannot drop blocks on their heads.”
“Where is your other shoe, Noah? We can’t go out until we find your other — oh, thanks, Emily. Where did you find it?” (Three guesses, first two don’t count.)
“LOOK at this puddle! How you can get so much water out of a leak-proof cup, child, I will never know. Here’s the rag, baby. Wipe it up.”
“Goodness, Tyler. How did you get that red mark on your forehead? Did you bump yourself? You did? On Nissa’s head? When she was hugging you? Oh, look, Nissa has a red mark, too…”
“Did you pinch your fingers? Well, that’s what that elastic band is for hon — to keep your fingers out of that cupboard. Away you go!”
“Oh, Emily, what a fabulous block tower! Did you do that all yoursel–oh, Nissa!”
“You SIT on the tricycle seat, baby. SIT on it!”
… Or maybe that was just three minutes. I tend to lose count…
“Okay, everybody. Hang on.”
We’ve packed our drinks and our snacks. We’ve visited the potty, or had diapers checked/changed. We’ve put on shoes and hats, we’ve gathered sand toys, we’ve grabbed the diaper bag, we’ve hauled the stroller down off the porch. (The two-seater. With so many older toddlers, I’m not using the four-seater much this summer.)
The rain has stopped!! The sun is shining!!! It is tropically humid (ugh), but, after days and days of being housebound, we are ready to GO!
As I buckle Nissa into one seat of the stroller and toss a bag or two into the empty seat, the other four arrange themselves around the stroller. There are four hanging-on spots: front right and left, rear right and left. (Well, five, if you count me, but given that I propel this little circus, I’m no mere hanger-on. I’m the flippin’ engine.)
There is a small kerfuffle when both Tyler and Noah attempt to inhabit the same six square inches of space on the rear left. You know how sometimes you watch toddlers do things, you know they’re going to do them, you know it’s just one of those toddler things, but you still find yourself wondering WHY? WHY do you not see there’s someone there already? WHY do you try to fit in the same spot, anyway? And when the first child objects to being stepped on and squashed over, WHY do you object to his objection?
I’m not even exasperated. I’m just curious. How DO their wee minds work? (Or not.)
“Not there, Tyler. Noah’s already holding on there. You go to the other side.”
(Bet you thought that was me. Sure sounds like me, huh? Not this time. That was Emily. Because she is smart and articulate and Knows The Drill. And Tyler is her Baby Brother, and she is quite the mini-mum.)
Tyler trots round to the other side. He’s used to doing what his sister tells him. Emily nods her approval. There. NOW we are ready.
We have the two Big Kids (almost four!!) at the front, the two Middle Ones (almost two!) at the back, and Nissa, resident kamikaze baby, securely strapped in. There is a method to this.
The Big Kids can be directed verbally, so they can be at the front, out of arm’s reach (though not by much). The Middle Kids are responsive to verbals, but they’re impulsive and slower to register verbal instructions and so often need a hand to guide — or grab — them. And Nissa? If I let Nissa walk to the park, she’d run under a bus, eat something poisonous, and fall down a manhole before we even got to the end of the block.
There’s no way on God’s green earth I am letting that child wander free by the river… Emily, as she does from time to time, appears to be reading my mind.
“I can be up here, because I am a Big Girl.”
“That’s right, Emily. You and Timmy are both Big.”
“And Tyler and Noah have to be back there, close to you, because they’re not big.”
“Right again.” That seems to be the end of the conversation, so, curious, I give it a nudge.
Emily laughs, a high-pitched river of giggles. “Oh, Nissa HAS to be in the stroller, because she is a Cuh-RAZY baby!”
“Han! Han! Han!” Nissa chases the meandering Noah, her arm outstretched. “Han!”
He stops and turns toward her.
“Han! Han! Han!”
His normally somber face breaks into a smile as he holds his hand out. They clutch hands, absolutely delighted with their small selves. Communication! This whole ‘words’ thing, it actually works!
They trundle around, linked awkwardly at the hands, pleased as punch. Then Nissa has another idea.
“Han! Han! Han! Han!”
Noah pauses, uncertain. Aren’t they already holding hands?
“Han! Han! Han!” (What Nissa lacks in vocabulary, she makes up for in FOCUS.)
She reaches forward and grabs at his other hand. Toddler-style, his first impulse is to pull his hand away.
“Han! Han! HAN! HAN!”
But Nissa persists. This is the way of Nissa.
“Han! Han!” She makes a second lunge and grasps his other hand.
Nissa prevails. I suspect this is the way of the future around here.
Now they stand facing each other. Noah is smiling again, albeit a little uncertainly. He’d get with the program if he knew exactly what it was. He glances down at Nissa’s little face, with its sparkling eyes and ever-present drop of drool on the centre of her lower lip. Which lip, as is usually the case, is curved into a smile.
Then she drops her glance to her feet, and, still holding hands, starts to run furiously on the spot, her purple slippers pounding the floor.
Noah is still a bit bemused. WHAT is this girl doing? But, being a amenable frame of mind, he starts to stomp his own small feet, too. And wow! This is FUN!
“Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan!”
Nissa. I knew I’d love this kid.
Right now, at 8:40 a.m., it’s black as night out there — except when it suddenly jolts into a white blaze of lightning– and the thunder? I’m suddenly living under a bowling alley. It just rumbles on and on and on, long drawn-out grumbling and crashings in the air. It hasn’t really started to rain yet, but you know that when it does, it’ll be TORRENTIAL.
All. Week. Long.
So, help me out, will you? We can brainstorm. I’ve been trapped inside for a week; I’ll be trapped inside for another week, most likely. What’s your toddler’s favourite indoor activity? Rowdy games, quiet games, music, crafts… it doesn’t matter. I’m sure I’ll need them all!
Child sits on floor, one shoe on. The wrong foot. Of course. Why is it, with a 50-50 change of getting it right, they get it wrong a solid 80% of the time? It’s very weird.
“Oops! You’ve got that on the wrong foot.”
Child contemplates his/her feet, one shod, one bare.
“You need to put it on the other foot.”
Child lifts bare foot. “This one?”
Emma, walking by, offers a comment. “No, your OTHER other foot. Since you have three, and all.” (Emma, for purposes of clarification for new readers, is my youngest daughter, aged 16.)
I fix her with a mock glare. “Don’t muddy the waters, child. It’s complicated enough.”
“Apparently!” She trots off, giggling. Child looks at me, puzzled.
“I don’t gots mud on my feet.”
I look at the feet, now both shod. A shoe on each foot.
Both of them wrong.
They sure don’t appear to. After ten minutes of unceasing efforts — give the boy points for persistance — the piece of paper Timmy’s working with shows no sign of a cut. This could be because it’s now as limp as a used kleenex, what with all the times it’s been folded within the scissor’s grip. Folded, crimped, bent and crumpled. Over and over and over again… but not a single cut. Not even a tear, though, if he keeps persisting, I’m pretty sure the paper will shortly fade into sawdust, eroded away through sheerest willpower.
Once again we do the hand-over-hand, my hand guiding his. But cutting paper’s a complicated business, a matter of precision and timing, and Timmy is just not quite there.
“It’s not the scissors, sweetie. Cutting is just a bit tricky for you right now. You’ll get it in time.”
“Here. He can try MY scissors.” Emily holds hers out. Because hers, you see, work just fine, as the fringe along the side of her paper attests. The fringe and the snowfall of paper bits on the table, floor, and bench. And in her lap, and in Nissa’s hair. And the fruit bowl and the potted plant…
We all know it’s not the scissors, but I’m not about to discourage generosity when it happens.
They trade, Timmy’s blue Crayola safety scissors for Emily’s green-and-yellow Grand and Toy number with the millimetres marked on one blade.
“Hey! Look! I cutted! These ones work!” Timmy is astounded and delighted. Sure enough, there is a short but undeniable cut in the edge of the paper.
And, from Emily…
“Mary, these scissors don’t work!”
“Where is my thing, Mary?”
“What thing is that, Timmy?”
“My thing that is over the other thing that goes in by a thing.”
Oh, okay then.
If there was one word I would happily remove from the English language, it would be “thing”, home and harbour of the imprecise and lazy.
Oh! Wait! My thoughts had wandered a bit there, and I was no longer talking about Timmy. Well, he’s certainly imprecise, but given that he’s three years old, I think we can cut him a little slack. But if he’s still doing that when he’s a teen? I pity his teachers.
Timmy: Mary, when will it be the weekend?
Mary: As soon as you guys go home.