Watching Evanny sleep

27 05 2014

The picture below is Evanny, doing something she’s never actually done before in our house–sleep on the couch, rather than in her bed, our bed, her bassinet, or on someone’s body (there have also been scattered incidents of sleeping in the highchair, in the now-retired bouncer, and in the long-since-retired swing).  She did not fall asleep on the couch; that’s one that might never happen.  This was an un-ambitious transfer: she passed out in her stroller on the second leg of our walk–the one after a thorough romping, swinging, sliding, and knee-scraping at the playground–and I put her down here, after laying a plastic bag under her blanket to account for how she’s had that diaper on way too long, rather than lugging her up the stairs and trying to hold with one arm while maneuvering out of our way the rocking chair that I left in her crib to discourage the warring cats from peeing in it (again).  So many logistics involved in what seems like it should be a simple little thing: the couch is soft, and the toddler is sleeping.

couch-napping: an our-house first.

couch-napping: an our-house first.

But that’s how it is with babies, and, I now know, toddlers; every little thing takes a lot of figuring, calculating, counting, guessing, and sketching out contingencies for.  If you don’t have them, you don’t see it happening–you either see moms who are guessing well today, and thus look zen-calm and peaceful about whatever they’re doing, or you see moms guessing poorly, flustered and dropping things and chasing red-faced screamers.  “Skill” is just a matter of picking up tricks along the way, and even if you have a thousand, it’s still always a roulette-wheel of guessing the right one(s) to try before the clock runs out (and having the right stuff on hand to make it happen!).

This was supposed to be a post just about watching this sleeping happen, but you see what a moment of stillness brings: a frantic race to think about and articulate All The Things, quick, before the thinking-and-articulating chance is over.

So let me try again: this is Evanny, doing something I rarely get to see now that her sleeping doesn’t happen on my lap, at the end of a nipple, anymore, but in her dark, cozy, star-projected, music-laced room instead.  Breathing.  Occasionally stirring one little finger, or twitching a foot, but mostly just breathing.  Snoring against the constant sniffles.  Sweating in the warm, humid day, her lengthening-but-still-short hair gradually plastering itself to her high forehead.  Resting quietly, oblivious to skinned knees, snack-bar crumbs, puckered seams at her armpits, diaper-snaps around her hips, and the unnecessary warmth of socks, because she refuses to wear sandals, and slipping shoes off the feet of a sleeping toddler is easier than peeling off sweaty socks.

I expect to see ever less of this–maybe none at all in a few months, when we gain a new baby and Daddy becomes the full-time putter-to-bedder of the older kids, so I’m reveling in it now, the stillness, the breathing, the quiet that we can both inhabit.  There are, as always, a thousand things I should be doing: laundry to start, laundry to fold, lunch to make, dinner to plan, a living room tornado-path of books and toys to find homes for, dust-and-hair-bunnies to sweep, a disgusting kitchen floor to do something to manage before more toddlers come tomorrow for a play date, planning next semester’s courses, which I won’t have time to do in the weeks before they start (see above, re: new baby).  Instead, I’m writing this down so that, in a few months, when I no longer remember that babies even DO sleep, let alone what my first looked like doing it, I’ll have a reference to return to.

And this is Evanny, right in that nebulous zone between still-a-baby and a kid-who’s-almost-2: she’s got 4 months yet to reach the birthday, but only 2 1/2 until she’s somebody’s older sister already.  We’re almost at the end of counting months–after noting every one, for 20, it’s almost time to just settle one one number and keep it for 12 months in a row.  We’re almost at the end of a lot of baby things, although I expect many of the transitions to be on-and-off, gradual, jagged.  She uses her little potty at least once a day, often more, and isn’t bothered by which type of offering she leaves therein, so there’s no discernable “will pee but won’t poo” issue to contend with; when at her friend Nate’s house, she likes to use his, and she’s just as happy to have his mom help her if I’m not there.  She likes to go high in the baby-swings at the park, but at least once a trip, we have to practice on the big ones.  She can walk all the way to the playground, although usually she gets winded and starts to cough at the top of the hill, so I pop her in her stroller.  Most of her toys say “3 and up” on their packaging.  She’s learning her own particular fastidiousness: she hates messy hands, but that doesn’t stop her from grabbing slimy things and getting messy, it just means we’re supposed to help get them clean rather quickly once she decides she’s had enough.  She flaps both arms in horror at stepping on maple-helicopters, disintegrating tree-flowers, and other dirt-detritus on the patio in bare feet, screams a horrified “no, no, NOOOOOO!” if we try to put on her sandals to keep her feet off the offensive surface, and doesn’t notice skinning her knees (although once the scrape is there, she’ll draw attention to it again and again, more bothered, it seems, by how it looks dirty than the fact that it ever hurt).

If allowed, she would spend her entire day running her hands under a faucet, playing her fingers (and any nearby object like a cloth or towel) in the water and shaking it around the room.  She says little sentences, like “more milk, yes, please,” and, looking for her brother, “Dude, where are you?”  She’s picked up a host of infuriating toddler behaviors lately, like crying about absolutely nothing, or even better, crying when I do the thing she wants, or, best of all, falling down in a limp pile of uselessness right in the threshold of the house to cry about my attempt to get the thing she’s asked for, usually when I’m already holding something, which makes it impossible to pick her up, especially as I’m also trying to play cat-soccer to keep the indoor cats from getting out the door I can’t close because she’s lying ON THE THRESHOLD.  She likes to draw with crayons and markers, although it usually takes about 2 minutes before that devolves into crying if one of us doesn’t stand over her shoulder and draw the things she asks for for her (“Dada beebee?  Dada beebee?  DADA BEEBEE PEEEESE MAMA!”) and would love if I would give her finger paints, but she’d eat them (and the toddler-friendly edible ones at the crunchy granola baby store are OBSCENELY expensive).  She has an excellent attention-span for investigating a new toy, or a new use for an old one, unless she’s tired, but only if she’s left alone to do it; in groups, she gravitates toward physical activities like play-slides, and if those are absent, she mostly wanders from kid to kid and adult to adult looking for snacks.  But right now (c’mon, you didn’t really think the nap would last!) she’s sitting beside me while I type, shirtless at her insistence, flipping through a card game of her brother’s, carefully inspecting card after card after card and making “chh chh chh” noises because she’s recognized that most of the pictures are trains.

And me?  Well, that depends on the angle.


Peering up at the camera, I’m still a somewhat recognizable version of myself, a familiar face with a new wealth of warm-weather freckles.


Move the lens aside a little, and you get a more realistic measure of the GIANT BELLY… and the cat-butt, and cat-toy, and a children’s toy designed for use on a beach, not that we’ve seen any beaches yet this year… the accompaniments of being almost the mother of (for 6 weeks or so, anyway) 2 under 2 (and 3 cats, and a summer going-on-2nd-grader, and a summer dog).

I’m doing as many of the things as I can manage, waddling through our days, trying to make enough plans to have an idea what to do with what’s coming, but not enough to be upset when they come crashing down, shaken by the unstable ground of real life’s chaos.  I’ve bought tomato plants, a sweet and hot pepper, rosemary, dill, and thyme; I’ve planted gift-raspberry stalks, gift-transplanted forget-me-nots, hostas, and gift-parsley; I’ve seeded–twice each, now–basil, cucumbers, and beans, and successfully grown only arugula–and only a sixth or so of what I tried for.  The spinach disappeared without a single sprout, the rogue watermelon that came up from last year was squirrel-beheaded the day after I put it into the garden, the other 5/6ths of the arugula washed away, the first round of basil was dumped by a cat, and the first effort at cucumbers and beans went from beautiful seedlings one day to a grey rotted mess the second.  But the tomatoes have flowers–and it’s not even June yet–so I’ve learned a lesson about the farmer’s market being the way to go on their score in this short a growing season, anyway, and I’ve got at least neutrally buoyant hopes for the rest.

And the garden works, as a metaphor for the rest: it’s scattered, messy, only-half-planned, incompetently nourished, and vastly dependent on the generosity of others to be alive at all, but it’s getting better, little bit by little bit, and I’m learning as I go, and I don’t have to believe I’m ever going to be good at it to enjoy trying, so it seems a worthy endeavor that has a lot in common with raising a toddler, and expecting that to be toddlers in as little as a year, if the second starts to walk as early as the first one did.  I check on the basil a lot, to see if its tiny seedlings are still growing or if they’ve been scattered again; I check on everything else to see what’s alive and what’s been eaten by squirrels, what needs watered and what’s looking waterlogged; I check on the toddler to see what she’s climbed on while I’ve been sweeping, what she’s scattered across the rug I need to vacuum, what she’s crying about (and whether or not it’s an imaginary tragedy enacted upon her dolls or action figures, which is most often the case when she’s alone).  But most days, in respect for the glorious wonder of sleeping babies–I’m still learning to say “sleeping kids”–I don’t check on her when she’s sleeping.  Unless it’s like this, a rare sleep someplace illumined by daylight.  Then, I find I can’t quite keep my usual distance; at least once, I need to creep back in and take a picture.




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