Thursday, August 20, 2009

From California to DC with two 2-year-olds

Overall the boys have been great—adjusting quickly to a box-filled house, sleeping in rental cribs in San Francisco, getting up at 3 am to go to the airport, missing naps, flying cross country, sleeping in rental cribs in an empty new house while waiting for our stuff to arrive. But everyone has their breaking point.

NOT MY ORANGE! For Lionel it came as we boarded our second flight of the day on July 19. During our brief layover, he had eaten most of an orange. As we boarded the flight, he very gingerly carried a small paper plate bearing one orange segment. Right when he stepped from the gangway/tunnel thing into the plane, the plate tipped and the orange fell to the ground. Of course he wanted to keep and eat it and although I’m not squeamish about picking up food from the floor, I couldn’t quite abide eating something from the doorway of a plane where hundreds or thousands of shoes had passed since the last cleaning.

“NOOOOOOO!” One of the stewards put the segment in the trash and Lionel fell to pieces. I could hear him thinking: okay, I haven’t slept or eaten regularly, I have been really great, but not my orange. That is the last straw.

Lionel refused to walk another inch. While the staff was exhorting people to step into the rows so others could get by, Lionel stood still in the entrance and refused to budge. I could sense the people bumping into each other all along the tunnel. I gave him a warning, counted to 5, and then picked him up and carried him to our seat in the second to last row. As Keith joked, it required 5 TSA agents to subdue him. I took Lionel into the bathroom to calm down but that didn’t work. All he wanted was to go back to the front of the plane and walk ALL BY HIMSELF to his seat. Picture an aisle jam-packed with weary travelers and then remember the lack of logic in a 2 year old. Owen and Keith were in the row behind us. A young guy completed the row with me and Lionel. He had that ‘just sucked a lemon’ look on his face, but put on some headphones and closed his eyes and went to his special place.

NEVER WAKE A SLEEPING TODDLER! For Owen, the breaking point came at the end of that same flight. He had finally fallen asleep with his head on Keith’s lap when the call came to prepare for landing. “I’m SLEEPING! Daddy, I’m sleeping over here!” These cries swiftly changed to “I want Mommy!” Finally, Keith and I switched seats, crawling over the long-suffering young man who had had to turn off his music. I held Owen on my lap, facing me, and put a seatbelt around both of us. Owen quieted and, happily, the stewardess didn’t ask us to move.

MY LIFE AS A BATTERED WOMAN. I didn’t have a breaking point so much as a moment when I realized this had to be the lowest point and it could only get better. We had arrived on a Sunday night. The next morning, Keith went off to work and I hustled the boys into their rental double stroller so we could walk to the grocery store before it got too hot (ha!). I should have known better. Even though they had slept the night before, the twins had a serious sleep debt and had been going through one new experience after another. When we got into the store, they completely lost it like they never had before. One wanted to be in the stroller and the other wanted to be in the ‘driving’ cart. No one was happy and the entire store knew it. The other customers gave me a wide berth and politely looked away. My smiles were not returned. So much for Southern hospitality!

By the time we checked out, the shrieks had reached a fever pitch. I assured the checkout woman that usually they were well-behaved but they had just had a stressful couple of days. “I understand,” she said. Well, no one else seemed to. I tried to wrangle them both back into the stroller without blocking the exit of other customers. I hoisted my backpack on and tied the other bags of groceries to the handle. Finally, I maneuvered toward the door when a Metro policewoman stopped me. “Do you need some help?” she asked gently, touching my shoulder. And then I thought about how I looked.

On the day before the moving van came to pick up our stuff, I had tripped over a box and smashed my nose into another box, removing several layers of skin. (One of the worst things you can do to a blind gal is scatter boxes around and rearrange the furniture.) The bridge of my nose was bloody and my eyes somewhat dark underneath. On the day of the move I had been helping Jerry, the driver, take apart our platform bed. While I was unscrewing one rail, Jerry unexpectedly loosened the footboard which fell heavily on my left arm. Now, a week later, I had a raised bruise the size of a grapefruit on my upper arm. In my cut-off shorts, a myriad of bruises were apparent on my thighs and shins. I definitely looked like someone who needed to be slipped a number for a safe house. I tried to explain but just gave up. Now I understood the polite lack of eye contact. Later I told Keith that I should have said: “Listen, if I don’t get home with this 6-pack before 10 am I don’t know what he’ll do!”

A week later when the movers arrived, I showed my bruise to Jerry. One of his helpers said, "Oh, thank God. Because I was thinking, 'I sure hope she doesn't have an abusive husband.'"

Some thoughts on our new house:

Downside: It really is uphill both ways. Seriously. Can’t get anywhere without going up (and down, of course) a couple of hills. This is especially fun while pushing 70 lbs of toddler in a stroller to which I’ve tied several bags of groceries while also wearing a backpack full of the ‘heavy stuff.’

Upside: Stairmaster, schmairmaster!

Downside: After any excursion into the humidity I return home looking as if I just stepped out of the shower.

Upside: Any hint of wave or texture in my hair is fully activated. The result: slightly less than straight hair!

Downside: The house smells like old people and something else I can’t quite place.

Upside: I never thought the scent of a bag of dirty diapers would smell like ‘home.’ And the incense has arrived.

Downside: Mosquitoes.

Upside: Thunderstorms. Okay, the mosquitoes aren’t responsible for the thunderstorms, but you kind of have to have one to get the other.

More upsides: Lots of room, a big back yard, Keith’s brother and his family are a couple of blocks away.

Major upside: Although he is working long hours and is occasionally frustrated, Keith is energized and invigorated by his new job at the White House. He feels like he can truly do good for people who don’t have a voice otherwise and that is motivating, especially on the days when he misses cuddly time with the boys.

Overall, we are getting settled and adjusted. I am excited that I will have room to make art again and the boys are excited about everything—especially that they will get to see snow this year. They have invented 4 imaginary friends. DeeDee (a girl), DoDo (a grown-up), Sorrow (a round dog), and Cherry (a….cherry). I don’t think they actually know what the word sorrow means but it did take me aback. Maybe they’ve been reading John Irving? On the other hand, they call Saturday ‘Sorrowday’ so maybe the round dog is actually named Satur. Or, as Liz pointed out, perhaps his name is Satyr and that could mean a host of other problems!