The girls lost TV privileges last night for not listening. For three days, because that's the number that came out of my mouth with exactly zero forethought or consideration when I was doling out their punishment. They're actually being punished because they poked a hole in Daddy's air mattress, by jumping around on it when they'd been told over and over not to do that, to lie down and watch their movie or we'd put it up. It was patched easily, but still, when you don't listen and you break things that belong to other people, there needs to be repercussions. Television and candy are the only currencies my children recognize and in my efforts not to give them food issues I'm trying really hard not to give them candy and treats as a reward for good behavior and, as such, I don't withhold those things when they've been naughty, either. But TV, that magical rabbit hole, I can take it away and they feel it to their core. They're like little junkies, and those first few hours without are always rough, but even more so if you don't have something else planned, which, of course, I did not last night as I capriciously bellowed out their sentence. But whatever. It's not like I planned the second kid, either - living life by the seat of my pants over here.
Cora is in a phase. She'll be 3 in two short days, so I'm going to rely on the old fall back and straight up blame her wild behavior lately on her tender age. She is wild, though. WILD. If you're reading this, maybe you've noticed the Instagram feed over there on the right - did you catch the picture of her covered in enamel model paint? She'd been upstairs for a few minutes. Geneva was up there too, but it's a large space for two little girls, and it's not unusual for them to play separately. I don't know what I was doing downstairs - laundry, dinner, cleaning, drinking - but I realized I hadn't heard from her in a few full minutes. I started up the stairs as I called her name, and I smelled it immediately - you know the smell, that fumey paint smell. Oh shit was my only thought, and then she came around the corner and I said it out loud, "Oh shit." Her right arm was a swirl of sticky purple and red and white and black enamel paint, the sort that comes in tiny glass jars to be applied to miniature figurines with tiny little brushes; her left hand was the same, up past her wrist, and her chin and cheeks were similarly styled. Cora had found these 10 year old glass bottles on a shelf in a closet, unscrewed the lids, and had, I can only imagine, poured the paint into her hands and rubbed it onto her face and arms as if it were lotion.
In a blur, I checked her over with my hands and eyes the way a mom will, making sure she didn't have it in her eyes, her nose, her mouth - somehow, she didn't. I was yelling for Jimi at the same time, thinking in the back of my head, "He'll know what to do, he'll know an easy way to fix this, he knows something about everything." When he put his head into the stairwell and saw us there, saw colorful Cora, I saw the oh shit in his eyes, and his words only backed that up - he had no idea was to do, and he sounded a little higher pitched than normal. I don't want to say he was panicking, but he was close - he was scared, and that scared me too, but also, strangely, it made me calm down nearly immediately. I used my calm serious voice, the one that is very matter-of-fact, and as he stripped her down in the bathroom, I walked into the kitchen, grabbed the Dawn dish soap and my phone and delivered the Dawn to the bathroom as I googled "how to remove testors model paint from skin". The answer, if you're not interested in googling, is vegetable oil and glycerin soap. We had vegetable oil, and the CVS up the road had glycerin soap I figured, so I left Jimi and the paint-covered child in the bathtub with a gallon-bottle of Crisco Vegetable Oil and headed to the CVS. They had glycerin - not soap, but in a little squeeze bottle. I figured it would work well enough, and it did, with the Dawn, and with poor Jimi rubbing and sudsing for nearly an hour. He even got it out of her hair.
That's sort of the way it is with her right now. The Friday before the paint incident, thirty minutes after I'd left to head over to visit a friend, she apparently decided to try to change her own poopy pull-up and covered the bathroom in shit. I missed that completely, thank goodness. Poor Jimi.
But yeah, 2 days before 3. She's sunshine and rainbows and silver linings - she wakes up happy every single morning; she's quick to tell me she loves me and that I'm her favorite and that I'm beautiful; when she gets in trouble she says "I'm so sorry, Mommy. I'm so so sorry." But she's also into everything, like a little tornado. She bounces from one thing to the next without a break in between. I'm regularly surprised to find myself cleaning one mess while she makes another mess, again, for the 4th time, and we've only been home for an hour. I should stop being surprised, probably, but how realistic is that? I'm still ever the optimist, thinking all day at work about how much I miss my precious little angels and how they are going to be so sweet and loving and well behaved once I pick them up from daycare and we head home to a fabulous evening of family dinner, a game or two, maybe a walk around the block, then bath, story, bed...and then I actually pick them up and one of them is in a shitty mood and the other just wants to play but it's at the absolute most inopportune time because we're in a parking lot and there are cars and also other parents but I don't give much of a fuck about what they think but I do still care a little because i'm not going to yell "get the fuck over here right now!" the way I'd really like to do. And then the pouty one pouts her way into her carseat as I wrestle the playful-turned-screaming-banshee one into hers and by the time I'm buckling myself into my seat I'm angry and my heart is racing and what the fuck I looked forward to THIS all day?!
But I am still an optimist, because some nights are nights like tonight, when Geneva had a good report from her teacher and was giddy with the praise, and Cora ran into my arms and hugged me and said "I missed you so much!" We laughed our way to the car, the three of us, and got buckled without any breakdowns. Cora is newly forward-facing, so she can talk and interact in a brand new way. We talked and sang the new Taylor Swift song on the drive home, then we danced to Katy Perry and Psy in the dining room until it was dinnertime, when we changed the playlist to The Avett Brothers. Dinner was delicious, and so was the piece of Halloween candy they each got to choose from their stashes after dinner.
They wanted to paint, so we made it happen. Cora had a shower, then we played Baby Store. We can't watch the store being built, aka them getting naked down to their underwear/pull-up (presumably because new babies are naked under their blankets?) and into their blankets, so if we don't hear them the first time they call us to come shopping, or if we don't come to the store quickly enough, Geneva - who up to this point has given instructions to us in her lilting sweet voice "Pretend you wanted two little girls who were perfect for you but you had to go to the baby store to buy them and me and cora were the babies you buyed" - will break character and scream out in her angry voice "Mom!! You have to come buy us!" When we go into the store (usually the living room), they'll be laying on the floor or on the couch in pretend baby beds, wrapped in bedsheets or quilts that have probably been found in the basket of clean blankets and sheets I've just carried up from the laundry room, where said blankets and sheets were just as likely to have been washed because they'd been drug across the floor by these two versus having actually been used as bedding on a bed. They'll be goo-ing and ga-ing and making little baby-like noises, and my job as the mom is to walk up to each one of them, fawn over how precious they are, and then ask them if they want to come home with me and be my new baby girl. They always say yes, and I never have to actually pay anyone - I just pick them up and carry them to whatever part of the house Geneva has designated our pretend home, and then we either play kitchen or start all over. Sometimes Cora is already my baby and she and I go to the store together to buy her a sister. Tonight the game was Jimi didn't want any babies, but said I could have some if I wanted them. I went to the store, picked out each baby individually, then carried her to her daddy, who cooed and gooed over each girl in turn.
They were both thrilled with their game of make-believe, and didn't argue a bit when I announced bedtime/story time. We read a PeppaPig story about George and his dinosaur balloon. I held Cora a moment and snuggled her, but she wanted down - and promptly climbed over the rail and into her crib, where she covered herself up and said, "Goodnight, Mommy, I love you." Jimi came in to pat her as he sang to us all. Geneva was mad when I said I was going to sit with her rather than lie down in her bed - I've slept in there a lot the last few nights at her request and my back is a wreck because of it. She pouted, but I held her until she was over it and she let me tuck her back in without argument. She told me she loved me, I fluffed her blanket three times, and the night, that part of my night, the awake electric bright white part of my evening, was over.
And here I sit with the dregs of hot tea turned cold, surprised at how long it took to tell you those things and at how good it felt. At how good it feels. These are the days I want to remember. These are the stories I want to tell.
Also: Last night, Cora fell asleep early, so we sat at the table and ate dinner as a family of three. We were probably 2 hours in to our television moratorium. Geneva loved the mashed potatoes and asked for seconds. She loved her family. She was so happy to be eating dinner as a family. She liked the green beans a little. (These are all things she told us, verbatim.) She and I played Go Fish after dinner until bedtime - we tied once and I won once. She didn't even pout - she kept proclaiming how much fun she was having. There's seriously something to this no TV thing. I think our Netflix is suddenly broken...