I can keep a toddler alive (and other tales)

You probably thought I forgot to tell you about the rest of my east coast trip, but fret not!

I got home (well, to my sister's house) from the wedding at 11-something p.m., at which time the babysitter went home. I knew that I needed to get my nephew (the nine-year-old) out of the house at 7:45 a.m. for a robotics competition of some sort. So, I set my phone to wake me up at 7:15.  I then took the baby monitor (for my two-year-old nephew) downstairs to the room where I was staying. I figured I should probably be aware of it if he woke up during the night. At around midnight, I was all set to go to bed when I received a text from my brother-in-law. "Can someone walk Bess?"  Doh! I forgot about the dog. See, my dogs maul you as soon as you walk in the front door. It is hard to forget about them. Bessie Mae is a very peculiar but sweet hound dog. She just sits silently in her crate and doesn't make a peep. Anyway, I went back upstairs, retrieved Bess from her crate, and then walked her for a block or two. I hope that a few night owl neighbors enjoyed that vision of me in my red snowflake pajamas, standing around like a chump while Bessie rolled in the grass.

The next morning, my alarm went off as expected and I got my nephew up. There was a brief crisis when he couldn't find any pants to wear.  I felt pretty confident that he should definitely wear pants to his competition. I thought the person picking him up would appear on the porch and then leave, but when I rounded the corner, she was standing in the kitchen with paperwork and a list of stuff that my nephew needed to bring. So, add her to the list of strangers who had seen me in my pajamas (and no bra) at that point.

My two-year-old nephew, much to my surprise, did not wake up until around 7:45. He must have been exhausted from wreaking havoc at his parents' wedding the night before. I gave him a fawful (AKA "waffle") and attempted to check my email on my phone. No-go. I quickly realized that he couldn't be left unattended for even a second. I sent my sister and brother-in-law a text asking if I was being paid time and a half. They did not respond. Hmph. My niece had gotten up briefly to help her brother get ready and then went back to bed. I was on my own.

I changed his diaper. He had pooped. Then I gave him a sippy cup filled with watered-down apple juice.  However, he kept pulling other sippy cups out of various nooks and crannies around the house. It was like some weird toddler magic trick. I never managed to get one from him before he'd already taken a sip. Then he found a set of keys. I figured it was harmless to let him play with them. Then he set off the emergency alarm on his dad's car, which was sitting in the driveway. So, I took the keys. He found another set. I took those. Then he found a bottle of vitamins. The bottle had a childproof cap, so I figured it was safe for him to play with it for a minute or two. Then I heard a sharp "pop!" as the lid came off. Took those away. Next up: he found a bottle of liquid make-up. No idea where he found it. I took that away, but not before he'd gotten the lid off and had enhanced his beauty a little. Moments later, I found him crouching behind a table, concentrating mightily. That's poop number two, if you are keeping track.

At around 9:00 a.m., my sister's sister-in-law (got all that?) stopped by to pick up her daughter, who was upstairs in a bunk bed with my daughter. She had her friend from Australia with her. So, please add two more people to the list of innocent citizens who have seen me in my snowflake pajamas. When they walked through the door, they asked why the rear door of my brother-in-law's Jeep was wide open. I quickly deduced that this was another side effect of the great key incident. After they left, I continued to wrangle my nephew for another hour or so until finally, I just felt like I could not live for one more moment without a shower. I woke up my niece so that she could supervise her brother's destruction while I cleaned up my act.

Eventually my sister and her husband did indeed come home. I suggested to my brother-in-law that he round up everything in the house that is safe for the toddler to play with and to mark it "toxic." I mean, seriously, just put a skull and crossbones on every stuffed animal and every kid-safe thing in the whole house. I am convinced that is the only way my nephew will be drawn to them.

The rest of the day was pretty quiet. My sister's sister-in-law returned after taking her friend to the airport. I picked my mom up from the hotel.  My baby sister and her son showed up as well.  So, we had a house full of people. We spent the rest of the day hanging out and watching some videos from Brian's funeral. I know that his wife truly has no choice but to keep going, to keep putting one foot in front of the other (she has two children, after all), but I must say that she is handling it with more grace and dignity than I believe I could muster under the same circumstances. Also, she must be very brave because she took four kids to a movie later that evening.

The next morning, I got up to find that my brother-in-law was up with the two-year-old. Better him than me. I asked him if he knew where I could find some ibuprofen. I didn't want him to think I was hung over, so I confessed that I was having menstrual issues (which was the absolute truth). "Now that you're my brother, we can talk about my period, right?" The look he gave me left me with the impression that . . . no.  It's okay. My husband and I have been together for 21 1/2 years and the topic of menstruation is still decidedly and permanently . . . off the table.

After lunch, I packed up our gear and drove to my dad's house in Maryland. My nine-year-old nephew had stayed home from school so I took him along with us. My daughter and I were spending the next two nights at my dad's house. Later, I would drive my nephew back home. I'd made plans to go out that night with an old friend of mine and needed to drive back to Virginia anyway.

While my daughter and my nephew were conning my dad and his girlfriend out of ice cream and anything else they could think of, I drove down the street to IKEA. At home, I'd have to drive to a neighboring state to go to IKEA, so it was kind of exciting to have one within spitting distance. I couldn't buy much, of course. The airlines tend to frown on the whole bringing-furniture-on-the-plane bit.  I did pick up some fun hats for my two youngest nephews. Best ten bucks I've ever spent.

I did go out that evening but didn't get into too much trouble. We went to a fancy wine bar and then to an Irish pub. I arrived back at my dad's house at 1:15 a.m.  MY KID WAS STILL AWAKE.  Way to lay down the law, Dad.

The next morning, we headed to Baltimore for the day. It was a lot of fun.  We went to the science museum there. On the way home, we stopped for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. The mango margarita I drank must have caused my judgement to falter, because right after dinner I bought my daughter an ugly outfit from Justice. She is hoping for some Justice clothes for Christmas, too. I can't even walk by that store without having a seizure from all the glitter and neon. Maybe her aunties would like to "take one for the team" this year.

On Wednesday, my dad drove me and the kid to the nearest Metro stop so that we could head to the airport. The train ride was mostly uneventful except that my daughter refused to sit in an actual seat. Instead, she opted to swing round and round on one of the poles, which conjured up a couple of troubling thoughts involving germs and future occupations and stuff.

We arrived back home just after dinnertime on Wednesday evening. By then, I'd reached maximum mother-daughter time with the kid. I handed her over to her dad.  "Congratulations, Mister M! It's a girl!"



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