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My Baby Loves Me

There’s that time of day in our
family life when my children’s lives become a little less of
a sure thing, and more of an “eh, we’ll see if I let
them live until tomorrow” sort of thing. When my girls were
babies a friend of mine called it the “arsenic hour”
– the time of day when you’re pacing back and forth
with the baby bawling its eyes out, strapped to your chest while
you bawl your eyes out, staring out the window counting down the
seconds until your spouse comes home and gives you some relief.

My children don’t have that colicky
time any more, of course. But I do find that the hour before dinner
can be a bit tense around the house, especially if I’m
cooking an actual meal and not re-heating leftovers or throwing
together spaghetti. Both girls are tired from school,
Maddie’s working on her homework, Cora’s bored, and
I’m scrambling around my shambles of a kitchen trying to get
a nutritious dinner made without killing someone. Especially
myself. Pots are boiling, pans are sizzling and inches away from
burning me, sharp knives are falling off the counter, raw chicken
juice is leaking everywhere – I’m sure you know the
scenario. And for whatever reason, this is the time kids have a
million questions and need your help “just really quickly
mommy” and the arsenic starts to sound like an actual option.

Or maybe it’s just me.

At any rate, yesterday was almost such a day. We found ourselves
with a rare afternoon/evening home: no one was working or taking
ballet or having a girl scout meeting or anything else. And to top
it all off, Brian was home most of the day, and we had an awesome
afternoon picking up the girls and playing in the park for a while,
then in our backyard. So for the most part the afternoon went very

But then the girls were asking to watch their video, and I had to
remind Maddie her homework needed to be done first. So Maddie
sighed and grumped and asked my help reading the directions every
five minutes while I started a reasonably elaborate dinner. Cora
tried to wait patiently for her sister to finish so they could
watch their video together, but there’s only so long a
four-year-old can wait so late in the day. Which means I
shouldn’t have been surprised when Cora started asking for
crafting supplies; it’s how she loves to spend the afternoons
while I cook and, as long as she’s low-maintenance, fairly
helpful to me.

“Mommy, can I have some scissors please?” Cora asked
politely – right as I got the oil hot enough for the chicken.
I turned down the heat, ran to the pantry and got Cora’s
scissors. “Thank you, Mommy!” she said cheerfully.

Two minutes later I saw Cora struggling with the scissors and a
roll of blue painter’s tape – what we use to put the
girls’ artwork up on our walls. “Mommy, I think I need
some help,” she said apologetically. I gritted my teeth,
walked over and helped her cut the tape.

I went back to my cooking and was carefully measuring ginger when
Cora said, “Mommy, how do you spell

“What’s the first letter sound like?” I asked.

“M,” Cora said, asking “but what’s the next
letter?” right as Maddie said –for the tenth time
– “I don’t know what to do here.”

“O,” I threw at Cora before saying, “read the
directions out loud,” to Maddie, then turning back –
AGAIN – to my cooking. We proceeded in this way through the
entire spelling of “Mommy” and a whole page of
homework. I turned my back to the scene as I dug into the fridge
for some butter.

When I turned back around, Cora was standing precariously on a
chair, struggling to reach something just beyond her height on the

“Cora Louise!” I said sharply. “What in the world
do you think you’re doing?”

Cora turned around, teetering on her chair. “I’m
putting a leaf up on the gratitude tree.”

And then I saw – she’d gotten a green paper leaf off
the stack in the corner, written “Mommy” on it, cut a
piece of tape, and stuck the leaf up on our tree. Cora was showing
the whole world that she was grateful for the shrew who barely had
time to deal with her during pre-dinner.

Sometimes it’s eminently clear to me that I don’t
deserve my babies’ adoration. But I sure am grateful to have


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