Spinster Mom

The Storm Before the Calm

There are so many posts that I would have liked to put up in the three months since I last wrote, and I have spent hours composing them in my head. The problem is, as soon as I sit down at the computer to actually write them down, someone has a meltdown (OK, sometimes, it’s me). And since I am a single mom of twins, 90% of the time, the computer has to get shut in favor of a crying baby (or a certain needy schnauzer). Tonight I thought I’d try to take a few quick minutes to illustrate a classic reason my adorable little time-suckers keep me from writing. And that reason is BEDTIME.

Is there anything more precious than a sleeping baby? Is there anything more excruciating than getting that baby (or two) to that precious state? Here’s a sample of what bedtime looks like in Spinster Mom’s house at the 11-month stage. We start baths at 6:30, unless the girls have been refusing to nap all day and are miserable and cranky, and forcing Mommy to move everything up before she moves out, leaving kids and dogs to raise themselves. But, on most days it is 6:30.

I bathe them separately (to maintain my sanity and keep everyone from drowning), so one entertains herself in the pack n play while I bathe her sister and then we switch. At least that’s what I tell myself will happen every night. Most of the time, though, one screams bloody murder while I bathe the other, and then we switch. At least they like their baths, but I’m now trying to convince them that the rubber ducky needs water to live and thus must stay in the bathtub (otherwise, the water trapped inside gets everywhere while getting them dressed). I try a quick swap for a bath book, or two cups (Hayden likes banging things together), but they’re not easily fooled, and they watch me toss the ducky back into the tub with grave expressions.

Dressing is a delight because Jocelyn has decided that she must roll over constantly while being changed, like she’s stirring something and the batter will get lumpy if she holds still for even a second. Hayden is just starting to test out that little trick. But, once everyone is lotioned up and dressed, we go to the dining room for bedtime bottles. These are quite unpredictable because, rather than drink, Hayden often prefers to squeeze the nipple and spray formula around the room like a World Series champion with a bottle of champagne (shrieking with glee as she does). Jocelyn will snatch the bottle from me, drink, push it away, protest that it’s gone, snatch it back, drink, push it away, protest that it’s gone. . . And so it goes until I can be sure they’ve had at least enough to get them through the night, since we no longer do overnight feeds.

By this point, it’s probably around 7:15 or so, and it’s time to take them upstairs. Jocelyn usually goes first, since it’s a toss up between having her scream and cry upstairs, clinging desperately to the railing of her crib that’s closest to the nursery door, while I go back down for Hayden; or having her scream and cry downstairs, strapped into her high chair, if I bring Hayden up first.

Once everyone is upstairs, we turn on our ocean sounds, and our starry sky. Each girl gets her own personalized version of “My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean,” while being rocked. The hope is that the other one isn’t screaming bloody murder while awaiting her turn. Kind of ruins the mood. Sometimes we read a book but they aren’t really at an age where they can focus on a book, so sometimes we just talk. Tonight, though, we read, “Moo, Baa, La La La.” Then pacifiers go in (smeared with teething gel if necessary), and each girl gets a thin blanket (a new thing we’ve been doing lately now that they’re older, because they like to scrunch up in them). Then the fun really begins.

Hayden is actually the one most likely to fall asleep sooner, but this doesn’t happen right away. She sings for a while, and often has a very animated conversation (I’m not always sure that it’s directed at me). While serenading the room, she plucks the pacifier from her mouth, holds it straight up in her hand and belts out her song a la Madonna in “Evita.” During this time, she is usually pushing herself around in circles and (a more recent development), flipping back and forth from back to tummy like she’s spring-loaded. On her tummy, she usually swims to the end of the crib, and then cries because she can’t go further and she can’t figure out how to turn over again (even though she’s done it ten times already). In the last couple of weeks, she has started to sit up and kneel, clutching the rails of the crib (something she’s picked up from her sister).

Through it all, I replace the pacifier, rearrange the blanket, remind her that she prefers to sleep curled on her left side, pick up the pacifier from the floor when she hurls it out of the crib in disgust, and curse a bit when she unveils her newest talent - the impressive new shriek she has been working on. She trots it out at random times (bedtime, mealtime, playtime, OK, all the time). It’s not crying, but just a loud, high-pitched screech, somewhere between a dolphin call and a dog whistle, that cuts through you with the searing intensity of a lightsaber.

You might think that Jocelyn has fallen asleep while all this is going on, but the truth is she is much harder to get down than Hayden. I tend to go back and forth between the cribs while each girl goes through her nightly ritual. For Jocelyn, it involves rolling over the instant I put her down on her back (I used to flip her constantly but I felt like a short order cook and gave up on it). The rolling used to end there, but now it leads to climbing and standing in the crib, usually crying. I pull her off the railing and lay her down, and I receive a small round of applause before she just starts it all over again. We go through this twenty times or more before she finally gives in and falls asleep (usually on her face). Occasionally, she mixes things up a bit and instead kneels at the backboard of the crib, testing it for weaknesses, looking for a secret door.

If I’m lucky, after about 15-20 minutes, Hayden will have fallen asleep – unless she decides to join Jocelyn in rattling their pacifiers along the crib bars, like prisoners with tin cups in an Old West prison. Tonight, though, she threw me a curve by falling asleep and then waking up and crying hysterically after only 5 minutes. Since Jocelyn was still in the throes of her bedtime drama, I didn’t really need that, and I’ll admit Hayden and I had words. Nevertheless, I took her out of the crib, rocked her a bit, stroked her hair and calmed her down. She cried again when I put her back in the crib and I stroked her hair some more. By now Jocelyn was close to finding her secret door, so I had to move to her crib, but thankfully Hayden seemed ready to settle.

This is when Jocelyn decided to introduce a bonus round – Guess Where the Blood Came From! She had a big spot of blood in her bed that I hadn’t seen before. I took her out of the crib and to the bathroom because I didn’t want to turn out the light and risk waking Hayden, who seemed close to going out. I searched and searched but found nothing, including no stains on her PJs. Finally, on the third pass, I found a tiny cut in her ear, which must have come from the dragon claw on her left hand that she won’t let me get anywhere near with the clippers. I cleaned the cut and then I just needed to change the sheets – in the dark, without dropping or banging anything, with Jocelyn crawling all over the floor (because if I put her in Hayden’s crib, she’d be sure to wake her up, and I was not rousing the Hurricane if I could help it!).

When I finally returned Jocelyn to her crib we had another ten minutes or so of flipping, climbing, standing, crying, searching for escape routes and drunken crawling around the crib before she collapsed in her preferred butt-in-the air position to sleep. I sat in the blessed silence for several minutes, checking my Twitter and Instagram feeds on my watch, waiting to see if the babies were messing with me. But, both girls stayed asleep, and at just after 8PM, I had to consider the night a relative success (we’ve gone through some phases of 2+ hours of crying from both of them before they would fall asleep). I crept quietly out of the room, in search of dinner and an adult beverage.