Do you remember the scene in Pretty Woman where Vivian finds herself staring down a plate of escargot and a line-up of forks that seem completely inappropriate for the task?
"Where's the salad?" she asks.
"Uh, the salad comes at the end of the meal."
"But, that's the fork I knew."
Some days, I worry that I've set Audrey up for such a scene, she desperately counting tines, trying to remember what their numbers mean. It's not that we're an etiquette-free house. I'm simply partial to the salad fork. It feels better in my hand (for those of you picturing me with dainty, smaller-than-average hands, you'd be mistaken), or perhaps, I like that due to its shorter length, I have the illusion that the food has a shorter distance to travel before reaching my mouth. Touch or semblance aside, when Audrey sets the table, I ask for a salad fork. Every time. Our table is a mish-mash of cutlery, toddler-sized forks for the kids, a salad fork for me, and your standard dinner fork for Jason. Audrey doesn't stand a chance.
I could make this simple and change my fork. But sometimes, regardless of etiquette or principle or want, you use the fork that fits. Those have been our weeks of late. As I have spent my sleeping hours up with a teething toddler and my waking hours trying to prepare for the next baby (or recovering from missed sleeping hours) this space has been a quiet one, lying fallow until energy returns and this ground is ready for a fresh turn of the fork.
In the meantime, here are our moments to savor from last week, the ones that filled us up, no utensils required:
Sunday morning, Audrey was running around the family room with a ball "doing tricks" to make Nate laugh. With each new laugh, her tricks became more elaborate. "When he laughs, his face is brand new," she said.
Nate likes to play peek-a-boo. Sunday, he added a little twist to the game, covering his nose with his hands rather than his eyes and smelling his fingers before tossing both arms out in a "ta-da" gesture.
As I'm able, I try to make it to the gym for a workout, which at this point involves pushing Nate around an indoor track in a stroller while Audrey plays or does crafts in the children's area. A couple months ago, no one took note (at least verbally) of my belly, perhaps thinking I simply hadn't lost the baby weight from Nathan. Now, well into my third trimester, note has been taken. On Monday, a man stopped me. "Is that what you call walking for three?" he asked. I believe this same man asked me a little over a month ago, "Is that what you call walking for two?" That day, I almost answered that I was actually walking for three. When I relayed the story to Jason, he informed me that no, when I'm walking to take care of myself, I'm really walking for five.
Tuesday evening I had plans to meet up with two of my favorite ladies. Both celebrate their birthdays in February, but we were finally able to coordinate schedules to honor the occasion in March. Audrey saw me preparing a couple little gifts Tuesday afternoon. She wanted to include a little something of her own and asked me for a couple of blank cards that she could decorate. I struck up a deal. I opened the kitchen cabinet that serves as her art storage. A ream of loose-leaf paper fell at my ankles. "Pick out ten sheets of paper for me to recycle and I'll give you two cards," I said. Audrey agreed. She picked out six. She began bawling. She asked me to photograph one picture for posterity's sake. I snapped a shot and told her she had four more papers to go. "I want my Daddy!" she said.
Wednesday afternoon, Audrey came to me carrying a big plastic pig. "Mama pig has a big snot," she said, pointing at the pig's nose.
"Snout," I said.
That night, Nate and I had a bit of a late night party when he awoke at 4 am, crying inconsolably. I brought him downstairs and spent two hours trying everything I could think of (changing him, feeding him, giving him Tylenol) to calm him down, until he passed out at 6 am and began laughing in his sleep.
Of course, the Law of Averages states that if your youngest child stays up well into the night whittling away at your energy, your oldest will awaken bright and early with energy to spare (okay, the Law of Averages states something entirely different, but in my very scientific study, n=1, the outcome is completely accurate). Audrey began Thursday morning by asking, "Mom, are there fish farmers?"
"Can you teach me about them?"
We spent the morning perusing the Internet, looking at pictures of shrimp farms and catfish tanks and learning what tilapia eat (for those of you wondering, tilapia eat ANYTHING).
"Can we build a fish farm in our backyard?"
"No, honey," I said (followed by a brief explanation of what an HOA is and that our particular one would most definitely not allow a fish farm in our backyard).
By complete happenstance, twenty minutes later a couple of our neighbors walked past our fence carrying fishing poles toward the retention pond. Audrey raced outside to badger them with fishing questions. I saw it as the perfect window of opportunity to sneak Nate upstairs for a nap. Unfortunately, the window wasn't wide enough. Audrey came inside, and unable to find me, began shouting through the house, waking her brother. Wide awake, he skipped his nap until late afternoon, right as we pulled into the grocery store parking lot. As I carefully maneuvered him out of his car seat, Audrey discovered a spare handmade Valentine tucked under one of the seats. She carried it into the store. Hoping to give Nate a much-needed nap, I carried him through the store, maneuvering my cart with my spare hand and asking Audrey to walk right beside me. Five minutes into our trip, she brushed past a potted orchid, knocking it to the ground. As I turned to pick it up, a store employee stopped me and said she'd take care of it. We walked away and I leaned down to Audrey, "I know it was an accident, but can you go tell the lady you're sorry?" I asked. Audrey headed back, talked briefly to the woman, and then bent down placing the Valentine on the ground next to the overturned flower. "I gave her my Valentine," she said, "because she told me it was okay."
Back at home, Nate still safely strapped in his seat sleeping in the garage, Audrey ran upstairs to change into some dress-up clothes. She came down wearing a pair of clown pants - and nothing else.
"Why don't you go put a shirt on under that?" I asked.
"No, my dance group told me this was one without shirts."
Just as I began wondering how she'd gained admission to a topless club at age four, she criss-crossed her straps in front of her, creating a zig-zag pattern and began performing superhero poses.
"I'm a superhero clown!"
Rested, and ready to show off some super moves of his own, Nate practiced spin moves against me, lowering his right arm to the side as he does when dancing, to juke away from the Tylenol dropper - my weapon of choice for lowering his fever.
Saturday morning, Jason had planned to play an online video game against a friend. I was hoping to keep the kids at bay long enough to let him finish uninterrupted. I hoped Audrey would forget it was the weekend and would assume he was already at work. But, she raced downstairs asking where he was. "I want to look for him," she said, pausing by the basement door. "I heard 'ding it!' (dang it) so I think he's downstairs."
I don't remember the last time I wore a cocktail dress to dinner. I've never learned to drive anything other than an automatic, and know about as much about a car "cornering like it's on rails" as I do about aquaculture (actually, after last week, I know more about aquaculture). But Vivian and I both know something about dealing with a week of unlikely circumstances. Sometimes, you just have to stick with the fork you know. Or, when all else fails (or life throws you a plate of "slippery little suckers") just dig in with both hands. And enjoy the ride.