This week the Mister and I got it in our fool heads that we should let Miss E, our four-year-old, have a campout sleepover in the backyard. Yes, our four-year-old. Yes, a sleepover. And yes, in the back yard, which is about the size of a large-ish bathroom, doesn’t have a fence, and shares an alley with a dozen other houses that have the same problem. Our new baby, the Tiny Tomato himself, is not even four weeks old and has already had a half-dozen days when he slept but two hours between dawn and dusk, but we really thought it would be fine. Really, we did.
Here’s how it went down:
5:45 PM: The Mister and Miss E trek up the street with the red wagon to scavenge for kindling in the DNR land that abuts our neighborhood. He is mauled by an army of rogue mosquitoes.
6 PM: Miss E’s friend arrives with her sleepover paraphernalia, which includes several Pull-Ups. Despite the ample supply, her dad lets me know she’s going to try to sleep without the Pull-Ups tonight. Hmn. My daughter doesn’t wet the bed but is a nosepicker so I silently commit to having her wipe boogers all over his bed and walls next time she’s visiting them.*
*Actually, as a veteran bedwetter myself, I really feel for the kiddo. And how hard can it be to flip a four-man tent inside out and hose pee out of it? As I’m nursing the baby, I neglect to run this line of thinking by the Mister, who will be sleeping in the tent with the girls.
6:30 PM: The Mister and the kids begin setting up the tent. All I hear is, “Stop bending that pole!” and “That hole’s not big enough for your bodies!” and “If I have to remind you one more time not to pull on that window!” and “Wait a minute. Whose Pull-Ups are these?” The baby is still quietly nursing.
6:45 PM: Hyena hooting begins. When the girls are asked to tone it down, they oblige, unzip the tent window, and start singing, “Butt! Butt! Vagina! Butt!” Suddenly, shrill hyena hooting seems to us like a great idea. The Mister calmly redirects them. The baby is still nursing.
7 PM: The Mister sets up the girls at the patio table with ketchup, relish, mustard, buns, Cheetohs, cheese curds, baked beans, and cheesy hot dogs. (In retrospect, I see that’s a lot of cheese, but hey, this is Wisconsin.) I believe this feast was the beginning of the end. The baby is in the sling now — still nursing.
7:15 PM: No other food has been touched, but the Cheetoh’s bag is now half empty. The girls look like wildebeasts who’ve just devoured the flanks of of a fresh kill. We roll shut the Cheetohs bag and begin a contest: Who can eat their cheesy hot dog first? I realize now this was a bad idea. Speaking of muzzles stuffed into flanks, the baby is still nursing.
8 PM: The Mister stokes up the fire pit and brings out his acoustic guitar, sets up some lawn chairs, and gets the s’mores stuff ready. The girls are doing cartwheels and dancing, the baby (still nursing) is in the sling in my arms, sleepy and soft, and I look at the Mister in the dusky light and comment on how blissful it all is. Famous. Last. Words.
8:30 PM: S’mores have been eaten and the girls are in their jammies in the tent, wielding a glowstick and wearing the Mister’s headlamps so that the whole tent is lit up from inside. We are watching their silhouettes and listening to their whispers, trying to discern whether a game of doctor is about to take place. We are at the ready. The baby is still nursing.
9 PM: Tent zipper flies open, the small blonde head of our young guest emerges, and we discover what Cheetohs, s’mores, cheese curds, cheesy hot dogs, and stomach acid look like when they’re all mixed up for an hour. Maybe it was the cartwheels? Or the gallon of water they each drank because they were so excited to have their own cups in their own cupholders in their own lawnchairs by the fire pit? Time for a jammies change and a call to said kiddo’s parents. The Mister is calmy saying, “You okay? Does your tummy hurt? Is your tummy feeling bad?” while I call her mom. I know for a fact that what he’s really thinking is, “Holy crap. I hope we don’t get whatever she’s got.” I know this, because that thought crosses my mind, too — more like stomps across it, in the screaming voice of a women being bludgeoned, if I’m being honest.
9:15 PM: Clean-up complete. Second pair of jammies on. No fever. Conversation with mommy done, and agreement reached that the sleepover can continue. What were we smoking?
9:16 PM: I remember vividly what it was like to be little, sick, and at a friend’s house for a sleepover, without my mom or dad, being helicoptered over by some other kid’s mom and dad. “I changed my mind,” our guest quietly says. She’s tugging on the crotch of her Pull-Up, and she looks like a deer caught in headlights. I want to hug her, but I know a hug from your friend’s mom is the last thing you want when you’re five, sick, and have just vomited on her lawn. Anyway, I’m still nursing the baby. We call her mommy again, this time to come pick her up.
9:20 PM: To kill the time before her mom arrives, I offer a story. The girls gather ’round me on the couch, wide-eyed and sweet, as I read them a couple of books. Halfway through “Bat Child’s Haunted House,” a curious little smile on her face, Miss E’s friend suddenly and without warning projectile vomits onto the sofa, my arm, the baby sling (with baby still nursing inside), and her second set of jammies. It’s really, really chunky. We’re talking super-high viscosity here. And there’s lots of it — like, way more than I think went down the gullet earlier in the night. I don’t know which child ate her cheesy hot dog the fastest, but I do know which one expelled it in record time. I swear to you, the thought crosses my mind that the mushroom-taupe color of the vomit goes surprisingly well with the pumpkin tone of our sofa. Perhaps I should do drapes in that color? This is far sicker than the puking child at hand, I realize, and quite possibly the real face of post-partum depression.
9:21 PM: On to the third set of jammies. The Mister is being a wonderful daddy and seems to have it all under some semblance of control, maybe because he’s on his second glass of red wine. I am totally bound up with the baby, because he’s in a sling, and it just seems easier to keep my arms free enough to help out a bit. I assist with the face-washing, the removal of vomit and old marshmallow from cute, puffy cheeks, and the reassurances that everything’s going to be okay. Miss E, up way past her bedtime, is being awfully caring but gets a funny look on her face when I offer up to her best friend what must have become her favorite jammies when I wasn’t paying attention. I see a little fire burning in her eyes. We will pay for this in the morning.
9:30 PM: Our guest’s dad arrives to take her home. I have just finished stuffing her clothes and blanket and stuffed animal into a brown paper bag, and cramming her sleeping bag into its container, all with the one arm that isn’t supporting the baby who is, of course, still nursing. Miss E is distraught, bemoaning the premature end to the Great Campout Sleepover that we’d baited her with all week. I chalk it up to life lessons but assure her she and her dad can still sleep in the tent.
9:40 PM: The Mister comes out of the bathroom holding up our sopping wet couch cushions. Which he has just finished cleaning in the shower, foam and all — yeah, without unzipping the covers, for the love of Mike. Our cushions will have to sit in the front yard on our Adirondack chairs for much of the next day in order to sun-dry. But who am I to complain? I’m just the one-armed nursing freak.
9:45 PM: Miss E and the Mister head out to sleep in the tent.
9:46 PM: Abort. Abort. Abort. The loudmouthed, overgrown frat boy that lives behind us, whose favorite words are the f-bomb and the c-word, respectively, and whose yard is catty-corner from ours across the alley, is just starting up another Saturday night drinking party. I am still nursing the baby, so the murderous act I now contemplate cannot be carried out.
9:47 PM: Miss E and her dad head up to her room, where she devolves into a loathesome beast who is not, she repeats, NOT tired.
9:50 PM: Loathesome beast falls asleep.
10:00 PM: The baby wakes. He’s finally done nursing and is ready instead to cry. As it happens, so are we.