Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Why Everyone Knows Betty Crocker was Childless

Silas thwarted dinner all morning. No matter when I tried to work on the lasagna, his contentment immediately changed to a screaming tantrum. At 10:30 I browned the meat to the sound of his anger. I spooned baby food bites into his mouth in between chopping up onions to add to the meat. He doesn't like baby food. He doesn't approve of it. He objected.

When the meat was cooked and his complaining grew unbearable --okay, who am I kidding? His complaining was unbearable all along-- I turned off the pan and picked him up to change him and feed him the mama-nectar he adores, but had refused when I offered it before. As I nursed the baby, I read roughly 223 words in a book I'm trying to finish. That's more or less a half page. Silas prefers my undivided attention while he eats. If I speak to other people, read anything, or try to watch a movie, he yanks his head back, yells baby talk at me, stares any offender to shame, and grabs a page of any book or magazine I've held before him and twists and wrenches the page until it's crumpled. And he bites.

Once he had been appeased, I placed him on the floor to see if he would be happy. He was. He crept everywhere, happily playing with the cyclone debris scattered over the house. (These cyclones go through frequently in our parts, leaving toys, books, blankets, couch pillows, sippy cups and crumbs in abundance on our floors.) I thought the coast was clear. I made my move.

Once I'd escaped, I made sandwiches for the older kids and got them settled at the table. I pulled 2 eggs, 3 different cheeses and a mixing bowl out and set them on the counter. Within seconds, Silas started howling again. I put him in his walker in the kitchen, where he continued to cry pitifully at me. I tried to speak soothingly to him, but he was not soothed. His pacifier was missing.

I poured a cup of sauce into the bottom of my pan. Silas whined. I spread it around and laid lasagna noodles on the sauce. Silas whimpered. I smeared a third of the ricotta and egg mixture over the noodles and sprinkled a cup of mozzarella over that. Tears rolled down his face. I threw in a cup and a half of sauce and four more noodles. Another third of the ricotta and half the meat went in accompanied by his cries. Ricotta flecked my glasses. I dumped another cup of sauce over it. Silas got louder.

"Isaiah! Find his pacifier!" I yelled. He couldn't find it. I laid out more noodles, spread the last third of the ricotta mix, the other half of the meat, and some sauce. By this time, Silas was furious. I made Isaiah sit beside him to keep him company. I dealt out another layer of noodles, and emptied all the remaining sauce and my last cup of mozzarella over it. Silas was screaming like he was in pain. I covered the lasagna with foil and jammed it into the fridge.

The shattering crash of a ceramic plate on the floor of the dining room demanded my attention. It was Talia's delicate signal that she'd had enough. My discouraging response brought angry tears and moans from her, too. It crossed my mind that from the outside, our house sounded like a torture chamber-- full of shrieks and misery.

I washed Talia up and let her down. I grabbed a dish rag and wiped all the sauce and cheese off the counter. I took out the broom and swept nearly a quarter cup of junk off the dining room floor, shaking out the dustpan just as Silas began to quietly study the xylophone Isaiah was accompanying his song with.

But the magic ended when he saw me. Frantic with anxiety, Silas beat his fists in the air. I picked him up and carried him to the living room, where the cause of his desperation became clear: he had a teaspoon of pee in his diaper.

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