Fawkes doesn’t seem to like riding in the car too much lately. I took him and Phoenix to hang out with Nonny a few days ago and he cried most of the way there. Today when we went to go get Milly after school he started crying before we left the driveway.

Usually when we pick up Milly I’ll give both boys bottles when we get to our destination while we’re waiting on their sister. Fawkes was so distraught that I gave them the bottles as we were leaving the neighborhood. I just didn’t feel like trying to handle that much crying for ten minutes or so in the car. He finished it a couple minutes later though, of course. Maybe I need to go back down to smaller baby nipple holes to make it last longer.

We’re still generally just giving the boys bottles first thing in the morning and last thing at night, but they have a snack time at 3:00, which is when we’re in the car on Milly days, and there’s not really anything that I think will satisfy them (read: keep them occupied) enough that I can give them unmonitored. I gave them some pouches on the way to Laura’s the other day, but they don’t squeeze close to all of the contents out, leading to them getting angry that they’re out of food even though they aren’t.

Total side note on the pre-tangent I started this post off with: When I was typing they aren’t I was initially going to type they’re not. which is probably more like my natural speech. I think I made some subconscious decision to go with they aren’t because it felt like it more properly emphasized the point. Anyway, the thought popped in my head that you don’t always get a chance to choose where a contraction goes, and then I thought, I wonder if anyone ever tried to multi-contraction a phrase like they are not, turning it into a mega-contraction, you could say: they’ren’t.

Continuing on with my day now.

Milly was excited to show me some drawings when she got in the car. She told me she was working on her anime style, particularly the eyes. She also told me, as she later told Tristen, about an inside joke she and her friend Sophie have about Bill Nye the Science Guy from being on the Battle of the Books team together. It’s one where they air quote “Bill Nye” because there’s a book by him and some other guy, and they’ve been told about how famous people will sometimes lend their names to a book to increase its sales.

When we got home, Milly helped me bring in the trash cans from the road, as she usually does on Tuesdays. I had unbuckled the boys from their car seats (which we carry in because they make convenient places to give them their bottles, so I suppose before long we can start leaving the seats in the car if we do knock out the bottles altogether) in the house and blocked them off to keep them from getting into any trouble for the minute we’d be away, and when we got back in they were all about some Milly, smiling and laughing at her. Instead of disappearing off to her room to do her homework and have some “me time” she actually played with them a good bit, which really warmed my heart.

I should explain. Milly loves her brothers. I know this without any doubt. She’s not always very super interested in entertaining them though, which I can understand. There’s a very big age difference with no siblings in between to have sort of acclimated her to entertaining and interacting with babies. She’s got other interests and they’re not of an age where they can easily communicate with her in ways she can appreciate or understand, and she’s around not quite half the time so she doesn’t have this constant big sister mentality. Tristen and I have asked her to help keep them occupied before, just by talking or playing with them, and more often than not she just sort of blanks out. Kid can go on and on about Minecraft all day long, but you ask her to talk to babies about that or whatever else pops into her head and there’s nothing there.

Milly’s by no means a bad big sister, but she’s not as engaged with her brothers as I see with some kids. I had a talk with her about it the last weekend she was here after I realized that a lot of the times we ask her to help, it’s when the boys are in a mood and Tristen and I are trying to do things like work and make dinner. We set her up to fail because we ask her to help in times when they’re not going to be easy to appease anyway. Of course, the answer to this is to have Milly play with them when they’re not in bad moods, but I don’t want to force her to play with them, either. We discussed all of that, and I told Milly that I just want her to be present more when she’s here instead of spending all her time reading or drawing. Don’t get me wrong- she’s definitely my daughter in that regard because I spent tons of time reading and drawing when I was her age, but I want the boys to know her and have good memories of being around her, and vice versa. As I said, she’s not here all the time, and I want everyone to feel connected without having to force it.

And I’ve had earnest talks with Milly to see if part of any of that is her just not wanting to be around the boys or if she feels like she’s being left out or anything. She doesn’t appear to have any jealousy or bitterness towards them. I think the issue is just that she was an only child for almost nine years, and she’s still an only child when she’s with her mom, so while she’s always been great with smaller kids (her cousin Sebastian is a great example), she hasn’t been around kids who live with her so it’s just not something she’s used to.

Anyway, all that is to say that I was really happy when Milly and I came back and she spontaneously played a bunch with Fawkes and Phoenix. She was disappearing behind the chaise part of the couch and surprising them, making noises with them, just playing with babies the way you play with babies. They loved it and I loved it. I don’t know if it had anything to do with talking to her about it all or if it was just some serendipitous moment or what, but it made me happy.

She did go back and take care of her homework after a little bit. I changed diapers, put away dishes (which I normally have Milly help with, but she did need to get on with her homework), and washed some pots and pans and bottles.

Another aside here. Man, these things would be so much shorter if I didn’t go on tangents. This one is going to be about changing diapers.

Fawkes and Phoenix are both at the stage where they really want to mess with things when you’re changing their diapers. They squirm around trying to see things or get to some object or whatever. It can be such a pain. And of course, when you’re changing one and you’re not forward-thinking enough to put one of them in one of their fortresses, the one who’s not being changed will inevitably want to crawl over the one who is being changed, or they’ll want to try to grab the other one’s eyeball, or they’ll be zeroed in on that uber-interesting diaper you just took off the kid being changed; you know, the diaper that’s saturated to overflowing with poop.

And then, even if you have the kid who isn’t being changed under control, the other one is twisting around all over the place or grabbing at his penis, which I really wouldn’t care about if I hadn’t just smeared medicated cream all over his nether region to get rid of a nasty-looking yeast infection (talking to you right now, Phoenix, and maybe a little bit you Fawkes, but hopefully you’re just rashy). So you’re trying to wipe this squirming kid down, who may or may not have just gotten poop or medicated cream on his hand and is trying to put it in his mouth. And half the mornings they’ve peed so much during the night that the diaper is saturated, and if they had a big poop too, it’s come out and gone all the way up the back or down the leg, even though we just moved them up to size 4 diapers at night (and might would do it during the day, but we’ve still got a half a pack of size 3’s left, and that shit’s too expensive and we go through too many of them to just not use them or pass them off to Torrie for Gabriel to use nine months from now), so while trying to reign in this squirming, penis-diddling, poop-sampling creature, you’ve also got to get the onesie pajamas off without getting any more poop smeared on anything else, particularly the baby you’re trying to clean.

I usually change the boys on one of those foam puzzle-piece mats on the floor, so if they’re being particularly unruly I’ve taken to tamping down their arms with my legs. They’re not fans, but it makes my life easier.

Okay, moving on. Again.

Tristen recently ordered one of those online deals where you pick some dinners and they send you all the stuff you need for it, and the first two meals arrived last night. She and Milly made a spinach ravioli and sausage meal with that tonight. Milly helped out with a lot of it, and aside from cutting the tomato (Tristen had to keep telling her to actually hold the tomato when cutting it up, but Milly’s always been overly-cautious with knives, I mean, to a silly degree), it went really well. Milly enjoyed doing it and I think she enjoyed the food all the more for having been as involved as she was in making it. I really enjoyed the interaction the two of them had while making dinner. I was finishing up some work then feeding the Bottomless Pit Boys while they were doing all that, but Tristen said I get to help Milly with it next time.

We’re a bit undecided on whether we’re going to continue with the service. The nice thing is that they send you the exact ingredients you need, so you’re not overbuying or getting things you’ll barely use. They’re 20 bucks each (at first I wrote $20, but in my head  I was saying “20 bucks” so I wanted you to read this the way I’m saying it), which on the face is a bit expensive; two meals a week would be $160 a month. However, it was enough food to feed me, Tristen, and Milly, while giving some to Fawkes and Phoenix, plus we had some left over for at least one grown-up lunch and a lunch or dinner for the babies. That’s a good bit of food for $20, so we’ll see. It certainly tasted good and was a good experience.

I helped change the boys and put them in their pajamas while Milly got her stuff together after dinner then I took her back to Amanda’s. I chatted with Jason (who finally went to see Into the Spider-verse today) for a few minutes, mostly about our new hobby: setting up Alexa-enabled stuff.

Back home, I snuggled up with Tristen on the couch to half-watch Wheel of Fortune (which she doesn’t really like) and Jeopardy (which she does like and is the reason Wheel was on). She had left her phone at home today and was catching up on Instagram. At one point she nuzzled her face into my neck and told me she loved me. I told her it was just because I killed most of a Jeopardy category. Then I took the first part of my sleep.