Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Adventures with Zoë

Last August 1st with much consternation, foreboding, and flat out fear, Mr. Musky's sister birthed a beautiful baby girl. When I finally met Zoë Louise two weeks later, I immediately spiraled into a deep pool of love.
Always vocal in my willingness to watch her so Mom and Dad can travel, they took me up on the offer in May. For six glorious days, I spent every waking moment with this adorable little nugget.
She's an adult play toy. She mesmerized us all with her sweet face, her chubby little hands exploring the world around her, and her army crawl on our family room floor.
At first, she clearly showed signs of questioning wonderment at her new digs, and the crazy Aunt in her face all day.
But before long, she felt right at home and yakked up a storm with us while performing her main duties: eat, play, sleep. Eat, play, sleep. Eat, play, poop, sleep. Eat, play, sleep. Eat, play, sleep all night. 

Kept on schedule, Miss Zoë is quite possibly the best baby I've ever been around, and that includes my own children. She lays down for naps happy, and wakes up even happier. But as I quickly learned, the schedule is the dictator. If a doctor appointment runs long and she doesn't nap at the proper time, I might sneak a little golden moment of this...
...followed by Defcon 1. We're talking cocked pistol, nuclear war is imminent, crouch under your desk with your math book over your head. Luckily that only happened once, we plowed through to the next day, and all was right with the world again, despite her cousins asking twenty times each if she was ok.
Mr. Musky killed me with his feigned protests leading up to her stay.

"She can't come!"
"We have no business watching a baby for a week!"
"I'm not changing her diaper."
"I'm retired from baby duty!"
"What if she cries?"
"How long is she staying?"

"Two weeks," I lied.


"Yeah. I told Jen that if she wanted to scoot up to Oregon and Washington State for more wine tasting after hitting Russian River Valley that she might as well go. So she booked another week."

The wild panic in his eyes matched his soaring heart rate. He freaked out on a whole new level, considering his life would revolve around a baby for two weeks versus one. "Why didn't you talk to me about this first?"

"Oh relax. It's just two weeks. We'll be fine. Besides, I'm doing most of the work."

"But two weeks? TWO WEEKS?"

Finally I gave in. "Just kidding. It's Sunday through Friday."

Relief flooded his face. His breathing returned to normal. The redness creeping up his neckline and into his cheeks subsided. To say that he's not the world's largest baby fan is an understatement.
However, look at Mr. I-Don't-Care-For-Babies Musky. He couldn't stand it when we let her play independently one night, and he simply had to get down on the floor to keep her company.
And look again - he may have griped when I put her into his arms, but he willingly fed her plenty of bottles.
And huh. Trying to influence his baby niece with some Fox News. Her democrat parentals weren't too thrilled about that, I'm sure.
He later switched to a throwback that our kids loved. Teletubbies! The theme song still makes my skin crawl.
Sweet little Zoë commandeered an audience everywhere we went. On night one after Mom and Dad left, Kahley's boyfriend Nick came to the rescue for the initial calm down with baby massages. She loved it.
We all gathered around from morning one for breakfast, and every meal thereafter. 
She's likely viral on the internet as the kids took hundreds of pictures of her, many of which made their way to social media.
Picture proof that I have zero control in my own home. How'd that coffee cup get into my house? And how'd this sweet baby end up next to it?
Zoë went everywhere with me that week. She accompanied Kahley and me to doctor appointments, to the grocery store,
to buy some wine (apparently she's a big fan of the Cabernet aisle),
for walks to the park,
and to my daily workouts. A day earlier, I sidelined Tim the Trainer, asking him: "Hey, how do you feel about babies? Good babies?"

"I like babies."

"Awesome. What would you say to wearing a baby?"

"Wearing a baby?" dumfounded, he cocked an eyebrow at me. Apparently he's never heard of this phenomenon, so I enlightened.

"Yes. I'll provide the good baby and the wearing mechanism. All you have to do is wear her around while you call out our next movement. No yelling with Baby Zoë strapped to your chest. Deal?"

As you know, he's not a yeller.

"Um, sure. Deal," he agreed.
If he didn't think I was a nutcase prior to the day of baby wearing, he sure did then. The next day I brought Zoë in and strapped her onto him. And I kid you not, word spread like wildfire within MINUTES that Tim the Gym Teacher/Trainer was carrying a baby. No less than twenty people came running into the gym taking pictures, asking whose baby she was while making googly eyes and baby talk at sweet Little Miss. She chilled out the entire hour (despite bad Auntie Jen messing up her schedule that day) and decided she loves Kettlebell Class.
Tim patted her head and held her hand and stroked her hair while he quietly called out our next torture element. They were peas in a pod, those two.

Other days, Jake refused to let me take her to work out. He wanted to chill with her, on the couch, watching Friends together.
Melt me now.
Mid week, he observed the amount of work that goes into caring for a baby. "Mom, if I've learned one thing this week, it's that I'm NOT ready to be a father." 

I agree, my dear. Wait for several years until you're ready to alter your life around the one you bring into this world. It'll be the most rewarding and challenging lifelong commitment you ever make.
Upon his arrival home, Patrick (Zoë's dad) asked Jake: "So. Do you appreciate what your Mom's done for you all these years?"

What a thoughtful question - one I probably would never ask. Without missing a beat, Jake smiled at me and nodded with the sweetest, most heartfelt answer possible. "You know what? I do. I really do."

Kahley snuggled with her while watching the Bachelorette and drinking wine. Some habits must be taught early. Zoë told Rachel to just go with Peter - he is from Madison, after all.
She proved complete hands-on in caring for Little Miss. She fed her breakfast, gave her bottles, changed her diaper, dressed her for the day, and coughed repeatedly while doing it all. I mentioned doctor appointments earlier - they were for Kahley, so we could figure out the cause of an underlying, nagging cough. By night three, every time Kahley coughed, Zoë looked over at her and fake-coughed twice. We found it ridiculously funny, but of course when trying to video her response, she failed to perform. By the end of the week, Kahley walked into the house after running errands, and Miss Zoë greeted her with the following:

"Ah-heh, Ah-heh."

"Really, Zoë?" Kahley shouted. "I didn't even cough! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?"

I laughed so hard I nearly cried. "She thinks it's your name!" Yuk Yuk Yuk.

Watching them with their cousin, I see glimpses of my own kids as parents someday. I can't get my head around how truly full circle and amazing that's going to be. I wait patiently but with anticipation for the day I become a Grandma.

I had my kids quite young - at 25 and 27 - and I must say that being around a baby in my 40's is a completely different experience. I'm way more relaxed, for sure. I didn't freak out when I messed up her schedule and she screamed when I put her down for bed. Mr. Musky wondered if I should go get her, but I calmly reassured him that she was fine even though it sounded like red fire ants were chewing her skin off. (For the record - I did go in and rescue her, but in the end she really was just fine). 
Being an Aunt is one of life's greatest pleasures. My nephew, Jay, is the perfect blend of my brother and sister-in-law. The moments I share with him are few and very far between, but I remember them well. His sly, slow smile and quick wit. His introspection about everything. And his love of a good pizza roll. Homeboy can shovel back those little nuggets by the dozens.

Then came sweet little Chloe. My mom and I flew out to meet her when she was a baby, and we were both smitten. It was the first time I ever cried leaving my brother's house. Now Chloe's a beautiful teenager, and girlfriend can fire off an appropriate amount of sarcasm when necessary. She's artistic, creative, and to this day I carry around a little plastic rock in my makeup case that she gave to me when she was about six years old and we swiped blush on one another's cheeks.

I miss them both so much, it hurts.

So now that I've got another niece to love on, I'm going to cherish every second I get with her. She stole a little piece of my heart the day she was born, and she latches onto it harder and more deeply every time I snuggle and kiss her fuzzy, soft head. 
I know that soon distance will separate me from this little ray of sunshine, so I'm making the most of our geographic advantage while I can. 
It doesn't matter if you're near or far...being someone's niece or nephew is a blessing in life. I think of all my Aunts and Uncles and they're all wonderful and interesting human beings. Every one of them offered me a solid perspective on life in their own unique way. I think of each one with love, and consider myself lucky to have been influenced by them all, good or bad.
And that's my hope for this sweet pea. That someday, she thinks of Auntie Jen, and smiles.