Friday afternoon: Mama burnout.

Having two kids is hard.

There. I said it. It's wonderful, and it's special, and I'm sure it will keep getting better, but damn. It's really, really hard.

It's hard because even if I have spent the past two hours doing the most pinterest-worthy, distraction-free, full-on attention activities with Julia... even if I read Peppa Pig and the Busy Day at School 3 times while she ate breakfast... even if I walked through the snow with Margaret in the stroller to pick Julia up from school... the

instant

 I have to do something for Margaret, Julia loses it. Not "loses it" in the sense of "full on temper tantrum" (though that has happened once or twice), but in subtler ways: jumping on the couch. Pulling Kenai's ear. Whining. And then I'm sitting there with a baby attached to me, trying to get things under control. It's not pretty.

It's hard because 3 1/2 is a hard age. I know this. I know it from my mom's stories of Garrett and me when we were 3 1/2. I know it from my friends who don't have babies (and therefore cannot attribute all behavior to "adjusting to the new baby").

It's hard because even though I know intellectually that I can't expect Julia to thank me for doing nice things for her (I am, after all, her mother. It's my job to take care of her-- my job to provide at least some level of entertainment), I so wish sometimes that she could use this line of thinking:

Gosh, Mom. Thanks so much for taking me to the museum this morning. Yes, I will happily come inside, sit on the potty, and eat whatever lunch you have prepared for me 

. It's kind of like this cartoon: 

But seriously. This is how I feel some days.

The funny thing is, having a baby doesn't seem that hard to me right now. I mean, yes, I am tired. Yes. I'm covered in spit up more often then not. Yes, there have been a few days lately where Margaret is screaming uncontrollably and I have to swaddle her and shush her until the sides of my cheeks ache. But then she falls asleep, and when she wakes up, she's fine. It's having a 3.5 year old that's hard. Which is why the rare moments--sometimes even hours-- of connection feel like gold to me right now. 

Last night, Scott and I were putting Julia to bed. Margaret was sleeping, so we could both go downstairs and sing to her. While she was getting ready (an elaborate routine of turning things on and off, tucking various animals into their various beds, singing songs in a specific order, and--new addition--discussing with Scott all of the reasons why the smoke alarm will not go off in the night), Margaret started to cry. I gave her a quick kiss goodnight and told her Daddy would do the rest of the routine. She protested, and I felt bad. I came up and gave Margaret a pacifier, and she settled back into her bouncy seat. So, I went back downstairs, just as Scott was singing. Julia's eyes lit up, and she grinned the entire time we were singing, looking at me the way Margaret does while nursing these days: a look of total love and adoration. Looks that, from Julia, are currently few and far between. 

And I realized then that one hard thing about this time is that the rewards don't come when I want them, or when I need them-- like on a Friday afternoon when it would've been so nice if Julia could just pee in the damned potty, the way she used to. But, when the rewards

do 

come, they are so, so sweet. That look from Julia made my day yesterday. And, if I let it, maybe it can make today, too. If not, there's always wine.