The Ruark Kids

Reflections on a weekend


I’m finally coming up for air from the weekend with the girls. Mama is back home safe and was able to put Siena to bath and bed Monday night, so joy was had all around. Thalia is mostly better and on the mend, so her spirits are better. And now I can reflect on my 3+ days alone with the kids. This is largely unstructured; each section is kind of a separate thought.

First, Uncle Marcus was giving me a hard time when we had been asking both sets of grandparents to help look after the kids for the weekend. He and Aunt Ashlen have on many instances taken care of their kids on their own for multiple days at a time. He seems to think it’s not that hard. I must be doing something wrong, then, because I found it pretty challenging. Not impossible, obviously, but incredibly tiring and frequently stressful.

Once again I am in complete awe and amazement at what my mom had to do when Marcus and I were kids, when my dad was traveling and working for the Air Force (I’m in awe of that, too). Mo had to take care of two boys, no less, for weeks, let alone when Granddad went to Vietnam/Korea. I think I would go crazy after a week on my own with two kids this age; how she managed so many times I can’t really fathom.

On the other hand, I got an unexpected sense of satisfaction and accomplishment after making it to Monday morning without the kids suffering any real injuries, melt-downs, or other incidents of note. It felt good to know that I could get through the weekend. Sure it was only two days, but it was something I’d never done before, and it was reassuring to know I could get through it successfully, if not particularly interestingly.


Dinner over the weekend always involved Siena having a “picnic” in front of the TV watching videos, this weekend mostly the first two episodes from the first season of The Muppet Show, and me either eating standing up in the kitchen while holding Thalia or sitting down feeding her and trying to get quick bites myself. When it’s just me and kids for dinner, I try to have a big lunch so I can skip dinner if time doesn’t allow. We ordered pizza Sunday night (navigating baby, Siena, two pizza boxes, a drink, and a bag of rolls through the mall parking lot was a challenge). I was surprised to discover two things about myself: (1) just how fast I can eat a piece of pizza when the situation demands, and (2) when anxious and in a hurry, I forget that the pucillo pizza contains mushrooms that need to be picked off.


This was true more a few months ago but is still true now: Siena thinks that when you ask her to do something more quickly (like getting dressed or cleaning up her room), if she flails her limbs about fast she is doing her task “quick quick” even if the actual rate of task completion decreases. Sure she looks busy, but less is getting done. I try to tell her to focus, be more efficient, etc. Maybe I should tell her to work smarter, not faster or something.


Friday night was pretty rough; Thalia was up from 1 AM for an hour screaming. I tried to console her by sitting with her but she just couldn’t get comfortable and kept on crying. With the weekend ahead of me, I said enough is enough and I just put her back in bed and let her scream it out. 45 minutes later she was asleep. Then half an hour later Siena got me up needing to use the bathroom and then some company in order to get settled back down again.

Going into Saturday night, Thalia had not napped from 4:30 on, so by 7:30 she was exhausted. Sure three hours doesn’t sound like much, but remember she was sick still. With Siena needing to get her evening routine finished up and me being tired from the day itself and worried about another night of aborted sleep, I figuratively threw up my hands and put Thalia down at 7:40 and decided to let her scream it out again. Interestingly, when I put her in her crib, she started by just looking around and touching the little embroidered animals on her crib bumper. She actually calmed down a little to be in the crib compared to being in my arms. So I turned off the light and left, at which point she started screaming.

Fortunately and amazingly, that lasted only about 10 minutes, during which time I was reading to Siena. Siena went to bed by 8 PM, and before I knew it, I had both girls asleep and it was only a quarter after 8. Wait, what? That never happens.

Sunday morning, Siena got up surprisingly late (around 6:30). And then to add miracle to mystery, Thalia slept past 7 AM; when I looked in on her at 7:30 she was still (or again) asleep! Siena and I didn’t go in until 8 o’clock to get her out of bed. This was Thalia’s first (perhaps only ever) 12+ hour night of sleep. Incredible!

I repeated the process Sunday night, though I didn’t put her down until after 8 o’clock since she had napped later in the day. And this time, she only screamed for about two minutes before getting quiet and eventually falling asleep. And then both Monday and Tuesday nights it worked again.

I think I heard the clarion call of angels at some point during the evening.


I tend to let the dishes and the messes pile up all day and then clean them all up in one big batch after the girls go to bed. I like to think I’m relying on my operations research background and employing an optimal policy of batching tasks together in order to reduce the “setup cost” of starting and stopping clean-up activities (washing hands, etc.).This is also the Alice’s Restaurant philosophy that rather than having two little piles of garbage it’s better to have one large one.

I suspect instead I’m just taking the easier approach of not trying to keep clean while Thalia is screaming or Siena is asking for help or wanting to read a book.


More to come…


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