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Of monkeys, monsters and eyeballs

My 2-year-old refuses to be addressed by her given name. If anybody calls her Emma, or even a cute pet name like Sweetheart, she shouts, “NO! I a MONKEY!”

At a church party last weekend, I turned from talking to a friend to find my little monkey hitting me and sobbing. Through her gulps of air, she yelled, “I a monkey! I a monkey!” I guess someone called her Emma when I wasn’t looking. The nerve.

So now she goes by Monkey.

My 5-year-old insisted on being a “blue and green monster” for Halloween. I couldn’t talk her into anything cuter, so I finally asked her to please draw what she envisioned.

Lydia's Halloween drawing


Half green, half blue with three eyes and four arms.

Not the cutest thing, but she loved the idea.

My husband agreed to try his sewing skills at the shirt with four arms, and I agreed to add a tutu for cuteness. For weeks, I searched for the pieces to the costume and piled them in our closet.

“We really should make that costume,” one of us would occasionally say.

“Yeah, we really should,” the other would agree, not moving.

Finally, the night before our church’s trunk-or-treat, we gathered the final supplies and stayed up late. My husband took his post at the sewing machine and I took my post at the kitchen floor, battling the attacking cat while I wrapped piece of tulle after piece of tulle around a piece of elastic.

The hum of the sewing machine and my swats at the cat were the only noises in the otherwise silent kitchen as we each bent over our respective projects — until my husband successfully sewed the front of the shirt together. “I’m amazing!” he shouted in awe of himself, waving the half-green/half-blue shirt above his head like a flag.

“You are,” I agreed — and I meant it, cuz there ain’t no way I could have figured that conundrum out.

Soon he had the extra arms sewn on, and congratulations went back and forth between us once again.

He glanced down at my tutu. “You’re doing so great!” he exclaimed.

“Yes, it’s very difficult to tie knots,” I agreed sarcastically. Then I told him I certainly made the right decision when I married him. There is nobody else I’d rather spend a late night with, tying knots and sewing extra arms on shirts. This was bliss.

As the clock neared midnight, we swept up fabric scraps and admired our handiwork. “She better appreciate this,” we said, bleary-eyed.

And oh, she did. “You made my costume?” she asked incredulously the next morning. Apparently, our lack of effort in the matter hadn’t been unnoticed by her 5-year-old eyes.

“Thank you so much!” she shouted.

This — making our daughter overjoyed — was bliss again.

Lydia and Emma in costume

The only thing missing from the costume was the third eyeball, something we would construct later in the day.

Undeterred, Lydia donned her costume to wear to the zoo trick-or-treating event. The lines for the candy were long, the weather was frigid, and the two tired parents were losing patience. The 5-year-old fought, the 2-year-old screamed, and the two parents pretended they didn’t see the next candy line in the distance as they steered the children in another direction.

The day continued in much the same manner as we returned home. Screams, arguing, crying… it was all there. This was not bliss.

We headed out the door to purchase the necessary materials for Lydia’s third eyeball when everybody lost it.

Lydia screamed because… who-knows-why, really? As a punishment for screaming instead of talking, I told her she couldn’t walk with Dad to throw the dirty diaper in the trashcan. This only produced more screams.

Emma screamed because I was insisting she hold my hand.

“Come on, Sweety. We’re about to go in the street. You have to hold my hand,” I said.

“I not Sweety! I a MONKEY!” she shouted and sobbed.

Dad returned from disposing of the dirty diaper to find Lydia in an even greater state of tantrum than he left her.

While the 2-year-old screamed at the unfairness of being addressed as anything other than Monkey and Lydia screamed at the unfairness of being unable to throw away a dirty diaper, Ryan — at his wit’s end — shouted, “Lydia! Do you even want your eyeball? Do you? Do you want your eyeball?”

When she sniffed and nodded, he said, “Then you need to stop screaming and get in the car. Otherwise, you’re losing your eyeball.”

As we buckled into the car, the two girls sniffing and holding back tears, I glanced at my husband and said, “What do you think the neighbors thought you meant when you threatened her eyeball?”

We burst out laughing, much to Lydia’s bewilderment.

This was bliss.

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