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any given weekday

There are only so many hours in a day, and they clearly are insufficient, especially on weekdays. We want to play with our kids after spending a long day at the office, but we need to get them fed, bathed, and into bed. We want to unwind, perhaps with a glass of wine or our favorite album on full blast, but it’s hard to get ten minutes of quiet time when one kid persists in popping out of bed with a litany of requests and the other requires constant, hands-on attention. Books? Movies? Going out? In an alternate universe, a short lifetime ago we used to enjoy these things too, but given the current state of play it’s hard to imagine how we ever had the time or energy for them.

Munchkin tends to be at his most tired, and therefore crankiest, when we get home from work. He’s taken to greeting S (and only S) by exclaiming, “Mama! I’m so happy to see you!” – words that melt S’s heart when really what she needs to do is steel it for the whining and tantrums that await. Even when he’s on good behavior, he inevitably tests our patience. At dinner last night, which inevitably dragged on from the moment we came home until it was time for him to go to bed, the little man decided to put up a fight about eating his food. First he shook sprinkles all over his mushrooms. Then he dumped his green beans on the floor after pretending to bake a cake with them. Finally, when we told him he could get something special if he finished his dinner nicely, he slowly ate one green bean and then declared that it would take too long to eat all the others.

The struggles are real, but so are the moments of unfiltered joy and pure hilarity. Munchkin, for example, has taken to stretching his vocabulary either by employing incorrectly big words he’s heard us use or altering them in the most unexpected of ways. For instance, he keeps talking about going to see his bassador “at the store.” He used to equate the Embassy with going shopping, so this progression makes sense, kind of. Limentory – a citrusy-sounding take on “elementary” – also recently entered his lexicon. He uses it when talking about school, but not in any way that relates to what the original word means.

A chabad rabbi from New York came to Rwanda for the high holidays, and he made quite an impression on our little man, especially when he blew the shofar. Rai-bai (rhymes with “cry-buy”) and shofar quickly became Munchkin’s go-to words, though he flipped their meanings, asking us all sorts of questions about why the shofar had come to Kigali and when we’d see him again.

With Junebug, D at least has found an elegant solution that works for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. After Munchkin has gone to bed, D sometimes takes Junebug on his knee, puts on his favorite Russian rock songs, and sings to her. Bonding with baby? Check. Russian language practice? Check. Listening to good music to relax after a long day at the office? Double check. Plus S gets a brief respite, and – best of all – Junebug smiles up a storm when D sings to her, likely making her the only person alive who enjoys his tone-deaf musical renditions.

Of course, evenings are difficult for Junebug, and her good mood rarely lasts more than half an hour. Getting her down for the night has become a multi-step endeavor that outstrips even Munchkin’s bedtime routine, so by the time both kids are in bed, the evening is done and there is nothing left to do but go to bed with the hopes of recouping enough energy to make it through the next day.

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