There is a caged beast in my living room.

He has tufts of hair springing every which way out of his head and is covered in orange, blue and white stripes. His feet have strange grips on the bottom and his claws look harmless but can be vicious.

Sometimes this beast sounds like a rutting moose or angry bear, other times it sounds like a squawking bird. If I’m lucky, he sounds like a cooing morning dove.

The beast likes to eat anything its tiny fingers can pick up — especially crackers and lint he finds in the carpet. It likes to watch the blinking lights of the various toys we use to quiet (or drown out) his howls and shrieks. It loves to pull itself onto its legs, screaming until someone sits him back down only to repeat the process.

This caged beast started out so tiny and harmless but lately he has … morphed into something adorable and unrecognizable.

To clarify, by “caged” I mean the hodgepodge of plastic tubs and singing baby toys that we have made into a circle against the loveseat. And by “beast” I mean our 9-month-old foster son who has recently learned to crawl and pull things. Chewing on anything he can find is his new favorite hobby. Recent things I have pulled from his mouth include a pencil which a homework-doing-sibling had misplaced, plastic wrapper to peanut butter crackers that another sibling somehow didn’t put in the trash and a ball of the dogs which he found under the sofa.

Bulldog, the name given to him by Grandpa Ryan, is adorable and we love him to death. It is also exhausting ensuring his safety while he explores the expanding world around him since he has become mobile...and this is just the beginning!

“Make sure to shut the basement door,” a team member, either my husband, two older children and myself, hollar across rooms as someone chases the crawling Speedy Gonzales while another locates yet more crackers.

Generally this is responded to by a parent yelling back, “Don’t give him too many crackers. It is almost dinner time,” while the other parent either works on the newspaper or reminds everyone of homework and/or chores.

Squealing, Bulldog sees Bookmark and Ira Glass, our dogs, in the backyard and pulls himself up to look out the screen door.

“Put him in Germany,” someone will undoubtedly direct, meaning the exersaucer we have named.

“Do you have your passport? I’m going to fly you to Germany!” This sounds like something Mick would say while picking up his brother and zooming him through the air.

Although we are still finding the groove of our evening routine now that school has started, the hope is always that Bulldog will find a moment to grace us all with uninterrupted, tranquil, peace and quiet in which to finish homework.

This has yet to happen. When done with their homework, or stalling, Mick or Shannon will undoubtedly rile the baby up and than experience exasperated surprise when he “sings” to us for the next hour.

Bedtime is the funnest of fun adventures with this growing inchworm. (Insert heavy exhale and eyeroll here.)

This summer, we had a routine, we had a groove. Now, I’m regretting being the only one who found the bedtime groove with the smallest human.

This past weekend, my husband and I had a hot night on the town. (By “hot night on the town” I mean we attended a support group for foster parents!) We arrived home to the poor sitter, who looked overwhelmed and exhausted, pacing the living room with the screaming beast.

My poor baby was so upset and confused, he refused to go to sleep!

The second I scooped him into my arms he looked at me as if to say, “Why did you desert me?! Did you eat dessert without me?!”

This is why we don’t have hot nights on the town. Those eyes were full of pain and gutted me!

Bulldog promptly rubbed his dripping nose into my chest and fell asleep.

The next morning, Mick proudly announced that he had gotten Bulldog to sleep all by himself. Then, Shannon said, “Yeah, for like 20 minutes!”

Good thing we didn’t paint the town red by staying out into the wee hours. No one would have gotten rest.

But what fun is having a 9 month old without adding the experience of foster care? Not only does Bulldog have daycare in Hibbing (while we live in Eveleth and work in Virginia) but he also has visits with his mom three times a week — each in the middle of the day. Wrap your head around that.

Do you want to talk about trying? Spend two hours a day (at least) in the car with a newly mobile 9 month old!

“Why do you have me trapped in this contraption?” Because you need to be in your car seat. Yes, this means that I can’t reach your toy you just tossed to your left nor the bottle you tossed to your right. But hey! Let me pat you on the forehead! Not comforting? Look at my reflection bouncing between the rearview mirror and the baby mirror above your chair! Doesn’t look like me?

Sorry, Bulldog. Wow (Mom upside down — fitting for this foster/adoptive parent) still loves you.

Dearest Bulldog, I do adore you. You have giggled and cooed adventure into our home. We have learned so much the past nine months with you.

Please, oh please, let’s have a quiet and relaxing evening tonight. Wow needs a break.

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