Yesterday I wrote about how frustrated I’ve been with boo. Then I went and hung out with my friend Leslie and her kids and realized that a lot of my frustration is because I spend so much time alone with him these days. With Harlan in New York, it’s just boo and me, me and boo, almost every second of every day.

We were having some work done at our house so we shacked up for the night at my parents’ house and Leslie lives two doors down. I love going over there because they have lots of toys and room to roam and it’s baby-safe, while my mom’s place is a minefield, a million little disasters waiting to happen, from the staircase, to the hissing cat, to the delicate bowls and figurines and bottles of booze that live right in smacking distance of Aidan.

As soon as we got to Leslie’s, I began to unwind. At first boo wrapped his arms around me and pulled at my shirt, clingy in this relatively unfamiliar space. But then he started noticing the toys—the big box of legos, the plastic dinosaur, the wooden blocks—and unclung. Eventually we all moved outside, which is a paradise of rubber balls, tricycles, plastic cars, tadpoles, watering can, hose, vegetable garden… There was only one mishap with Leslie’s son Ryder running into boo with his car—on purpose.

“I wanted to!”

“How about running into the stairs instead?”

And later, when boo suddenly sought me out, sad face in place, on the verge of tears:

“Ryder, are you being gentle with Aidan?”

“No, I’m not being gentle! I don’t want to! He’s knocking over my toys!”

Ryder’s three.

And still, I unwound. Even when boo got his fingers smashed in a drawer, I felt calm, cool, like the Zen mom I really am.

We ate almond butter and jelly sandwiches. Even boo ate a section! We went on a walk around the neighborhood—Luca on his bike, sans training wheels, Ryder on a scooter, boo lounging like a king in a plastic car with its own horn and gearshift. The kids pulled stuff—ribbon, plastic cutlery (boo’s new obsession)—out of a junk drawer in the kitchen, while Leslie made dinner and I supervised. I’m always a lazy ass over at their house and that’s one of the things that’s nice. I don’t have to be on top of boo because Leslie’s there, too, because Luca and Ryder are playing with him and they holler if anything’s amuck. I can snack on almond butter and drink the last organic ginger ale and chat with Leslie about how lucky we’re going to be when Harlan is coming home to us at five everyday instead of spending seven weeks away from us at a time. And I got to see how Ryder and Luca refuse to eat, too.

Boo was so exhausted and hungry I fed him yogurt before dinner and he refused to eat anything else, even though we’d made refried beans, which are usually a surefire hit. Leslie made burritos for her boys and they loved cutting them up into little pieces but didn’t want to eat them. She had to play “puppy dog” with Ryder, where he gets on all fours and begs at her feet, to get him to have a bite. There were all kinds of tricks and sighing, just like in our house, and it made me feel like our struggles are universal. I was able to simply enjoy his squeal of joy when I emerged from the bathroom, where I’d only been for a minute, the sunburst smile as he ran to me, threw his arms around my neck and squeezed, “Maaaaaa!”

When we got back to my parents’ house, it was pure lovefest again. Just me and my baby boo and all the things he does that make mama swoon. His pure delight as I pulled each animal out of my bag like magic making them appear at grandma’s house. The attention he gives to each treat the hungry caterpillar eats—an ice cream cone, a pickle, a piece of salami, a cupcake. The way he says, “zzz” when we finally reach the part of Goodnight Gorilla where the gorilla sleeps. The way his face lights up when I put on his nighttime CD, so excited it’s as if Renee and Jeremy had appeared in his room to do a private concert, and he dances, swaying, bouncing on his knees, clapping his hands. How he takes my hands and claps them for me. “Mama, mama!” And the big, adoring, heart-melting hugs.

He was my happy angel and I was his calm, loving mama once again and when the tears came, as they inevitably do when he’s forced to sleep anywhere other than home, I held him and nursed him and wrapped him in his blankie and placed his moose and his teddy bear into his arms and told him if he needed me I’d be right there in the next room.