A touch of spice

Rub-a-dub-dub, two kids in the tub

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I had a bath all by myself for the first time in, oh ... about 17 months.

It was the height of relaxation.

Not because of the silence. Not because the water was just as hot as I wanted. Not because I didn't have to compete for space.

But because I could see clear to the bottom of the bathtub.

The problem with bathing with an infant and a toddler is that you aren't exactly sure what you're swimming with. Sometimes you can see the gook. Sometimes you can even catch it. Other times, you just guess from the look of concentration and the absolute lack of movement from one of your tub mates.

I usually work to avoid letting one of the girls pee on the carpet, but when that diaper comes off at bath time, anything goes, because if there's pee on the carpet, there's less chance of there being pee in my bath water. And, Katie has learned to grab a towel and clean up the floor. We were proud, even if she did use my towel.

Bath time alone brings other benefits. I can shave. The last time I tried that during a community bath, Katie ate the shaving cream off my legs. (It was the good stuff with aloe and vitamin E, so I figure there were some health benefits.) I haven't told my aunt about that. She's a certified nutritionist and might not approve (despite the vitamin E), although if I told her Katie's multi-vitamin was sprinkled into the foam, I might avoid the scolding.

Unfortunately, Katie also eats the soap and the lotion, neither of which have any nutritional value.

You don't move much in a community tub, even if it is oversized. You learn to adjust the water flow with your toes, knock the soap in with your elbow and swish around until the current brings it within reach. Why? The bottom of the tub is usually covered with toys, none of them soft, and one wrong move could ruin your ability to sit for weeks. Besides, we each have our designated places there is a definite line between Katie and the baby. Though she ignores her sister most of the time, Katie does have a working theory that babies shouldn't float, and she's experimenting with the amount of pressure it takes to keep them underwater. She conducts her research under the guise of "helping."

I'm onto her.

Fragrant salts might irritate sensitive skin, candles are unthinkable and soft music is pointless. Not to mention, we've already lost a remote control and several books to the playfulness of the bath, and I shudder to think how a water-logged stereo would sound.

Research indicates that people who bathe before bedtime sleep 60 percent better. A full night's sleep is definitely worth a little discomfort.

Daddy comes in, armed with a towel, pajamas and lotion, to retrieve babies one at a time, but they don't stay gone for long. As soon as she's dressed, Katie thinks it's time to return to the bathroom. She cannot imagine anyone enjoying a bath without her. Daddy lures her away with the promise of a cookie a temporary distraction. She's so proud of her cookie, she has to return and show it off. Not only is her just-scrubbed face (and neck, and hands, and pajamas) covered in chocolate, she's decided her cookie must have a bath too.

After an hour in the tub, soaking with at least three different kinds of soap, I need a shower.

Ahhh, kids ...

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