Poop Emergency Room

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Yesterday, I was in the waiting room at my pediatrician’s office when several of my children reported a strange smell coming from the vicinity of Evangeline’s (age 2) diaper. Being immersed for so long in the Mom Culture, I think, quite reasonably, that I should just pick her up, carry her to a corner, and discreetly sniff her butt. (Come on, moms. You’ve all done it.) All suspicions of foul play are confirmed when I pull my sweet baby up for the sniff and realized that not only has she unleashed the wrath of a million demons in her diaper, but that it has not oozed, or leaked, but rather exploded all over the front of my dress. In horror, but as calmly as I can under the circumstances, I hold Evangeline like a SWAT officer with a bomb, stretched as far away from my body as possible while I usher the other three youngest quietly to the bathroom. (OK, it started out quietly with me saying sweetly and calmly, “Ellie, Justin, Mark, come with Mommy.” But as they stroll slowly through the entire waiting room, waving like pageant queens at fellow patients and glancing over stray magazines, I end up doing the frantic escalated calling thing that eventually ends in shrieking incoherently, “Justinelliemark…justinelLLIEMARK!! JUSTINELLIEMARK! COMEONE COMEONCOMEON!!!” Moms, you’ve all done this, too.)

We finally reach the lady’s room…and find it occupied and locked. Not to be discouraged, I herd the kids to the men’s room, (As a mom, you realize that bathroom etiquette means nothing in the face of Poop Emergencies.) where I immediately (think) I lock the door and proceed to repair the damage. Ever tried washing the entire front of a dress still on your body using soap-slathered paper towels and splashing water from the sink on yourself to rinse? Highly un-recommended. Meanwhile, Ellie (age 4) is sitting on the toilet peeing, while Justin (age 3) tries to relieve himself in the same toilet, purposefully aiming dangerously close to his sister’s tushie because it’s SO fun to hear her savagely scream in a bathroom that echoes everything in a volume and pitch that would make Hellen Keller cover her ears. Mark (age 7) is wiggling like a worm on the floor because doctors’ offices and hospital-like settings are notorious for germ-free lavatory ground surfaces, and, hey, don’t we all just need a good floor wiggle occasionally? Evangeline is merrily slathering the poop up and down her legs like some kind of delightfully organic lotion.

Enter where I had only THOUGHT I had locked the door. In comes this man who is was actually entitled to use this room. He takes one glance at the happenings with a look on his face that I imagine resembles a person unwittingly coming upon a 1930’s mob hit. It’s an expression of mortal terror, like he has stumbled into the wrong place at the wrong time, and he just knows that because he bore witness to the scene, he is doomed to die next. We decide to let him leave without killing him. I’m almost sure he didn’t see our faces. I lock the door for real this time.

I manage to remove all visible signs of poop from my once-flattering dress and set to work on Evangeline who, I realize with the resentment of a thousand women scorned, has not one drop of poop on her own dress. After cleaning my now germ-laden children to the best of my ability with soap covered paper, I mop up the floor with the last of the bathroom’s paper towels and head with what I hope looks like dignity back to the waiting room. Everyone I pass on my way back to my seat looks discreetly at the floor, helping me to maintain this fragile illusion of pride, but when I muster the courage to look back at their faces, all I see is a long line of wrinkled noses and curled lips. Because I reek. I smell like a woman dipped in soap covered poop. Because that is what I am. And The Man Who Walked Into the Bathroom just holds in his business, too horrified by the memory of The Scene of the Crime to return long enough to take care of it.

With relief, we are finally called back to the exam room, where I discover that there is no actual relief to be found. Because now we are in an even smaller room, and the door is closed, and we are left to wallow in this flower-poop smell that I am convinced has worked its way into my very pores. I don’t ask any questions, but merely gratefully accept when the nurse comes into our room armed with what she describes as a “very nice, light body spray I just thought you might like to try,” like it’s something we do every time we visit. Like maybe a new holistic approach to healthcare where the nurse comes in before the doctor to douse their patient’s mothers in very nice, light body spray. Just for fun.

The rest of the visit is uneventful. My child is seen to by the polite doctor who says nothing about the odor of floral excrement, and I stop on the way home to buy a new dress at a drug store, of all places. After paying for my clothes with a cashier who sniffs the air suspiciously upon my approach, I rush to the bathroom to change. But when I open the door, I am astounded by the sight of a harried mother of three, frantically wiping at a brown smudge on her elbow while her partially naked children run amuck around the nastiest smelling bathroom I have come across since… well… that very morning. I look away and slowly close the door, helping her maintain her own fragile illusion of dignity. I hear the lock click behind me, and I change my clothes in the men’s room.

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Journal of a Day in the Life of a Two Year Old

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6:00 am 

I awake this morning to the smell of the vile black liquid brewing, indicating that my assistants are prepared to accept me for the day. I like to allow them each a drink of the brew most mornings before I rise, for I am kindhearted in that way. After all, they assist me far better after having consumed at least one cup. Getting out of bed, I contemplate the stairs. I could, perhaps, go down them myself, but most days I prefer to be carried. The assistants seems to enjoy the exercise, I think, and, after all, it’s what they’re here for. So, as per usual, I begin my caterwauling for the female help, for she smells better in the morning. 

6:30 am

I request my breakfast today by grunting and pointing at the cold food box in the kitchen. The female assistant asks many questions which I understand yet refuse to answer about my menu choices. I think she enjoys what I have named The Guessing Game, so I follow the rules, simply nodding my head when she gets something correct and shrieking as though on fire and jumping up and down when she fails. This morning I choose yogurt for it textural qualities. I have no intention of eating it; rather, I feel the need to exfoliate the skin of my face and arms by generously applying the cherry flavored cream. I think my hair could use some cleansing as well, so I shall slather the rest of the contents of the container throughout.

7:00 am

The male assistant has chosen to leave the house now, so though I have shown absolutely no interest in him whatsoever thus far this morning, I will now cling to his leg and beg him not to leave. Honestly, I don’t mind if he goes, I just want him to feel needed. I will be fine and the screaming tears will subside the instant he shuts the door. The episode will, however, leave him feeling guilty for the rest of the day. This is good. I don’t want the assistants to ever achieve full confidence. The constant sense of hanging over the cliff of good parenting is good for moral. Well, for my moral, at least.

7:30 am

The small natives who share my home are now arising from their beds. I must put my favorite toys down my pants so as not to have them pilfered  in the barbaric custom which the assistants refer to as ‘sharing’.

10:00 am

The female assistant has just changed my diaper. She does this in order for me to have a clean environment in which to poop, which is what I promptly do. Every time.

11:00 am

Yes, I hit the small female native. Yes, I took her toy, completely indifferent to her pleading and crying. Everything happened just as she claims. But I shan’t admit this to the female assistant. For whatever reason, the assistant seems to have an attachment to the small native and prefers that I not harm her. My defense to the assistant’s questioning will this time be, I think, the Blank Stare. I find it is usually impenetrable.

12:30 pm

Lunch is uneventful today. The female assistant seems to be foolishly planning the Nap Ritual yet again. I am pondering over my carrot sticks whether to use the agonizingly slow Lie in Her Arms and Stare at the Wall and Never Actually Fall Asleep yet Refuse to Let Her Leave Me approach or the quick and dirty Cry as Hard as I Can Until She Cannot Take it and Lets me Get Up approach today. She seems to be draining of energy quickly this afternoon, so I shall be kind and proceed with the latter. Lunch is actually so uneventful that I think I shall spit these tiny pieces of carrot onto the floor for no reason whatsoever. There.

1:30 pm

The assistant tries to lock herself into the Porcelain Throne Room again. I hate so much for her to be lonely; I know she prefers my constant company. So I bang on the door until she lets me in. She really must stop trying to be so strong for my sake. She must learn that I am willing to follow her anywhere. In fact, for her sake, I shall insist upon sitting in her lap this time, perhaps asking some questions about her bodily functions so as to keep the conversation flowing. I honestly don’t mind.

2:00 pm

The female assistant changed my diaper again. I should go find a quiet corner…

3:00 pm

Things are slow, so I beg for an apple using The Guessing Game again. I refuse to eat it. Rather, I shall hide it in this couch cushion for later… Now, where did I put that apple?

3:30 pm

Yes, I just now pushed down the other small native. The Blank Stare seems only to invoke frustration this time from the female assistant. I shall have to switch to the Disarming Smile for this one. There.

4:00 pm

I had no idea that I was not supposed to pull the kitchen drawers out, use them as stairs, climb onto the counter, and get the cookies down. I thought that rule only applied to the other 172 times I tried it and got into trouble. The female assistant seems not to believe this, but I swear I tell the truth.

5:30 pm

The male assistant comes home and asks for a hug. I refuse. It is better to keep him dangling. Perhaps I will allow him to play with me later. I smell the female assistant cooking something for the evening meal. I like to begin crying for food the instant I know it is being prepared. That way the female assistant knows that I am anticipating it and feels good about her work. I schedule time for this very purpose daily… I am rather hungry… Where is that stupid apple?

7:00 pm

I have been bathed and put into PJ’s for the night. The assistants look particularly tired this evening, so I paint a lovely mural on the dinning room wall with the chocolate pudding someone left on the table. The excitement that ensues lets me know that all of my efforts are worth it. And I get another bath for thanks!

8:00

A good, fruitful day. Not everything was just as I wanted, but I will allow the assistants to try again tomorrow. For now, I have filled my feety PJ’s with two dominos, a pencil, a small piece of ham from dinner, and three small slips of paper. I will awaken in the middle of the night, uncomfortable and crying for them to be removed, and one of the assistants will remove them. I can’t wait to begin again tomorrow.  

 

 

 

Do You Know What Causes That?

      Most people can walk through a store and go unnoticed. Not me. I am like a celebrity without the hot shoes, and it’s not because I’m super attractive or have a  second head. OK, so sometimes they stare because I have a giant smear of snot on the front of my shirt, or-like the one time I really don’t want to talk about- a glob of poop on my elbow. But what I’m mainly talking about is that they look because I am a particular kind of sideshow freak:

    The Mom With a Crapload of Kids.

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At any given time, you may see me enter Wal-Mart or Hy-Vee with an infant strapped to my chest, two toddlers spilling forth from an overstuffed cart, and a various assortment of primary school aged children following me like rockstar stalkers throughout the hallowed aisles.  You may find one boogie boarding on the shelf on the underside the cart with arms and legs splayed like a sea turtle, catching boxes of macaroni with his fingertips and kicking unsuspecting passerbys  in the shins. As bad as that is, it is better than finding my 11 and 12 year old careening down the halls in their own cart while using a pool noddle from aisle nine as a steering oar. (This, I swear, has actually happened, and I am so, so sorry.)

   But I digress. The purpose of this article is not to air my dirty laundry regarding the misbehavior of my children in public places, nor my lack of good parenting at being able to corral the savages. The point is that people stare. And they say things. The same things. Every time. And every time, I giggle and blush, and am not quite sure what to say back. So I’ve been inspired to prepare for the next time by listing the seven most common “original” thoughts pertaining to my abundance of offspring and my future responses to said thoughts.

1. What they say: “Wow. You sure have your hands full.”

What I will say next time: “What? Oh my gosh! You see them too?!”

2. What they say: “Are they all yours?”

What I will say next time: “I’m not sure. My husband swears they are, but he has a wandering eye. The test results will be in next week.”

OR

“Well, why don’t you tell me how many partners you’ve had first?” 

OR

“No. I just pick them up from random people and take them to the store because it’s super fun!”

3. What they say: “You sure have a lot of helpers.”

What I will say next time: “Seriously?”… ’nuff said.

OR

“Here. I have more than enough. I’ll let you pick two to come help you! I won’t charge you much.”

4. What they say: “Are you done having them?”

What I will say next time: “Well, gee, I don’t know. Let me fill you in on my health history, religious beliefs, and/or finances over coffee, and we’ll decide together, shall we?”

OR

“You know, I think I was actually done a while ago, so would you care to take these two off my hands for me? Thanks.”

OR

“Id like to be, but the reality TV station says I need to have at least thirteen more.”

5. What they say: “How do you do it?”

What I will say next time: “Well, not very well.”

OR

“First you have to tell them you have candy to get them into the car…” No, Anna. Bad idea.

6. What they say: “Are you Catholic?”

What I will say next time: “No. We’re actually members of the occult and we need as many as we can in the union for the next alien ceremony, so they’ve designated me as the breeder.”

OR

“Is this the ‘for statistical purposes only’ part of the survey?”

OR, more appropriately

“Did you seriously just ask me that? Seriously?”

7. What they say: “Do you know what causes that?”

What I will say next time: “Yes. But we’re changing the water filter next week, so it shan’t happen again.”

OR

“No. Do tell. (expectant look)”

OR

“Oh my gosh, you poor thing. Do we need to have The Talk?”

 

 

 

 

 

Fireflies

The summer night air wrapped around our bodies like a blanket, no breeze even to dry the moisture of sweat from our faces. Stars illuminated the sky like holes poked through a sheet of tar. The moon hung low and fat, an orange ball suspended from invisible strings in the darkness. The only other light came from the wild fireflies, dancing like excited ghosts, there and then gone, there and then gone.            Barefoot, dirty, drunk on a day’s worth of sunshine, my children chased the lightening bugs with empty, washed out baby food jars, holes punched carefully in the metal lids. Laughter and shouts of, “Over there!” and “Get that one!” echoed back to us, absorbed by the surrounding trees and handed back to us like ghost gifts to double our weary happiness.

When the jars were full, three dirty faces, six grubby hands held out four jars of glowing magic to me like an offering. There was one for each of the ghostfly chasers and an extra for me to share with the baby sleeping peacefully on a blanket in the grass nearby.

In contented silence, we watched the whimsical sparkles, fluttering like imagination in their tiny cages. It seemed like hours, our silence and watching, before the lights began to dim and slow, fewer and farther between. The children sighed, almost collectively, knowing what was coming next. The beautiful fairybugs were dying in captivity, desperate to be set loose. It was hard every time to say good-bye, but if something magical begins to die, there is no choice but to set it free.

Opening the lids in unspoken agreement, we all stared upward in breathless amazement as the lights found their way out into the night. Clustered together at first, they suddenly spread, flying up until they were no longer prisoners in broken bodies, until they blended indistinguishably from the stars.

Three months later, when the air had cooled, when our freed fairy captives long lay dormant and sleeping until next year’s spectacular show, we sat in a sterile, white lit room. There were no smiles, no happy laughter, only a weariness not expressible in words. Everything had changed only hours before when my car was struck from behind by a careless driver.

The vehicle had come out of nowhere, twisting metal, shattering glass, surprising us all with the viciousness of life that can change a world before an eye has time to blink. Four of us walked away from the crash but two-year-old Jacob never walked again.

Watching him in the washed out room, laying among the tubes and wires, lost in the hospital’s sanitary sheets, I saw his light begin to dim and slow, fewer and farther between. His chest still moved with manufactured, mechanical breath but something was lost, drastically different. His soft, pink, toddler skin was pale and empty, like a firefly with a burned out soul.

Jacob had always been magical, a perfect fairybug, but where once he was free, he was now caught in a washed out cage. At one time, his effervescent spirit had laughed in the moonlight, run in the rain, and danced in the sparkling, crystalline snow. But in the hospital room on that poignant day, I held his limp hand in mine and was faced with a decision that no parent should have to make – whether to maintain his life support in hopes that he would wake against all odds, or to discontinue the machines that kept him artificially breathing.

Sitting in the hard-backed chair next to his bed, I remembered the summer and the fireflies, the moon and the contented laughter. I considered the disappointment in this little boy’s eyes when the lids came off of the jars and his beautiful friends flew feely away. I thought of his satisfied understanding when I explained to him that if something magical begins to die, there is no choice but to set it free. The option suddenly seemed remarkably clear.

My very own firefly left like a gentle springtime rain, suddenly and softly, in the protection of my aching arms. The machines stilled their persistent noise as my fairybug’s soul left a broken body, scattering upward, becoming indistinguishable from the stars.

Jacob Elliott Hefley 1/9/07-9/21/09

Jacob Elliott Hefley 1/9/07-9/21/09

Zero Tolerance

  What I have to say today may get some people’s knickers in a wad, but if you could hang on to your undergarments and hear me out, you might learn something valuable. We’ve all heard about this whole zero tolerance weapon deal in schools and given collective eye-rolls at the absurdity of it all. The kid bites his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun and hundreds of lives are threatened by nutritionless, fake-fruit pastry filling. The little girl’s unsuspecting mother packs a butter knife in her kid’s lunch and chaos ensues as children  run, screaming from the shear violence of it all.

    Not really. What really happens is adults go berserk, their heads empty of all sensible thought, and instead replace it with a robotic love affair with The Holy Rule Book. Because when it comes to weapons, or weapon-like things, or weapon-shaped things that would be hard pressed to hurt this metaphorical fly we’re always bringing up, zero tolerance often equals zero common sense.

   Now let’s switch gears subtly and discuss the same said zero tolerance policy regarding bullying, because I think that somewhere along the way, severely twisted panties have ruined a few people’s brain cells. Because this “zero tolerance” crap seems to tolerate quite a bit of this vicious activity. In fact, my kid has been called names, pushed, hit with backpacks, and punched, and his fabulous school system has done exactly zero about it. Maybe THAT’S what the phrase means in these cases.

   Because, let’s face it, we must prioritize. I have seven kids, right? So I know a little about these little nose miners. And when my kids fight, I have to break it up. Constantly. And I have these standards, you know? I can’t interfere all the time, so I give them opportunities to argue it out themselves. I let them call each other horrid names, hit each other with objects, and  make each other cry. But, by golly, when one of them pulls out the loaded water pistol, it’s gotten serious! That’s when I must take action!

  No. Not really. And the very hypocrisy and distortion of it all makes me want to go all Texas Butter Knife Massacre on the whole issue.

   But- and here’s where it gets really sticky- where do you think these kids learn these behaviors? Because, from what I can see from my extensive study of mathematics, the amount of bullying allowed is directly proportionate to the brand of shoes the children wear, or where their daddies work, or how nice the house is where they learn their social interactions.

     Oops. There goes the underwear, now almost unrecognizable. But I’m just telling it like I see it. Sorry if it causes offense. I’m offended on my child’s behalf. And I know it’s coming from somewhere because I can tell you right now that there are some people who managed to materialize an ounce of respect for me now that I live in a nice house who would never give me the time of day when I lived in the- gasp, and wait for it- mobile home. Newsflash: I’m still the same person, same friend, same- dare I say it- GOOD mother that I was back then. When I was beneath consideration because my house could move.

  Now, I’m not recommending that we all gather ’round, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya, or anything. That would violate the zero tolerance policy regarding public displays a affection. I just think we ought to be examples for our kids by not being bullies ourselves. And we should reconsider what’s really dangerous in school. I can tell you right now it’s not the Toaster Pastries of Doom. It’s the words. The slaps. The awful names. THAT’S what leads to violence and irreparable damage in a child’s life.

    So. Now that I’ve isolated a quarter of my town’s population, untwist those britches and take those dangerous nail files out of your kids’ backpacks. You don’t want to perpetuate any problems within the school. They won’t tolerate it.

   The first day of Kindergarten. The day has finally come. It is five o’clock in the morning, and my alarm has yet to go off. It’s set for an hour in the future, but my mind is racing, and I can’t possibly be expected to sleep. I have so much to remember-  Tinkerbelle lunchbox, classroom location, and drop-off times. Don’t forget the Kleenex that I am sure we purchase for teachers’ personal stash because they are never actually used in the classroom.

  I have been looking forward to this day for weeks now, putting an edge of anticipation into the dwindling summer days. I can’t wait for my own space, a freedom I have never known before to do my own thing, be my own person without anyone clinging to me for eight hours at a time.

   I am not so sure how she feels about it, though. While my excitement has been mounting, all I have seen rising up in her is a mixture of uncertainty and fear. I have spoken calmly to her about how it’s normal to be afraid of being apart after five years of togetherness, but that life must progress, and she must let her tenacious grasp on me ease. But while I’ve talked, tears have always welled in her almost frantic eyes. Poor thing. Separation anxiety.

   I wait with the jitters for the right time to wake her up. Six o’clock is finally here, so I crack open the door of her room, turn the light on, and go to her bed. Rubbing her back, I say gently, “It’s time to get up. We have to get ready to go.” She mumbles something that sounds like, “You can’t take me alive,” but one can’t be sure.

   With gentle words and lots of kisses, I roust her out of bed and oversee the preparations for the day. Sandwiches are made, the backpack is filled. She is dragging through these chores like a zombie on downers, and I am worried for her well being. I almost feel like changing my plans when I see tears running down her pale, frightened face. Who needs Kindergarten? That’s for the stupid kids. But no. I must be strong. We leave the house.

  The walk to school is silent and sulky despite my many attempts at conversation. I finally give up, and we approach the brick building in foreboding silence. I am sad from all the misery but nonetheless prepared to cope with the sorrow. I am sure that she will find the day so fulfilling and satisfying that the moping will be over by lunchtime.

  All hope deflates when we reach the classroom and the separation looms more real than ever before. That’s when the crap totally hits the fan. She goes down like a bag of Jell-o with a wail like I have never heard before. Glass nearly shatters, dogs begin to bark, and I. Am. Mortified.

  There she lies, arms flailing, teeth chattering, unintelligible moans issuing forth from her nearly frothing mouth. She is inconsolable. Children from all over the room stare, aghast at the show of insanity. The brave teacher tentatively approaches, eager to restore order to her classroom. Tenderly, the teacher touches her back. This only served to elicit yet another ear splitting shriek.

   I have to do something. I have to love, but toughly. I need to make a clean break. Rip the band aid off quickly, if you will.  Seeing the correct name on the desk, I grab her arms and drag her in the most unbecoming way to the proper seat. Forcing her up off the ground and onto her knees, I pull the chair out and stand on it, facing her eye-to-eye and say in my most stern voice, “Mom. You’ve got to get a grip.”

   She finally manages to leave and my day is great. I totally rock the first day of Kindergarten. Mom survives, too.

Unsuitable for Children

I had the craziest thing happen to me the other day! I have to warn you that some of the following material may be unsuitable for children. So if you’re anything like me, with at least two little monkeys crawling on you at all times, you may want to excuse the ones who know how to read now. You wouldn’t want them to repeat any of this disturbing story. Excuse the ones that can’t read too, because there’s no telling what reaction this tale may elicit from you.

So my husband and I were sitting at the food court at the mall the other day, just minding our own business and trying to enjoy our lunch. This woman walks over and sits at the table next to ours with her adorable baby in a stroller. I watched, smiling, as the young mother pulled the fat little creature out of his seat, placed him in the highchair next to her, and covered his adorable dinosaur t-shirt with a tiny blue bib. The entire time she set this up, she cooed, laughed and nibbled at his fingers. I sat there thinking, “What a wonderful mother.”

All good feelings vanished  when I saw what she did next. The horrible, shocking, disgusting thing that she did next. It all happened so fast that I hardly had time to process what was happening until it was too late. I can barely even type it here, except that I want you all to understand what revulsion I felt at the time.

This mother who I had thought so highly of only a moment before had the audacity to pull from her diaper bag a small jar of applesauce and a miniature baby spoon. I watched in slow motion horror as she slowly, almost sexily peeled the foil from the top of the food. I all but gasped out loud as she dipped the spoon seductively into the lumpy sauce and brought the spoon in the most carnal way to the child’s mouth. Over and over, I watched this sensual motion until I could stand it no longer. The definite clincher was when my husband, MY HUSBAND!, happened to see these goings on from the corner of his eye, and, out of curiosity, turned his face to actually SEE what this woman was doing in the most PUBLIC of PUBLIC places!

That was it. In outrage, I threw my napkin on the table and marched over to give her a piece of my mind. I said, “What do you think you’re doing?”

She gave me this doe-in-the-headlights look, like she couldn’t figure out what I was talking about. She said, “I’m feeding my baby.”

Just like that. Like it was no big deal! So I got really mad and told her, “You know, you may be just fine with YOUR husband seeing another woman using her spoon in public, but I most defiantly am not. Spoons are meant to be kept at home where you can feed your child applesauce to your heart’s content, not in public places where everyone can see you.

“If you MUST feed your child every two hours, you need to stay home to do so. If you MUST leave your house, you need to feed him before you leave and return home in time for the next feeding. But if you REALLY, REALLY MUST stay out in PUBLIC longer than two hours, you need to go to a private spot where he can eat without disturbing others. There is a lovely restroom down the hall where several toilets are available for your sitting pleasure!

“Furthermore, a few minutes ago, a group of children walked by and saw you spooning that applesauce into your child’s mouth. CHILDREN! How do we explain to them why you have your spoon waving carelessly about? Or where applesauce comes from? I think you’ve just robbed them of a piece of their innocence.”

I walked away then, dragging my husband behind me as quickly as possible- so quickly that the posters of woman in their bras, men in their underwear, and senior portraits of nearly nude seventeen year olds were all but a blur-  lest he be corrupted by this flaunting woman and her disgusting spoon. I feel as though justice was served that day, and I hope that woman learned her lesson. It is just not appropriate to feed a baby in public places.

spoon

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  I want to be totally serious for a while. Yes I am capable of doing this sometimes. Not often, so you’re in for a real treat! I’ve had something heavy on my mind for a long time now and have chosen not to burden people too much with my problems. But my family needs prayer now, and even though I have a plethora of amazing, loving, genuine friends that have given me more than my fair share of time in their talks with God, I need to ask for just a little bit more.

   Lisa does not look chronically ill. She’s not emaciated or bald or in a wheelchair. But looks can be deceiving, and the truth is that my daughter has a chronic illness called Ulcerative Colitis. This is an inflammation of the intestines and is classified as an autoimmune disorder, where the body is attacking itself. It causes everything from an almost constant need to use the bathroom, to joint pain, to exhaustion, and more. And that’s not all. The medication she is taking sometimes causes nausea, headaches, irritability, more joint pain, and exhaustion. Not a great compromise, huh? But it’s the best we can do for now.

  We have tried several medications, herbal supplements, doctors, and naturopaths. We have been on the low carb diet, the no carb diet, the no sugar diet, the eat-only-air diet, and so far, nothing has helped. And the saddest fact is that we’ve been told that in rare cases, nothing will.

  Here’s something crazy. I wish I worried about my daughter not being liked at school. I wish I worried about her falling and breaking her arm. I wish I worried about her self- esteem and boys being mean to her. These things would be a relief. Because what keeps me awake at night is worrying that my daughter will not be able to stand through graduation or her wedding ceremony without having to run to the restroom. Or worse, that my daughter will have her intestines removed and have to live the rest of her life with a colostomy bag. Will a prom dress cover one of those? Will any boy take a girl with one to the prom in the first place? I don’t know. But even worse still is the fact that constant inflammation can lead to cancer. Have you read the statistics on colon cancer? I have.

   I have spent so long crying, praying, doling out meds, and cooking air, and I’m tired. I think Lisa is too. Our next step is possibly trying to get her to an IBS specialist in Seattle Washington. We’ve heard she’s really good. Though I am afraid to get my hopes up after so many broken promises and false testimonials, we are choosing to hold on to this thread of hope offered 1,800 miles away if we can get her there.

   So please just pray, and ask others to pray as well. Ask your friends, your neighbors, other church members, whoever. Because I really want her better. They deem this disease as incurable, but I know that label applies to nothing because I know a Healer that can cure anything. And it would mean a lot if you could bring it to Him on Lisa’s behalf. 

   Thank you. 

So Many Times

I am going crazy because I can only play peek-a-boo so many times. My one year old Justin is obsessively obsessed with this game, as were his previous  four siblings. I use to think it was cute until I realized that I would spend approximately seven thousand hours of my life pretending to be shocked that my toddler had not disappeared into an unseen vortex every time I covered my eyes. Yet every day I feign amazement at the continuing presence of my child while shrieking a bit hysterically, “THERE YOU ARE!!!!”

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I can also just read “Thomas the Tank Engine Runs Into Some Deadly Trouble but Manages to Save the Day through Piety, Hard Work, and/or Cooperation, Thus Teaching a Valuable Lesson to the Children”  to my five year old so many times. It’s gotten so bad that sometimes I page skip. You other slacking mothers out there know exactly what I’m talking about. Where you turn several pages at once and try to ad lib some quick nonsense that may have lead up to the new page in order to avoid reading the entire book. Every once in a while I’m clever enough to pull this off smoothly, but most of the time the little brat calls me out on it, and then I have to start all over. Yet there I sit every night at the mercy of a child’s whim, reading, reading, reading until I wish my voice box would just fall out already.

I can only listen silently, staring at the stereo with a look of intense concentration with my eleven-year-old daughter as Taylor Swift sings about-GASP- fairytales so many times. This child is constantly dragging me to do this very thing whenever she discovers a new, fantastic teenybopper song which sounds surprisingly just like the old, fantastic teenybopper song that I listened intently to yesterday. Yet over and over again I sit, pretending to be lost for words, forcing tears to well in my eyes over how poignant the music and touching the lyrics.

There are lots of other things that I can only do so many times. In fact, my days consist solely of these things. I watch dances, listen to inane science facts, play memory card games, tell that story about that one time when Dad did something stupid as a kid. The list is endless and overwhelming and drives my to the very end of my endurance sometimes, but, crazy as it sounds, I also love doing them.

Why? I guess it’s because I realize that someday they won’t want or need me to anymore.  Because someday, Peek-a-Boo will be nothing but a silly baby game, my kids will all be able to read for themselves, and my daughter may no longer care about my opinion of the distinction of the nuances between eerily similar songs. Because girls will no longer dance in tutus, and boys will no longer feel excited about baking soda/vinegar experiments. Because at that point in time, I know that I might feel a little nostalgic for these times that seem so insurmountable right now, but I’ll also feel good that I indulged my children while I could.

Because if you look at it in another way, you could hear me say, “I can only do this so many times,” and it means something totally different.

My Son had OCD Before OCD was Cool.

How many times have you heard someone say (or maybe even said yourself), “I’m just totally OCD”? It seems like this once taboo topic is suddenly a mainstream excuse for everything from tidy closets to how one eats their M&M’s. Well, let me start out by saying that my 10-year-old Joseph is NOT OCD; he’s Joseph. But he does happen to HAVE OCD. And I don’t mean that in a “his room is particularly tidy” kind of way. Believe me. I mean that in a “dozens of therapists, social workers, philologists, physiatrists, and tests agree that my son is a victim of this most publicized and laughed-at disorder” kind of way. But don’t worry, because we love OCD! We even have some pretty popular sitcoms dedicated to mocking the obsessive compulsive.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not offended by these pop culture portrayals; I actually think that it’s a good thing. Maybe that’s weird, but the thing is, Joseph had OCD before OCD was cool. When he started displaying disturbing symptoms that are attributed to the disorder, I was in total ignorance about what could possibly be wrong with my child. There was nothing funny about watching him agonize over correctly counting his steps. We didn’t laugh when he insisted on spending disproportionate amount of time preparing himself to leave the house. I was disturbed when he refused food from anyone but me and even then, made sure that I had washed my hands and his dishes thoroughly several times before each meal, and I was scared out of my mind when he choked himself purple after touching something ‘unclean’.  Because of this, I believe that exposing the public to OCD in a lighthearted way serves to raise awareness and make the whole thing a lot less scary than it would be to those living in ignorance.

All of this being said, I have always wondered how accurately these obsessive compulsive characters are being portrayed by the media. We don’t have TV in our home, so I am completely out of the loop. I got my answer the other day in a conversation with my mom. I was telling her an amusing story about Joseph after she almost made a dire mistake. It seemed innocent enough as she started to lay my newborn Evangeline down on the couch. But I swooped in and grabbed the baby before her head could even touch the material, and my mom looked at me like I was insane, so I had to explain:

We have nine kids, so every surface of our furniture has been pooped, peed, sneezed, drooled, or puked on by an untold number of little bodies. Once a spot is soiled by aforementioned secretions, no matter what I clean it with or how many times I scrub, it becomes contaminated for life, and Joseph won’t touch it through a government-approved HAZMAT suit.  The only exception is this particular corner of the couch that has miraculously remained unsullied in his mind. That one cushion belongs to Joseph. Despite knowing all of this, one day, while Joseph was at the pool, I laid Evangeline in that very spot. I don’t know why I did it. I never meant any harm. But it’s like they always say, “I only turned around for a second…” and before I knew what was happening, the baby spit up all over the safe cushion. I cannot describe the dread and foreboding that filled my heart at the site, and all I could think in my addled brain was, “Joseph MUST NOT KNOW!”

With all the speed of an adrenaline-filled accident victim, I grabbed the fabric cleaner and scrubby brush and cleaned like never before. I wiped, soaked, rinsed, and washed until no smell or sign of spoiled milk remained. Frightened by the large, off-colored wet patch, I prayed fervently that it would dry before the pool closed at five. I watched the spot for hours hoping, yet the cushion stayed saturated, revealing my sin like the tell-tale heart. So at four, I took the whole thing up to the bathroom and fixed it myself with a blow dryer. The cushion dried! Disaster averted!

After telling my mom this story, I watched her face transform to sheer horror. For those of you who watch the show Big Bang Theory, apparently there’s an episode dedicated to this EXACT storyline, and you’ve been shaking your head in wonder the whole time! Who would have thought? Maybe I could apply for a job as a writer for that show. I don’t have to go far for my inspiration. So congratulations, Pop Culture Media, and keep up the good work. Call me if you want to hear about the dangers of nursing homes or what must be done if your foods touch each other.

And, Joseph, if you happen to read this, I’m so amazed by you. You have overcome so much and become such a smart and hilarious kid! You make me laugh all of the time- or at least in between times that you make me want to throttle you. I love you. ALSO, everything mentioned before never happened. I  made it up strictly for entertainment purposes only. The cushion is still safe.

Some interesting thoughts by Joseph:

~”SOME people BITE their nails, but… well, I do too.”

~When Joseph’s dad said, “I ran into that guy we know from Lebo-” Joseph interrupted, “Did you say, ‘Excuse me’?”

~”If I had a penny for every time someone told me I was unpopular, I would have, like, one penny because I’m so unpopular that no one ever talks to me.”

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