Sunday, September 15, 2013

On Bubble Goo and Dinosaur Poop

Yesterday was one of those rare days in the North Carolina September when it felt more like early fall than late summer.  It was warm, but not too warm, and sunny, but not too sunny, and the ever-present, thick humidity had, apparently, taken the day off.  My daughter, Iris, of course, wanted to play outside.  And I couldn’t think of a reason to say no.  I tried.  Believe me, I tried.  I am not a fan of outside.  Outside and I don’t really get along.  I sunburn easily.  I have allergies that, I think, are trying to slowly suffocate me.  And the mosquitos seem intent on making me itch to death. 

I’m pretty sure Nature is trying to kill me. 

But you can’t explain that to a three-year-old. 

So, because the weather was so beautiful, and I couldn’t use any of my usual excuses (too hot, too cold, too wet, too muddy, too dark, or too windy), I was forced into agreeing to go play outside.  Dammit.  After slathering the both of us with sunblock and then bug spray, taking an extra Zyrtec, and saying a quick prayer for mercy from the almighty and not-so-forgiving Environment, I grudgingly took Iris out to our front yard to blow bubbles. 

Iris loves blowing bubbles.  Or, more correctly, Iris loves watching me blow the bubbles that she runs after and pops.  I am going to admit right now that I am an awful mother because, while I adore watching Iris laughing and squealing with delight, I hate bubbles.  It is a horribly boring and repetitive activity.  After two or three minutes of  bubbles, I was bored and ready to be done.  Iris, on the other hand…. “More!  Blow more bubbles, Mommy!”  Then she wanted to try to blow the bubbles (an activity that involves dripping, spilling, getting too much or too little of the bubble stuff on the bubble wand, blowing too hard to produce an actual bubble, getting frustrated, and then thrusting the wand back at me so I have to blow more bubbles).  Twenty or thirty minutes later, Iris was pink-cheeked and slimy with bubble goo.  And I was covered an untold number of mosquito bites (because, apparently, the bug spray was just joking). 

But were we done with outside, yet?

No.  No, we were not. 

Because then Iris wanted to chalk.  Sidewalk chalk.  Getting-color-all-over-every-part-of-your-body.  (Seriously, whenever she plays with chalk, I expect that Iris will get some on her hands and arms and even on her face but, the last time we did this, at bath time later that night, I discovered a big rainbow patch on her butt.  Not the seat of her pants.  The actual skin of her butt.  I still can’t figure out how she managed that.) 

Anyway, Iris and I drew flowers and her favorite cartoon characters and trees and clouds and the sun and stars and waves and shapes and patterns and a giant that has a really tiny body when you compare it to the immense length of his legs, which reach from the bottom of our driveway all the way up into our garage. 

When Iris had taxed the very last ounce of my very limited artistic abilities, and we had spent time on her tricycle, and she had run in circles on the cul-de-sac showing me how fast she could be, and she’d picked a whole “bouquet” of three-leafed clovers for me, I attempted to hint at a suggestion that maybe, just maybe, it was time to go back inside.

Which was a mistake.

Which was a mistake that involved a quivering lower lip and a, small, sad, verge-of-tears break in her voice when she said, “Can we pretend we don’t have to go inside?”

Shit.

Shit.  Shit.  Shit.

“Okay, honey, we can stay outside a little longer,” I said, lying down on my back on the driveway.  I was tired.  Probably from the mosquitos draining my blood supply. 

Iris lay down on the driveway next to me, looking up at the sky, “What are we watching, Mommy?”

Right about now you’ve skipped ahead in the story, haven’t you?  You’re anticipating.  You think I said “clouds” and then I taught Iris about finding shapes and animals and other things in the clouds, aren’t you?  You’re sitting there imagining some charming, idyllic scene, aren’t you?

Well, stop it.    

The only part you were right about is that I told Iris I was looking at the clouds.

Iris:  No!  Not clouds! 
Me:  We’re not watching clouds?
Iris:  No.  We are watching Callissa!
Me:  Callissa?  Who is Callissa?
Iris:  My dinosaur.
Me:  You have a dinosaur?
Iris:  Yes.  She flies.  (pointing up)  See?
Me:  (heavy sigh)  We’re going to need a bigger house.

Seriously.  Do you KNOW how big pterodactyls get?  Full grown, they’re the size of a small plane.  Where in the name of zookeepers everywhere am I going to find room in my house for a fucking flying lizard?

What?

Yes, yes, I know dinosaurs are extinct.  I’m not crazy.  But, in our house, we live in Iris’s reality.  It’s easier. 

Because you tell her that Callissa the flying dinosaur is both imaginary and invisible and see how far you get. 

I promise you it’ll be just like the time, a couple of weeks ago, when Iris and I were running errands.  By the third store, not only was I tired and cranky, but I really needed to pee.  I was getting Iris out of her car seat in the busy parking lot when I noticed that she was refusing to hold my hand. 

Me:  Iris, you need to hold Mommy’s hand.
Iris:  (holding both hands cupped in front of her like she had something in each of them)  I caaaaaaan’t.
Me:  (starting to get irritated)  Iris, there are a lot of cars in this parking lot, you need to hold my hand.
Iris:  But, Mommy!  Samoona and Bomondo!
Me:  (noticing her cupped hands)  Who and what?
Iris:  My snails!  (holding up one cupped hand to show me) Samoona (holding up the other cupped hand) and Bomondo.
Me:  (sighing heavily and trying again to take one of Iris’s hands while, simultaneously, doing the potty dance)  Samoona and Bomondo are just pretend.  The cars in this parking lot are not.
Iris:  (yanking her arm away from me)  But my snaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiillllllls!
Me:  (taking a moment and deciding that not wetting myself was more important than arguing the point)  Sweetie, you can hold both your snails in one hand and then hold Mommy’s hand with the other, okay?

And it WORKED! 

But, it came at a price.  Because now we live in the Land of Iris, where there are a LOT of animals that you can’t deny or ignore.  And we are being crowded out, let me tell you.  Just yesterday, I was refused a seat on our large sectional sofa because I might sit on one of the creatures with whom I am obliged to share my home. 

Aside from our actual, real, you-can-see-her dog, Penny, we have, of course, Samoona, Bomondo, and Callissa, then we have two cats (one black, and one pink), an owl, a polar bear, a grizzly bear, three monkeys (one who is probably a gorilla, but it’s hard to tell with the invisible, imaginary ones), an otter, a hawk, a green tiger, a snake, a spider, two foxes who are both boys, a crab, a hamster, a seal, a duck, a Canadian goose, three horses, a flock of butterflies, a colony of bats, and an elephant. 

And a lot of bunny rabbits.  In all different colors.  Because imaginary, invisible bunny rabbits are, apparently, a lot like regular bunny rabbits in that we started with just two and now we have seventeen.  Similarly, we used to have two alligators, but, this morning, when Iris showed them to me, counting each one as she moved down our entire upstairs hallway, I found out that the current count is fourteen.  And we have two crocodiles.  Because Iris just learned there is a difference, even if she doesn’t know what the difference is.

(For the record, one should never suggest that some of these animals are carnivores and might be tempted to eat others of these animals, unless one is willing to endure the resultant crying fit.  Our entire imaginary, invisible menagerie is made up of vegetarians.  Just go with it.)

And a week ago, Iris announced she wants to be a cowgirl when she grows up.  And cowgirls, she says, ride unicorn horsies.  Pink unicorn horsies.  And wash cows.  Rainbow cows.  And, because I am her mother, I want her to be the best damned cowgirl she can be, so I think she should be able to get some practice.  So, now I have to find her a pink unicorn horsie (complete with lasso and Western saddle) and an entire herd of rainbow cattle.

I don’t even know where one would find rainbow cattle. 

So, lying there on my driveway today with my beautiful, maddening, inventive, amusing daughter, watching Callissa the flying dinosaur circle overhead, I contemplated where I could find some cheap acreage – perhaps an abandoned zoo? – and tried to avoid dinosaur poop.  Because dinosaur poop is huge and I'm sure it's worse than chalk residue and bubble goo.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What Moms Really Want

My husband, Quinten, has an August birthday and, for the last several months, I have been trying to come up with ideas for his birthday gift.  He isn’t helping.  We have had various versions of this conversation at least seven times since the beginning of June:

Me:  What do you want for your birthday?
Quinten:  (looking at me like I have asked him to invent cold fusion) I don’t know.
Me:  You don’t even have an idea?
Quinten:  I don’t really need anything.
Me:  (irritated because this is what he always says) Need, SCHMEED!  This isn’t about need.  What do you want? 
Quinten:   Can I think about it?
Me:  You keep saying that.  Haven’t you thought about it since our last conversation?
Quinten:  (looking at me sheepishly because he hasn’t)
Me:  Seriously, if you don’t tell me what you want soon, I’m going to have to resort to just giving you an Amazon gift card and a blow job.
 
Yesterday, after realizing that Quinten’s birthday is a mere six days away and having yet another version of that same conversation, I went to Amazon’s website and prepared to just get him a damned gift card.  Which is when I noticed that Amazon has a “gift ideas” section of the store. 

Fascinated, I started perusing the lists.  I was hoping there might be something on one of those lists that might be more fun than just a gift card to accompany any other little *ahem* presents I might give Quinten.  The lists are quite comprehensive….there are lists by price of gift, personality type, hobby, and relationship (e.g.: gifts for your husband, or your wife, or your mom, etc.).  I was in the middle of not finding anything worthwhile when I got curious.  I mean, what, exactly, was on that list of gifts for Moms?

Well, for starters, Amazon thinks I want a heated blanket.  Oh sure, a heated blanket is just the thing for my three-year-old daughter, Iris, to steal from me so I can remain shivering on the other end of the couch while she is all cozy and warm watching that same episode of Dora the insipid and annoying Explorer for the seventeenth time. 

Evidently, I also want potpourri, tennis shoes designed by Heidi Klum, a travel mug, candle holders, foot massagers, flannel pajamas, cooking gadgets, and kitchen storage & organization. 

Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME???

If by “foot massagers” Amazon means my husband rubbing my right foot and Jon Hamm kneading the left, then yes, by all means, that sounds like a lovely gift.*

Otherwise….just....No.

Really, Amazon?  Candle holders and kitchen organization?  Come on.  You’re better than that. Here, I’ll give you some help.  I give you six things that I would be willing to bet most mothers would actually put on their wish lists:

1.  For 24 Hours, I Wish All the Calories I Eat Would Have an Inverse Effect on my Weight

Some people might merely wish for 24 hours where the calories they eat have no effect on their figure one way or the other.  Me?  I say dream big or go home.  I mean, really, wouldn’t it be an amazing gift if, just temporarily, you would actually lose weight based on how many calories you consumed?  Can you imagine it?  Hmmmm, you’d think, looking at your less-than-flat stomach in the mirror that morning, I could stand to shed a few pounds.  I better...EAT AN ENTIRE CHEESECAKE!!! 

That would be Awesome.
 
2.  I Wish I Could Watch a Whole Television Show or Movie in One Sitting

One of the greatest skills I have developed since becoming a mother is the ability to watch any television show or movie, no matter how detail-oriented or plot-heavy, in five or ten minute increments.  I watched the movie Miss Potter on DVD last month.  And by “last month,” I mean it took me an actual month to watch the movie. 

I turned it on while I was folding laundry one afternoon.  Iris was engrossed in a game that involved her princess toys living in the play castle with her pirate toys and her pony toys.  She’d chased me away from the game several times, so I felt fairly certain that my input was neither needed nor desired.  So, I pressed play, settled in, started folding, and five minutes later:

Iris: (abandoning her toys and climbing up on my chair so she can put her face right in front of mine)  Mommy? 
Me:  (pausing the movie)  Yes?
Iris:  Can I watch a show?
Me:  You watched a show already.  Remember?  We watched Sesame Street together?  Now it’s Mommy’s turn to watch a show. 
Iris:  (whimpering)  But I want to watch my show.
Me:  Well, you have to wait your turn, sweetie.  It’s Mommy’s turn now, and, when Mommy’s show is done, you can have another turn.  Okay?
Iris:  (pouting)  Ooookay.

I started the movie again, and, after another five minutes:

Iris:  (climbing up me like I am a jungle gym)  Mommy?  I want a treat to eat!
Me:  (pausing the movie again)  You already had a treat to eat, honey.  You had a cookie after lunch, remember?
Iris:  But I want a treat!
Me:  No.
Iris:  (changing tactics)  Can I have something fresh?  Like fruit?
Me:  You can have some carrots if you want some.  Do you want some carrots?
Iris:  Yes!

I got up, went to the kitchen, got her some carrots and dip to eat, then sat back down and restarted the movie.  Seven and a half minutes later, Iris started singing the alphabet song slowly and at the top of her lungs.  I turned on the closed captioning of the movie, determined to keep watching.  Iris stopped singing, then:

Iris:  Mommy?
Me:  (pausing the movie) What?
Iris:  Is it my turn now?
Me:  (defeated and turning off the DVD player)  Fine.  Yes, it’s your turn.

We repeated this process, more or less exactly, multiple times over the next four weeks until I had watched the entire film.  While I am proud of my incremental-television-watching skills, I would prefer a less labored method of television viewing.

3.  I Wish I Could Spend Time in the Bathroom All Alone

I want to shower by myself.  And pee alone.  And, dear God please, I want to poop without anyone asking me what I’m doing. 

4.  I Wish I Could Eat My Entire Dinner without Getting Up

It never fails.  After planning the menu, shopping for the all the food, and cooking a meal, no sooner do I sit down and get a single forkful in my mouth when this happens:

Iris:  I have to pee!
Me:  Can you go by yourself?
Iris:  No!
Me:  Yes you can.  You can go by yourself like a big girl.
Iris:  Noooooo!  I caaaaaaannnnn’t!!!!
Me:  Then you must not need to go very badly.
Iris:  (sounding like a petulant teenager)  Fine!  (stomping down the hall to the bathroom where she does, indeed, go pee by herself like a big girl)
Me:  (standing in the doorway to the hallway down to the bathroom)  See! You did that all by yourself! I'm proud of you!
Iris:  Now I need to poop!
Me:  Okay.
Iris:  It's going to be a stinky poop and then you'll HAVE to come in here!


And, because no one should ever trust a three-year-old with the toilet paper after a poop, especially a stinky one, I do go in there.  When I'm done laughing.

When we are done, I sit down and get another bite of food and then, Penny, the puppy, starts whining, and I have to get up to let her out the back door. 

Then Iris spills her drink and I have to get towels to clean it up.

Then Penny barks and scratches at the back door, demanding to be let inside again. 

And then my meal is cold. 

5.  I Wish I Could Sleep Until I Wake Up

You know that thing they tell you about “as your child gets older, you’ll get more sleep”?  It’s a lie.  A bald-faced, disgusting lie.  Bad dreams, blanket tangles, monsters under the bed, drinks of water, midnight potty trips, the Goodnight Fairy, and middle-of-the-night-solo-sing-alongs all conspire to make sure I am, at all times, sleep deprived.  Sleep deprived as in, if I lie down anywhere at all at any time of day, I will fall asleep.  Since Iris was born, I have not once had to use an alarm clock because she IS an alarm clock.  And, these days, mornings frequently involve some pretty tense negotiations:

Iris: (yelling while I wake up, throw off the covers, look at the clock and see that it’s only 6:15am, get out of bed and stumble down the hall to her bedroom) MOOOOOMMM????  IS IT UP TIME??????  MOM??!?  IS IT UP TIME????  IS IT UP TIME????  MOMMY????  IS IT UP TIME???????????
Me:  (opening the door)  Good morning, Iris.
Iris:  Hi, Mommy.  Is it up time now?
Me:  (treading carefully because I want her to go back to sleep for a while and I know tears will ensue if I just say no and then there really won’t be any getting her to go back to sleep for a while)  What if I said it wasn’t up time, yet?
Iris:  But is it up time?
Me:  What if I said it wasn’t?
Iris:  But IS it up time?
Me:  What if it wasn’t?
Iris:  But, Mommy, is it up time now?
Me: (sighing because I am not now, nor will I ever be, winning this debate)  Yes.  (sighing again)  It’s up time.
Iris:  Yayyyyyy!!

I would settle for an afternoon nap.

The thing is, I'm never, ever going to get any of the wishes on my wish list.  Why?  Because of the sixth wish.  The sixth wish is the downfall of every mom everywhere....

6.  I Wish to Trade In All of My Previous Wishes In Order to Wish for Something to Make My Child Happy.

There is nothing I want more than for Iris to be happy.  And I will give up sleep, and privacy, all the hot meals ever made, and a whole lot more to get that.  Because I'm a mom and that's what we do.

Dammit.
 

*The Jon Hamm Foot Massager (TM), while not a real product, SHOULD BE.  We'd make a fortune!  But, I'm pretty sure Jon Hamm would be exhausted.  And I don't know how he feels about feet.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Interviewing Myself on The Pitfalls of Modern Mythmaking

I hear that you have a revolutionary new way to get your child to actually want to go to sleep at bedtime.  Can you share your secret?

Dammit!  Who told you about that?

No one!  I mean…I just…I...I don’t understand.  What’s the problem?

Look, I don’t even want to talk about this.

But, this could be so helpful for other mothers.

No.  No, it can’t.

What do you mean?

I mean….  Wait….you know what?  I’ll tell you.  I’ll tell you alllll about it.  Then you can decide if I am a good example, or a horrible warning.

Great!  So, what’s the secret?

The Goodnight Fairy.

The Goodnight Fairy?  I don’t get it.  I’ve never heard of The Goodnight Fairy.

Of course you haven’t.  I made her up.

You made up a fairy?

Yes.  I did.  And now I hate her. 

How can you hate an imaginary fairy that helps your child go to sleep?

Because she doesn’t.

She doesn’t what? 

She doesn’t help your child go to sleep.  And she didn’t help me get any sleep, either.  Bitch.

Now I’m confused. 

Okay.  Okay.  I guess I should start at the beginning.  See, Iris saw something on Sesame Street or Super Why or one of those shows about the Tooth Fairy.  And, from that point on, it was “the Tooth Fairy this” and “the Tooth Fairy that”; she just wouldn’t stop talking about it.

Does Iris understand about the Tooth Fairy?

Not really.  Well, maybe a little.  The show, apparently, just said that the Tooth Fairy comes and visits kids and leaves something under their pillow.  So, I told her the truth…that she’d have to lose a tooth before the Tooth Fairy comes to visit and she started crying, “I don’t want to lose my teef!!  I don’t want to lose my teef!!”

Awww.  That’s so cute!

No it isn’t!  It is NOT!  She cried for twenty minutes because she was afraid I was going to make her lose her teeth!  It wasn’t cute at all.  Then she cried for another half hour because I explained that the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t come if she didn’t lose a tooth.  Then she cried some more because I told her that it would be years before she lost a tooth.  For those of you doing the math at home, that’s more than a full hour of crying.  Right while I was trying to get Iris to go to bed.  Which is why I made up the Goodnight Fairy.  Because my husband, Quinten, was out of town and I needed the crying to stop and because I needed Iris to go to bed.  Also because I am, apparently, not as smart as I think I am.

What, exactly, is the Goodnight Fairy?

Well, I told Iris that the Goodnight Fairy comes to visit children that go to sleep at bedtime like good little girls and boys.  She asked me if the Goodnight Fairy would bring her a goodie like the Tooth Fairy does. 

And?

And what could I say?  Of course the Goodnight Fairy brings goodies.  But only if you’re good and go to sleep at bedtime.  Iris then theorized that, since they both bring goodies, the Goodnight Fairy and the Tooth Fairy must be sisters.

Are they sisters?
 
Are you high?  They are IMAGINARY.  They are NOT REAL.  They cannot be sisters because they do not exist! 

Well, how did Iris react when you told her that?

Seriously?  I’m not a complete dolt.  I wasn’t going to tell a three-year-old child that fairies aren’t real!  Why would I do that?  Children are supposed to believe in magic and all that other bullshit.  Of COURSE I told her the Goodnight Fairy and the Tooth Fairy are sisters.  It made her happy.  And it was definitely faster than arguing the point with a three-year-old.
 
Was she excited about the Goodnight Fairy?

Sure.  Wouldn’t you be excited if you were going to get a goodie when you woke up?  And, at least that first night, the Goodnight Fairy was successful.  Iris went to sleep like a champ.  I did not hear a peep out of her all night long.  It was like a miracle.  I felt very clever.  All that evening, I congratulated myself on how awesome and creative a mother I was.  I may have toasted myself with my Crystal Light before I went to bed.  I even wrote Iris a note that purported to be from the Goodnight Fairy and left her a little present on her dresser because she’d been such a good girl.

This is amazing!

Yes, it was amazing.  For exactly twelve hours.  Then Iris woke up.

What happened?

Well, the present I’d put on Iris’s dresser was a little toy.  A small My Little Pony figurine I’d purchased and hidden so I could use it as reward sometime (Mom Trick #483).  She really likes My Little Pony and had a number of pony figurines that she was always playing with.  And this one wasn’t just a pony, it was a pony princess.  I thought she’d be thrilled to see it sitting on the dresser with the note from the Goodnight Fairy.  Instead, she cried.

She cried?

Yes.  A full-on, snot-running-down-the-face-screeching-words-you-can’t-understand crying jag. 

Why?

Because Iris thought the Goodnight Fairy would bring her a goodie.

Wait.  There was a goodie, wasn’t there?

Yes.  By my definition, there was a goodie sitting on the dresser.  By your definition, there was a goodie on the dresser.  By Iris’s definition?  Goodie means food.  Preferably something chocolate.    And then things got worse.

Worse?

Yes.  Worse.  See, Iris was very disillusioned and I thought maybe the Goodnight Fairy, having not brought an acceptable goodie the night before, had lost her luster.  I thought maybe Iris wouldn't want the Goodnight Fairy to visit and I could put the whole episode behind me.  I thought maybe I could forget I had ever even tried to be clever.  But I was so completely wrong as to have transcended mere wrongness into something so much worse.  That night, Iris kept asking if the Goodnight Fairy would be visiting her.  Asking and asking and asking and asking.  So I told her that, yes, if she was good and went to sleep at bedtime like she was supposed to, then the Goodnight Fairy would pay a visit.  But, I added, she would not be bringing any food.  Maybe a toy, but no food.  Iris seemed to accept this, but then she said the thing that should have scared me, “I’m going to see the Goodnight Fairy tonight.”  I'm so stupid I didn't even really pay attention. 

I should have paid attention.  Because, at midnight, Iris woke me up with her yelling.  I thought she'd had a bad dream or had fallen out of bed or something.  Adrenaline pumping, I woke up ran into her room.  She was sitting up in bed, grinning, “Mommy?  Is the Goodnight Fairy here?  Can I see her???”  It took me five minutes to get her back to sleep and another half hour for me to get back to sleep.

At 2:00am, I had to explain to Iris that the Goodnight Fairy couldn't come to visit if Iris wasn't actually asleep.  Iris spent twenty minutes singing herself back to sleep while I cursed myself for trying to be creative. 

At 4:00am, after I'd gotten Iris to go back to sleep for the third time, the Goodnight Fairy sat down and wrote Iris a stern note explaining that getting up multiple times a night to try to see a fairy was very, very naughty and Iris wasn’t going to get any kind of treat at all.   

Did the note help?

You tell me.  On the third night, Iris didn't wake up at all.  But, before she crawled in bed, she insisted on drawing the Goodnight Fairy a picture as a present.  And I realized I didn’t have any little toys to leave on the dresser.  While I dug around in the toy closet to see if there was something in there that Iris might have forgotten about and I could pass off as "new," I realized that I really had not thought this thing through.

What do you mean?

You know how the Tooth Fairy only comes when a kid loses a tooth?  Well, kids go to bed every fucking night. 

I don’t get it.

You really aren’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, are you?  What I mean is that there was no natural end to this.  I hadn't built in an out; I hadn't made the Goodnight Fairy visits finite in nature.  See, I didn’t want to give Iris a note and a toy every fucking time she went to bed like a good girl.  That could go on every night for years.  YEARS!  At least until Iris finally figured out that fairies aren’t real.  The way this was playing out, I was going to have to write notes and spend a fortune on little, crap toys because the Goodnight Fairy was never going to go the fuck away.
 
Ohhh.  So, what did you do about that?
 
I had to figure out a reason for the Goodnight Fairy to get the hell out of Dodge.  So, I told Iris that the Goodnight Fairy only comes around to help kids whose Mommy or Daddy are out of town for a while.  That, when Daddy came back from his business trip, that the Goodnight Fairy wouldn’t be coming back.

Did she accept that explanation?

Are you kidding me?  Hell, no!  Quinten has been back for four days now and Iris is STILL asking if the Goodnight Fairy is coming back.  Last night, she decided that, because Quinten was walking our dog, Penny, at bedtime, that he was “Away” and that meant the Goodnight Fairy would come to visit. 

Oh no.  What are you going to do?

You know how, in Peter Pan, Tinkerbell needs applause?  Something like if no one pays attention to a fairy, she dies?  I’m hoping that, if I just don’t talk about the Goodnight Fairy, that bitch will fucking kick the bucket.

That’s kind of evil.  Do you think it will work?

You tell me.  It’s almost bedtime right now, and Iris just brought me a drawing she wants to leave out for the Goodnight Fairy because Daddy is "Away" walking Penny again.  I'm pretty sure I'm doomed.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Privacy Goeth Before the Fall

I have finally given up on the idea of ever again being able to pee by myself.  Luxuries like privacy while pooping are for people who have neither children nor animals.  I don’t even bother closing the door anymore.  Seriously, what’s the point?

My daughter, Iris, regards the entire house as her domain and anything that happens in it is her business.  Even in the bathroom. 

“Moooooom? What are you dooooing?” she hollers as she runs down the hall towards where I am sitting, indisposed and vulnerable.

“What do you think I’m doing?” I respond.  For the record, sarcasm is completely lost on a three-year-old. 

Iris strides in, unabashed, and stands in front of me, her hands on her hips, “Are you peeing or are you pooping?”

What I want to do at this point is bang my head against the nearest wall.  But, as I am currently taking care of business and cannot reach the nearest wall with my head, the best I can do is cover my face with my hands and start laughing, a little hysterically.

“Mommy? Why are you laughing?” Iris starts laughing, too.  “Is this funny?”

“No, sweetie,” I answer, still laughing, “It isn’t funny at all.”

It’s even better when she wants give me a hug while I am on the toilet. 

Or, when she turns around, hides her eyes like she has seen the head ripped off her favorite My Little Pony toy and screeches, “I DON’T WANT TO SEE IT!  I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOUR PEE!”  (For the record, the proper response to this last one is to say, “Well, good, I don’t want you looking.”  This will have no effect.)

So, I thought I had finally let go of the last shred of my former, privacy-guarding, non-mom identity on the day I had to jump up off the commode and scuttle down the hall with my pants still around my ankles because our puppy, Penny, had grabbed Iris’s most beloved Pink Bunny stuffed toy.  I had to waddle-chase Penny around the family room, trying not to trip over my pants, but unable to get them off because I was in motion, while Iris wailed like the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse had just knocked on our front door and asked for a cup of brimstone.  This was followed by 30 minutes of sitting on the floor comforting a snotty, crying child who was heartbroken because, basically, her stuffed toy had been slobbered on a little.  And then I finally pulled up my pants.

But no.  No.  Even at that all-time-low, I hadn’t truly given up my affection for solitude.

Because, I still had the shower.

The delightful shower.  The magnificent stall where hot water could cascade over me like my own, private waterfall.  My own, private, quiet, kid-free zone of awesomeness.  Sure, sometimes I only had six minutes and I had to wash just those parts of me that were likely to smell, never mind being able to treat myself to extravagances like shaving my legs or washing my hair, but they were MY six minutes all by myself without an audience and I relished them.  I relished them like a person whose been shipwrecked on a tropical, deserted island must relish air conditioning and human company.

And then I went and ruined it. 

Oh yeah, it was me who ruined it.  I really have no one to blame but myself.  See, there was this one day when Iris and I were both just scuddy, covered in sunblock and bug spray and sweat and sand from playing in the sandbox in the backyard.  And I had to get myself clean.  And I had to give Iris a bath.  And, when I looked at the clock, I realized that I could either give Iris a bath or give me a shower, but not both.  So – brilliant solution! – I decided to let Iris get in the shower with me.

In the past, Iris has hated the shower.  There have been times when we were on vacation and didn’t have access to a bathtub, and washing Iris in the shower resulted in tears and recriminations from a very, very unhappy three year old.  That day I decided I could just power through the unpleasantness if it meant that we could both get clean.  I geared myself up; I loaded for bear; and…..

Iris loved it.

Like loved it loved it. 

Like a-dog-discovering-the-joy-of-rolling-in-goose-poop loved it

Like she wanted to stay in the shower and play in the water after we were done.

Like she wouldn’t get out before I had dried off, gotten dressed, and dried my hair,  And, even then, I had to beg.

Now, every time I say I need to get cleaned up, this is what happens:

“Mommy!  Can I get in the shower with you?!!?!?!??!??!????” and Iris jumps up with a big grin on her face and starts running for my bathroom before I even answer.  “I’m getting a fresh, clean towel for meeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

It has now been two and a half weeks since I’ve been in any part of my bathroom alone.  Which, all by itself, would be bad enough.  But, what makes it worse is that, well, three-year-olds don’t have much of a filter between what they think and what they say. 

Yesterday, while I was rinsing the shampoo out of my hair (the upside to having company in the shower is getting to do things like, you know, washing my hair), I felt a small finger poking into the admittedly ample flesh of my butt cheek.  Startled, I turned around, hastily, “Iris!  What are you doing?!?”

She looked up at me, thoughtful, “You sure do have a big butt, Mommy.”

“Ummmm…” caught off-guard, I struggled to find actual words with which to respond.

Still deep in thought, Iris continued, “My butt is little.  Your butt is very, VERY big.”   

“Well,” I fought to swallow my mortally wounded pride, “when you grow up big like me, your butt will be bigger, too.”

Iris wrinkled her nose, “No, Mommy.  My butt will never be as big as yours.”

Oh, well.  I probably didn't need all that self-esteem, anyway.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Moms Don't Get Sick Days

Do you want to know the difference between being sick before you're a parent and being sick after you're a parent?

Nothing.

Either way, you’re sick.


Only, after you become a parent, even if you're projectile vomiting like the girl from The Exorcist, or having diarrhea like your bowel wants to impress Old Faithful, you still have to take care of the child.

Have a bad cold?  Are your sinuses so congested you think they may explode out the front of your face?  Coughing so hard you're pretty sure your lungs are coming up next?  Too bad.  You still have to take care of the child.

What?

What's that you say?

You say your spouse will take care of the child while you're ill?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You don’t get it?  Think about it.  I’ll give you a minute.


Still don’t get it?

Okay.  I can’t believe I have to explain this. 

If you're sick, your spouse will also get sick.  Then both of you are vomiting, coughing, moaning, congested, feeling like you’ve been run over by an eighteen wheeler carrying a load of hogs, and.........you still have to take care of the child.

Don't believe me?

Let me tell you a little story....

When my daughter, Iris, was fifteen or sixteen months old, she got the stomach flu.  I would tell you how pitiful it is when a toddler is vomiting, but that's not the point of this story (seriously, it was SO pitiful...the poor thing didn't understand what was happening and didn’t realize that she needed to put your face down to throw up or you’ll choke, and there was a lot of crying while we tried to teach her proper vomiting form and....*blink* wait...yeah....not the point. I'll stop.)

The point is that Iris got better.

And then I got worse.  A lot worse.  I woke up at three in the morning feeling nauseated and spent much of the next three hours in the bathroom.  Have you ever felt so awful you just wanted to lie on the cool tile of the bathroom floor and not move for the next forever?  Yeah?  Me, too!
 
Except Iris had a bad dream and woke up crying.  Guess who had to get up off the bathroom floor and soothe her back to sleep? 

Thankfully, my husband, Quinten, stayed home from work that day so he could take care of me and Iris.  Before she woke up in the morning, he ran to the store and got all those things you need when you have the stomach flu: Gatorade, Jell-O, popsicles, saltines, Sprite, chicken noodle soup. Then when she got up, he dealt with all things Iris so I could take care of myself.

I slept between trips to the bathroom, took small sips of Sprite when I felt like I could, and sacked out on the couch in front of endless episodes of House Hunters and Property Brothers while Quinten kept Iris busy.

This lasted for exactly six and a half hours.

Then Quinten, who had been standing in the family room holding Iris and asking me if I needed more Sprite, suddenly and wordlessly put Iris on the floor and ran for the bathroom.

After which, I had to get up off the couch so he could lie down. Because, even if I was feeling like utter shit, someone still had to take care of Iris and I was elected due to the fact that I was the one who was the least sick.  By which I mean I was able to stand without reflexively throwing up.

I had to just suck it up and start taking care of Iris despite the fact that I was working at the same operating speed and capacity as your average zombie.  Quinten got to start moaning, watching bad reality television, and making unplanned and frequent trips to the by-then overused bathroom.

I was the one who had to fix Iris lunch, sit with her while she ate it, and encourage her to eat more when she got distracted (which was often because, at that age, she had the attention span of a mosquito), all while the mere sight of food made me feel nauseated. 

I was the one who had to coax a very tired Iris up the stairs to get her to go down for a nap.  Upping the degree of difficulty?  The fact that Iris was entirely unconvinced that she needed a nap.  Ever.

I was also the one who had to get Iris up and change her poopy diaper (ever try changing a stinking near-blowout while nauseated?  It is exactly as bad as you’re thinking it is).

This was followed by me running to the bathroom several times in the middle of a game of hide-and-go-peek (which is a combination of hide and seek and peek-a-boo that involved Iris throwing blankets over her head and yelling "FIND ME MOMMY!!!!" as loud as she could).   

Now, imagine that from Iris's perspective. I felt semi-okay when we started. Iris hid under the blanket, I pretended I couldn't see the mound of blanket in the middle of the floor, then Iris flings the blanket off her head and I point to her, acting surprised, saying "there she is!" in a voice that was as enthusiastic as I could manage while simultaneously feeling like I might hurl. Iris hid under the blanket again, and I realized just then that I needed to get to the toilet right that second. So, while Iris was still hiding, I had to get up and sprint for the bathroom. Just as I got there, Iris flung the blanket off her head and.....Mommy was GONE!  "Mama?" she whimpered. I could hear her from the bathroom. "Mama?!?" the whimpering became more frantic, “MAMA??!?!??"  And, I swear I meant to call out to her that I was in the bathroom, but I was a little otherwise engaged at the time. "MAAAAAAMMMMMMAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!" By the time I got back to the family room, Iris was in a full-blown, can't-catch-your-breath sobbing fit.

I picked her up and hugged her to me and rocked her and, just as she was starting to calm down, I had to put her down and get to the bathroom again.

It took me a good thirty minutes to calm her down.  After that, I just had to take her to the bathroom with me, but, hey....  And if you were wondering if it's possible to comfort a toddler while sitting on a toilet?  Why, yes.  Yes, it is.

And, somehow, while powering through all that, I managed to keep Quinten comfortable, figure out (ugh) dinner, feed Iris, give her a bath, and get her down for the night. And, instead of crawling into my nice, warm bed and surrendering to the oblivion I so desperately wanted? I went back downstairs and took care of Quinten some more.

Oh, wait…you think it was bad because Iris was so young?  You think it gets better when your child gets older???  Really?  Seriously? 


You're so funny. 

You see, right now, I am sick.  I have a summer cold that leaves me feeling a little like a dragonfly squished on the windshield of a racecar.  Yesterday, while Quinten had to take advantage of the fact that, for the first time in ten days, it was not raining and mow the lawn, I thought I’d put on a movie for Iris and kind of sack out on the couch.  Not perfect, but it would do, right?  I’d get some much-needed rest and Iris would be entertained, right? 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Iris only understands “Mommy doesn’t feel very well” for four minutes at a stretch.  The rest of yesterday, Iris used me as a jungle gym, slide, and trampoline.  In that order.  Then, I was required to color, do puzzles, play princess, and read stories.  Not to mention the two and a half minutes where Iris was actually playing by herself and I dozed off only to be awoken by a child’s face one inch from my nose while she yelled, “I NEED TO GO PPPPOOOOOTTTTTTTYYYYY!!” and I had to haul my scratchy-throated, stuffy-nosed, groggy self off the couch to accompany Iris to the potty (because no one should ever trust a three-year-old to wipe themselves adequately after pooping). 

And I haven’t even gotten to the part about walking the puppy, playing with the puppy, keeping Iris from loving on the puppy too hard, keeping the puppy from treating Iris like a chew toy, and fixing meals.  By the time Quinten came back inside, I had decided that the only solution was, by sheer force of will, to just not be sick anymore.  Because Moms don’t get sick days.

I’m not telling you any of this in order to make you feel sorry for me (although if you wanted to feel sorry for me, I wouldn’t tell you no), or to gross you out.  I’m telling you this is to warn you....if you want to get sick, do it before you have a child.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Unhelpful Things People Say to Mothers: Part One In What Will Probably Be an Infinite Series

There I was, at the pool with my three-year-old daughter, Iris.  Iris was in the middle of a kicking, shrieking, flailing, snotty-faced tantrum that would rival the head-twisting-pea-soup-spitting scenes in The Exorcist.  All over a snow cone. 

Or, more correctly, over a foul concoction of melted ice, bright red syrup in a flavor called Tutti Frutti, and the bugs that had died in an attempt to get a taste of it. 

Or, most correctly, over the fact that I had just made the executive decision to throw away the foul concoction rather than let Iris drink it.

This was preceded by a tense two and a half minutes of wrestling over the styrofoam cup that contained the foul concoction.  I tried to pry the cup from Iris’s hands while she tried to pull it away from me with a grasp that threatened to puncture the sides of the cup and screeched that it was HERS and she was going to DRINK IT before we left the pool and she WANTED IT and I was a BAD MOMMY!!!!    

While thunder boomed in the background, ending all fun at the pool for the day, and it began first to sprinkle and then to drizzle, I struggled to get Iris’s arms into her cover-up so I could put her in her car seat without getting it sopping wet. 

Me:  (hissing at Iris through gritted teeth and forcing one of her arms through a sleeve) Iris, we need to get your cover-up on!
Iris:  (yanking her arm repeatedly to try to get it out of the sleeve while screaming so hard snot flies out of her nose) I WANT MY ICE CONE!!!
Me:  (grabbing her other flailing arm to put in in the other sleeve)  Well, it’s gone already, what do you want me to do?
Iris:  (flapping her arm out of my hand) YOU DON’T THROW MY ICE CONE AWAY!!!!!!
Me:  (taking a deep breath and attempting to be as calm as possible) Iris, please let me put your cover-up on, honey.
Iris:  (sob)  DON’T EVER.  (heave)  THROW AWAY.  (sniffle-snort)  MY ICE CONE!!  (sob)  YOU THREW.  (howl)  MY.  (wail) ICE  CONE!!! 

I had already tried hugging and comforting her, letting her know that I understood why it was so sad that she couldn’t finish the snow cone.  Which didn't work.  I had also tried being stern and telling her that she needed to settle down or she would be put in time out and/or she wouldn’t get to come back to the pool.  Which worked less.  I had also already bribed her with an ice cream cone from McDonalds if she would just quiet down.  Which actually had the opposite effect, prompting Iris to scream at me, "I DON'T WANT ICE CREAM FROM MCDONALDS I WANT MY ICE CONE!!!!!"

Anyone who was watching could see that I was having, to put it mildly, a difficult time handling my child.  Actually, anyone within a two-mile radius could hear that I was having a difficult time handling my child. 

I was nearly in tears, myself.

Which is when a little old lady walked past us on the pool deck on her way out to the parking lot, wearing a little, clear, plastic rain hat to protect her beehive of steel-grey curls.  She paused and smiled down at where I was crouching and wrestling with the zipper on Iris’s cover-up as Iris continued to screech and writhe.  And do you know what that little old lady said?  She said, “Cherish this time.  It goes by so fast.”

I didn’t say anything.  I would say I was too stunned to say anything, but the truth is, I was actually too polite.  Because what I WANTED to say, what immediately popped into my head was, Lady…that right there is a good way to get punched in the boob.” 

Look, I know she meant well.  And it’s not like I’m unaware that, at some point in the future, when Iris is all grown up and I am gray and wrinkled and struggling to see over the steering wheel of my car, that I might look back at this time in my life with some sort of delusional nostalgia.  Perspective is, after all, everything.  But, while my daughter is having the tantrum to end all tantrums?  Maybe I’m just not in a cherishing mood.

And, if that little old lady really wants to know how fast the time goes, she needs to come to my house at 4:30 in the afternoon, when Iris and I have already played every game and colored every picture and been to a play date and watched as much television as I’m going to allow and walked the dog together and I have to work on fixing dinner and Iris decides that right then is a good time to practice her squealing runs across the family room or raid my purse and color her dress with my lipstick.  I will gladly hand Iris over to that little old lady and let her deal with it all. 
 
And then?  Then that little old lady can tell me all about how very very quickly all this cherished time is passing.

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Big, Fat Ass Might Have to Apologize

Apparently, air travel and I do not agree with one another.  Or maybe we’re mortal enemies and just no one told me.  And, frankly, that would have been a useful thing to know before last Thursday morning when I woke up the entire family at an ungodly hour to drive an hour and a half to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport to catch a flight so we could go visit my parents in Missouri. 

Because if I had known that air travel and I were mortal enemies I might have done things differently.  Like, maybe, taken the bus.  Or a train.  Or ridden camelback across half of the country without stopping at any point to rest or pee.  Because each of those things sounds a lot more fun than what actually happened.

You see, last Thursday we were having horrible storms.  And by “we” I mean pretty much the entire north-eastern part of the country, from Chicago to Maryland.  And horrible storms mean horrible delays.  Our flight, for example, was supposed to take off at 11:45am, but did not actually take off until 2:30pm.  Which wouldn’t have been a problem had my husband, Quinten, and I not been travelling with our three-year-old daughter, Iris.  Who, I should point out, had a tantrum at 11:00am because we told her that we didn’t think that a busy airport terminal full of angry passengers whose flights were also delayed was an appropriate place to play hide-and-seek.  I would be remiss if I did not point out that said tantrum happened exactly 45 minutes before our original flight was supposed to take off. 

This did not bode well for the rest of the day. 
 
A day wherein we missed our connecting flight out of Chicago-Midway by several hours and ended up on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, KY before we finally arrived in St. Louis two tantrums, three crappy-airport-food meals, seven purchases of new toys from airport gift shops, two trips to tiny airplane bathrooms that aren't built to hold more than one anorexic dwarf with a toddler who needed to pee, and three crying jags later, at 9pm, only to discover that, somewhere in the tangle of bookings and rebookings that had taken place that day, Southwest Airlines had lost our luggage.

We could have driven from North Carolina to St. Louis and arrived earlier.  I am not exaggerating.

Remember when I was complaining about my experience on United Airlines back in April?  Yeah?  Welllllllllll…as much as I hate to admit it, I might have to rethink what I said. 

See, yesterday, I was trying to remember the last time I travelled by plane and had nothing to complain about.  And I can’t do it.  I cannot remember the last time I traveled by air and didn’t have something go wrong…. delays, rudeness, luggage complications, car trouble at the airport, airsickness, missed connections, or Iris being the holy terror of the skies.

Back when I was pregnant with Iris, I was living in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Once, while Quinten was in Atlanta for an extended work program, I decided to visit him and flew out of the Dayton Airport because the ticket was half the cost of flying out of Cincinnati.  Stupid move.  My Delta Airlines flight was delayed for four hours because one of the plane’s tires went flat.  Who has that problem?  Whose plane gets a flat tire?  Mine!  My plane does, that’s who.  And the best part?  The ironic part?  They had to bring a repair crew up from Cincinnati to fix it.  I got into Atlanta at 1:45am instead of 9:00pm.  I bet the Cincy-to-Atlanta flight got there on time. 

Three different airlines.  Three separate occasions.  Three awful experiences.

I might have to apologize to United Airlines for my earlier tirade.  Because, at this point, I am forced to admit that it may not be them….it may just be me. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

In Which My Punishment Fits My Crime

There are some things you just don’t say.  Or even think.  Ever. 

For example, you really shouldn’t ever say, “At least it can’t get worse,” because when you say that, immediately, it will get worse.

Also, if it looks like your child is almost potty trained, please refrain from saying something like, “By George, I think she’s got it!”  You think you’re being funny, but what you’re really doing is ensuring that, within the next 24 hours, your child will have the most spectacular potty training meltdown in potty training history.  Like taking-off-her-panties-squatting-on-your-favorite-chair-and-laying-the-largest-turd-you’ve-ever-seen-except-you-do-not-see-it-so-much-as-you-feel-it-because-you-sit-down-without-looking spectacular.

And, please, for the love of all that is holy, never, EVER say something like, “I think I’ve got everything ready for tomorrow’s play date.  The morning should go really smoothly.  For once, I’ve got it handled!”  Because then, while you sleep, you will dream you are peeing and you will wake up at 5:30am and realize that you are actually peeing.  In your bed.  As an adult. 

*blink blink*

Hypothetically.

I mean, hypothetically, of course. 

Hypothetically that’s what could happen if you say something like that. 

It’s not like I know. 

Aaaaaanyway....here is the part where I have to tell you that I am the biggest hypocrite in the world.  Here I am the woman who is always preaching that we moms shouldn’t judge other moms, and claiming that I am a parent and let-parent kind of gal.  But then…then, one of my dearest friends, Amy (mother of Bella, who’s 3 and my daughter, Iris’s, best friend, and baby Zac, the sweetest child on the planet) tells me this story:

Amy:  So, the other day, I’m out running errands with Bella and Zac and, by the end of everything, I have tons of crap all over the front seat of my car….my purse, the diaper bag, papers and receipts and my phone and just everything strewn everywhere.  I get home, park in the driveway, and I have to collect everything so I can carry it into the house.  And it’s taking me a while.  Bella is in her car seat starting to fuss and fume because she wants to get out of the car.  Zac is sleeping and I don’t want Bella to wake him up, so I reach back and unlatch her and tell her she can get out of the car, but to stay in the grass in the front yard so I can still see her.  Which, I assume she’s doing because, hello, I have to clean up the mess in the front seat so I can’t really pay much attention.  A minute or so later, I get out of the car and go around to get Zac’s car seat out of the car and I see Bella, on the grass, of course, but down by the mailbox, panties down around her ankles, squatting, ass to the street, pooping.  She was POOPING!!  And right then, my neighbor across the street comes walking out of his house and sees the whole thing.  She is bare-assed, pooping in the YARD for the whole world to see!!!

Do you know what I did when Amy told me that story?  I did exactly what anyone with a heart would do in that situation.  I smiled and told her that it was okay, that it could have happened to any one of us, that we’ve all suffered humiliation at the hands of our children, that, in time, she would think this was a really funny story.  But, all the time I was smiling and feeding Amy that line of bullshit, I was thinking Iris would never do something like that!  No way!  Not MY child!

Sometimes I just can’t control my brain. 

I did mention that I am the biggest hypocrite in the world, didn’t I?  Or maybe just the Western hempishere.  But, hypocrisy or not, I know better.  I know you should never ever ever ever never think thoughts like that.    

Not one week after Amy told me that story, while I was chopping up bell peppers to use in our dinner, Iris and our almost-housebroken puppy, Penny, were running around the kitchen.  Quinten had just gotten home from work and, before he could even ask what I was making for dinner, Quinten started shouting “No no no no no no no!” and half-dove towards the floor near the kitchen table.  I dropped my knife and dashed over and to see the following scene playing out as if in slow motion:

There is a puddle of pee on the hardwood floor and a slightly-guilty looking corgi trying to slink away.  Iris is bent over the puddle, leaning forward as if to maybe smell the pee?  Or try to, God forbid, taste it?  I didn’t know just what she was trying to do, but, whatever it was, she needed to not be doing it.  She needed to not be doing it rightnow!!  Quinten reached her first, pulled her up and away from the puddle, and snapped, “What are you DOING?”  But he did not get there soon enough.  He did not get there before at least an inch of Iris’s hair had fallen forward into the puddle and had gotten sopping wet.

Sopping wet with pee. 

Sopping wet with dog pee.

My daughter had just dipped her hair in dog pee. 

In.  Dog.  Pee.

Let’s just say that, on that particular night, bath time happened before dinner time.

Also, I owe Amy an apology.