Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Maisey Dotes, and Fainting Goats, and Little Yellow Wiggles

I am a December baby, which means that it is quite possible that my Irish father helped to conceive me on that most drunken of all holidays, St. Patrick’s Day. Alcoholic sperm is as good a reason as any to explain why my body seems to have been made using all the wrong parts.

Have you ever watched the episode of Mythbusters where Tory, Kari, and Grant make goats faint just by scaring them? That’s what I have. Have you ever wondered why Greg, the Yellow Wiggle, left the band? He has orthostatic intolerance. Also what I have. Officially, it’s called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). Unofficially, it’s a right pain in the ass. In short, every time you stand up, your heart rate and blood pressure have to rebalance. Mine don’t always play nice together, so my heart rate soars and my blood pressure drops. When this happens, I must go horizontal (and usually unconscious) for the time it takes my body to stabilize. Fun, huh? I would be remiss if I didn’t shout to the heavens that I actually have a very, very mild case and that I am very lucky. Hear that God? Very lucky!

To explain how it feels, imagine being drunk. Not passing out, taking naked pictures of yourself drunk, but that pleasantly woozy feeling where all you want is a slice of pizza and a warm bed. Now, take away the alcohol (and pizza), but triple the need to lie down (flat as a board, not reclining in any way). Add in a little loss of fine-motor skills and a dash of heat and proceed to lose the next two hours of your day. Now know what it feels like to have what I refer to as, “an episode.”

The reason I bring this up today is that heat made my condition more prevalent. The hotter it is, the harder it is for my body to regulate itself. It is expected to reach 99 degrees for the next few days. In this type of weather, I obey the warnings and advisories posted for old people and stay the hell indoors. However, due to doctor’s orders, I am temporarily barred from any form of cardiovascular movement and cannot engage in any activity that will elevate my heart rate. Basically, I am stuck indoors with both kids trying to stay calm. Anyone else see a problem with that?

Obviously, my first line of defense is the DVD player. However, my kids have a saturation point when it comes to movies. Next comes the Activity Jar, but honestly they are so over each other that whatever comes out has to be separate activities or I’ll have to pick teeth up off the floor. Neither kid enjoys shopping so walking the mall is out. Unless I can cajole other families into joining us at a play place, it just boils down to my kids fighting with each other (again), only I’ve paid for the privilege of them doing so in public. We’ve seen Cars 2. In short, I’m SOL.

Luckily, my kids know that I don’t do well in heat. My son very sweetly brings me my blood pressure monitor in bed. My daughter is always admonishing me to “be careful.” They both know that this is only a short-lived captivity and that tomorrow is always another chance to go to a camp, or for daddy to come home early and liberate them, or for them to find a new movie they haven’t seen on Apple TV. Just like the heat, this too shall pass. But until then, no Wiggles.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Supply and Demand

I hereby demand that stores stop selling products months before anyone is every ready to buy them.

My daughter had been out of school for exactly seven days before I received my first brochure in the mail hawking back to school supplies. Seven days. I barely had enough time to air out her lunchbox and wash all of her water bottles before TRU, Land’s End, and L.L. Bean started stuffing my mail box with glossy pictures of next season’s items. I went into Staples the other day and had to wind my way around display after display of heavily discounted crayons, scissors, markers, and pens. In a quick stop at Hallmark, I was dumb enough to ask why an entire section was covered in Christmas paper only to be dumbstruck by the response that they are going to unveil their entire line of Christmas ornaments this coming Saturday.

Which leads me to the obvious question, who is buying these products?

There has to be a reason that Hallmark is trying to sell Christmas in July, or Staples is trying to hustle Crayola in June. But surely, it can’t be based on customer demand, right? Does anyone need to decorate a tree in summer? Can you get a cut pine without getting arrested? Honestly, I applaud the person who can make these purchases and actually put them away until the time is ready to use them. I am not that person. I assure you, if I bought an ornament any earlier than November, I would find it months later, still in its bag, probably crushed to bits. The same would happen with pre-bought school supplies. I would stash them someplace the kids couldn’t find them and lose them forever.

Which brings us right back around to wondering who is doing the purchasing? I swear, back when I was a kid, this shit came out in-season. School supplies didn’t hit stores until the first checks were due for school tuitions. (Don’t get me started on all the college junk for sale. Where was Target when I was in school, eh?) Halloween decorations didn’t come in until school supplies went out. No one had Thanksgiving decorations (thankfully, since those little Pilgrims make me twitch), and Christmas decorations only arrived once all the last of the Halloween stuff went out. It also seemed to be a more gradual end. I remember having to go to Walgreens the day before school started because on the day of, everything would be back to regular price. Still in the store mind you, just no longer on sale. Everything wasn’t yanked at midnight on October 31st or December 25th. I was in charge of the Valentine craft for my son’s preschool class this year and was had to scramble to purchase the last two craft kits, at 75 percent discount, a full two weeks before February 14th. What’s up with that? What is the rush to jump right into the next holiday before we get a chance to enjoy the previous one?

If I ran the world, beyond switching the health benefits of sugar and vegetables, I would force stores to produce items only in season. If food should only be eaten in season for the best flavor, the same should be said for swing sets, and snow suits, and knee-high boots. Surely, if you only sold Christmas ornaments say between Black Friday and Boxing Day, you would build more of a demand for the product? If you kept everything full price, but only out for a limited time, instead of out for a long period of time, but discounted, you would make more money? I have the brain of an English major and my only retail experience is in book stores, but there has to be a better way to bring demand than to encourage excessive supply. I don’t want to have to buy my kid’s Halloween costume by Labor Day because it won’t be in stock by Columbus Day and spend the intervening time praying the kid doesn’t change her mind. I want to shop to the calendar – I want to buy shorts in July and a coat in February, not vice versa.

At some point, jumping the seasons is going to jump the shark and those will be happy days indeed.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Everybody Poops

Excluding injury and illness, there is no harder part of parenting than potty training. When my daughter was 3, I spent 17 days trying to teach her to pee in the porcelain bowl. I devoted my life to this chore. We never left the house. We never left the first floor. We never moved further than 15 steps from the bathroom. I bribed that child with M&Ms. I bribed her with books. I bribed her with anything and everything. Yet, it still took 17 days. Trying to get her to poop was another matter entirely. She always waited until nap or bed when she had on a pull-up. This went on for four months. The final battle occurred at the World Trade Center in Baltimore. For one hour, the hubby, baby, and I watched every light come on in the Inner Harbor while we waited for my daughter to do her business. If we left for the hotel, she’d get a pull-up. If we stayed, she had to use the bathroom. We may never have wanted to see Domino Sugar sign again, but we left that building fully and completed potty trained.

My son is a different kettle of fish entirely. I don’t have 17 days to devote to him. I don’t even have 17 hours. He gets dragged out of the house every few hours every single day. He also cannot be bribed. Matchbox cars, books, M&Ms, you name it, I’ve tried it. He simply says, “No thank you” in a tone of utter politeness and dismissal and goes on with his day. Every few weeks, we start the process again. I have done everything in my power short of duct-taping the child to the bowl to get him to pee in it.

The week my husband was home we tried a different tactic. Target practice! Every 15 minutes, a timer went off and my husband and son whipped out their respective equipment and aimed at off-brand Fruit Loops. My husband got quite good at it. My son, on the other hand, never even managed to open fire. I’m also pretty sure he started developing PTSD from the timer.

Finally, finally, there was a breakthrough. The kid peed in the potty. Of course, he did it for daddy, not me, and couldn’t replicate the process again for love or money. Then, breakthrough number two (pun intended) happened at his grandparent’s house. Once again, I missed it and once again it could not be replicated. Worse, I had to give him the big reward I had been holding over him for months (the 2010 Hess truck with fighter jet). Days passed. Nothing. The dude has a bladder like a steel drum. Not only that, but if you don’t watch him like a hawk, his “tell” of grabbing his crotch, only gives you a 30-second window before the floodgates open and he pees on the floor.

I know you are supposed to hop the kid up on liquid, but short of sticking him with an IV, I can’t force him to drink. I made smoothies – he spent hours relishing every mouthful. We took water bottles wherever we went – and they always came home full. I offered him chocolate milk – the equivalent of 30-year old aged scotch to an alcoholic – and he would take a few sips and then leave the cup behind. It was maddening.

Finally, I had to do what I felt was necessary. I broke very single rule of parenting and potty training. I told the little bastard that I would start punishing him for it. Not, obviously, a tried and true, couldn’t-make-it-to-the-potty-in-time accident. But a go hide in the corner, poop his brains out, then come back and ask me to be changed “accident” would result in the loss of Matchbox cars. Two days of this and he caved. He can still go hours in between pit stops, but that just means that he has a larger bladder than my oldest sister-in-law. I heaved a big sigh of relief, bought a bucketload of new Cars II cars and dangled them in front of him as rewards for the other half of the problem. Yet again, he could have cared less.

So this time, it was the threat of not getting to go to the pool or to any summer camps that encouraged him. Never have I heard a child as happy as the day he finally let some drop. He sang. He danced. He ran around in the house reveling in the thrill of victory. He enthusiastically replayed every moment to anyone who would listen. After almost a full freaking year of trying with the little guy, I honestly think this developmental milestone was met with greater levels of celebration than my getting pregnant with him in the first place. Sure, I knew diaper changing was part of the deal, I just didn’t think ahead to realize I was signing up for six and a half years of it. So while we are still wearing pull-ups at night (at least until the box runs out), we are almost in the clear. Now, every morning, he decides which of his colorful “unders” he wants to wear. Some days, he matches them to his shirts. Other days, he picks based on his desire to be a car, or a train, or a super hero. But every single day for a few weeks now, he is free of accidents.

Now I can proudly say that while shit happens, it is confined to the appropriate receptacle.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Going to the Chapel

I had a family wedding on Long Island last week. There was a Wednesday night rehearsal dinner, the Thursday night wedding, and then the Friday morning brunch – all because my daughter was the flower girl. This, of course, meant that my workaholic husband had to take a full three days off work in order to spend oodles of quality time with my parents. Please use your imagination on how well that conversation went.

Wednesday: My husband spent his “vacation” time by being on endless conference calls. I spent the entire four-hour drive listening to his side of techno-babble engineer-speak in complete silence, excluding the occasional requests for a movie change, snack, or drink from the back seat. That left me a lot of time with my thoughts and what I was primarily thinking was – I hate driving in New York. As a state, they seem to believe that signaling is for suckers, the line markers are private, motorcycle-only lanes, and that stop-and-go traffic means that you stop so they can go. When we finally arrived at our destination, I never wanted to curse more or hear “sku” less.

I was not in the best mood upon arrival and it only got worse when I was told up on check-in that my parents were in the next room. No sooner had we put the card key in the lock than she had poked her head out the door. She helped with nothing, got in the way more than the kids, and managed to make a rude comment about how I looked before the bride-to-be even emerged for the rehearsal. The kids were ill-behaved due to exhaustion (the dinner started well after their usual bed time), my parents were pissed that they weren’t at the head table, and my husband still had calls to make. It was a long, long dinner.

Thursday: The wedding day dawned bright and clear. I was so stressed out I couldn’t even take a deep breath. Like an ill wind, wherever we went, my parents were already there and were talking about death. While the butcher bill might be high in my family, I hardly think the best place to discuss for whom the bell tolled is at a wedding. Yet it was the constant topic of discussion. I spent the day getting a mani/pedi (sounds relaxing, but wasn’t), getting my daughter’s hair done, getting her pictures, getting her in place, etc. I had to stay with her because while everyone involved was family, none were family she had ever met. By the time I was handed a glass of champagne in the bridal lounge while we waited for the guests to be seated, I could have drank down an entire bottle.

With fifteen minutes to go before the wedding, my husband knocked at the door. My son, who was for the first time in his life, wearing a tie, was soaking, dripping wet. He had leaves in his hair. His shoes were making puddles. And he looked at me with the saddest, biggest eyes and said, “Mommy, I fell in the fountain.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake!

I gave the boy a kiss, smacked my husband on the ass for laughing, and sent them back to the room post-haste for a change. Lucky for my husband, three things were in his favor: I had already started drinking, our room was onsite, and we had a change of clothes packed. The bride thought it was hysterical, several guests took pictures, and my son was much happier in his shorts and polo than he would have been in his button-down and tie. I only learned afterward that the “fountain” was actually a pond with a three-foot drop, ringed in rocks, and deeper than he could stand. How he didn’t hurt himself on the way down, we’ll never know. In my husband’s defense, he was actively watching the child at the time of his fall because there is a picture of the moment before taken by his camera. It was a pure, simple accident.

So, onto the actual wedding; my daughter threw her petals with precision and did her best not to fidget during the ceremony. She then proved to be the life of the party and danced more than every other guest combined. While we were once again seated with my parents, this time the music was so loud that talking was impossible. My son was so exhausted that he sat glassy-eyed and dazed through most of the reception. By the time the very long night ended, I could have wept with relief and did actually utter a deep, unearthly moan when I finally shucked my Spanx, heels, and push-up bra.

Friday: My husband was up at 4 a.m. taking calls, my kids barely slept much later, and we had to attend the brunch before leaving for the drive home, which this time, meant driving in full-on holiday traffic as it was the first day of the Fourth of July weekend. Pictures of my sodden son were passed around, promises to get together soon were made, and we were finally, finally on our way home. But not, of course, without the box of crumbly, car-destroying cookies that my mom insisted on buying for the kids from a “real New York bakery.” Our GPS led us on a scenic tour of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty before taking us safely back to Jersey, and minutes within entering our front door, I sent the kids out the back door to burn energy in the sprinkler.

While I was broken, battered, and beaten down from three days of wedded bliss, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Family is family. And while I would have liked to have added my mother’s name to the roll call of the dearly departed, that woman has the constitution of a cockroach and I’m sure I’ll still have reason to bitch for many weddings to come.