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  • Who’s On First?

    September 20, 2005

    Early this morning, this exchange:

    “Dat!” pointing to a picture of Antique Daddy holding him.
    “Sean, who is in that picture?”
    “Yes, and who else is in the picture?”
    “No, not me Sean, that’s you in the picture.” Looks at me puzzled and nods in agreement, like yes, that’s what I just said.
    “That’s not me, that’s you. Say me.”
    “Yes, I’m mommy, but that’s not me in the picture. It’s you.”
    Points to himself, “Yee-ew.”
    “No, you’re me and I’m you – no wait, now I’m confused. Okay, let’s start over. Can we both agree that daddy is in the picture?”
    Nods head. “Dah-dee!”
    “Good enough. Let’s go get another cup of coffee and this time none of that sissy de-caf.”

    The Word That Must Not Be Spoken

    September 14, 2005

    Today I want to talk about the word butt. I find this word to be a fairly innocuous description of a particular part of the anatomy, even endearing in some ways, especially when compared to other more colorful terms that I know. It was only recently that I found out that “butt” is one of those four-letter words you are not supposed to say in front of children, at least in this part of the country. And this was puzzling to me because when and where I grew-up, the utterance of this word did not ruin a party.

    My husband and I were at a Christmas party several years ago in the home of a business associate. The house was aglow in all its holiday glory. There was a cacophony of holiday music, conversation, laughing, and happy, noisy children. I was sitting in front of a roaring fire, sipping a glass of wine and admiring the stockings hung just so from the mantle. It was a Norman Rockwell scene, until…. (cue the soundtrack from Jaws) I innocently remarked that if Santa were to come down the chimney tonight he would burn his butt. The room went completely silent. The bulbs on the tree dimmed. The fire was nearly snuffed out as the oxygen was sucked from the room as everyone simultaneously gasped in horror. The little boy standing nearest to me dropped the toy he was playing with and clutched his face like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. He stood there with his mouth agape unable to make a sound. Then he started fanning his face with both hands as though he had the vapors. “You! Can’t! Say! That!” he managed to sputter. And then he said it again, as though I didn’t get it. And apparently I didn’t because I then said, “Can’t say what? Butt? What’s wrong with butt? Is butt a bad word? Who doesn’t say butt?” And it was at that point he ran off screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! She said b-u-t-t!” With nothing more (egregious) that could be done, I lifted my glass to the crowd, said “Bottoms up!” and downed the remainder of my wine. I then collected my husband from behind the curtains where he was pretending to be invisible and we slunk off into the night to destroy more unsuspecting children. Perhaps at the next party I could announce that there is no Santa Clause.

    After the Christmas party incident, I wondered what other people thought about The Word That Must Not Be Spoken. So I took an informal poll among my friends and I got a wide and varied response depending on what region of the country I was polling. My friends from the UK use the term bum (or is it truly a 4-letter word, bumm?) My southern friends say “bottom” but will use the word “tail” if the situation warrants, as in “Bucky Joe, you get yoah tail ovuh here right now!” The mid-westerners I polled use the word “behind” and some of my older relatives say “fanny.” And the list goes on and on. It seems everyone has a pet name for their, umm… backside.

    I guess the moral of the story is this: When at a party, know what part of the country you’re in and beyond that, sit on it — don’t say it.

    Toddler Travel Tales, Part II

    September 11, 2005

    In part two, of Toddler Travel Tales, it turns out the actual traveling part of our recent trip was the easy part — especially in comparison with the staying in a hotel part. To say that we “slept” in a hotel room with our son would be a gross overstatement since in the four nights we were there, no actual sleeping occurred.

    Here are some fun hotel facts that you may not know:

    • The curtains at the Marriott can hold up to 25 lbs.
    • Cell phones do not flush, but they do float – for a few seconds.
    • The contents of a mini-bar cost around $300.
    • The receiver of the wall phone in the hotel bathroom can reach the toilet bowl.
    • The bottle opener on the sink can be used for many things including opening a remote control.
    • Hotel table lamps do not make good kites.
    • Hotel dresser drawers eventually leak when filled with shampoo.
    • Every breakable item in a hotel room will fit on top of the armoire if stacked properly.
    • A toddler standing on the desk can reach the top of the armoire.

    Being the modern mother that I am, the safety of my child is my first concern. Anticipating that the hotel room would not be child proofed, I packed plastic outlet covers and immediately covered all the electrical outlets as soon as I got in the room. Then I immediately picked them out of the waste can, toilet, suitcases, mini-bar, dresser drawers and window ledge where Sean put them after he picked them out of the outlets.

    I really didn’t anticipate that staying in a hotel room with our little boy would be so exhausting. I thought that most of the time we were in the room that we would be sleeping. Isn’t that funny?! I thought we would be sleeping! In a hotel room! Bwaaah! We even ordered a crib to our room so Sean would have a little bed just like at home. We placed it right next to our bed so that he would feel secure. We put him in it with Mr. Monkey and his special blanket. We sang to him and tucked him in, just like at home. Then he stood up and shook the bed like an agitated ape and screamed until our ears bled and the neighbor’s ears bled and they had no other choice but to bang on the wall and beg for mercy, crying, “Please, for the love all that is good and holy, LET HIM OUT!” So we did. We put him in between the two us where he spent the remainder of the night practicing pro-wrestling moves including an impromptu body-slam at 2am.

    Another fun hotel fact: This is why hotel windows don’t open.

    Toddler Travel Tales, Part I

    September 10, 2005

    Earlier this summer, we took our first airplane trip with our toddler and it went a lot better than I expected. In spite of the discomfort and delays, more commonly called “air travel” nothing happened that involved mopping up and/or paying for the dry cleaning of a person heretofore unknown. So that was good. I was dreading taking him on the plane because I have been on airplanes with toddlers before and by comparison it makes poking my eyeballs with toothpicks seem like fun. Which is why the flight attendants don’t hand out toothpicks.

    On our return trip, we had to wait out on the tarmac on a packed plane for nearly an hour on a 90-degree day with almost no air conditioning. The A/C vents were operating full out at the speed of a pinwheel and doing double duty as cheap blower dryers. But that didn’t stop me from checking the little twisty knob every 10 seconds to see if it was working. We sat on the tarmac not only before leaving St. Louis but also when we arrived in Dallas, still with no A/C, thus making an hour and 45-minute flight a 5-hour trip to hell, only warmer. The only difference is that when hell is your final desAMtion, you don’t have to go back to the hellport the next day to find your luggage.

    You might think sitting in a sweltering metal tube with 100 or so hygiene-challenged individuals for five hours would make a little boy cranky. No. The boy was having the time of his life. The grown-ups were whispering mutiny, but Sean was in tactile heaven. For him, there were so many things to touch and so precious little time. Plus, he had a captive planeload of people who needed entertainment, and who was he to deny his public? Here are some of the highlights from Sean’s airplane activities:

    • Push Call button. Daddy waves off flight attendant.
    • Play peek-a-boo with elderly couple in row behind us.
    • Do impression of a lion for everyone who walks by.
    • Crawl under seat. Look through elderly lady’s purse. Try on elderly lady’s lipstick. Get stuck under seat.
    • Push Call button. Daddy smiles and mouths the word ‘sorry’ to the ill-humored flight attendant now looking at us through little slits in her eyes.
    • Rearrange the comb-over hairdo of the man sleeping in seat in front of us.
    • Turn light on. Turn light off. Turn light on. Turn light off. Turn…
    • Play peek-a-boo with a friendly lady across the aisle. Offer her remainder of mushy half-chewed pretzel. She declines. Lift shirt and show belly button.
    • Shred the in-flight magazine. Use as confetti.
    • Put tray up. Put tray down. Put tray up. Put tray…
    • Drop goldfish crackers in the drink of the guy sitting in the next seat. Steal his pretzels.
    • Feel up the flight attendant’s leg as she leans over across the aisle to set a drink down and then squeal “ooooo-wee!” Flight attendant not amused.
    • Dunk hand in a glass of Coke on the service cart. Wipe hand on flight attendant’s butt. Act innocent when she gives Daddy a dirty look.
    • Take shoe off. Throw shoe into first class. First class flight attendant returns shoe even though Mommy and Daddy avoid eye contact.
    • Put armrest down. Put armrest up. Put armrest down. Put armrest up. Put armrest…
    • Start over.

    And that was just the first 20 minutes.

    Pay It Forward

    September 7, 2005

    So much has been written and said about Hurricane Katrina, that I hardly think I have anything more to offer on that topic in terms of how things went so horribly wrong and who is to blame. What I do have to say is how proud I am of my adopted home, the great state of Texas and the many Texans (naturalized or native) who have stepped up to the plate to care for the suffering. We are a big state with big hair, big hats, big ideas, occasionally big mouths, but most of all, big hearts. I am not surprised in the least by the outpouring of help because this was the same response I received when I moved here 24 years ago.

    Way back in 1981, before many of my fellow mommy’s were even born, I moved to Texas from the cornfields of the mid-west. I was 21-years-old and greener than the green beans my son lobs at me at the dinner table. I had been working for an insurance company and when an opening in the Texas agency opened up, I jumped on it and transferred. When I say transfer, I don’t want you to get the idea that they paid to move me and set me up. What I mean is that they said, hey, if you’re crazy enough to move to God-forsaken Texas, then we’ll pay you minimum wage when you get there.

    When you’re 21, you are long on hope and dreams and short on wisdom and cash. So it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. I loaded up my Honda Civic with what little I had and set off to become a Texan. I vividly remember the January day I was packing all my worldly belongings into my little car. As I was carrying a box down the icy, snowy steps of my parent’s house, I slipped and slid all the way down on my back, bumping my head on each step until I finally came to rest completely under the car. I had figuratively and literally hit bottom. As I was lying there on the dirty snow looking up at the underside of my car, I knew I was doing the right thing.

    After I arrived in Texas and got my apartment and paid my rent and my phone bill and utilities, I had exactly $8.43 for two-weeks. But I never felt more wealthy. Everyone I met extended kindness, encouragement and offers to help. And they meant it. A lady who worked for the company in the next office nearly every day would bring by a meal that she said was left over, which I kind of always doubted. “Nell, you mean to tell me this entire roasted chicken and corn casserole is leftover?” I’d ask. She’d wave both her hands like she was shooing away chickens and say, “It’ll just go to waste, honey, now you take it home and put it in the fridge.” I never went hungry thanks to kindness of Nell and many others like her.

    I’ve been the recipient of Texas hospitality more times than I can remember in the past 24 years. I hope that maybe I’ve passed a little of that along to others somewhere along the way. Sometimes on the hardest, hottest, most miserable of Texas days, I’ll think back to that January day when I was laying under my car in my parent’s driveway and I remind myself that I did the right thing in coming here. These are my people and this is where I’m supposed to be.

    Great Expectations

    September 6, 2005

    When my doctor confirmed that I was pregnant, he handed me the book “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.” Written in a user-friendly Q&A format, it addressed a lot of issues that came up for me as a clue challenged first-time mother. I liked it so much, that I bought “What to Expect The First Year” and more recently “What to Expect the Toddler Years”. While these books are very helpful, the book that new mothers really need is “What You Won’t Expect (And Couldn’t Imagine Even with the Help of Psychotropic Drugs).”

    For example:

    I expected that there would be a lot of diapers as this was in the book. And I expected there to be a lot of poo in the diapers, also in the book (in graphic detail). I did not expect to have to dodge sniper poo fired at me at point butt range. Not in the book.

    I expected my baby would spit up. I did not expect that he would channel Linda Blair and selectively projectile vomit on things labeled “Professional Dry Clean Only”– which we all know really means, if this gets puked on, too bad.

    The books I read never mentioned that some stuffed animals will melt into an unrecognizable wad of plastic goo when put in the dryer after a Linda Blair incident. Furthermore, they do not tell you that you will then spend the hours you normally would be sleeping scouring the internet to find an exact replica and not a facsimile thereof. And that you will gladly pay seven times beyond what you originally paid for it at TJMaxx because, of course, it’s now discontinued. Add in overnight shipping and you’ve now spent $50 to replace a $3.99 stuffed animal. This really should be in print somewhere.

    The books do not tell you that toddlers have a synapse in the brain that is sensitized to the sound of a ringing phone. If you answer and attempt to speak into the phone within 2200 square feet of a child, this synapse fires in the brain of the child thus causing him to hunt you down like a rabbit and whine like a jet engine as he attempts to claw his way up your leg to your throat. The only thing that can relieve this discomfort (yours) is hanging up the phone, at which time the child will resume ignoring you and return to destroying your den.

    They never mention in the books that despite the fact that your child cannot even say “mama” or “dada”, he will be able to repeat any forbidden four-letter word with utter clarity for the Sunday school teacher.

    They do not tell you that the theater classes you took in college will finally pay off as you pantomime your way through every feeding. “Look Sweetie! Mommy is a green bean! Now mommy is a green bean standing on her head! You like green beans! Here, have a bite of…” (now wearing beans).

    They do not tell you that when your child decides that all food is evil except applesauce, you will go out and buy a truckload of applesauce and that the next day he will not be able to tolerate being in the same room with anything named apple or sauce.

    They don’t tell you that the absolute sweetest thing you will ever taste is a mushy-slobbery-chewed-up-cookie kiss planted somewhere between your bottom lip and your chin by an earnest little boy. They don’t tell you this because until you get one, you’d never believe how deliciously addictive it is. And then you will want at least one every day for the rest of your life.

    Turned In By A Toddler

    September 2, 2005

    Be warned. Your kid will rat you out. Even if they can’t talk, they will tell on you.

    After an especially challenging day last week, Antique Daddy offered to make my daily trip to Wal-Mart for me – and this is the good part – and take the boy with him! That’s right, I would be in the house ALL BY MYSELF for 30 whole minutes. I immediately started making a mental list of the fun things I could do while they were gone: 1) lay on the sofa and stare at the ceiling, 2) lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling, 3) sit. Oh what the heck, I decided to do all three .

    When AD returned, he helped me get up off the floor and asked how is it that the Wal-Mart greeter knew Sean’s name, and more importantly how is it that Sean knows how to swipe a credit card through the card reader? I clarify that because I don’t want you to think my kid is stealing credit cards.

    Furthermore, he continued, Sean easily identified the golden arches as they passed them – which, he added, is odd given your vow to never contaminate your child’s precious body with any food that starts with Mc. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Kids! Who knows?” And that’s when he produced the collection of happy meal toys that were stuffed under the car seat. I was busted.

    That is the thanks I get for all those lunch and shopping dates. Never trust a toddler.

    Generation Baby Gap or Baby Gap Generation

    September 1, 2005

    I went to a baby shower recently for the daughter of a friend of mine. My friend, The Grandmother, is anxiously awaiting her first grandchild. A multi-generational collection of women had gathered to shower the mother-to-be with mostly useless, but cute, teeny tiny baby thingees. At the unveiling of each precious little thing, everyone in the room would coo in unison, “Oooooh!” followed by chorus round of, “Isn’t that just adorable? That is just adorable! That is entirely too cute! Let me see that! Pass it around!”

    As I sat there ooooh-ing and cooing and munching on gospel-prescribed baby shower fare (that would be white cake, punch, mixed nuts and pastel butter mints) I looked around the room and noticed that two separate and distinct worlds had convened in this one living room. And I was awkwardly straddling both.

    On the one foot, I related to my friend, The Grandmother. We were close in age and shared a common obsession with HGTV. Our friends had names like Terry, Debbie, Linda and Cindy. On the other foot, I related to the younger gals who were just starting their families and worried about important issues like can Jen and Brad ever get back together? They had names like Ashley, Tiffany, Kelly and Brittney. We had pierced ears. They had pierced navels. What the older moms called diapers, the younger moms called burp cloths. We wore shirts that covered the area where our abs used to be. They had abs. I know this because I saw them when I was gawking at their navel rings. The younger moms named their babies after dead presidents — Kennedy, Tyler, Jackson, Madison, Taylor. The women my age had named their babies Ashley, Tiffany, Kelly and Brittney.

    As I was eavesdropping on the younger mom’s conversation, I couldn’t help but overhear one of them talk about going to the mall on the way home from the hospital after having her baby. I presume to return some of the many cute-but-useless things she had gotten at her shower. I, on the other hand, did not take my baby out in public until he was four-months-old and then I kept him covered with a blanket the entire time we were out. I could have had a puppy in the carrier for all anyone knew. Anyone not clean enough to perform surgery who dared to peek under that blanket might come away with a few less fingers if the laser beams shooting from my eyes didn’t vaporize them first. We carried Clorox wipes and surgical masks in our diaper bag. You think I’m kidding, don’t you?

    In spite of the many differences between the younger moms and the older moms, I realized that regardless of age, all mothers want the same thing: healthy, happy, well-adjusted children. Well, maybe the next generation will have better luck with that one.

    Oh, and by the way, I got a nice thank you note in the mail the other day. It reads: Dear Antique Mommy, Thank you so much for the little pink baby thingee. It’s just adorable. Little Madison will enjoy it. Did you get it at the mall? Love, Brittney.